A controlling parent operates like a puppet master in the family dynamic, with every family member’s actions guided by their strings.
This parent views themselves as the ultimate authority, always knowing what’s best and expecting obedience from everyone else.
Imagine a mother or father who dictates every aspect of their child’s life, from what they wear to who they befriend, turning every decision into a reflection of their own preferences and desires.
Having a controlling parent often leads to a constrained and stressful childhood, stifling the child’s autonomy and individuality.
What is a controlling parent?
A controlling parent exercises excessive control over their child’s life. There are two types of control – behavioral and psychological. Controlling parents usually refers to those who exert both types of control, overshadowing the child’s ability to make decisions, explore personal interests, and develop independence.
They may tightly manage their children’s schedules, steer their interests, stand over them while doing homework, or ensure they wear the right clothes.
Controlling parents tend to be intrusive, possessive, overprotective, directive, and manipulative.
50 Things controlling parents say
A controlling parent might employ sayings or perceived “truths” to guide their children’s behavior and choices.
Frequently, these parents exert authority over their children, stifling conversation and discussion before making decisions.
This can leave children feeling helpless and like their opinions or needs do not matter.
Calling all the shots
Controlling parents tend to make all the decisions for their children.
Children with psychologically controlling parents tend to have low self-esteem.2
- Because I said so.
- Mother knows best.
- You’ll understand when you’re older; just follow my instructions now.
- I know what’s best for you.
- I know you better than you know yourself.
- You’re too young to understand this, so just do as I tell you.
- I’m your parent, and you’ll follow my rules as long as you live under my roof.
- You don’t have a say in this matter; I’ve already decided for you.
- You’ll follow my rules as long as you’re my responsibility.
- You’ll thank me later for making this decision for you.
- I’m only doing this for your own good, so don’t question me.
- I’m the parent, and what I say goes, no discussion.
- Trust me, I know better than you; just do what I say.
- I’m your parent, not your friend; you need to obey me.
Some controlling parents manipulate their children through guilt induction, shaming, or love withdrawal.
- If you really loved me, you would do as I say.
- If you don’t do it, I will be so disappointed.
- I’ve given you everything, and this is how you repay me?
- You’ll regret this when I’m dead.
- A good son wouldn’t treat their father like this.
- Don’t you trust me? Just do what I’m telling you.
- You’re not allowed to keep any secrets from me.
- You don’t want to be a failure, do you? Then do what I tell you.
- You’ll ruin your life if you don’t listen to me.
- You owe me this much for all I’ve done for you.
- If you don’t do this, you’ll let the whole family down.
- You’ll never get anywhere in life without my guidance.
- I’m doing this because I love you.
- You don’t want people to think badly of you, do you? Then do as I say.
- Don’t make me regret all the sacrifices I’ve made for you; just follow my lead.
Controlling parents often resort to intimidation and threats of punishment to get their children to comply with their wishes.4
- Do what I say, or else.
- Don’t you dare talk back to me.
- My house, my rules.
- It’s my way or the highway.
- Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about.
- Do this, or you’ll be grounded for a month.
- You’ll do as I say, or you’ll face the consequences.
- Don’t test me; you won’t like what happens if you disobey.
- I brought you into this world, and I can take away everything you have.
- You’ll regret it if you don’t listen to me.
- If you don’t do this, you’ll be sorry.
- I’m not asking; I’m telling. Do it, or else.
- Things Narcissistic Fathers Say
- Things Narcissistic Mothers Say
- Hurtful Things Parents Say That Kids Still Remember As Adults
Controlling parents often tend to invalidate their children’s feelings, opinions, and experiences.
This invalidation can manifest in dismissive behaviors, such as belittling the child’s emotions, ignoring their viewpoints, or outright rejecting their thoughts and feelings.
Children with controlling parents often feel unheard and unimportant.5
- Trust me. It’s not as bad as you think.
- Stop being so sensitive.
- It’s not a big deal.
- You should be happy.
- You should be grateful for this.
- You’re too young to know what you want.
- You don’t really want that.
- You’re just overreacting; calm down.
- Don’t be silly; that’s not something to be upset about.
- Stop being so dramatic.
Also See: Mentally Abusive Parents
- 1.Barber BK. Parental Psychological Control: Revisiting a Neglected Construct. Child Development. Published online December 1996:3296. doi:10.2307/1131780
- 2.Hunter SB, Barber BK, Stolz HE. Extending Knowledge of Parents’ Role in Adolescent Development: The Mediating Effect of Self-esteem. J Child Fam Stud. Published online October 24, 2014:2474-2484. doi:10.1007/s10826-014-0050-1
- 3.Soenens B, Vansteenkiste M. A theoretical upgrade of the concept of parental psychological control: Proposing new insights on the basis of self-determination theory. Developmental Review. Published online March 2010:74-99. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2009.11.001
- 4.Grolnick WS, Kurowski CO. Family processes and the development of children’s self-regulation. Educational Psychologist. Published online January 1, 1999:3-14. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep3401_1
- 5.Fung J, Lau AS. Tough love or hostile domination? Psychological control and relational induction in cultural context. Journal of Family Psychology. Published online 2012:966-975. doi:10.1037/a0030457