At the end of every sitcom in the 90’s, parents had a heart to hearts with their children.
Queue the sappy music
In this conversation, they’d apologize for being angry, openly share their fears and everyone would cry and hug.
But this is so far from real life it’s comical.
In reality, parents don’t laugh congenially when kids keep making the same mistake over and over.
No. They get angry. The nag. Some throw things…or worse.
We’ve all had to deal with parents that annoy us at one time or another. Some more than others.
And it doesn’t end simply because you’re a grown-up now.
In this post, you’ll discover how to deal with annoying parents or family members in a way that helps you be a better person.
Listen to what they mean, not what they say
Communication is an art that many people get wrong. It’s not just about talking about how you feel. Proper communication is speaking to be understood but also in a way the other party can receive the information. The former is easier than the latter. For example, you can tell someone the truth but if you use it to hurt them, you’re not likely to get through.
Sometimes people say harsh or cruel things out of anger but how they really feel is buried underneath. Learning to understand what isn’t being spoken is an act of emotional intelligence and a skill that will be valuable throughout life.
When someone is an ass to me on Twitter, I just assume they have unresolved childhood trauma. And I could never return ill-will to that kind of trauma.
Similarly, if your parents are nagging you or exhibiting some other annoying behavior, learn to understand what they **aren’t **saying:
- I’m worried you’re ruining your life
- You’re being inconsiderate of my hard work
- I’m tired and need a break
- It’s concerning you haven’t learned this lesson by now
- I don’t think you’re telling me the truth
Once you recognize the underlying intention, you can resolve the issue faster.
Listen more than you talk
Listening more than you talk is a life skill many don’t learn.
When your parents are being annoying or argumentative it’s easy to want to interrupt and argue. You may have even learned to tune them out when they talk. But there’s a strange thing that happens when you stop talking and pay attention—you learn things.
I’m not saying that some parents can’t be overbearing or controlling or even that parents are always right. But your parents have their own perspective of the world that has been developed through experiences you are yet to have. It’s easy to think they’re wrong, or don’t understand, when you have a limited view of the world.
Take a second to calm down if you are upset. No matter what, don’t respond out of anger. This will only derail any communication and make you look like a child. Make eye contact while they are speaking, and listen.
This comes in handy if you feel convicted about something. Say you’ve decided to choose a career path your parents don’t understand or approve of. If you’ve explained yourself and how far it can take you, there isn’t much else to say. In this instance, you more understand their fears but also gain the opportunity to get their understanding even if they don’t approve.
Understand your parents’ role
It’s easy to look back over your life and lament over all the things your parents didn’t do for you. As a child, you often never see the sacrifices they made to raise you. And for many, you won’t understand until you have your own children.
For most of your life, your parents serve as your protector until you are able to provide that protection for yourself. This isn’t a role that can be given up lightly. Also, it’s not a role you can argue with your parents for. You can only prove you are capable by the actions you take. Simply saying I’m a grown-up isn’t a replacement for acting like an adult.
So when they are controlling or invasive it seems like they have a vendetta against you or a personal tantrum. Understanding your parents’ point of view in raising you isn’t to tell you what you want to hear.
I wrote a post on the 6 markers of adulthood. Truthfully, they are milestones we all reach at different times. Learning them can help you transition smoothly into adulthood and also show your parents that you are your own provider.
You become an adult when you:
- No longer rely on your parents to take care of you
- Stop blaming your childhood on how your life has turned out
- Take responsibility for yourself and everything in your life
- Practice delayed gratification
- Keep your emotions in check
- Stop flying by the seat of your pants in life
Create some separation
Parents are more involved in their children’s lives than they were 20 years ago. Studies show that over-involved parents, even when well-meaning, harm children’s ability to self-regulate emotions and function independently.1 That being said, even when your parents are loving and well-meaning, they can still be causing harm in your life. During these times setting boundaries is necessary for your mental health and overall well-being. However, cutting off your parents is easier said than done. The emotional toll of not speaking to them may be a lot harder than simply enduring a few short conversations.
So if you live with your parents and you’re an adult, move out. If you’re still in high school, add on a few after-school activities or get a job. These will help build character and confidence but give you a break from your parents’ annoying behaviors.
But don’t move in secret. Be upfront about what you’re doing and why to build trust.
See your parents as individuals
During our grandparents’ era, if your siblings moved away from home, you likely didn’t see them for another 20 years. Now, it’s rare to not be able to contact obscure elementary school friends via social media.
I say that to say, when you can see your parents as people that make mistakes, get excited, have their own trauma, and pursue goals, then you can have more compassion and empathy for them.
No, it doesn’t make a yelling person better, but it can decrease the number and intensity of incidents. You can even start to form a friendship with your parents.
Something invaluable I learned about my mother is that she meant a lot to the people she worked with. My mother was a school administrator that touched people’s lives. But I never knew it until the day of her funeral. After spending most of my life angry with her, it was maybe the first day I could say I was proud of my mom.
My sister and I were in constant danger in the neighborhood we grew up in. And I blamed my mother for our situation. The stories other people shared with me about her helped me see her as a more rounded individual and not just my mother.
Eventually, I learned to accept that my mother was doing the best she could. Read how I learned to forgive my mother in my post, How to forgive your parents. Forgiveness is the type of drug that’s hard to access but can miraculously improve mental and physical well-being.2
In the end, I much rather remember my mother for the stories people shared over the petty arguments we had.
And pro tip: When you lose a loved one, you’ll even miss the annoying parts.
Take responsibility for yourself
Often our parents aren’t nagging for no reason. In a lot of cases if they are treating you like a child it’s because you are acting like a child and haven’t shown them otherwise.
Where were you less of a partner, friend, or responsible adult than you could have been? Do you fail to communicate? Did you assume something an adult should not assume of another adult, meaning parents would let you borrow the car or watch your kid, or pay for you?
Own up to it. Your parent’s annoying behaviors might be because of your behavior.
Taking responsibility also means taking responsibility for the person you are becoming. And you can only do that through taking intentional action. Discover how to drop the childish habits of blaming others and develop the courage to live for yourself.
When you know yourself better, your conversations with your parents will feel less intense. You’ll have your own thoughts instead of people-pleasing or trying to be who everyone else wants you to be. You’ll also learn to face the fears and challenges that life places in front of us all.
Final thoughts on dealing with annoying parents
In conclusion, no one has perfect parents. And despite what you read online, no one gets out of childhood without a few bruises. Remember, a hard upbringing teaches you things about yourself and life you just can’t learn elsewhere. It can be the source of your peace or the catalyst to your destruction.
To tip the odds in your favor, try this if you have annoying parents or family members:
- Learn to understand intention even if it’s coming from an abrasive source
- Stay calm and listen more than you talk
- Understand your parents are your protectors, not your friends
- When all else fails, create some distance
- Learn that your parents are human
- Understand what adult responsibility looks like
Crawford, Krysten Standford News, March 2021 https://news.stanford.edu/2021/03/11/study-reveals-impact-much-parental-involvement/ (accessed May 17, 2022) ↩