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I’m 26 and I find both of my parents get mad at me for very bad reasons. For example, I was visiting my mom. In a mad tone she told me to stop playing a game on my phone. Just realizing it now, I find this hypocritical as when I come to visit she usually leaves the TV on and watches it so it’s not as if we’re giving each other undivided attention. I find this particularly offensive as I got a job and worked hard to make money to buy my phone, both of my parents seem averse to technology and my mom never owned a cellphone.

I wouldn’t say my parents regret their life decisions, but I would say they aren’t happy with their life. They both live alone and don’t like their jobs. I sometimes wonder if they take this out on me.

I also find my parents get mad at me for work/career related decisions. I’ve always had a full time job when I wasn’t in school full time since I was 16. Right now they’re mad at me because my job doesn’t use my degree and doesn’t advance my career (I took it as it’s temporary and pays very well and I need money right now).

I told my mom that she’s not allowed to talk about my work, phone, money or living accommodations because it always leads to an argument. Was this the right thing to do or any other suggestions?

Also things like if my parents found out I have been napping they start criticizing me for being unhealthy or lazy.

I find that both my parents are very nosy and if I try to steer the conversation away from a topic that would be unpleasant to discuss, they go towards it. Also both my parents need to get the last word in an argument, they won’t drop a subject until you drop it. This behavior makes me want to hide information from them.

When I say my parents get mad at something I do, it’s usually expressed through their tone of voice. I’m curious, is getting mad at someone ever an appropriate? It’s ok to express your opinions and desires and to tell a person not to do something, though “getting mad” basically means trying to use aggression to control another person.

By the way I’ve seen a psychologist for a completely separate issue and found it did more damage than help so please don’t suggest seeing a psychologist or councilor.

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    Are you dependent on your parents materially in any way? Are they paying for things in your life? (purchases, education, housing?) Are they guarantors of any credit/debt you have? If the answer is "yes" to either of those two, they have legitimate ground to stick their noses into your work/career; so the answer would depend on what the situation is. – user3143 Dec 16 '16 at 17:12
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    ... if I try to steer the conversation away ... they go towards it. ... they won’t drop a subject until you drop it. These two sentence seem contradicting to me – Alic Dec 16 '16 at 19:41
  • @user3143 no not really – snowchym Dec 16 '16 at 21:32
  • @Alic I don't see a contradiction – snowchym Dec 16 '16 at 21:33
  • @snowchym You said they would only drop a subject if you drop it. And you said when you try to drop a subject by steering the conversation away, they ignore that and keep on talking about it. If both are true, I don't know how you can ever talk to them. Maybe the best solution is for you to not talk to them as much as possible. – Alic Dec 16 '16 at 21:56
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is getting mad at someone ever an appropriate?

Yes, but it should be uncommon. Whenever people are in relationship with another, conflict will inevitably arise. Ideally conflict is resolved in a way that involves mutual respect and brings people closer. Getting angry usually does the opposite. And sometimes, the best way to handle a difference of opinion is to avoid talking about it.

It's really hard to stop "being a parent", especially if your kids are a big part of your life. But at some point parents do have to stop telling their kids what to do, let them make their own decisions, and lead their lives the way they want to. They need to let go and hope that the kids have learned what they tried to teach them. Sometimes they just need to learn things on their own.

I told my mom that’s she’s not allowed to talk about my work, phone, money or living accommodations because it always leads to an argument. Was this the right thing to do...?

Yes, it's the right thing to do. It's called setting boundaries. If you don't know a lot about setting boundaries, please read about this in a good book or on the internet, because it isn't easy, and often people don't respect the boundaries you set. You have to have a consistent response to people crossing your boundaries if you want them to learn to respect them. The goal here is to teach your parents what is and isn't okay, but still have a relationship with them (it's usually possible). So a lot of respectful (on your part) discussion has to happen (you can't control your parents' approach to this.)

It’s ok to express your opinions and desires and to tell a person not to do something, though “getting mad” basically means trying to use aggression to control another person.

That's very insightful, and it's often true. People also "get mad" when they feel passionately about something, and that's different. But you're definitely on the right track.

You don't need to see a therapist about this; there's nothing wrong with your desire for your parents to treat you like an adult: self sufficient and self-defining.

One final caveat, if I may: treat others as you want to be treated. If it hurts your feelings at all that your mother watches TV while you're trying to have a conversation with her, then her hypocrisy doesn't justify your playing games on your cellphone while conversing with her. What you do should be guided by your principles, not someone else's problem.

Good luck. Things might get worse before they get better, but things definitely need to change.

For a concrete example of setting a boundary, say for example your job.: When you're all calm and not distracted, explain how grateful you are for your degree (if they helped you in getting it) and all the ways it might help you in the future, but that right now, there are no jobs available in your chosen field. Therefore, you are taking jobs that will support you until a better one comes along. There's nothing shameful about what you're doing, and you would appreciate it if you didn't have to defend your choices all the time. From now on, if they criticize you for how you choose to support yourself, you will need to excuse yourself from their company. Then, if it happens, do it. Of course, this will be easier if you are at their home or in a public place, e.g. a restaurant, but stepping out for a quick walk from your own home is not impossible. If they continue when you return, leave, or with the utmost politeness ask them if they would mind if you cut their visit short. Of course they will, but it will take something dramatic to teach them your boundaries. Keep doing this (or whatever alternate behavior you decide on) until the behavior stops. That's how it works. Keep in mind they have a right to set appropriate boundaries as well. The point of boundaries is to establish healthier relationships, not to unreasonably control someone else's behavior.

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    "One final caveat, if I may: treat others as you want to be treated. If it hurts your feelings at all that your mother watches TV while you're trying to have a conversation with her, then her hypocrisy doesn't justify your playing games on your cellphone while conversing with her. What you do should be guided by your principles, not someone else's problem." YES! And you can politely use your words and tell her that you'd like her to turn off the TV. Remind her it is similar to you using your phone. +1 @anongoodnurse – WRX Dec 16 '16 at 17:34
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    Ah yes I have heard about setting boundaries, but the examples provided were never concrete enough for me to understand. So saying not to talk about "x, y and z" is a boundary. Ok. – snowchym Dec 16 '16 at 21:35
  • Here is a follow up question regarding boundary setting and not letting others push through it. I had bought a new phone as my old one was partly broken, and my dad got mad at me for "wasting money". I told my dad I won't be discussing my phone further with him. After a day I returned the new phone because it didn't have something I needed. Next time I visited my dad I asked if I could borrow his phone. He said "what's wrong with yours?" and I reminded I don't think it's wise to talk about my phone and he said I can't use his unless I explain. Should I change my boundary in situations like thi – snowchym Dec 17 '16 at 0:48
  • and should I go along with it just to get what I want? – snowchym Dec 17 '16 at 0:49
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    @snowchym To be clear, in your phone situation, you could reply simply "The new phone didn't meet my needs, so I returned it." If he then tries to argue with you about your phone choices, that is when he has crossed a boundary. Of course, he is not obliged to let you borrow his phone either. – called2voyage Dec 21 '16 at 22:58
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You are 26 years old. You are an adult, have been an adult for some time. I almost wrote "Your parents can't tell you what to do" - but of course they can. You can listen to them politely, and then do what you want. But they are your parents, they will tell you what to do, and nothing in the world is going to stop them - unless they either die or they stop caring for you and loving you.

The way I read your question, you seem to have got yourself into a state where you think everything your parents do and say is meant to be negative to you, and being in that state you do interpret anything you say as more proof of their negativity. What doesn't help is that because of this attitude, your parents try harder to get through to you, which you interpret as "using aggression to control another person".

Next time you meet them (and any other time) tell yourself before you meet: "My parents love me and care for me. They are not nosy, they just want to know and to make sure that I'm well. If they give me advice what to do, it is meant well, so I'll listen to them politely, but in the end I'm an adult and I'll do what I want. That doesn't mean I have to tell them that. "

If you think that is not the reality: You make your own reality. You made your own reality where your parents are sad, nosy, controlling people, and you don't enjoy that reality one bit. So change it.

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    IMHO, "adult" shouldn't be measured by years but by behavior. If the person is 29 and lives in the parents' stereotypical basement and works as a clerk and depend on parents financially, they aren't much of an "adult", whereas if they are 18, have a job and pay for their own apartment and food, they are. – user3143 Dec 16 '16 at 17:13
  • @user3143 living situation also has nothing to do with how "adult" a person is. I know independent and responsible people who live in the same building as their parents, and I know immature people who live on their own. I think that's some crap left over from the past generation how "your an adult when you move out of your parents house", the world has changed since then. – snowchym Dec 17 '16 at 0:34
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    @snowchym - while some of those nuances are true, the underlying point is that if someone aren't mature enough to get a job and support yourself, they are less likely to be a responsible adult. And vice versa, if someone is mature enough to provide for themselves and hold a job, they are at least SOMEWHAT responsible :) – user3143 Dec 17 '16 at 0:36
  • @user3143 I don't disagree with your reason and I'm following up for the sake of conversation. Your profile says you live in NYC. I also live in an expensive city with low vacancy rates. I know people and worked with people who say it's foolish for a young person (e.g. under 30) not to live with their parents if they are in the same city, just because they want to look mature. – snowchym Dec 17 '16 at 0:58
  • @snowchym - I see "having a job and paying your parents rent, or at least offering them to" as 100% same as "living on your own". It's not the fact of living with one's parents that determines maturity, it's the taking on responsibility to have income to be able to support yourself. Heck, if someone's smart enough to have enough money to rent but frugal enough to save that money by living with parents, they score more on maturity :) – user3143 Dec 17 '16 at 1:00
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Could it possibly that your parents would respond to interest in their lives and questions about their opinions instead of the unpleasant sorts of confrontations you describe? Those don't seem to take you where you want to go, which, if I read correctly, it's to assert yourself as an independent person who is responsible for your own life?

