how to tell your parents to back off

How to Tell Your Parents to Back Off

As children grow up and become more independent, it’s natural for them to set boundaries with their parents. However, establishing boundaries isn’t always easy–especially when it comes to our parents, who have been there for us since birth. Telling your parents that they need to back off can be a difficult conversation, but it’s an important one to have. It can help you establish healthy boundaries, promote self-care, and improve your relationship with your parents.

Importance of Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries is vital for maintaining healthy relationships with loved ones–including our parents. When you set boundaries–whether they’re physical, emotional, or psychological–you are essentially setting limits on what you are comfortable with and what you are not comfortable with.

Boundaries help prevent feelings of resentment, anger, frustration, and anxiety that can arise from being too accommodating to others’ needs and demands. By setting clear limits on what we will and will not tolerate from others, we can cultivate a sense of respect and kindness in our relationships while preserving our personal well-being.

Common Reasons Why Parents Overstep Boundaries

Parents overstep boundaries for various reasons:

  • Their upbringing:
  • Oftentimes, the way our parents were raised shapes how they approach parenting and family dynamics. If their parents modeled an intrusive or controlling style of parenting, then they may be inclined to reproduce these behaviors with their own children.

  • Fear or anxiety:
  • Parents care about their children deeply; sometimes they might get over-involved because they worry that something bad might happen to us or that we’re not capable of handling day-to-day activities on our own.

  • Mental health issues:
  • Parents with mental health issues or disorders may struggle with setting appropriate boundaries. Issues like anxiety, depression, and personality disorders can make it difficult for individuals to understand healthy boundaries, leading to over-involvement or codependence.

  • Difficulty transitioning:
  • Some parents may feel that their identities are very much tied up in their identity as a parent. As their children grow up and become independent, it means that the parents have to transition into a different phase of life; they may struggle to stop being the caretaker they once were and adjust to a new routine.

Why It’s Difficult to Confront Them

Talking with loved ones about personal boundaries–especially those who raised us–can be a daunting task. Here are some reasons why confronting your parents can be difficult:

  • Fear of hurting them:
  • We care deeply about our parents, and the idea of hurting their feelings can feel unbearable. Many people avoid confronting their parents out of fear of upsetting them.

  • Feeling disloyal:
  • Your parents might have invested a lot in your upbringing. Making requests for them to back off may be interpreted as a rejection of all they’ve done for you over the years.

  • Guilt:
  • As we grow up, we assume more responsibilities and develop our own values. However, parents tend to hold on tightly to the value systems that they shared with us when we were young. Feeling guilty for creating distance between ourselves and our original identity can make putting boundaries in place stressful.

  • Past experiences:
  • If you’ve tried talking with your parents about boundaries before and been met with resistance, you may fear having another confrontation.

Benefits of Creating Healthy Boundaries with Parents

Creating and maintaining healthy boundaries with your parents can offer many benefits:

  • Improved mental health:
  • By setting boundaries, you’re taking control of your life and reducing the stress and anxiety that comes with overbearing parents. This often means an improvement in overall wellbeing and better mental health.

  • Better communication:
  • Conversations with your parents about boundaries can lead to better understanding, empathy, and improved communication.

  • Better relationships:
  • Setting boundaries isn’t about cutting our parents out of our lives; it’s about creating relationships that respect each other’s expectations and well-being. It can help strengthen your relationship with your parents.

  • Increased independence:
  • Maintaining healthy boundaries helps establish independence, allowing us to live our own lives authentically.

Assessing the Situation

The first step towards establishing healthy boundaries is assessing the situation. You need to cultivate a deep understanding of the environment and, more importantly, the role you play in it. Here are some tips for this stage of the process:

Understanding the Dynamics of Your Relationship With Your Parents

What is your relationship like? What are these dynamics based on?

  • Nature/nurture factors:
  • How you were raised (including values or traditions) could impact on how your parents view their roles as parents, which could reflect on their behaviour towards you as an adult.

  • Your individual emotions:
  • Your emotions–fear, guilt or anger–can dictate how you react or respond to interactions with your parents.

  • Prior experiences:
  • If in previous instances where it was necessary to set boundaries, their reactions were overly defensive or negative, It could impact how you feel about setting new ones.

  • Roles in the family:
  • The roles that family members have played in your family–for instance, are you the caregiver of your parents?

Identifying Specific Behaviors That Need to Change

What behaviors from your parents make it difficult to establish a healthy relationship?

