To What Degree Can Parents Control Us?

04 December, 2019
Q Assalamu Alaikum,

I have a problem which has been bothering me my entire life; my mother is controlling and mean. I am aware of her rights over me, but it’s as if she feels the need to point them out in ways that are rather twisted and untrue.

For instance, she would yell and call me hurtful names, but when I try to voice my concerns in a polite way, she would say "I am your mother, I can say whatever I want". She thinks she holds no accountability for the way she treats me, and it really scares me. I am the eldest, so most of the pressure and frustration gets dumped on me.

I feel like she doesn't have any feelings at all and will never change. We go through periods of her being nice and calm, but she always has pent up frustrations that she keeps in until she explodes. It could be because I fell short of my responsibilities, like I got a bad grade or didn't clean my room properly, but most of the time it’s her.

She acknowledges her anger issues, and in her calmer moments she laughs about the way she treats me with her friends. She thinks she has a free pass to be angry and uses it against me when she wants me to do something. She knows I cry when she yells and loves it when I'm weak.

Nowadays, it’s getting worse because she resents me for not doing as well as she expected in college, for a program I didn’t even choose for myself. (in a program I did not chose, she did).

I really think I have improved my ways as a Muslim. I have spent the past two years getting closer to Allah because I have been experiencing a lot of hardship, and I realized that yelling at my mom or answering back and disrespecting her isn’t going to work, but how do I draw a line?

I recently made an appointment with a counselor to help with the trauma my mother and other bullies in my life have caused me. I'm just worried about her controlling nature. I know I won't be able to live on my own unless I get married, but is that all it takes to be independent of my mom?

I am almost 20 years old, and I know that's not so old my I'm considered an adult, but I feel like she will never set me free. I know it has nothing to do with religion because my father, who is much stricter, still treats me more like an adult than she does. He doesn't do anything to stop my mom because there is no controlling her.

She yells at her own parents and says hurtful things but expects others to treat her with utmost respect. She once called me to make tea for her while I was half asleep, and when I hesitated a bit, and her reaction was "just remember you have a first-class ticket to hell".

She really loves to gaslight people. It makes everyone tired, not just me, but for some reason people are so scared to hurt her feelings. It’s confusing because she can be very nice sometimes. She's very unpredictable.

I know most children who were verbally and emotionally abused come from parents who have been abused themselves, but she was the favorited and spoiled child in her family who was very privileged, and would always talk about how successful and pretty she was before "we" came along and ruined everything.

My question is, what rights do I have over her? To what degree can she treat me like a puppet in front of people? If I don't get married until I’m 31 or something, does this mean a 30-year-old should let her mother control her how she wishes?

It’s very distressing and leaves me with little hope. She uses me as a punching bag and spoils my younger siblings.

I am sorry if this question seems very angry, but that is just how I feel right now. Please advise me on what I should do in this situation. Thank you.


Salam Alaikum,

In this counseling answer:

• How your mother behaves with you is not OK!

•  Anyone who knows she behaves badly could get together and talk to her in a good manner about her behavior.

•  Seek help from a family member whom you trust and whom she also respects.

•  Maybe your local imam could talk to her.

•  She needs a regular hobby or meeting with friends – things that help her release her stress.

•  Encourage her to seek ways that help her manage her anger.

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About Hannah Morris
Hannah Morris is a mum of 4 and she currently works as Counsellor and Instructor of BSc. Psychology at the Islamic Online University (IOU). She obtained her MA degree in Psychology and has over 10 years of experience working in health and social care settings in the UK, USA, and Ireland. Check out her personal Facebook page, ActiveMindCare, that promotes psychological well-being in the Ummah. (