General Question

15barcam's avatar

What to do when your parents never think you are good enough?

Asked by 15barcam (751points) December 11th, 2011

In absolutly everything I do, my parents, (my mom especially), tell me that I’m doing it wrong or not well enough. She is never pleased with what I do.

Example 1: If I’m getting a B in a class, (which is considered a little disapointing in my nerd of a family), my mom is disapointed in me. When I bump it up to a low A, she is still disapointed in me for having a LOW A.

Example 2: I’m sitting at the dinning room table with my family. My mom tells me to sit up strait. I groan. She yells at me for being disrespectful, so I say sorry. Then she tells me to cut my food into smaller pieces. I say I will. Then she yells at me for saying that sarcasticlly, even when I REALLY wasn’t trying to say it sarcasticlly. Then she comments on how I have a zit on my face and need to wash my face more. You get the idea.

Example 3: I help myself to seconds at dinner because I was just at volleyball and am really hungry. My mom yells at me and says if I keep eating so much I’ll get fat. The next day I’m not hungry at all at dinner, so I don’t finish what is on my plate. My mom yells at me for being ungratefull and not eating what my father has cooked for me. Then, an hour later, she tells me I could lose a few pounds.

How can I explain to my hostile mother how difficult she can be and how crappy she makes me feel about myself?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

22 Answers

Judi's avatar

Just keep in mind that it’s not you, it’s her. It doesn’t excuse her behavior, but sometimes it is more tolerable if you try to see the stresses she might be facing. Is she under pressure at work? Does she have financial pressure? How is her marriage? (You might not even know if there are problems there.)
It’s not right that she belittles you, but usually that comes from feeling out of control in her own life. Kids sometimes don’t realize that their parents get irritated, grouchy and stressed over things unrelated to them. My 26 year old son assumed I was spending all my time stressing about his relationship issues. Guess what? I have enough stresses of my own!
Just keep in mind that it’s HER issues, not you that is causing it. It doesn’t make it right, but it might take the sting off a bit.


Do you have an adult relative (who you are close to) that you can confide in? If I was in your position, I’d seek out an adult relative who is close to both you and your mother, and tell him or her about your situation. I think it would be very difficult for you to try to resolve it on your own, with your mother, considering how hostile she can be towards you.

Have this adult relative (or even an adult friend of your Mom’s), discuss the problem with your mother, and have him/her tell your mother how hurt and distressed you are everytime she puts you down or contradicts you. I think your mother needs to hear it from somebody else, someone mature enough to speak on your behalf.

Another good route is to go to your school counsellor and have him or her contact your mother, and the three of you can sit down and discuss this openly, no holds bar. You need to get it out into the open, but with the help of a third mature party.

Good luck to you. I know how you must feel, as my Dad was the same to me when I was growing up——it was his traditional “Chinese way” of making me do better, but it sucked at the time. Looking back now, I know he “meant” good, but it was often disheartening. As a youngster, I never understood his intentions, but as I grew older, it became clear to me that he really loved me.

Sunny2's avatar

You’ve written a very nice description of your problem. Correct the few spelling errors and print it out. Take it to your dad or your favorite aunt or uncle (her sibling) and show them your letter. Ask their advice on how to approach your mom with it. She may not be aware she is being so heavy with the criticism. You need an adult to help you with this.

deni's avatar

Ohh man. My advice is: deal with it the best you can while you still have to live with your parents. When you turn 18 (or maybe you’re 18 now?) get the hell out and create a better life for yourself!

ZEPHYRA's avatar

You’ve already been given the best advice and explanations possible. Of course there is no excuse for your mom’s behavior, but bear in mind(you are probably going to roll your eyes and say you have heard this a thousand times)that she expects the best from you. In her eyes you are capable of more and she is ALWAYS proud of you. Just try and make yourself a bit thick-skinned(NOT RUDE)and let her comments flow over you. She will always be like that, so just take it with a pinch of salt. By the way, do you have any siblings? Does she behave in the same way with them????

LostInParadise's avatar

I respectfully disagree with the advice given above. I think you can and should defend yourself. The important thing is that you must not do so with anger. You must remain respectful and perhaps use some good hearted humor.

For example, when you were not hungry for dinner, you could say that you could say that you very much appreciate all the work that your parents do. You could suggest that the left over food could be put in the refrigerator for another time.

