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ChocolateReigns's avatar

How do you deal with a person like this? (details)

Asked by ChocolateReigns (5619points) May 12th, 2010

My mom is really childish. Like on Easter, we were supposed to make coffee at church for the brunch in between services. But we forgot what time the first service was, so we got there just as it was starting instead of a half hour early. Somebody had made the coffee. My mom yelled at the person who’d done this because it was her job. The same thing kind of happens at every single Thanksgiving and Christmas – she gets told what food to bring, and she acts like she’s the little kid who didn’t get the part in the Christmas play that they wanted. I almost always apologizing as we’re leaving, or end up sending people messages on Facebook/email to apologize. I know I really don’t need to, but she’s not going to apologize, and I feel like somebody should. It’s one thing at home where it’s just us, but with relatives and friends, it’s awkward and kind of mean of my mom to ruin everything.

P.S. Sorry about the long read…

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20 Answers

gemiwing's avatar

I try not to enable them by making it so easy. They have to learn that actions have consequences and me standing guard, making sure they’re always okay, only stands in the way of them learning and growing. If I constantly shade a plant so it never gets burned by the sun, it will grow weak and slow.

It’s hard, and sometimes it sucks, yet it’s the only way I’ve managed to find sanity. Growing up in a dysfunctional family one learns to cover for the others- it’s not healthy so I had to learn to stop doing it.

john65pennington's avatar

You are not alone. this is why they invented PostANote. i use plenty to remind myself of upcoming events. why not got to WalMart and buy her a stack?

Trillian's avatar

You asked a question about your mother and her explosions before. Several of us gave you fairly good advice. If you didn’t listen the first time, why do you feel that we should spend our time writing and giving good advice again?
Just curious. Maybe you have a good reason, and you thought our advice wasn’t worth a hill of beans. In which case….

dpworkin's avatar

It sounds to me as if your mom needs some assistance, but she is unlikely to present herself for treatment because her illness is ego-syntonic (she thinks everything is just fine)

She would profit from therapy – the hard part will be making her see that it is necessary.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@Trillian I know….I probably could’ve looked at those answers again. Looking back at this question, maybe I was just trying to get my thoughts out. Sorry if I made you think I was trying to post a duplicate question.

@dpworkin I don’t think that would work. The other day she kind of…had a “temper tantrum” (a 51-year old woman’s version) and I tried to tell her that just doesn’t work and that she needed to grow up. I couldn’t do it – I felt like I was the one doing something wrong.

Trillian's avatar

@ChocolateReigns So, what I’m really wondering is; did you or did you not think any of what we said made sense the last time? It bothers me that a thirteen year old child feels to need to be the adult in a situation. You did an adult thing by asking for help.
Nobody suggested this, last time. Try speaking with all the other family members in private. Do they all agree that she is a problem? If so, set up an intervention. Or write a joint letter. That way it can be coming from everyone who loves her and it isn’t all on you.
You’re way too isolated in this. Get help from the adults in your life.

Edit: Another thing you could do is take a video of her during a few tantrums, then replay them to her. Stop the camera on a really extreme rage moment for dramatic effect. I’ve often wondered about people on police shows who are really hammered and acting like complete idiots. Do they ever see that footage? How does it make them feel?

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@Trillian It made sense. It’s just that I can’t really do anything about it. I suppose these questions don’t have a point – I already know that I can’t do anything about it. I’d like to know what I should do, though, I suppose. And I know my dad and brother think she’s got a problem, and everybody that has ever talked to her (and some people that’ve seen her at Walmart giving clerks a talking-to) know she’s lost a few of her marbles.

marinelife's avatar

Try not to take on shame for your mother’s behavior. It is not your place to apologize for her actions.

Try to distance yoursefl from what she does.

Seek's avatar

I think the main issue is that you are being embarrassed for her. She doesn’t have to be, because you’re taking on that responsibility.

Don’t apologise for her anymore.

I, personally, would interrupt one of her outbursts with a “What my mother really means, Ms. Ethel, is thank you for covering for her since she was late. Mom, wasn’t that nice of her?” and as you’re walking away from Ms. Ethel, “Mom, seriously. Act your age.”

