Our parents are an important part of our lives. However, sooner or later, the tables are turned. When your parent or parents reach a certain age, you become the caregiver rather than the child. So what do you do when this relationship turns toxic and your manipulative elderly parents are controlling your life?
What is a toxic parent?
A manipulative or toxic elderly parent comes in many forms. Very often, manipulative elderly parents have behaved in a toxic way for your whole life, and it is only as an adult that you might be able to recognize this.
Examples of toxic parenting:
- An enjoyment of punishments for bad behavior
- Overwhelming feelings of inadequacy or being disappointing to your parents
- Being infantilized, even as a young adult
- Telling children they are bad, worthless, or unwanted
- Extensive criticism
- Using guilt or threats to win an argument
These are just some examples of toxic parenting which may be prevalent in elderly people later on in life.
Key signs that you have manipulative elderly parents:
1. Power struggles
Your manipulative elderly father or mother is used to being in control. They have had the ultimate say in everything you do since your birth and find it very hard to surrender control of your life over to you.
A power struggle can be a painful experience for everybody involved. This might manifest as controlling behavior, attempts to dictate any minutiae of your daily life, down to trying to force you to make big decisions based on their opinion. Trying to wield power over you is a key sign of manipulative elderly parents.
2. Unwarranted advice
Most of our lives, we turn to our parents for advice or support when we need it. However, manipulative elderly parents will try to retain their dominance in the family dynamic by doling out advice, often in a highly critical way, when it has not been asked for.
This is a way of demonstrating their superior wisdom, and whilst often advice is well-meaning and intentioned, it may be quite the opposite when coming from a manipulative elderly parent.
3. Guilt trips
As a grown adult, you may feel responsible and nurturing towards your parents when they reach a certain age and need help with basic life skills. However, not all elderly people are ill or frail, and many are perfectly capable of retaining their independence long into old age.
Manipulative elderly parents are adept at using their age as a way to make their children feel guilty and using this guilt as pressure to get their way. If your manipulative elderly mother does not want you going to a party, for example, there is every chance she will pick that day to feel very lonely, complain about how little you visit her, or find a way to make you feel guilty enough that you cancel all other plans.
4. Driving success
Nearly every parent wants their child or children to succeed. This is usually very healthy, but in toxic parents, the drive for success will never be fulfilled. If your parent has constantly made you feel worthless or inadequate, this is unlikely to stop once you reach adulthood.
Toxic elderly parents will never feel that you have succeeded, no matter your family life, personal health, career, or income. Relentless pressure to achieve more is a sign of manipulative elderly parents.
5. Verbal abuse
Sometimes, abusive behavior from an elderly parent may be the result of an illness or condition. However, a manipulative elderly parent may feign being infirm or use their age as an excuse for inappropriate and hurtful behavior.
Using abusive language or behavior has limited ramifications, and knowing that you will feel too guilty to ever walk away can make you the butt of their frustrations.
6. Variable frailty
One of the most common signs of manipulative elderly parents is using their age as a guilt trip, as explored above. This can extend into variable frailty, where a seemingly healthy parent will suddenly feel unwell, or unsafe, as soon as there is a situation in which they wish to gain the upper hand.
This can turn on a dime, and your elderly parent is very likely to be perfectly healthy again as soon as they have got their way.
How to manage manipulative elderly parents?
As with any toxic relationship, dealing with a manipulative elderly parent is all about you setting the terms and boundaries of your relationship. Here are some tips about how to cope:
This is entirely up to you how to manage, but you must set your boundaries and be clear that they will not be crossed. This could relate to discussions about your spouse or children, it might relate to finances, or it might be a cut-off point above which behavior will not be tolerated.
Once you have explained your boundaries, stick to them at all costs. Manipulative elderly parents are very good at crossing lines, so don’t allow that to happen.
Strength in numbers
Dealing with the challenges and stresses of caring for elderly relations is often best shared. And if you have a manipulative elderly father or mother to add to the mix, finding solace in a friend is necessary.
If you have siblings, make sure to discuss and share your experiences so you can all make a game plan. Otherwise, confide in your spouse, partner, or friend. Understanding the emotional struggles you are facing will help them support you when you need it most.
If your manipulative elderly parents require care or assistance, decide what you can and cannot manage. If their needs are beyond your capacity to cope with, consider using a care agency, home visitor, or community service to ease the strain.
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