With regard to the low A, tell them that you appreciate that they want the best from you. Say how you worked hard to improve upon your B grade and that you did the best that you could.

Moegitto's avatar

I went through this as a kid. It’s hard I know, but sometimes in life you have to be a little selfish. It took years, but I’ve finally come to realize that I live for me, not for someone else’s approval. Even if it’s family, I won’t let another persons negativity hold me back from believing I can do something. I can tell by your post that your a outstanding person, you just need to realize it yourself. But in the future, even if in your head your thinking about something else, just do what your parents say just for the sake of keeping them out of your hair. Words mean alot, actions show alot.

Aethelflaed's avatar

While @Judi has it largely covered, there are some things you can do now. Look into nonviolent communication as a way to communicate with your mother. The idea is to not put blame on her, to not say she’s bad or the problem, and own your own stuff. You follow a formula of 1. observation 2. feeling 3. needs 4. request. So stay away from stuff like “it makes me feel”, and switch it out with “I feel”. So, an example for A would be:
Mom, when I get As and you respond with “well, I’m very disappointed in you” (the key is to not ascribe any feelings or opinions or generally subjective things to her – ie that she’s disappointed, that she’s too hard on you, etc, and go with more factual observations), I feel [hurt, like I’m not good enough, inadequate, etc]. What I need is to feel that I’m good enough for you, just as I am right now. What I would like would be for us to celebrate this A together, since it’s better than my last grade.

dabbler's avatar

Imagine how insecure and helpless your mom must feel in her life to take it out on her children and probably not realize it. It’s like an itch that she is scratching somewhere else.

As well noted above, this doesn’t excuse her behaviour but it might help you understand her with enough sympathy to respond as @LostInParadise suggests, without anger.

If and when you do confront her work with “I statements” tell her how you feel without blaming it on her. “when you do < > I feel <> ” She probably doesn’t mean to make you miserable.

JLeslie's avatar

My mom was sort of like this, but not to the extreme you describe. Basically my mom has to say her worries out loud or she will explode. I kind of do what she asks usually and her yapping at the same time goes in one ear and out the other. She never punished me for not meeting all these crazy little things she tells me to do if I did not do them, so it was more like her giving advice, and reducing her own anxiety, than requiring I do it on most things. She just is kind of rigid in how she sees the world, and moms also tell their babies what to do from a very young age to help them, and then eventually the help they provide that children enjoy, like learning to set the table, learning to bake cookies, helping with homework, becomes unwanted by older children.

I say talk to her, and tell her sometimes the criticism can be very demotivating and is causing you unhappiness. You always feel like you are on egg shells, or whatever it is making you feel, and that you would like to come to some sort of new way for her to advise you without making you feel like she is trying to control your every move.

Does she give you positive reinforcement ever? Maybe just have a balance of positive with the corrective criticism would be enough for you to feel better?

Some of those are ok with me, cutting food smaller if you are taking in huge bitefulls, sitting up straight, only taking what you can eat.

comity's avatar

It’s hard to change others and arguing back no matter how you do it, can sometimes add more stress. I don’t know how old you are, but, when I was in my teens I lived through a difficult childhood by reaching out to others and talking to myself, “It isn’t me, It’s she”. The hardest thing is feeling good about yourself when others are attacking. Just keep working on it and reach out. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just can’t see it now. As you get older, go to school, get a job, you’ll look back on this negativity and it will help you to be nicer and kinder to others because you know how it feels to be on the other end of the stick. Hugs!

marinelife's avatar

Wow, this is a tough one. Your Mom sounds awful, and it will affect you in later life.

You have to know, inside yourself, that you are beautiful and OK just the way that you are. Because that’s the truth. Not your mother’s constant picking at you.

I would say that you should sit down with your mother and another trusted adult to have this conversation. Perhaps a therapist or a school counselor or an aunt who has observed this behavior (or your father if he would sup[port you).

Tell your mother (very calmly), “Mom, when you are constantly picking on me and tearing me down, it hurts me.” Then lay out several concrete examples just as you did up above.

You can only try. But the best thing would be to get away from this environment as quick;y as possible.

Good luck.

flutherother's avatar

It sounds pretty normal to me. Your mother sounds a bit stressed but that isn’t unusual nowadays. One option would be for you to move out, but it may be too soon for that. In the meantime you just have to try to do what your mother says. You could try being nice to her and ask if you can help with the dishes or something else about the house. She might appreciate that. Regarding grades it isn’t what grades you get so much as how hard you work to get them.

Ellis1919's avatar

If you haven’t already, I would try talking to them (or her) about how you are feeling.
Even if the talk goes well, it is sometimes hard to change our behavior and things might not necessarily change (just so you are aware).
I don’t know how old you are, but my advice to you would be to stop trying so hard to please your parents.
Example 1: raising your grade. Are you happy with your B? Are you happy that you were able to raise your grade to a low A? Did you try your hardest to do your best? Be proud of yourself that you worked hard to raise your grade.
Example 2&3: criticisms. No matter how old you get, when you live under your parent’s roof, you have to be respectful and follow their rules. So, if your mom wants you to sit up straight and cut your food into smaller bites, then that is all you can really do. If she’s picking on you about your skin, or how much or little you are eating, although it’s hard, I would suggest that you try your best to ignore it and not take it to heart.
We all say things we don’t mean, even parents. Although it is no excuse, sometimes we project our dissatisfaction with ourselves onto other people. Parents always want the best for their kids. A lot of times it’s easier to criticize than to compliment. I’m sure your parents are very proud of you even if they don’t say it. Be proud of yourself and try to remember that you are good enough.
Also, keep in mind that we don’t always realize how much our parents do for us. I’m sure you are grateful, but it’s always nice to be told that extra “thanks for dinner” or “I really appreciate _____________ ”. You know how much it means to hear that you did something right. It works both ways.
It’s not easy but sometimes changing our own mind set is easier than trying to change another person.
Good luck!

thesparrow's avatar

This is pretty much the story of my life.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Don’t beat yourself up, your mom does a good enough job and probably nothing you can say to her will be well received or give her pause to change her ways. It’s probably frustrating to you to wonder why your parents aren’t in the role of the most supportive, most positive, blah blah. Take up for yourself, remind yourself how hard you do work for yourself and the things you want. Enjoy praise and support from the people who give it.

comity's avatar

@thesparrow So sorry! Been there, done that, but life goes on and gets better. Believe and work at it! Look to your friends and other positive people to interact with.

annewilliams5's avatar

You recognize that you’re doing the very best you can. You understand that she is too, in spite of her degrading behavior. She’s not able to help you learn to build yourself up-most likely because she sees you as being her creation. You’re not hers to build or tear down. Find ways to learn about your strengths and limitations. Mentally walk away from the damage, and find ways to rebuild. When worse comes to worse-talk to friends that truly have your back, talk to us, talk to a clergyman or woman, talk to a trusted teacher. Remember the good stuff and use it to build yourself back up. Throw away the ability to tear someone else down to make yourself feel better about you. It’s not helpful, only hurtful. You’re better than that-you can see it happening, and you know the results.
Remember this-there are those of us who have your back. You will get through this as long as you know that. Hey-you took the first step-you spoke up. You have the courage to walk on.

JLeslie's avatar

I wanted to also write that I doubt your mom thinks you are not good enough, I think she feels it is her responsibility to guide you, and she loves you intensely, and want to do her best to help you be the best person you can be. She might be going about it alittle wrong, but Ithink her intention is to help you. If you talk her, hopefully it will give her the opportunity to stop and think about how her actions affect you, and tell you how fantastic she thinks you are.

I also think after the conversation you will be able to tell her when she isbeing overbearing, and she will be more aware of herself. She still won’t stop telling you what tpdo at times though, that is sort of her job.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

Sounds to me like the problems are hers. Depending on how old you are, just ride it out. Move out when you can. I feel for you.

AnonymousWoman's avatar


This book will probably help you better than I ever could if you take the time to read it…

How to Have That Difficult Conversation You’ve Been Avoiding: With Your Spouse, Adult Child, Boss, Coworker, Best Friend, Parent, or Someone You’re Dating by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.

Same with this one:

Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse by Dr. Gregory L. Jantz.

I’ve read both (thanks to the library)... and I found them both to be very helpful. I feel that they have the potential to help you out, too.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Remember that your life is yours alone (when you are over 18 and on your own). Your parents made their choices and had their chances, and it is your turn to make your own choices and decisions – and, yes – mistakes. If you cannot find the strength to live your own life, you will not be happy in the end. But for as long as possible, do take advantage of the comfort of being able to take risks, approved by your parents, while still under their parachute

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther