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Mom’s Controlling, Harsh, and Moody

Questioner

L

Reply Date

Dec 21, 2017

Question

My mum is VERY controlling, harsh, and extremely moody. She doesn’t have anything nice to say. How can I manage her? Most of the time I just react to her and get really upset. How can I disengage myself?

Counselor

Answer


Mom's Controlling, Harsh, and Moody

In this counseling answer:

“Often times, what a person really needs is attention and to feel loved. However, they lash out and scream, so the attention that they get is negative.

For example, the attention that your mother gets from you when she says mean things or becomes controlling is your negative reaction to upset. So, the trick is to ignore her when she is controlling by not reacting to it. Ignore her when she says mean things.

Then, later, when she is not being mean or controlling, remind her that you love her very much. Give her some positive attention when she is not being mean or controlling. This is an approach that is usually effective when applied consistently over a long period of time.”


As-Salam ‘Alaikum dear sister, 

First, I would like to know how old you are. This will help me in exploring approaches with you that will be appropriate for you to use with your mother.

Find Out the Cause

It is most probable that your mother is suffering from something that you may not be aware of. This could be anything from chronic physical pain, or a severe depression, or even a mood disorder. It will be helpful to know what is the cause of her mood disturbance as this will help us find a strategy to help her and yourself.

One thing you can do for now is keeping track of what she says to you that triggers your anger. Get a journal and write down the episodes when they occur. You can use the journaling in two ways:

First, you can process your reactions and emotions in the journal. This will help to diffuse your own reactions and be less upset. You will learn how you feel when you are fearful and when you are hurt. Usually, when we react with upset, we are frustrated, fearful, anxious, or really hurt. Processing these feelings in a safe place can prevent us from doing or saying things that we regret later.

Second, you will identify the triggers to your reacting. Once you know what it is exactly, what words of hers upset you, you can practice an alternative behavior as a response and you can desensitize yourself to her hurtful words. You will be able to see the events more objectively and insulate yourself emotionally from her attacks.

This technique helps you take a step back and become more of an observer than a participant in these events when they happen. You will also get an idea of what is going on with her, and not feel pulled into the arguments.

As far as managing your mother is concerned, you can use this technique of identifying the triggers to her behavior as well. You might be able to reduce the triggers. You will also be able to see what is reinforcing her behavior.

It Can Be a Call for Love and Attention

Often times, what a person really needs is attention and to feel loved. However, they lash out and scream, so the attention that they get is negative. For example, the attention that your mother gets from you when she says mean things or becomes controlling is your negative reaction to upset. So, the trick is to ignore her when she is controlling by not reacting to it. Ignore her when she says mean things.

Then, later, when she is not being mean or controlling, remind her that you love her very much. Give her some positive attention when she is not being mean or controlling. This is an approach that is usually effective when applied consistently over a long period of time. You probably won’t see immediate results, but in about three weeks, if you are consistent, you might notice her becoming a little softer especially if you have been able to manage your own responses as well.

She might even get a little worse before she softens, as this is very common. If you are able to manage your own responses, then this spike should be temporary, and precede a decrease in negative controlling and mean behavior.

Disengage Yourself through Alternatives

In the meantime, once you feel triggered, disengage by using an alternative to reacting. Immediately tell yourself STOP (silently) and have something ready to do. Choose an activity that won’t trigger her to get worse, but that will take your mind off of the situation immediately.

For example, if your mother begins to say mean things and you are feeling triggered, you can develop an automatic response to grab a book and go for a walk and then read at least one page. By the time you have done those three actions, your mind will be calmed down and you will feel less reactive.

That is just an example. You might go for a walk or call a friend. Physical activity is especially calming, so keep that in mind when you are looking for your coping skills that will help you disengage with your mother.

Also, practice saying “Mother, I hear you, and I care about this. Let’s talk about this when we are both clear”. Then walk away and engage in your alternative activity.

These are just some ideas. Knowing more about your situation will help me work with you in identifying additional interventions that might be helpful.

Meanwhile, talk about these with a trusted friend that you know will keep things confidential. When you are in a situation like this, you need support.

Know that Allah loves you and your mother very much. Please do not forget to pray to Allah for guidance and help in this matter also. Allah does perform miracles for us when we turn to Him, and Our Lord is the source of all peace and harmony in relationships.

Please write in again soon.

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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