  • Communication issues:
  • Do your parents communicate with you in a way that feels controlling or manipulative?

  • Personal space issues:
  • Do your parents treat your physical space inappropriately? Do they show up unannounced when you’ve asked for privacy?

  • Wanting control over decision making:
  • Are they having a hard time letting go and allowing you to make life choices on your terms without interference?

  • Negative comments or insults:
  • Do they make derogatory or negative comments on social or personal choices such as sexuality, career choices, or relationships?

  • Stepping over personal boundaries:
  • Are there instances where they seek access to personal records such as finance details without permission?

Considering Your Own Role in the Situation

You must remember that setting boundaries is not purely an assignment of responsibilities; it involves team effort. While this sentiment is true for about every relationship dynamic, this one is especially tricky because you are working around existing emotional ties and baggage.

To meet this challenge, here are some steps:

  • Evaluate expectations:
  • If we do not communicate our expectations, we will never know whether they can be met.

  • Honest communication:
  • You need to figure out what you’re feeling and relay this to your parents in a concise and non-aggressive way.

  • The importance of compromise:
  • Compromise requires that both sides give ground by excising rationality, kindness, empathy, and mutual respect for each other.

Planning the Conversation

Confronting your parents may seem overwhelming. However, with good planning and an outspoken outlook on establishing boundaries, the process doesn’t have to be awkward. Planning the conversation should be approached from these points:

Preparing for the Conversation

Timing and Setting

Picking the right setting can significantly impact how invested people are in participating and even determine how effectively you communicate. Try to pick a spot where everyone feels relaxed and receptive.

Who Should Be Present

You might consider including a mediator or family member to act as an arbitrator if you feel the conversation will become too emotional.

Having a Plan for Potential Reactions

Talk with your parents about what you expect from them; in turn, encourage them to let you know what they expect from you. Conflicting beliefs can cause intense frustration and make discussions almost impossible, so keep the conversation civil.

What to Say

To get constructive feedback and result-oriented changes through boundary negotiations, taking into account what to say is vital:

  • Express How You Feel Without Blaming Them
  • Criticizing or blaming your parents for their behavior may put them on the defensive, leading to misunderstandings. Expressing how “you” feel instead of pointing fingers at “them” puts emphasis on what needs consideration, avoiding unnecessary criticism or accusation.

  • Providing Concrete Examples of Behaviors That Need to Change
  • Being specific is crucial:

    • ‘I feel frustrated when you visit unannounced while I’m studying.’
    • ‘I’d prefer it if we do not discuss my divorce for up to next month.’
  • Making Clear Requests About What Needs to Be Different
  • If boundaries are not set, then parents might see your intentions as arbitrary measures of pushing them away or severing tight relationships. By being clear and specific about what you want, this assures them that the request for boundaries is still contributing positively.

    • ‘I’d prefer that our conversations start at 8 pm instead of 10 pm.’
    • ‘Can we not talk about my job performance unless I bring it up first?’

Having the Conversation

By following these steps, conveying your concerns to your parents can feel more comfortable than going into the conversation without a plan:

  • Staying Calm and Respectful
  • To keep cool during a possibly heated discussion, take mindful deep breaths, affirm your intention to speak respectfully.

  • Active Listening
  • Your parents may or may not need time to adjust to your new expectations. Active listening of their opinions helps build trust that you genuinely care about their perspective and that the conversation is not one-sided.

  • Responding to Defensiveness or Pushback
  • If parents show defensiveness or pushback in response to prerequisites for establishing boundaries,

    • You can reiterate your reasons for wanting specific boundaries.
    • You can suggest taking a break and reconvening when everyone feels a bit calmer.

    Following Up

    After the conversation, you need to check in with yourself or use a journal to feel forthright in your emotions, decisions, and next steps. Here are some additional measures that you should consider:

    • Checking In With Yourself After The Conversation
    • Your feelings are incredibly valid. Directing questions inward is essential so that you may better manage your emotional response and take care of yourself accordingly.

    • Navigating Ongoing Conversations About Boundaries
    • The conversations about boundaries never end. As the situation changes, the rules have to adjust. With diligent communication and keeping an open mind, these conversations could be healthy and effective.

    • Addressing Situations Where Agreed-Upon Boundaries Are Violated
    • If parents go back on their word that they’d respect your boundaries, it’s essential that you keep calm, enforce consequences and revisit the conversation as soon as possible.