Playing games with devices? Many older people just don't get it. There are many reasons why tech games appeal. Would you feel comfortable asking them kindly, with genuine interest, about how they perceive the playing of games? Could you find out more about their views? You don't have to agree, just try to build greater understanding. They may reply with some judgment, but you could bypass that and simply listen with some interest in learning more about who they are at their core as people and what shaped them to be the way they are.

Showing an interest by asking open-ended questions to find out more, to LEARN about others, is usually a win-win strategy. Parents face a gigantic challenge when watching their kids become adults, and at that point, they want to BE understood as well as to understand, something they may have been trying, best as they could, for many years. Looking for their own motivations and underlying assumptions through a non-confrontive discussion could build appreciation for differences and foster reflection in your own life that you'll greatly value as you evolve.

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What if you just say something like "its my money, and my choice, please leave it alone. So how are you finding the weather these last few days?"

Then it is a very clear (yet polite) indication that you do not want their "advice" about it, you do not want to talk about it and you are going to forcefully change the subject.

Or you could say something like "Yes, ______ is a bit expensive, but I really value ____ that I have because of it." (and then change the subject).

(on the topic of nagging you about napping):
Parent: "blah blah blah, you're so lazy when you nap"
You: "Some might think so, but it SUUUUURE feels good to wake up so refreshed!"
P: "but you're lazy when you nap so you should stop!"
Y: "no, I don't think I will - did I mention how good it feels?."

OR
P: "blah blah blah, napping is unhealthy"
Y: "I don't really think so, but I do have a doctor appointment in __weeks/months, maybe I'll ask my doc when I see him/her"

In these cases, you are validating their feelings (and proving that you actually heard and thought about their words) about the subject but also countering them and stating that you have thought it through and made your choice (or will do so in the future). This way it won't feel as dismissive to them and they may feel less inclined to keep forcing that opinion.

Ultimately though, you just have to accept that your parents are and will always be your parents. They want what is best for you and sometimes what they see as best and what we (as the adult children) see as best is not the same thing. Sometimes parents will come around and our view can be explained and sometimes not.

(my personal experience with this:) My mum is also a bit difficult in this same way sometimes. She really likes to lecture me about various things and I have two ways of dealing with it: Either tell her I don't want to be lectured and reassuring her that I am capable, or semi-ignoring her (with appropriate "mhmm"s and "ohhhh my, really??"s) until she is finished (this is easier for me as we usually interact over phone calls).

My mum is mostly technologically illiterate. My $5000 gaming PC is beyond her understanding (as is the fact that I would spend 5k on a "silly computer" for "silly games"). But if I put it in perspective, she has an easier time understanding - I can equate it to her hobby of showing dogs and say that it will last for xx years and that the cost/year is comparable (cheaper) to her hobby. Then she understands a bit better.

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While there are strategies to change people, it's very hard or nearly impossible to do so.

As such, I would suggest the course of minimizing the conflict. Don't give too many details. Paper over any specifics that you know might make them disagree with you. Perhaps even lie if needed (are they overly critical of women you date? Don't tell them about who you date, or even acknowledge that you date at all). If they criticize your job, make up a type of job they would be happier with and "get a new job".

  • Just to be generic in my answer, this is only a valid approach if you are truly your own, independent adult, who works for a living and does not in any way shape or form sponge off depend on your parents materially - in the latter case, they have a legitimate basis to stick their noses into your career.

Of course, this should be an approach of last resort, and you should try suggestions in other answers first (attempt to set the boundaries etc...). For that matter, you may honestly explain to them "If you keep arguing with me over things I tell you, i will stop telling you things, sorry". Then, the ball is in their court, to change how they approach you or not.

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It seems to me that while you are visiting your mother, neither of you should be on devices, unless you are watching a movie or a television show together. If she always leaves the TV on when you are over, then why don't the pair of you get out of the house. It will likely make it easier to bond if you go for a walk, or out for a meal. Try to make conversation, by showing interest in what she has to say. If your mother disapproves of what you are doing with your life, listen to what her opinions are. Nobody ever said that you should do what she tells you, especially if you are not reliant on her, but knowing her views might help you. Then, after she has said her piece, respond with what your take on the subject is. Your mother might have some very valid points.

Whatever you do, don't decide that lying is a good solution to make your parents happy. You don't have to share every detail, but if they ask, tell the truth. If you have made an effort to understand and resolve their issues with it, but they still won't accept it, then give it some time. You may wish to establish the fact that it is your life, but instead, show them your reasoning, and let that sink in. They probably won't agree right away, they may never, but as long as you tried your hardest to make it work for both of you, then you can't really do more.

Families are messy. Sometimes, there's nothing more you can do.

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