Doesn’t Being An Adult Mean Your Parents Are No Longer The Boss Of You?

November 21, 2012  |  


I was 23 when I realized that I am an adult free to make my own decisions regardless of what my parents think.

My dad had just passed away and I was forced to look for an apartment of my own. My older cousin had run into some legal trouble and was also living with my dad at the time of his passing. When he died suddenly, neither of us had a place to go. My mom suggested we find a place together and I was adamantly against it. My cousin couldn’t hold down a job and devastation from my dad’s death aside, I was thinking clear enough to say there was no way I was getting a place with her. She was wild, had a child with a neighborhood thug, refused to work, and showed no respect for me whatsoever.

Hearing my objections, my mom continued to press the issue saying I didn’t need to live alone while grieving my dad’s death. She insisted that my cousin and I stick together and that we’d get along better considering the circumstances. I relented, feeling that I had no choice in the matter. She was my mom and I allowed her to tell me what to do.

Never again.

As I suspected, that turned out to be the worst living situation I ever experienced. Not only did my cousin fail to contribute a dime to a single bill, she refused to clean up, and allowed her toddler to run wild around the house. To make a bad situation worse, she moved in with some guy before our lease was up and left all of her stuff in her room. I repeatedly told her to come get her things because I was considering renting out the room. She ignored my requests and by the time the lease was up and it was time to move out, she was back in jail and therefore I had to pay to move all of her stuff to storage.

Thanks Mom.

Since then, I’ve definitely learned to go with my own decision making and not blindly obey what my parents suggest. Still, it’s a strange transition going from a parent-child relationship to a parent-adult child relationship.

In Creating Family Relationships, psychotherapist Dr. Tina Tessina says:

If you’re an adult in college, working, or married, it’s time to grow up and move on from your family and your childhood. While it’s lovely to be close to your family if you have a good relationship with them, it is also time to build a life of your own, and the sooner you begin, the quicker you will become well-established. It’s a big change when you first leave home  to think of yourself as being in charge of your life. “I’m 31 years old,” said a client “and I still feel as if someone else is running my life.” That is not a good place to be.

The key is to decide that you, and only you are in charge of what you do from this day on.

 I will always be my parents’ daughter, but I no longer have to do what they say. I’ve moved from the “obey your parents” scripture to the “honor your parents” commandment. No longer do I have to absolutely submit to their commands “because they said so.” Now, I respect and esteem their opinions and give them considerable weight, but what they say doesn’t necessarily go.

I felt I learned my lesson late, so it’s odd to me when I come across people in their late 20’s and 30’s who have not yet made the transition from obeying to honoring their parents. They allow their parents full authority over their life decisions even if they don’t agree. Just recently, a 28-year-old friend commented that she wanted to go on a cruise but her dad felt they were dangerous and he didn’t want his daughter “trapped on some boat in the middle of the ocean.” Her husband suggested they go anyway, but she declined as though going against her father was unthinkable.

Dr. Tessina says to change your relationship with your family from that of a dependent child to a fully respected adult, you must first change the way you think of yourself in relationship to your family.

How do you do that?

In most cases, it’s easier to come out from under your parents’ authority if you’re not turning to them in every emotional and personal crisis or looking for a financial bailout. Using their resources gives them control and going to them for advice can make you feel as though you have to take it. If you treat the others in your family as “fellow adults”, you’re more likely to get treated like one yourself.

Then there are those people who aren’t really listening to their parents but instead are just using their parents as a way to get out of doing something they don’t want to do anyway. They cite their parents’ objections and pretend that they’re just being obedient. They don’t realize that others aren’t seeing that as a valid excuse and are only thinking “Why are you listening to your parents when you’re a grown woman?” Crutches only work when your leg is actually broken, not when you’re pretending you need them.

In that situation, it’s important to ask yourself why you don’t feel comfortable with your own adult decisions and feel the need to drag your parents into it and essentially blame them for a way of thinking they have nothing to do with.

You don’t need your parents to validate your positions or beliefs. Being adult means you can think for yourself and make your own decisions whether your parents agree or not.

What do you think? Are you surprised when people use their parents as a crutch in decision making? Do you still obey your parents or do you try to honor their opinions about your life?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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  • Shauna

    I was in an abusive relationship for almost sixteen years. My ex went to prison and because I asked my mother for help sometimes picking up the kids since she worked nights and I worked days, she decided she needed to live with me. I have a place that is paid for but is small so I knew it would be cramped for a while but I thought maybe it would be okay and I could save money to get a bigger place later. She has no respect for privacy, for my friends, treats my kids how she raised me(I do not approve of how she raised me), takes things out of my wallet and moves my important papers around and then I cannot find what I need. I have been out of work the longest I ever have and it is like she is making it hard on purpose for me to get on my feet. For example, I will go job searching and keep all the information together so that I can know where I have been or what applications I need to finish and return etc but she will stash away my papers in a file box but not together like I had them and most times I can never find all of them. When I ask her where they are she gets mad and says she did not touch them, okay so I guess I have an invisible person in my home moving things. I recently finished school for my CDL and am supposed to leave Monday for orientation but now I cannot find my certificate of completion from school which I have to give them and on top of that she lost my medical DOT card I have to have too. My mother and father separated when I was young and when I told my dad about what has been going on, he knew I was telling the truth because she did things when they were married. She takes money out of my wallet, who does that to their adult children and who goes through their adult children’s personal information? My kids have become so out of control and screams at each other because that is what she does, she acts like a child herself when it comes to disciplining the kids when they are not listening. I had taught my kids that you eat what we have made or go hungry, if you eat then you can also help in the chores to clean the home when you help make the mess. I also believe that grades are important and if you are in activities after school then you are responsible to be there when scheduled unless sick, my mom just lets them do what they choose because when they say they do not want to go she just gets mad and takes them home and tells me she is not going to fight with them…um..hello… what are parents for if they are not going to teach responsibility!!? I learned a long time ago by knowing how my dad raised me and how she did that I wished my dad had been around all the time because I know I definitely would not have ended up pregnant at sixteen, my mom never did anything with my sister and I but now wants to tell me how I should be with mine.

  • guest

    I’m not really surprised to be honest, it’s only natural. After all, they are your parents; the people who raise you have a big impact on you. Even my grandparents had some pull when I became an adult. Though it is true that it’s slightly different if you’re living with them; when you’re living under their roof there are some things that you naturally defer to. Chores for example are something I tend to defer to my mother on. Of course it’s also give and receive, if I say our cat needs to be taken to the vet she calls the vet up. Sometimes it’s not so much that they’re your parents, but a simple matter of courtesy. If she needs my help taking the groceries in, I’m happy to do my part.

    Anyway, at the age of 26 I still get somewhat nervous saying the word no. Even now it feels foreign; though part of it is also fear of connection loss. My mom and me can take things a little too personally, and if we get mad at each other, we can be a little distant. Feeling distant is an icky sensation. Could be the fact that I’m an only child, and may have abandonment issues. As I get older it gets easier to say no though, part of that is because my mom recognizes my independence more and more as the years go by.

  • Jay

    It is not true that parents’ power only applies until a child is 18. Actually, simply turning 18 does not end the parents’ power over you. Turning 18 merely means the option to move out is now available to the child if they want to. It merely opens that door for the child. It just means they now have the right to do so. That’s really the only difference, between pre-18, and post-18. It’s only when the child actually does move out, when they’re now exempt from their parents’ power, when their parents are no longer boss, not simply because they are 18. It’s moving out, and supporting oneself that ends the parents’ power and frees the child to be their own boss, not one’s age. Even if a child did not live at home, if the parents were helping pay for the child’s rent, or bills, they’d still have some leverage. Otherwise, as long as one continues to live at home, the parents remain boss. This includes the right to amend/overrule/veto, know of the child’s whereabouts if they leave, or they’re away from the house for a long time, and even act overprotective (if the child is living at home, they have the perfect excuse to do so). It’s their house, and they’re the boss of it, including the child’s bedroom. It may be the child’s bedroom, but it’s their house.

    • Shauna

      How does someone become an adult while being treated like a child? I will never treat my children that way because you just diminish self confidence they have. There is a difference in an adult child who wants to just party all the time and not better themselves, however, I am speaking of an adult child trying to work and/or going to school to better themselves. They should be allowed the opportunity to reach their profession with the help of their parents but also freedom to act like an adult, parents are the reason their adult children can’t grow up.

  • Mercedes

    My parents are very critical and one sided people. It is their suggestion/opinion/statements. No if and or buts!

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  • JP

    I agree, parents should never treat an adult child like a child. However, to be candid, as long as the child is dependant on the parents in any way, (Which includes: physically living at home with them. This counts as a dependency because the child is dependant on them for shelter. And/or if they pay all, or most of the bills, that’s a dependency also) as long as that’s the case, they will continue to hold the power to veto/overrule. The only escape from this is to move out, and support oneself other than on their parents’ money. Only then is one exempt from their parents’ power to obey them.

  • Live_in_LDN

    My best friend is 26 years old and we both suffers from the same long existing health problem. My GP sorted me out years ago and put me on the right treatment. Her GP messes her around, ignores her complaints and puts it down to womanly hysteria and sends her to the wrong appointments. She’s old enough to change GPs but she won’t because ‘it’s her family’s gp and her mom doesn’t like the idea of her changing’

  • Just saying!!

    Wow I really needed to read this!! I’m stuck in a situation where I’m so used to being told what to do that I’m constantly looking for validation and have a hard time making decisions on my own-especially since I’m just now entering the real world. But making a decision and sticking with it is way better than being indecisive…it doesn’t feel good!

  • Stillachildapparently

    I’m 24 single and I still get told what to do and I’f they could “ground me” they would.. Now I am responsible and have a good head on my shoulders but at the moment my financial situation is not the best.. So they think its an invitation to tell me how to run my life, and it’s frustrating

  • Stillachildapparently

    I’m 24 single and I still get told what to do and I’f they could “ground me” they would.. Now I am responsible and have a good head on my shoulders but at the moment my financial situation is not the best.. So they think its an invitation to tell me how to run my life, and it’s frustrating

  • this isn’t neccessarily the case like when a college grad moves back in with their parents before they find a job. a perfect example is Claire Newman she moved back in with her parents after college for four years until she got a job at pegasus riding school for the handicapped. granted Darrien Connecticut where pegaus is located and she lives is at most a 45 minute drive from Westport where her mother and older sister Melissa live so it’s not that big a deal. the only sibling she sees infrequently is her eldest bio sister Nell who lives in Santa Cruz California

  • chanela

    my mom gets upset and tries to tell to erase things i post on facebook just because SHE doesn’t like it… *delete*

  • Alohilani

    My parents have never been involved in the decisions I make. Their opinion is of no value to me.

  • ANTMilf

    My parents hasn’t been the boss of me since I left the nest when I turned 18, but if I need advice on life my mom is always there to provide.