A man and woman holding a sign with a dog in front of them.

Controlling Parents: How They Influence Your Life and Happiness

How do things you heard in the past affect how you live now? Many of us decide important things in life based on what our family and friends say. This means our jobs, where we live, and even who we’re with might be because of what our parents told us.

As a coach for business owners, I’ve talked with many clients about figuring out what they really want, not just what their parents want for them. This is especially tough if your parents were controlling, which can make it hard to know what makes you happy.

In this article, we’ll look at how controlling parents can affect your life as an adult and, most importantly, how you can take back control.

Let me start by telling you about a woman who always listened to her parents and how it hurt her feelings and well-being.

Too many of us are dying silently while trying to please others.

The obedient Chinese daughter 

I have a Chinese-American friend named Amy (not her real name). We have known each other for about 15 years. We met in a women’s Bible study group.

Amy and I first met just after she received her PhD in bio-mechanical engineering.

(I can’t even wrap my mind around how complicated it would be to get a master’s, let alone a doctorate, in this subject.)

Shortly after getting engaged to my now-husband, Amy and I talked about meeting men. I suggested that there were plenty of good Christian men in the church we were attending, but Amy shrugged and said that she was looking for a college-educated Chinese Christian man. 

I remained silent since Amy knew what she wanted. After a few months, Amy introduced “Ron” to me and our friends as a well-educated Chinese Christian man.

Amy said she wasn’t really too excited about him. Despite this lack of enthusiasm, she said Ron is kind, honest, and loves God. They got married 5 months later after meeting.

Over the next 10 years of marriage and 3 kids later (even though Ron only wanted 1 child), I have seen Amy deteriorate.

tired asian woman in bed

The high price of obedience 

Amy could be considered the perfect Chinese child as she obediently followed her parents’ guidance. Imagine being the ultimate “good girl,” living up to her father’s dreams for her.

The perfect picture complete with the:

  • Nice husband
  • High-paying career
  • Well dressed kids given the best education 

However, her obedience came at a high cost. Amy is an insomniac, rules the house with an iron fist, and constantly worries about everyone in the house.

Amy is constantly worried about the bills because Ron doesn’t get paid much as an educator. She has to work in a high-stress job to pay the bills and afford a lifestyle that her parents would approve of. 

Her life is built around pleasing her zealous father, and to this day, Amy is still trying to please her family members. But what is the purpose of this? 

Amy called me the other day, considering living off her savings for a year to get some rest. Too many of us are dying silently while trying to please others.

Next, let’s talk about the reasons why a parent places a high expectations on their children.

Messages from your family may be well-meaning, but it is hazardous to your health if they are misaligned with your dreams, interests, and passions.

The reasons why parents place pressure on their children

Many fearful parents unconsciously project their fear onto their children. They don’t want to see their kids suffer academically or in life, so they enforce many rules and standards.

Unfortunately, their kids frequently buckle under the stress. When the child inevitably rebels, the parent wonders, “I did my best. What happened?”

If you were raised in a performance-oriented home where everyone was told that you must be a doctor, lawyer, athlete or whatever, there is an incredibly high bar that you cannot meet. That absolutely ruins a child’s sense of creativity and desire to explore. 

I wrote this message on Twitter and received a less than positive response.

People who feel hurt inside often take out their anger on others because they feel too ashamed to handle it themselves. That’s why it was easy for the person on Twitter to lash out at me instead of dealing with her own feelings of shame and disappointment.

Some parents who like to control everything were treated the same way by their own parents, creating a cycle that only you can stop.

In the next part, we’ll talk about how you can take back control of your own life as an adult.

When you are familiar with and honest about your needs, you will automatically steer clear of harmful people and activities. This is when you are respecting the desires of your soul.

3 Tips to Gain Back Your Power from Your Controlling or Critical Parent as an Adult

As a life coach for entrepreneurs, I want to empower you with tools so that you don’t feel like a helpful child. You have power. In the next section, we will discuss how to be clear about yourself and your needs.

Tip #1 – Be intentional with your choices

While you cannot hit the undo button on getting a degree or even starting a career that was based on seeking parental approval, we can reboot our life based on our preferences.
In order to do this, you must be intentional about your actions. Here are some questions that will help you be clear about the purpose behind your actions:
  • Do you question yourself before doing things because you fear a family member might disapprove?
  • Are you currently in a relationship or want to marry someone because they feel familiar to your mother or father?
  • Could you imagine regretting this decision in the future?

Tip #2 -Create boundaries with your critical parents 

Too many of us never knew our own boundaries because we lived in fear of disappointing others, especially our critical and controlling parents.

To gain self-respect and increase your confidence, it is important to identify your own needs and expectations when dealing with others.

In order to create solid and healthy emotional boundaries with others, it requires clarity on your part regarding the following:

  • What are your personal values, needs, and beliefs?
  • How do you want to be treated? What behavior do you deem unacceptable?
  • What are your physical and emotional limits?
  • What consequences will follow if someone violates your boundaries?

By knowing these factors about yourself and clearly communicating them to others, you can establish healthy emotional boundaries that promote strong relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.

If you need clarity about your needs and desires, my course Amazing Attitude is a great resource.

Tip #3 – Up your self-care game

As a leader and business owner, taking care of your spiritual, emotional, and physical needs is not optional. If you want to break free from the tyrannical voice of your parents, you must be able to understand if you are in a state of flow.

When you are familiar with and honest about your needs, you will automatically steer clear of harmful people and activities. This is when you are respecting the desires of your soul.

If you do not have a self-care plan or need help refining it, these suggestions will be of assistance.

A man and woman holding a sign with a dog in front of them.

Final Thoughts

As an adult, you can regain power from a critical, controlling or domineering parent. It requires recognizing your sovereignty to make choices, the freedom to think for yourself, and enforcing your autonomy.

Don’t let the expectations of others ruin your health and wellbeing. If you need help finding your unique voice, work with me today.

Dig deeper: Click here to listen to my podcast episode about healing from domineering parents with myself and Dr. Bob Beare or press the play button below.