Sure, it doesn’t seem very nice to shame your own mother in public, but you won’t be doing anything she’s not already doing to herself (and you!)

wonderingwhy's avatar

In my experience @Seek_Kolinahr has it. I had this problem with a short lived g/f. I caught on quickly that apologizing for her wasn’t useful so I picked a moment and just as she started unleashing on the unsuspecting victim I stepped in, literally between them, and thanked the person on both our behalves. My g/f was furious but at this point it was between us and during the ensuing argument I made it unequivocally known that her behavior was unacceptable, particularly when I was involved. All it took the next time was a quick glare and the problem, at least while I was around, was solved.

Trillian's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr That was the best answer I’ve seen all month to any question. You Rock! I’d Lurve you more if clicking would change the number. That’s perfect, especially the parting shot about acting her age!

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I would love to do that. The next time something happens, I’ll atleast think about doing that, maybe even do it. Thanks :)

Seek's avatar

@Trillian I have a mom just like hers. The one that frowns like a troll in other people’s wedding pictures because “What do I have to be happy about?” It’s so absurd.

Silhouette's avatar

Separate yourself from your mothers behavior,don’t apologise or try to clean up the mess she leaves in her wake. The more you involve yourself in her dramas the more they become your own. Let mama flap in the breeze, it’s not your problem to solve.

Primobabe's avatar

When I was a teenager, I could have written your question. My mother is an irrational and mean-spirited person, and I was often mortified by her behavior.

For a long time, I’d try to “mop up” after her. She’d stomp off, and I’d linger behind to apologize to anyone who’d been abused, hurt, or offended. After a while, though, I started to resent taking on the adult role in our parent-child relationship. And, although I continued to be embarrassed and uncomfortable, I came to understand that I couldn’t fix her or the damage she’d caused. I took the approach of being kind and warm to people everywhere; if my mother proceeded to behave miserably, at least her victims knew that I wasn’t complicit. And, during her episodes, I’d physically move a short distance away and look in another direction, thus literally and figuratively removing myself.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I wouldn’t apologize for her anymore.It seems exhausting.Eventually,she will figure out why people avoid her…if she doesn’t ask first ;)

nicobanks's avatar

I don’t think you should apologise for other people’s behaviour, although I do think it’s kind of you to apologise and it probably does make them feel a little better. But, ultimately, I think if you’re at the point where you’re apologising to people on her behalf, you also owe it to those people to tell your mother about that – otherwise, you’re protecting her, and then what do your apologies mean?

I don’t think that handling the problem as it arises is a good idea. I think you should consider an intervention, even if that just means a conversation between the two of you.

First of all, I think shaming your mother in public is manipulative and cruel, which sounds a lot like how your mother behaves. Two wrongs don’t make a right, you can’t fight fire with fire, etc. Also, when someone’s having a temper tantrum, their emotions have overcome their reasonable faculties. You can’t reason with someone throwing a temper tantrum, or otherwise acting so unreasonably as you’ve described your mother acting: it’s useless, like water off a duck’s back.

What I think you need to do is twofold: appeal to your mother’s reasonable faculties, and demonstrate that this isn’t personal (it’s not about you – it’s about her). That’s why I suggest an intervention. Gather in a room people who sincerely love her and have been hurt by her behaviour. Choose your time wisely. (You can’t anticipate everything, but you’ve said certain times are more likely to set her off – like holidays – so, avoid those.) Make sure everyone understands the plan: it’s not about revenge, venting, or blaming – it’s about showing your mother that her behaviour is destructive. Everyone should stay calm, even if she starts freaking out. And offer support: a way forward, you know?

Trillian's avatar

OR, you could tape a few tantrums, have the intervention and show her what she looks and sounds like, then warn her that if she continues this behaviour which the whole family is shamed by, you will all begin returning the favor by shaming her with the words suggested by @Seek_Kolinahr.
A little public shaming may be just what she needs. By nobody saying anything and being shamed by her you are all facilitating and enabling her.

Primobabe's avatar

ChocolateReigns, I regret that I can’t be optimistic about your mother’s behavior or the problems she creates. My mother’s 82-year-old, and she still can’t understand why she’s so alienated. Many, many people have suggested that she get professional help and counseling, but she refuses to do so.

Jeruba's avatar

Excellent response, @Seek_Kolinahr. GA and my compliments.

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