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Overprotective & Controlling Parents: 28 Signs, Effects & How to Deal with Them

If you feel like you are being smothered by mom and dad, then you probably have overprotective, controlling parents. Here are the signs and ways to fix it.

overprotective and controlling parents

Most of us have parents that, in some moments, are overprotective and controlling. You know what, they’re your parents, so it’s in them to want to protect you and make sure you’re safe. But when do those overprotective, controlling parents cross the line and become too much?

If you’re sixteen and your parents want you home by eleven, well, that isn’t being overprotective, that’s being smart.

But if at thirty, your parents want to try to keep you home or make you call them whenever you leave the house, well, that’s a little much, no?

The most obvious signs of controlling and overprotective parents

You might already feel like you have controlling parents, but maybe you don’t. Here are some real signs to look out for to see if you really do.

1. Strict curfews

Now, when we think of curfews, we think of them for underaged children and teenagers. It’s normal to have curfews for them so they can learn how to be responsible.

But if the curfew is overly early *like 8:00 or 9:00 p.m.* then that is unreasonable. And if you’re a young adult, you shouldn’t need a curfew. So, if they impose one on you, then they are overprotective. [Read: Helicopter parents – 30 ways they ruin their children’s lives]

2. Shielding you from failure

No one likes to fail, and no parent wants to see their kids going through it. But, failure is just a fact of life.

In fact, you learn the best life lessons when you fail. So, if your parents shield and protect you from ever doing anything wrong, then that’s not healthy.

3. Micromanaging your life

If your parents are telling you where to go, what to do, and how to do everything, then you will never learn for yourself.

They are not a general in the army, they are your parents. They should let you have some control over what you do and don’t do in your life.

4. Constant communication and “checking in”

It’s understandable that your parents worry about your well-being. But if you can’t walk around the block without them calling to make sure you’re still alive, then your “leash” is way too short.

You should be able to live your life what them constantly bothering you to call them to check-in. [Read: Interfering parents – all the ways they can ruin your love life]

5. Protecting you from danger

Let’s face it – danger lurks around every corner in this world. You could cross the street and get hit by a bus. Anyone could.

Just going to the mailbox puts you at risk of a car running you over. So, it’s impossible to protect you from all dangers, even though overprotective parents try to do just that.

6. Allowing excuses for you

A good parent teaches you personal responsibility and makes you own up to your actions. But, if your parents are blaming your teachers for your bad grades and not you, then that is very bad.

If they are always making excuses for why you aren’t “perfect,” then they are controlling.

7. Controlling your choices

Maybe they want to tell you which friends you can have and who you can hang out with. Or, they make you take tennis lessons when you hate the sport.

If they are constantly dictating your life by controlling the choices you make, then they are not teaching you good decision-making skills. [Read: How to move out of your parents’ house – the checklist you need]

8. Won’t let you solve your own problems

Everyone has problems – it’s just the way life is. And most people need to solve their own. But overprotective parents want to step right in and solve them for you. But when they do that, you don’t develop the skills to cope on your own.

9. Too nosey and intrusive

Are your parents always asking questions like, “Where are you going? Who are you going with? When are you going to be home? And what exactly did this person say to you?”

If they are, then they are extremely intrusive. It’s normal for a parent to want to know what’s going on in their kids’ lives. But, they don’t need to know very little detail.

10. Discourages risks

Life is full of risks. But if you want to do something that you think is fun like sky diving or even going snow skiing, they might discourage you from doing that. They think it’s risky and dangerous.

Even if you want to start a side business, they might think it’s not something that you can do, so they are overprotective about it. [Read: 6 Must-know crucial tips for dating while living with your parents]

How to deal with controlling parents while understanding their perspective

You’ve probably lost your shit a thousand times, went crazy with all their rules, but there’s a better way to deal with your overprotective parents than to argue with them. Of course, becoming angry is only human, so if you get angry, it’s understandable.

But, why not make this experience better for all of you? Here are the best ways to deal with your overprotective parents. Selective hearing only works for so long.

1. Overprotectiveness doesn’t mean they’re evil

Your parents aren’t evil, they’re just scared shitless of something happening to you. Letting your child go into the world is scary.

There’s the chance of something happening to you and no parent wants to think about that. So, they keep you in a bubble. Not because they’re evil, but because they’re scared. [Read: Contempt in relationships and the big steps to set your animosity free]

2. Don’t get angry

We know you probably want to blow up in a rage, yell, and tell them everything that’s on your mind. But does that really help? Sure, you vented all your frustrations out but that doesn’t change your overprotective parents.

You didn’t talk to them about boundaries or what you need. You just yelled.

3. Sit them down and have a talk about it

This is really the best way to show them your maturity as a young adult. If you want them to back off, show them you’re serious and that you’re approaching this situation as a grown adult.

Sit them down, talk about how you’re feeling, and listen to what they have to say. You may actually be able to come to an understanding just with that one conversation. [Read: All the way interfering parents impact your life]

4. What do you want? 

You need to know what you want. What is it about their rules and behavior that you don’t need? Do you want to be able to walk home from school alone? Tell them. Do you want to be able to go out on a Friday night with your friends? Tell them.

Make sure you know exactly what your needs are because they’re going to expect to hear them.

5. Talk about your feelings

Though this is about them, it’s really about you. It’s how they affect your feelings and your life. So, narrow in on that.

Talk about how this makes you feel. Use the sentence “I feel…” in order to show them how their behavior actually affects you.

Blaming them for their behavior isn’t going to help you, it’s going to start an argument. So, if your parents call you ten times a day, say, “I feel stressed when you call me so many times during the day. I feel like you don’t trust me.”

This helps them understand how their actions emotionally impact you. [Read: What it means to take control of your life]

6. You’ll have to compromise

Now, if you think your parents are going to give you everything you want, you’re wrong. Maybe what you want is simply too much. So, be ready to compromise.

Don’t make your needs the extreme opposite or else they may not be able to handle it. A better idea is to make small changes and have your controlling parents slowly adapt to those before increasing the boundaries.

7. Understand their point of view

If you don’t understand where they’re coming from, this isn’t going to work. If you want to compromise, you’re going to have to be mature and put yourself in their shoes. 

Having no curfew at eighteen years old probably isn’t going to happen, they want to be able to sleep with peace of mind at night. So, think about them as well. [Read: How to be more empathetic and 16 ways to make your parents feel understood]

8. Prove to them that freedom is healthy

If you want them to see that being less protective is good for you, show them the positive effects.

If they give you freedom but you crash their car while driving drunk, well, we can’t say we’re shocked that they’re overprotective parents.

You must show them that you are responsible and trustworthy, that way, they’ll be more relaxed.

9. Be open to advice

Parents are going to give advice – most parents do. Sometimes kids ask for it and sometimes they don’t. But that’s the thing, that’s what parents do. It’s not to annoy you, they love you so they want to help you make the right choices.

Now, you don’t have to take their advice, but you should listen to it. This is extremely mature and by you listening to them, they feel that they contribute positively to your life. [Read: 27 fun, grownup things you can do as an adult once you turn 18]

10. Establish the boundaries with them

Even though they give you advice, you still need to establish boundaries. This means you need to tell them what is okay and what is not okay.

How else will they know calling you every twenty minutes when you’re on a date is a bad thing?

So, when you sit down with them, try to show them where the line is. But trust me, you’ll have to continue to show them where the line is. You’re teaching them. [Read: How to set personal boundaries and guide other people to respect it]

11. It’s okay to take a break from each other

If you need a day, two days, or a week on your own, take that time. Tell them you need time apart or slowly decrease the amount of communication you have with them.

Instead of talking to them twice a day, talk to them once a day. Limit the contact slowly, so that it doesn’t come as a shock to them.

12. Fight negativity with positivity

Sometimes, overprotective parents react negatively towards you trying to establish boundaries. Makes sense though, they don’t want you to be fully independent. It scares them.

If you find them dramatizing everything you do, stand your ground and not fold when they expect you to. Eventually, they’ll stop doing this because you’re not reacting how they want you to. [Read: How to stop being manipulated in a relationship]

13. Be patient

Do you think it’s easy to watch your own children grow up and not need you anymore? Of course, it’s not. In their eyes, you are still their “baby” and always will be. It’s hard for them to let you go. They will always want to protect you.

Cut them a little slack if you hope for them to get used to this new routine quickly. It’s going to take time, so be patient.

The psychological impact of overprotective and controlling parents

Controlling parents think they’re trying to help you along in life. But the long-term psychological impact can be pretty negative for children. Here are some of them. [Read: Being raised by narcissists – 18 harmful ways it negatively affects your life]

1. Low self-esteem

When parents are overprotective, it sends the message to the children that they are not capable. They can’t do anything right or else they wouldn’t need to be protected. That’s why it can result in low self-esteem and self-worth.

2. Shame and doubt

Many overprotective parents have incredibly high expectations of their children. And when a child doesn’t meet these expectations, it can create feelings of shame or doubt in themselves.

3. Anxiety or depression

Because of the low self-esteem, shame, and doubt the children can experience, they might develop anxiety or depression either as a child or as an adult. [Read: Why am I so unhappy? How to allow happiness to gush into your life]

4. People-pleasing tendencies

When a child is constantly trying to get their controlling parents’ approval, then they will probably develop a deep need to please other people. This can spill over into other relationships in their lives.

5. Perfectionism

Overprotective parents also send the message that their child needs to be perfect in every way. Because of their high expectations, they don’t really allow the child to “fail.” So, they might become a perfectionist, which is a difficult way to live.

[Read: The checklist you need to move out of your parent’s house]

Now that you know how to handle overprotective and controlling parents, try using some of these tips with them. You’ll have to ease them slowly into it, but once you do, it’ll be better for both you and them.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...