Her parents overparented her

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m considering moving out from home soon. I’m over 21, have a college degree, a car, and a job. However, I’m not sure I’m actually going to be able to do it — leave home, support myself, pay rent, pay off my car, etc. Reason being that my parents have always done everything for me — from homework to laundry. It’s not that I can’t do these things, they seem to think I’m too stupid.
My dad has always been very controlling and angry. His anger has damaged work relationships, as well as, his relationship with his family. When he’s angry he belittles family members and screams that we’re incompetent, lazy, stupid, etc. He is also incredibly controlling. He told me what major I had to get, what I had to get my Master’s Degree in, and that I shouldn’t get a PhD — it’s a waste of money (even though I would pay for the PhD).

I think living with my dad has turned my mom into a controlling parent as well. When I was in grade school she insisted on checking all my homework and screaming at me when I did not understand the concept or got the wrong answer. She also wrote most of my papers saying that my ideas were stupid, silly, or that I would fail if I tried doing anything on my own. Until I was fourteen she said that I lived in “la-la land” and that I was too immature for my age. I never understood what she meant by that. Once in college my mom continued writing my papers even though I asked her not to. Her response was that I wasn’t able to pass a class on my own merits. I get the impression she thinks I’m stupid.

About a year ago my mom told me she wanted me to get my Real Estate License. Even though I told her I did not want to work as a real estate agent, she signed me up for the class, paid the tuition, and said I was going whether I wanted to or not. One year later she’s opened her own real estate office and has me doing all the administrative work. When I do something wrong or don’t do something the way she would she calls and screams at me or belittles me. I’ve considered getting another job but my mom’s words keep coming back to me: “What else could you do?” It’s not a question, it’s more of a statement. She gives me the impression that if she didn’t give me a job I would be to stupid to get one on my own.

The only problem is, I think she’s right. After thinking about it I can’t help but wonder if my parents have told me what to major in and done my homework because they know that I really am stupid and couldn’t do half of this on my own. Why couldn’t they let me try and fail though?

That all being said, I’m thinking about moving out from home. I don’t know if I can make it on my own though. Could this have anything to do with the way I was raised? Am I wrong in questioning my parents and how they raised me? What should I do? I would move in with friends or relatives but don’t have much of either.
Thanks in advance for all the answers.

A: I’m sure your parents meant well but their overparenting has left you underconfident. Now that you’re in your 20s, it’s time for what I call a “healthy rebellion.” A healthy rebellion doesn’t require that you be angry or confrontational. A healthy rebellion simply means doing what is good for you but doing so with tact and caring. You don’t need to blow out of the house with angry words and recriminations. You don’t need to stop loving these people who love you. But it’s time to stop using your upbringing and your folks’ controlling behavior as an excuse for not assuming your position as an adult in the world.

As I know you realize, you didn’t have to become a real estate agent. You don’t have to work in your mother’s office. You don’t have to live at home. You are choosing to follow your parents’ directions.

You do have a degree. You are obviously intelligent. You have your own dreams and your own opinions. You have the right and the ability to make your own choices.

Of course, “rebelling” and taking charge of your life means that your success or failure becomes entirely to your credit or blame. That’s going to be a big shift for all of you. No one would blame you a bit if it seems scary. No one would blame you for feeling overwhelmed. But I think the fact that you wrote to us means that you are getting ready to take some positive action and that you have what it takes.

Your parents won’t be here forever. It’s important that you find out for yourself what you’re made of and that you can set and reach your own goals.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Oct 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Her parents overparented her. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/10/17/her-parents-overparented-her/

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