Subject: Overprotective Mother
Question: I am 17 years old and about to be a senior in highschool.
Me and my mother have not had the best relationship because she is so overprotective and paranoid. She has changed my curfew to 10:00 at night instead of 12:00, which is the legal curfew for my age, because I missed church one day.
Most people my age get to go to clubs for teen night or to concerts and things like that but she won’t let me. I have tried to talk to her about it and show her how i don’t really get to have a social life because I am so controlled by her but she just doesn’t get it.
I don’t know what else to do to make her understand and let go and just back off. Is there anything else I can do to make her understand?
Answer: Dear Anonymous:
First let me say I know it is difficult to nearly be a legal adult and not be considered an almost adult at home. I am sure it is not easy having your wings clipped like this and having your social life stunted. Especially at your age when friends are you world and life. I do understand. However we have to be practicle if the situation is going to change. So here is my response.
First, Let me share a Universal Secret with you,
What you resist persists. Justifying, Arguing, Defending or Explaining are all actions which are going to increase your mother’s defensiveness.
Second, either positive or negative reinforcement patterns increase behavior. What this means if you pat your dog on the head for doing something good he will do the good deed again. If you beat the dog it won’t stop him from doing what he does he will do it again to get your attention, however ignoring his behavior and patting him on the head when he does what you want him to will bring him close to you.
Now let’s see how to apply this.
Steph, you are finding out parents are not perfect. Your mother was not given a handbook when you were born that told her what to do when you did such and such. She is just winging it (unless of course she has a degree in child development or is a Parenting Educator and even they are parents first and professionals second and make mistakes as well.)
Your mother’s reaction to you not going to church is probably based upon fear. She is deeply afraid of something and has cracked down on you because of her own fear. Now I am going to guess at what she is afraid of…if you are relating this story to me as it is and she really did lower your curfew because you didn’t go to church and not for some other infraction of the house rules (make sure you are being honest with yourself) then I would say that she was in denial that you are nearly an adult.
Most parents have problems with their teens because they are really unaware of their unconscious grief that their precious baby has grown up and will soon be leaving them. While you are probably biting at the bit for your freedome and this is perfectly normal…your mother is frantically trying to hang onto every last moment that she has with you.
This situation is actually a gift in your life and let me show you how. This is an opportunity for you to take a very mature approach to the situation. It is time to stop rebelling and give your mom something for having raised you.
You are 17 years old which means you have less than a year until you are 18. HUMOR her. Tell her you know she missed you in church. Tell her you know how much it means to her that you go with her. Apologize for not having talked to her about it first and take responsibility even though you feel you don’t need to and you will have truly outgrown your parent.
You and I both know once you are 18 you don’t have to go to church if you don’t want to and the surprising thing is most childrn who grow up going to church usually do come back to church once they are 18…becuase they choose to.
What you are reacting to is quite normal. You are reacting to not having a choice. Anyone would in your circumstances and none of us likes not having a choice.
However I do believe with your mom she is just having a difficult time dealing with the fact that you are 18 and setting your curfew back to 10 is her way of gaining CONTROL over you becoming an adult which you and I know won’t work. She just needs some time to figure this out in her head and let her heart heal.
I know this is hard for you to grasp as your whole life is ahead of you and you have friends and can’t really picture yourself being a mom nor are you suppose to. Still if you would imagine raising a baby for 17 years and you feed it, protect it and love it and then you know just like a baby bird is suppose to, it will one day leave the nest and not come back.
Try reassuring your mom. Have you told her how much you appreciate her lately, have you told her how much you love her? These are important not just for the obvious reasons and also because it will lower her anxiety that once you are 18 you won’t leave and won’t ever come back and never talk to her again.
Parenting is the most important thing any adult ever does and it consumes a parents every waking moment from the time they find out they are pregnant and NOTHING they ever do again will ever compare to this…for you it is a new and exciting adventure to become 18 and move out on your own…for your mother it is the end of something wonderful.
She obviously thinks you are a wonderful person or she would not be struggling to keep you at her side. I know this because there are teens who are thrown away and parents who don’t see their children like this so….
the bad news is you need to take different action to get a different result. Obviously what you have been doing isn’t getting you where you want to go so what do you have to lose?
The good news is you have some new suggestions to try out and be consistent (she maybe suspicous at first, go past this reaction and keep on plugging along) and you will get some good results with these suggestions.
Feel free to write me back again.
M Kay Keller