"My mother never stops giving me advice. She tells me how to clean my house, how to raise my children, what I should do in my job, how to treat my ex-husband, how to take care of my cats. The list goes on. She never quits. And then she always follows up asking for a report about whether I did what she told me to do. I take a lot of her advice, but if I don't do what she wants, she gets mad. I hate it, but I don't know what to do about it. She calls me every day and talks forever. She treats me like I'm eight years old, but I passed eight a long time ago."
"Controlling Mothers: Cutting the Apron Strings" : Greg Baer
Controlling Mums. Mums who are totally involved in their children's lives whether the child is 4 or 64. It seems some controlling Mums are 'born' that way, while others take on the role.
The very fact that she gave birth and raised her children is reason and right enough in a controlling mother's thinking, to have a say in their life, right through and into adulthood. She thinks of it as well meaning, in the child's best interest, an aspect of her loving her child. But it can be read by others as interference, behaviour which is controlling the child's life.
Evidence of mothers being controllers can be seen in the lives of preschool children , where mums speak for their children, convincing them they would really prefer . . . . . , or bribing them to behave or do certain things that mum wants them to do. Even under five year old children must have freedom of choice to think as they wish . . . followed by experiencing the proper consequences of their choices, so they learn to live in reality.
School-aged children can be controlled by their mums, by being continually 'reminded' or instructed in what they are to do or say. The internet is a huge problem area for controlling mums. To cope some check-up on the children's emails or facebook entries. This is a clear case where in their mind, mums think they are acting in their child's best interests, but in truth they are controlling. If a child is old enough to communicate in these forms, a parent needs to trust them to independently go about it. (Please refer back to my earlier post WEEK 6 QUOTE 6 on learning to trust our children)
For young adults and adult children , a controlling mum still sees her input as necessary, particularly in areas of decision making. She may select and buy most of the clothes for the grandchildren, choose what courses are to be studied, the direction of their future career and which jobs should and shouldn't be applied for. Finance is another area controlling mums want to have a say.
The famous expression "helicopter moms" helps us to understand what some controlling mums are like. "A helicopter mom is a mom who hovers over every state in her child's development, from . . . in utero, through the college years and beyond," said Helen Johnson says, "they ultimately set their children up for a fall in adulthood. . . . In taking over, they send out a profound message : You are not capable of handling your life." Johnson said.
Why do controlling mothers do this? A lot of what I've read gives the same reasons.
~ they operate on how they feel
~ they may be now suffering from empty nest syndrome
~ they are unhappy in their own relationships within the family
~ they are more interested in what they want as opposed to knowing what the child wants
~ they don't feel enough love in their own lives - described as insecure, needy and empty people
Ross Campbell would say their emotional tank is low or empty and while it remains empty
their behaviour can not change
~ they confuse the sense of power they feel over their child, as acceptance by the child and this
temporarily fills their need for being loved
~ they often are perfectionists who want, some even drive their children to "be the best"
Here is some more information about controlling mothers.
* They take the success or failure of their children personally.
* They can have the habit of arriving late to events so as to control when the party starts.
* They rearrange, re-organize, change the plans or rewrite the work done by others, so it is
exactly as they want it to be.
* They can participate in 'one upping', out doing who they know over who you know. Put
themselves as the best, hardest worker, longest stayer. . . This indicates their personal
insecurity and at the same time making themselves the focus of attention.
* Within the family, controlling mums can have favourites. Those who are not favourites are
usually in this position because they will not be controlled. They have 'broken away'. Because
a controlling mum can not get co operation or obedience from this child, she regularly moves
to controlling tactics, consciously or subconsciously, in an attempt to gain control. A common
example is to publicly embarrass or emotionally hurt the child in their presence, as the cont-
rolling mum converses with others. These conversations can be with total strangers, it
doesn't matter because the objective is to get the child to conform to mum. On the other hand
* In an attempt to have control, controlling mums can work at keeping children in the family
separated from each other, aiding disharmony between them. If they are all in strong,
favourable friendships, her control over their lives is lessened.
* The family of the favourite child, is given more space in the controlling mum's life, simply
because they will co operate. And the non favourites . . . .
* a CHECKLIST from "If you Had Controlling Parents : How to Make Peace with Your Past
and Take Your Place in the World" by Dr Dan Neuharth
In raising children, you . . .
1. micromanage their eating, appearance, hobbies or social life.
2. give affection as a reward but withdraw it as a punishment.
3. criticise your children far more than you praise them.
4. violate your child's privacy.
5. override, discount or ridicule your child's strong emotions.
6. forbid your child from asking questions or disagreeing with you.
7. are unwilling to admit your mistakes in parenting.
8. believe that you own your children and that they have to earn your love.
9. see your children's desires for independence and autonomy as a personal rejection.
10. inflict physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse on your children.
Controlled children feel trapped, 'imprisoned', under obligation to stay in this role with their mum. In staying in this state, they think they are being kind, loving and respectful toward mum. They feel they can never measure up to mum's expectations, so think themselves a failure. They lack compassion for themselves. To them it is more important to be right than to be curious or take a risk. As time goes on, some children begin to feel resentment toward their mother. They can then behave in utter rudeness, attempting to separate themselves from mum. This can result in cutting communications off with mum, temporarily or permanently. Controlled children find family gatherings difficult, because of the unpredictability's of possible differences of opinion. Adults with a controlled background have few deep or meaningful friendships with people outside the family.
As you read, are there a significant number of points ringing in your head? Do you think you are a controlling mum?
As I said in last week's post WEEK 14 QUOTE 14 on Absent Dads, you can know all the information about why you must change but still choose to do nothing. So how can a controlling mother be persuaded, encouraged, coerced or confronted so that she will change?
Well, a lot of what appears on internet on this subject states that controlling mums can not be changed, and precedes to give volumes of advice to controlled children. Advice such as "forget the looser", "cut off all communications with her", "be strong and start again, don't even think about her" . . . . For a lot of controlled children looking for advice, this is what they will find.
However, I personally don't agree with the idea that controlling mums can't change. There are some helpful action plans for controlling mums on Catholic websites. But the real help I think is by looking and choosing to follow the recovery steps laid down by groups such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and drug and smoking rehabilitation groups. They all say a similar thing which I'm applying below to controlling mums.
1. Firstly you need to see and admit you ARE a controlling mum.
2. You must decide that you WANT to change.
3. You need to admit that you can't do it on your own, because being controlling is your nature.
4. You need help from outside yourself - AA say "from a higher authority", or maybe a counsellor..
5. You need to get involved, start a program of recovery.
6. You need to commit to seeing it through with someone else who will honestly give you feedback on how you are doing.
Mums need to be nurturers, not controllers. As the kids grow up mums need to be on the same level as them, developing creative, trusting relationships with each of their children.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS, for their sake, 'if the hat fits', take the steps you need to.
If you want some help for your children, get them to look at this site.
Maybe Dr Dan Neuharth's book could be a help to them.