how to set boundaries with your parents

How To Set Boundaries With Parents: 12 Tricks to Handle Toxic Parents

It’s hard to find time to spend with the people you love, and it can be even more difficult when those people are toxic parents. Parents who constantly criticize how you live your life or how they want things done their way all the time can make it really tough to set boundaries in a relationship. In this blog post, I will teach you 12 tricks that will help give you clarity on how to put your foot down and establish boundaries when dealing with toxic parents!

What exactly are “boundaries”?

Boundaries are how you define the space for yourself in a relationship. Boundaries help protect you from being too wrapped up and involved with your parents, while also helping them by giving them an idea of how much they can rely on you to handle their problems or share information about themselves. When we set boundaries in relationships, it’s important to remember that boundaries are always up for renegotiation.

You can set boundaries in different ways with your parents, so it’s important to do what feels right or natural for you! For example:

  • You might want a boundary around how often they call or text you and how much time of day is appropriate.
  • You might want a boundary around how much information you share about yourself and how often they can ask for help.
  • You might want to set boundaries on how many nights of the week that you are available to hang out with them or how long your visits last.
  • You may need to establish other boundaries, such as communicating openly when something is bothering you or how to handle a disagreement.
  • You might want to set boundaries about how involved they are with your kids, especially with your parenting decisions.

RELATED: How to tell your parents you have a boyfriend.

Why is it important to set boundaries with your parents?

As a healthy adult, you are entitled to how much attention you give your parents. You also have the right to how much they know about your life or how involved they are in it. Setting boundaries with them shows that you care for them and respect them enough not to involve yourself too deeply in their lives without being asked.

Setting boundaries can prevent the relationship from becoming a burden or becoming toxic. It’s important that you are honest about how much time or energy they can expect from you when setting these boundaries so there’s no confusion or misunderstandings.

Examples of poor boundaries:

  • They constantly call or text you to the point where it becomes annoying.
  • You let your parents do whatever they want, no matter how much it bothers you.
  • They ask for personal details about your life.
  • They monitor your schedule and question you when you deviate from it.
  • When they are with your children, they ignore your parenting decisions.
  • They show up at your home unannounced regularly.
  • They invite themselves onto vacation with you.

RELATED: How to Tell if Your Parents Hate You: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

12 Tricks to Handle Toxic Parents

Stop justifying their behavior.

If you find yourself feeling the need to defend your parents’ behavior, start thinking about how their actions make you feel. If it doesn’t sit well with how you want to live your life or if they are doing something that bothers you, then there’s a good chance that other people in your life will have similar feelings.

Don’t take on responsibility for how they feel.

If your parents are constantly complaining or whining about how stressed and unhappy they are, then it’s not your job to fix them or defend them! You need to take care of yourself first by setting boundaries with how you deal with their negativity.

RELATED: Why is my mom so mean?

Ask for clarity on what they are trying to communicate.

It can be easy to misread how parents are trying to set boundaries with you, especially if they have a tendency of being passive-aggressive. If your parent is constantly telling you how much better things were when they used to raise you, then that might mean

Remember that setting boundaries take time and practice!

How To Set Boundaries With Parents
How To Set Boundaries With Parents

Set boundaries with appreciation

When you are announcing your firm boundary, do so with appreciation. Thank them for being concerned about you and your well-being. And also thank them in advance for respecting your need for privacy and space.

Get comfortable saying “No, Thanks”

It can feel like a huge accomplishment to be able to say “No, thanks” when you’re asked for something and it feels like too much.

Start out by practicing how to say “No” in general- not just with your parents! Practice how that sounds on the phone or how it will sound at work if they continue to push your boundaries.

Be firm and concise when stating your boundaries.

Trying to be vague, or using a lot of qualifiers can seem like you’re not sure how important the boundary is. If it’s something that means a lot and holds significance for how you want to live your life then do it with conviction!

Again, practice saying “No” in different ways so there are no surprises when the time comes.

Confront the issue directly.

Don’t sugar-coat the issue. Be direct. If you suspect that your parent is trying to use guilt tactics, just ask them straight up “Are you trying to manipulate me?”

Remember it’s okay if the answer isn’t what you wanted. Let go of any expectations about how this conversation should play out.

Stay calm and collected, even if you’re feeling upset.

Be specific about your needs.

When defining your needs and boundaries, be specific. Don’t leave the boundary up for interpretation. This will avoid any further issues or misunderstandings.

Compromise, if you can.

Meeting in the middle can help maintain your parent/child relationship, so if you’re comfortable compromising, consider it. Your parents might be willing to respect your boundaries if you are willing to compromise.

Be honest

Don’t lie about the burden of how your parents are making you feel. If it’s a big deal to how you want to live, or how much space in your life they take up then let them know that!

Ditch the guilt

Don’t feel guilty for setting boundaries with anyone in your life. You have the right and responsibility to take care of yourself, so don’t let guilt get in the way!

Find a coach or mediator

Consider consulting a coach or therapist to help you sort out how to set boundaries with your parents. It can be an extremely difficult situation, and the outside perspective of a professional might help you overcome obstacles.

Put some distance between you

If you’re struggling with boundaries, there’s nothing wrong with putting some distance between you and your parents. Sometimes the distance can help you think more clearly about how to set boundaries with them. It can also help them to respect your boundaries.

How to kick off a conversation about boundaries

If you’re ready to start the conversation with your parents about defining the boundaries of your relationship, here’s a simple prompt you can use:

I love you. Our relationship is important to me. But I feel _________ when you __________. I need to focus on taking care of myself. So, I am not going to (or am going to)  __________. I need you to ______________.


“I love you. Our relationship is important to me. But I feel frustrated when you show up at my house unannounced. I need to focus on taking care of myself. So I am going to need the key to my house back. I need you to call before you come over.”

“I love you. Our relationship is important to me. But I feel upset when you constantly make comments about my weight. I need to focus on taking care of myself. So I am not going to discuss my health or weight with you anymore. I need you to give me space to deal with it on my own.”

The Bottom Line

You deserve to live how you want to live your life. When setting boundaries with parents, the key is to be firm and concise in how you voice what you need from them. You also have a responsibility to take care of yourself and sometimes that means not sharing information or asking for help. It’s okay if they aren’t understanding at first, it just might take time. Chances are, if you’ve been struggling with how to set boundaries for a while, they will be open to hearing your needs and making some compromises of their own.

What You Should Do Next…

1. Snag Our Connected Parent Challenge

Are you ready for more activities to build a rock-solid bond with your kids? Try our Connected Parent Challenge! It’s 15 Days of 15 Minute activities that are sure to improve your connection, diminish bad behavior, and create lasting memories. Plus, I’ll deliver more amazing parenting strategies to your inbox weekly (don’t worry, unsubscribe any time!).

2. Join Our Free Online Community

Connect with like-minded moms (and dads!) in our free online community. You’ll find a plethora of resources to help you through your parenting challenges. Plus, you’ll find me there! And I’d love to connect.

3. Take a Free 60-Minute Parenting Webinar

Do you need actionable strategies right now? Register for this free 60-minute webinar titled How to Get Kids to Listen, Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control. You’ll walk away with parent-tested tactics to get your kids to listen starting today.

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