    Creating and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries

    Maintaining healthy boundaries takes time and diligence. Ruptures happen, which makes any relationship work hard to avoid damaging each other’s comfort or happiness in the future:

    • Make balanced decisions:
    • Learning how to balance fostering a healthy relationship with parents while also maintaining a life outside of them is necessary for cultivating healthy habits in all aspects of your life.

    • Maintain consistency:
    • Inconsistency can lead to confusion amongst family members leading to violations of rules, so be careful not only when communicating your needs but when enforcing consequences when those needs aren’t met.

    • Show appreciation for their actions:
    • If you see positive change by how your parents act regarding yours needs, be sure to voice that you appreciate the efforts.

    • Take responsibility:
    • No one is perfect. Acknowledging personal mistakes increases your sense of accountability and improves your chances of creating a generative atmosphere of well-being in your relationships


    Difficult conversations with parents have to happen. Boundaries aren’t about pushing them away; it’s about navigating how to preserve respect, mutual trust and understanding while prioritising individual well-being. While there’s no guaranteed approach for establishing healthy boundaries with parents, following these steps should make the process more comfortable and effective.

    How to Tell Your Parents to Back Off: 7 FAQs

    Talking to your parents about boundaries can be difficult, especially if they tend to be overbearing. It’s important to communicate your needs and establish healthy boundaries while maintaining a respectful relationship. Here are some frequently asked questions on how to tell your parents to back off.

    1. Should I be direct or indirect when talking to my parents?

    It’s usually best to be direct but respectful when communicating with your parents. Avoid passive-aggressive behaviors or dropping hints. Instead, clearly express how you feel and what you need from them in a calm manner.

    • Direct approach: “Mom and Dad, I need to talk to you about something that’s been bothering me.”
    • Indirect approach: “Have you ever had a friend whose parents were way too involved in their life?”

    2. How do I set boundaries without hurting my parents’ feelings?

    Be kind but firm when setting boundaries with your parents. Acknowledge their love and concern for you, but also make it clear that you need some space and independence.

    • Firm approach: “I appreciate your concern, but I need some space to figure things out on my own.”
    • Kinder approach: “I love you, but I just need some time and space to spread my wings and grow.”

    3. What if my parents don’t respect my boundaries?

    If your parents continue to disregard your boundaries, calmly remind them of what you discussed and why it’s important to you. If the behavior continues, you may need to distance yourself or seek help from a trusted family member or counselor.

    4. How do I communicate without being disrespectful?

    Be honest and clear, but also be respectful of your parents’ feelings. Avoid using hurtful language or attacking them personally. Stick to expressing how their behavior makes you feel and what you need from them moving forward.

    5. What if my parents get defensive or angry when I bring up the issue?

    It’s possible that your parents may react defensively or with anger at first. Stay calm and continue to express your thoughts and feelings in a kind and respectful manner. If the conversation becomes too hostile, it’s okay to take a break and continue later when everyone has cooled down.

    6. Should I involve other family members in the conversation?

    You may want to involve other family members, especially if they can provide additional support or perspective. However, avoid making it a “team against my parents” situation and make sure that everyone is on the same page about what needs to be communicated.

    7. How do I maintain a positive relationship with my parents while still getting my point across?

    Remember that you can still have a positive relationship with your parents while setting boundaries. Communicate with love and respect, listen actively to their concerns, and find common ground whenever possible.

    • Positive approach: “I love you both so much, but I just need some space to grow as an individual.”
    • Acknowledge approach: “I understand that you want what’s best for me, but I also need to make my own choices.”

    When talking to your parents about boundaries, remember that open and honest communication is key. Stick to expressing your thoughts and feelings in a kind and respectful manner, and have patience and empathy for your parents as they adjust to the new boundaries.

    keys takeaways

    4 Keys Takeaways: How to Tell Your Parents to Back Off

    1. Be respectful and assertive when communicating your boundaries.
    2. Explain the reasons behind your request and offer alternative solutions.
    3. Avoid blaming or criticizing your parents and focus on your own needs.
    4. Seek support from a trusted friend or professional if necessary.

    Telling your parents to back off can be a difficult conversation to have but it’s important for establishing healthy boundaries and maintaining your independence. Remember to approach the conversation with confidence, knowledge, and neutrality. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements to take ownership of your feelings and avoid attacking your parents. Offering alternative solutions shows that you’re willing to compromise and seeking support from someone you trust can help relieve the stress of pushing back against your parents’ overbearing behavior.