Setting Boundaries With Difficult Elderly Parents

Written by: Shreya Manerkar – MA (Clinical Psychology)
Last updated date : March 26, 2023

Do you have elderly parents who tell you what to do even though you are an adult? You try to say no, but they don’t listen. Moreover, does it cause fights when you try setting boundaries with your difficult and controlling elderly parents?

In this article, we will discuss who are difficult parents and how they control your life. You will also learn to identify signs of difficult parents. We will also help you understand the effect of toxic relationships on your emotions. Finally, we will discuss ways in which you can set boundaries with difficult and controlling elderly parents.

Let us begin this article by defining who are difficult parents.

  • Difficult Parents – These are parents who put their needs above their children. They only focus on themselves and how they can make their life better. They blame their child and make them feel like everything is their fault. When parents’ needs are not met, they get angry, yell, and scream. Even when children try setting boundaries with them, elderly parents act difficult.
  • Difficult or toxic parents try to control you by taking decisions for you. They make you feel guilty if you don’t listen to them. When you try to stand up for yourself, they get angry. They do not like it if you decide to live life the way you want. As you grow older, they stop you from being an adult.

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Chapter 1:

Signs to Identify Difficult Parents

Here are some signs you can look for if you feel your parents are being difficult with you.
  • They only think of themselves
  • When angry, they hit, beat, and even yell at you. They may react to small issues
  • When something goes wrong, they blame you
  • If you make a mistake, they give you the silent treatment. They don’t forgive easily and make you feel guilty
  • Especially with elderly parents, setting boundaries becomes difficult because they are controlling.

Chapter 2:

Boundaries With Difficult Elderly Parents and Emotions

Having elderly parents who are difficult to manage can be a challenge. Unless your parent is suffering from some genuine health issue, being controlled by an adult is unhealthy.

As we mentioned in the previous sections, difficult parents are unable to understand that boundaries are important for a healthy relationship. In their effort to do what is best for their child, they try to control everything. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that the child is grown up and has a mind of their own.

Since parents control, yell, scream or shout at even the smallest of reasons, you may start worrying. If your parents hit you as a child, you may also develop fear. When parents try taking decisions for you or criticize you, as an adult, you develop self-doubt.

You have problems setting boundaries with difficult elderly parents because as a child such boundaries did not exist. As a result of this, you may find it difficult to say no to people. Another reason why setting boundaries with controlling parents becomes difficult is that you constantly have to listen to mean comments. This can cause a lot of stress and health issues including heart problems.

Chapter 3:

Ways of Setting Boundaries With Difficult and Controlling Elderly Parents

While you were growing up, it was normal for your parents to set rules and regulations and have behavior expectations. However, even when you grow up, parents may see you as a child and control how you live and what decisions you take in life.

Setting boundaries with controlling parents is important as it prevents bitterness. As an adult, you need to have your identity and unique thought process. Without healthy boundaries, parents may feel it is okay for them to impose their thoughts on you.

Here are some simple ways in which you can set boundaries with your difficult elderly parents.

Be Clear of What You Want
Before you talk to your parents, make a list of things that are okay and not okay. Before you talk to them, make a list of boundaries you want to set. Write the list starting from the easiest to the most difficult to follow.
Speak in a Clear and Concise Tone
Saying vague statements can be confusing and cause miscommunication. You may feel your elderly parents feed your children junk food. For this, use a simple statement such as “Don’t give the children junk food”. Give examples of what qualifies as junk and healthy food.
Find a Middle Ground
Sometimes, even when you make your needs clear, elderly parents don’t understand how to follow the boundaries. If your parents are over-involved in your life, gently remind them of your conversation. When you notice that they still bring chocolates for the children every day, you can remind them by saying, “Remember, we spoke about not feeding children junk food”.

If you feel that they still don’t understand, you can suggest an alternative solution. Instead of being stuck on only one option, discuss possible ways of handling every boundary with them.

Don’t Feel Guilty about Setting Boundaries
Many adults worry about hurting their elderly parents when they try to set boundaries with them. They also feel guilty about expressing their needs to parents who have never listened to them. However, remember that boundaries are healthy not only for you but for your parents as well.

Whenever you feel guilty about setting a boundary, remember the reason why it was done in the first place. A boundary is like a protective bubble you build around yourself to protect your well-being. And hence, there is nothing to feel guilty about.

Appreciate Your Parents
Elderly and controlling parents may feel upset because you set boundaries with them. This is because they believe it is correct to control your life and make decisions for you.

So, before you set a boundary appreciate them for their concern. If we take the junk food example, you can appreciate your parents by being thankful for loving your children. Follow the conversation by telling them how having junk every day is unhealthy for the child. In this way, parents will be more open to listening to you and respecting your boundary.

Use the Broken Record Technique
Have you heard how a broken record is stuck on the same line or word till someone gets annoyed and stops it? In the same way, like a broken record stick to your point. Even if your parents try to change the topic when they have disrespected the boundary, you speak about it and stick to your view. Be firm, but not rude. This will help parents understand that you are not going to change your mind.

Chapter 4:

Our Final Thoughts

It can be very upsetting when parents don’t respect your boundaries. In the initial stages of setting boundaries with difficult and controlling elderly parents, you may feel a lot of negative emotions. You may also reach a point where you feel like you are talking to a wall. Not being able to put your point across may make you feel helpless and question your self-worth. If you are feeling this way, we recommend enrolling in our self-help course “Low self-esteem“, which will help you regain your confidence and feel in control of your life.

"Structured and engaging course" Joan

69 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount