9 Smooth Ways to Set Boundaries with Parents

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Setting boundaries with controlling parents can be challenging.

Emotions are flying around from every which way, but there’s also a lot of love and respect in the mix.

You don’t want to hurt your parents’ feelings; you know they’re doing the best they can, just like the rest of us, but at the same time, something has to change, or you’re going to explode.

You’ve reached your limit.  

To that end, today, we’re talking about setting boundaries with parents.

Is It Disrespectful to Set Boundaries With Your Parents? 

Your parents are driving you a bit batty, but you feel bad telling them to back off. After all, they’re your parents. The people who changed your diaper, provided for you, and marshaled you into adulthood.

But sometimes, they cross the line, and you must take measures.

And no, it is not disrespectful to calmly and kindly discuss some common sense boundaries with your parents.

Sure, you may initially hurt their feelings, but it shouldn’t cause too much familial discord if you do it right.

Besides, nine out of 10 parents had the same conversation with their parents decades ago. It’s a parenting rite of passage.

Reasons Why You Need to Set Boundaries with Parents 

Setting boundaries with parents is perfectly normal. Sometimes moms and dads have difficulty letting go, bless their hearts, and need a gentle redirection or correction. 

how to set boundaries with parents

Outside of extenuating circumstances, setting boundaries almost always leads to more harmonious in-law relations. Everyone respects and understands what’s expected of them and behaves accordingly.  

Types of toxic parental behaviors that may require boundaries include:

  • Assumed Authority: Do your parents still act like they’re in control of your life? Yes, if you’re 12, a certain amount of parental supervision is appropriate and acceptable. But if you’re in your 30s, it’s time to cut the umbilical cord. Parents can offer advice, but they can’t tell you what to do. Nor can they get mad if you don’t always pick what they want.
  • No Privacy: It’s not OK for parents to rifle through their adult children’s things. You have a right to privacy from your parents when you reach adulthood.
  • Dropping By Whenever They Want: In days of old when the Ingalls family was toiling on the midwestern frontier, it was acceptable to stop by peoples’ homes unannounced. They didn’t have smartphones. But today, dropping by unannounced is a high crime. At the very least, text someone a half hour before and ask for permission to stop by. But parents coming and going from their adult children’s homes as they please, without concern for anyone else’s schedule, crosses the line.
  • Constant Criticism: Even though your parents probably love you more than anyone else on the planet, they also tend to criticize you more than anyone else.   
  • They’re Pathologically Attention-Seeking: Some parents spend their whole lives battling attention issues. Maybe they have NPD or another personality divergence that makes them socially difficult. If they refuse to get help or work with you on mitigating the matter, things can become overly toxic.
  • Always Play the Victim: Some people always play the victim. It’s often a behavioral quirk of folks who’ve yet to deal with traumatic events in their lives. After a while, it can become corrosive.

How to Set Boundaries with Parents: 9 Not-So-Painful Ways to Do It 

Do you need examples of boundaries with parents? We’re here to help.

Everyone’s family dynamic is different.

So tweak what you must.

Generally speaking, though, there are nine things you can do to make the boundary drawing process with parents a bit easier for all involved.

1. Think Before You Act

Try not to have an outburst. Sometimes, it happens. But if you can, avoid it.

Before approaching your parents with potential boundaries, think about the logistics. Also, consider their feelings. Is there a reason they’re being clingy? Try to approach everything with compassion leading the way. Planning out the conversation can help. 

2. Prepare and Know Your Material

It may feel silly to practice, but going in with a clear directive is the best course of action. Think about possible routes the conversation could take and prepare for them all. 

Don’t make the conversation a surprise attack. Let your parents know ahead of time that you want to talk about some family things. They deserve to prepare, too.


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3. Expect the Worst and Hope for the Best

Of course, you want everything to go smoothly. Ideally, your parents will apologize profusely and instantaneously tweak their behavior. But it’s much more likely that their feelings will ache, and they’ll completely misinterpret something you say.

Prepare yourself for this probability. And do your best to explain that you love them dearly but just need a bit of space.

4. Don’t Bait Them by Oversharing

You can’t treat people like light bulbs — switching them on and off when it’s convenient for you.

In other words, don’t overshare on Monday and expect them to forget about it on Tuesday. Once you open a conversation with someone, it’s difficult to take it back.

how to set boundaries with parents

So don’t mistreat others by changing your emotional needs from day to day. Share it if you want your parents and in-laws involved in a conversation. If you don’t, keep it to yourself.

5. Slow Your Argumentation Roll

It’s so easy to get annoyed when frustrations have built over time. Sometimes, things just blow up. But do your best to curb arguments. Try to be the peacemaker.  

Try to remind yourself that you may be the person making a molehill into a mountain.

6. Create Space For Healing

People often need time to adjust to new rules. So if the initial boundary conversation doesn’t go smoothly, give the relationship some space. Time typically heals most wounds.

If it’s been over a week and you haven’t heard from a parent with whom you usually speak daily, give them a call. They may be hurt and need you to reach out. Swallow your pride and just do it. A standoff is silly.

7. Indulge in Self-Care

Setting boundaries with family can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. Throughout the process, take care of yourself. Try to eat healthily, and pamper yourself with some long baths and spa treatments. Imagine how good a massage will feel after politely negotiating a detente with your loving-but-demanding mother-in-law.  

8. Try To Be Fair

Getting older isn’t easy, and sometimes it can feel downright cruel — not to mention that hurdle of getting closer to your own mortality. So try to think about their feelings when crafting boundaries. Try to be fair to everyone, including them.

All things considered, is it really a hassle to have them over once a week for dinner? Double-check that you’re not getting annoyed for the sake of getting annoyed.

9. Be Firm But Kind

Setting boundaries with difficult elderly parents can be the hardest. Sometimes, they lose their ability to care about anyone else’s priorities and try to guilt you with their looming demise. It’s brutal.

But everyone will ultimately be happier if you stick to your guns. Be kind but firm. 

And don’t worry, when they get to this guilt stage, they usually have decades to go. 

Parenting is hard, so try and cut yours some slack. Yes, they may be driving you crazy. And yes, you have every right to establish boundaries — free of guilt. But do your best to be as gentle as possible.

When you’re their age and stressing out your little ones, you’ll appreciate the consideration.

When is too much when it comes to your parents? Learn how to set boundaries with parents as you read this post.

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