A controlling, manipulative parent is quite a challenge at best. She or he is conniving and hurtful, and never offers unconditional love. This parent’s love always has strings attached. He or she will withdraw affection from you or give you the silent treatment to punish you when you dare to disobey that parent’s orders. He or she will cry to get what he or she wants. This parent gladly will use guilt or intimidation. He or she even will turn others, including your other parent, against you if that will further the manipulation cause. Leveling is another popular tactic. This means that your parent will act as if he or she is an authority figure, and verbally tear you down (thus building him or herself up).
If this describes your parent, you probably have examples for every statement made in the paragraph above. Chances are also very good that you allow your parent to manipulate you, even when you do not want to. It placates her, and you do not feel guilty, so sometimes this seems like the best solution.
The good news is you do not have to continue living this way! You are a grown adult, with your own life to live. You do NOT need to cater to your parent! Your parent does not have the right to force you to do anything. You are both adults. You cannot change your parent, but your behavior can change, leading you to a happier, freer life.
Identify what manipulation tactics your parent uses. What does your parent say or do right before you give in? Being aware helps you not to fall for the tactics any longer.
When speaking with your parent, always keep your tone even and calm. Retorting with frustration or anger encourages this type of person to play the victim, enabling him or her to use guilt to get what he or she wants. If he or she does play the victim, challenge the accusations calmly and logically. For example, your parent may say that you are mean and selfish. Ask, “Really? I’m mean and selfish? Give me examples of this.” It will unsettle your parent. When he or she cannot come up with examples, most likely your parent will become frustrated and change the subject.
Establish and maintain good boundaries. That may include spending less time with your parent. There is nothing wrong with that! You are two separate adults, and you both need your own space. You also have every right to protect yourself from manipulative behavior, even that of your parent!
Use phrases like, “You’re entitled to your opinion, but so am I,” “I can’t talk about this right now” or, “I won’t discuss this matter with you.” They let your parent know where you stand, while still being respectful.
Remember that your parent’s behavior may become worse once you start setting these boundaries. He or she may call you mean, uncaring, selfish, and more. Do not fall for this! It is nothing but an attempt to make you feel bad for not tolerating the manipulation! Stand strong! YOU CAN DO THIS! Once your parent realizes he or she cannot control you anymore, it will be worth it!
On the road to healing, I personally found my relationship with God to be my greatest help. He helped me more than I can say. Prayer and meditating on His word, the Bible, helped so much. Learning who the Bible says I am as a child of God is not only inspiring and comforting, but helpful in the healing process. If you do not have a personal relationship with God, please read the page Salvation Through Jesus Christ for more information.