How to Deal With a Difficult Mother


Whether she's still telling you to clean your room and you're married with your own children or she's insisting that you behave in a specific manner, dealing with a difficult mother is a common source of anxiety. No matter how old you get, your mother will still be your mother, but that doesn't mean you have to live by her standards.

  • Set reasonable boundaries and stick to them. Decide what you can and can't compromise on and sit down to discuss your feelings with your mother. Let her know gently but firmly that you will not allow those lines to be crossed. Expect her to be shocked but stand your ground.

  • Encourage your mother to express her feelings and listen to her concerns but don't back down if she wants to pursue behavior that violates your privacy or rights as an adult and a parent.

  • Reinforce your decision by imposing no-contact penalties if your mother ignores your boundaries. When an infraction occurs, deal with it by showing her that you are serious and refuse contact with her for a set period of days.

  • Disarm any manipulative attempts by your mother to make you feel guilty. Clearly state that you do not feel guilty for standing up for your own rights and that you do not appreciate her efforts to try and guilt you into backing down or seconding-guessing your position.

  • Encourage your spouse to deal directly with the problem if his mother is being difficult. Discuss what boundaries are reasonable and allow him to speak to his mom. Mother-in-law situations are tricky and his mother may feel you're trying to shove her out of her son's life.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't blame yourself for the situation with your difficult mother. It's your responsibility to make sure you and your family are happy. Let your mother know that you love her, despite your need to restrict her behavior where your family is concerned.
  • Make sure you are being fair. Before you set strict boundaries, put yourself in your mother's shoes. If she is lonely, try helping her find outside activities to fill her time.
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