How to Handle a Meddlesome Mom
you love the woman, but her constant commentary on your haircut, housekeeping,
and more is making you nuts. To get her to back off, read on.
You appear to be a grown-up. You have credit cards, a car, your own home,
maybe some kids. But someone's not so sure: your mother. Perhaps she's always
telling you how to discipline little Stevie or manage your money, or she offers
"constructive criticism" about your hairstyles. You're furious - and
hurt. You know you've got to stop her meddling before it drives a serious wedge
between you. Here's how.
Step 1: Get some perspective.
This may come as a surprise, but that opinionated, presumptuous mother of
yours likely feels insecure around you. See, every time you've made a major
change in your life - landed your first job, got married, started a family -
your mom probably unconsciously worried that you'd stop needing her. "Her
butting in could be a misguided attempt to still be helpful and connect with
you," notes Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., author of The Dance of Anger.
Now, that's not to say your mom's a total saint. Some days she may just be
in the mood to play the know-it-all. Or she's feeling insecure and petty, so
she lectures you on what style skirt to wear to prove she's still the family
expert on fashion. But whatever her motivation, she's not out to hurt you. To
get in the right mind-set for a constructive talk, visualize the two of you
yakking happily (about something other than how you lead your life). Or recall
a time when you and your spouse worked through a trouble spot in your
relationship, advises psychologist Jane Adams, Ph.D., author of Boundary
Issues. Remind yourself that you can do it now, too.
Step 2: Tell her you don't want advice "for now."
The next time your mom trots out a piece of unsolicited counsel - and you're
in a good-enough mood to handle a relatively intense conversation - say,
"I'm deciding how to handle Joey's tantrums/decorate the living
room/whatever, but you know what? For some reason, advice isn't helpful right
now. Later on, though, I may come to you." Don't try to muzzle her forever
(as if you could); that will only make her anxious and resentful. Leaving the
door open to her guidance tomorrow makes it easier for her to say, "Oh,
okay, dear," today.
More pointers: Keep your speech short so she doesn't feel lectured. And try
to be relaxed. "The calmer you are, the calmer she'll be," says Lerner,
"and the more likely she'll be to really hear you." Remember, too, that
this isn't about declaring one person "right"; it's about making your
wishes known so you can steer toward a relationship that meets both her needs