I have a mother who has always been too controlling all my life and likes to give advice about everything even though I never ask her for advice. I am a grown woman, married and have a gorgeous healthy 4-year-old daughter. She gets colds from kids, very normal of course. I feel I have healthy parenting techniques and think that my child is pretty darn healthy compared to a lot of other kids. She has never even had to go on antibiotics. My mother will come and help babysit or my daughter may stay overnight at her Grandma’s to get babysat but half the time, she has had a slight cough, or gets snotty – I’m very conscious of it, but I’m not concerned about it as it may be due to allergies. I also get a lot of hay fever. The main problem is my mum won’t stop with her constant worries and nags about how my daughter is sick and thinks she should see a doctor and it’s not right and she emails me and text messages me every time she babysits. I think it is excessive and a constant burden on our relationship how she is obsessed about this health issue. She is also a nurse, so she thinks she knows everything about coughs. How can I not get frustrated and stressed out from her constant harassment about negative talk/issues on the same subject over and over again, it’s like a broken record. My mum thinks she is normal though, but she’s not the way she repeats herself about the same things and she always forgets things I’ve told her. I’d really like my mum to see someone for anxiety as she has often rung me up and overstepped the line verbally abusing me on the phone telling me what I should do with my child. I’m exhausted and no other family members (all men) want to be bothered to get involved (even her partner, my step dad). Please help me, as I’m sure my mother is lonely at home and obsessed about my daughter’s health when there is clearly nothing wrong with her. Your thoughts greatly appreciated. She won’t see a counselor with me either.
A: I understand how frustrating this kind of “help” can be, yet I believe this may be an opportunity to get the communication and your mom’s needs aligned. I would do two things. Explain to your mom that you understand how she wants to help and that there needs to be a better way for that to happen for both of you. Explain to her that you believe she is right—that both of you need a professional opinion and a way to move your communication forward.
I would set up a joint appointment with the pediatrician and have the pediatrician render an opinion of what normal is. Your mother is likely to respect what the doctor says, and both of you get to plead your case. If the cough is something that the doctor thinks is a concern, then you have a chance to negotiate with your mom how to deal with things in the future. If the cough is a normal part of being a kid, then you get to negotiate with your mom about future conversations.
Use the physician as an intermediary as you might a counselor. Both of you are trying to do the right thing out of love and concern. Let’s see if there is a way to do this with less wear and tear.
About Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPPDaniel J. Tomasulo, Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP is a graduate of the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania and works as Martin Seligman's assistant instructor there. He is a licensed psychologist specializing in group psychotherapy and psychodrama and is the author of the highly acclaimed Confessions of a Former Child: A Therapist’s Memoir. Visit www.formerchild.com for more information. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.
Tomasulo, D. (2012). Overbearing Grandmother. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 28, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/08/20/overbearing-grandmother/