How to Not Let Your Parents Control You

This post is not just for young people.  I’ve known plenty of grown adults with kids of their own who cannot live, act, or think free from their parent’s emotional control.

This is not an anti-parent post.  Most parents mean well.  Many are unconscious of their own forms of manipulation and if revealed to them, they’d prefer to change it.

If you are to create a meaningful and enjoyable life you must break the power of parental control.  It’s a massive psychological burden and it’s sapping your energy, freedom, and fun.

I knew a guy who dated two very different girls.  At some point in both relationships, things got pretty serious.  Maybe this was going to be a long-term thing.

In the first relationship, the girl was smitten but her parents were not.  Not even close.  They did not approve of her dating this guy and they made that clear.  Things were icy.

He’d go with her for family holidays and it always ended the same.  Afterwards, she’d cry and share with him how hard it was to have them unhappy with her choice.  Even if he wasn’t there, every time she’d visit home he knew there would be fallout when she came back.  She’d confide in him just how much it meant to have her parent’s approval of the relationship.  This put tremendous pressure on him to live up to some standard in her parent’s head.

The relationship eventually ended.  It wasn’t too pretty either.

Time passed and he eventually began dating someone seriously again.

In the second relationship, the girl was smitten but her parents were not.  Not even close.  They did not approve of her dating this guy and they made that clear.  Here we go again.  He was nervous. He knew he couldn’t take another situation like the last.

But this time things never got icy.

The very first time his girlfriend’s father voiced his displeasure she said, “This is who I’m dating.  This is who I want to be with.  If you want me in your life you’re going to have to accept the choices that I make.”

Her dad did not disown her.  Instead, he had to overcome his own prejudice and work to get to know they guy.  He did.  Now they’re in-laws.

Consciously or unconsciously, parents can sense your need for their approval.  The stronger and more desperate it is, the more leverage they have to control you.  But the thing is, you’re parents don’t have that leverage in reality.  They want to have a relationship with you just as much or more than you do with them, and this feeling increases as they age.  That’s why if you are definite in your purpose and you make that clear to them, they will nine times out of ten see that earnest resolve and adapt to it.

This makes knowing who you are and what you really want paramount.  If you’re unsure, you’ll just end up issuing a constant stream of threats to your parents, which isn’t healthy for anybody.  But if you really know what you want, you are fully prepared to live the consequences with or without your parent’s support, and you can calmly and clearly let them know, they are very likely to end up supporting you.

You don’t need to disown them.  But let them know their threat to disown you will not stop you.  And don’t bluff.  Don’t pretend to have resolve just because you hope it will win them over.  Be fully prepared and committed to follow your chosen course of action even if they don’t come around.  Paradoxically, it’s only then that they are likely to eventually come around.

They’re not as stubborn as they may seem when it comes down to it.  They want you to be happy, and if it’s clear that you will only be happy pursuing things your own way – and you’re aware of the risk and willing to take it – they’ll stop trying to resist you.

There is no amount of parental approval that’s worth your dignity, freedom, and power as an individual.

For some specific applications, see here.

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