What to Do When My Parents Treat Me Like a Child

You’re adulting, yay! Now how do you prevent the other adults in your life from treating you like a kid? I hear you. It’s frustrating when my parents treat me like a child, especially when I just got the adulting boots on and want to express my newfound independence.

I know my parents will never stop being my parents, but I’m also wondering how to handle overbearing parents or deal with parents who seem to be controlling your life well into your 20s. Thankfully, there are effective ways I’ve found to respond when your parents treat you like a child.

young woman talking with parents via video call

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How do I Deal with Overbearing Parents in my 20s?

The #adultinglife isn’t quite what I imagined. I love my independence, having no roommates, and making my own choices. But there are also a lot of things I don’t like—mainly bills, mowing the lawn, and not getting enough sleep. 

In all of these things, the biggest struggle for me when transitioning from college to adulthood was my relationship with my parents. 

Once I had graduated college and started my corporate job, I felt like I had to reestablish my relationship with my parents as an adult. Now that I was leaving the “kid attitude” and the “child behaviors” behind, it was only natural that my relationship with my parents would change.

Why do my parents treat me like a child?

Throughout my 20s, I’ve been building independence and learning important skills to support myself as an adult. So then, why do I sometimes feel like my parents treat me like a child? 

I’ve found there are three main reasons:

  1. I’m acting like a child – When I go home, it’s so easy for me to slip back into child mode and not clean up after myself or expect dinner to be waiting on the table. I’m wanting my parents to cover the bill at restaurants or fill up my car with gas. In which case, I shouldn’t be surprised that my parents treat me like a child then – I’m acting like one!
  2. My plans are floundering and I have no back up plan – An adult without a plan is like a child and gets treated like one. I unpack this second reason more in the next section: parents controlling my life. 
  3. My parents want to help me, and I interpret it as being treated like a child – Most times, my parents have good intentions. They want to give me guidance and advice because they’ve been through this experience and want to help. But when I’m stubborn, want my way, or don’t want to listen to anyone else’s advice, I interpret my parents trying to help as treating me like a child or trying to control me. 

Why do I act like a child around my parents?

I remember being in high school and longing for the independence, freedom, and lack of homework that came with being an adult. Now when I’m at my parents’ home for a long weekend, I appreciate the 3 days I get to forget about being an adult. It’s as though I can forget all the adulting responsibilities awaiting me at home.

Pretending to be a kid is still fun. Being a kid is more carefree and less stressful. Sprinkle in a taste of adulthood freedom and independence, and who wouldn’t want to be a kid again?

Which is why it’s easy to fall back into a habit of acting like a kid when we’re around our parents. We’ve already spent 18+ years of our life doing it, and being a kid sounds more fun than adulting. 

But if we’re acting like a child at 25 and 30, then parents treat us like a child at 25 and 30. 

What makes a parent overbearing? Parents controlling my life at 25

Consider the reason why it might feel like your parents are controlling your life at 25 is because you’re not. 

We know that God is in control of all things as supreme ruler of the universe (Job 42:2, Psalm 46:6, Isaiah 45:18). However, when I speak of control in this context, I mean being in the driver’s seat of your life, taking the wheel, and purposely pursuing your goals.

When you are distracted or let go of the wheel, then you have a high probability of crashing and hurting yourself. Parents can swoop in and grab control of the wheel. Whether your parents have good or not-so-good intentions, either way, you lose a say in where the car/your life is going. 

It’s as though you’ve hoped in the backseat while someone else takes the wheel.  This is what happens when we don’t have a solid plan for adulting, or we have no backup plans when our plans falter. 

Later in this post, I talk more about how to handle parents controlling my life at 25.

Ways to Respond When my Parents Treat Me Like a Child

Throughout my 20s, I’ve learned a lot (and am still learning) about how to handle overbearing parents and respond when it feels like my parents are controlling my life at 25. It boils down to 3 simple things: how to treat your parents, how to stop your parents from controlling your life, and how to get your parents to stop babying you. 

1. How to Treat your Parents

No matter how you are currently being treated by your parents, you still owe your parents respect. Often when we’re thinking about (or complaining about parents) we forget that our parents are people, too. They have feelings and desires, fears and worries, and they make mistakes just like we do!

The first commandment in the Bible with a promise is that of honoring your parents

 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

God’s commandment to respect our parents doesn’t mean to let ourselves be mistreated, bullied, or manipulated. In fact, situations like these where one must move out for their mental and physical health and safety are out of the bounds of this post.

You can employ these ways for how to treat your parents—no matter if they are being overbearing or controlling: 

Realize it’s okay to disagree. 

You and your parents may not see eye to eye on everything, and it’s not your job to convince them to agree with you. You both can listen and respect each other’s viewpoints without arguing.

Speak kindly to your parents. 

Ephesians 4:29 says, “ Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (ESV). This applies to how we speak to our parents, too. 

Be courteous to your parents. 

Whenever I’m home, I try to unload the dishwasher because it’s my mom’s most-loathed chore (and happens to be my favorite). Children are assigned chores and told to do them. Adults help out and serve each other without being asked.

Thank your parents.  

A simple thank you goes a long way to show that you appreciate them. An adult can recognize the sacrifice someone else has made to help them or the time they’ve invested to support them. Express that with gratitude. 

Serve your parents. 

Whether you live with your parents or not, whether you’re 20, 25, 30, or any age, we should all serve our parents. Not only because they’ve invested tons of time, money, sweat, work, and love into our lives, but out of love for them. 

Contribute to the bills. 

One of the chief differences between adult and child is the amount of bills. A child has no bills. While living with your parents, you can offer to help with expenses to show them that you are looking to contribute like an adult. When you go on vacation, offer to pay your share of the food and hotel.

2. How to stop your parents from controlling your life?

There are two main responses I employ for how to stop my parents from controlling my life or from making me feel like they are controlling my life. 

Talk to them and ask them to stop controlling your life

Part of being an adult is learning how to communicate—honestly, effectively, and with tact. Adults don’t deal with problems by being passive aggressive, making side comments, or being sarcastic. Adults communicate and have adult conversations with each other.

So if you feel like your parents are controlling your life, you need to talk to them about it. Come into the conversation with your concerns outlined. Give a couple of specific examples of times where you felt like your parents were controlling your life. Tell them how these situations make you feel.

Then…listen. Give your parents a chance to respond. 

Listen to the intentions behind their behavior and have a conversation about what you can do so that your parents don’t feel like they need to be controlling your life at 25.

Take control of your own life. 

If you’re in the driver seat of your car & your life then no one else can be, including your parents. 

Again, this is assuming that you are already seeking God and his plan for your life. However, we have to make plans and take action in order to steer our car of life. 

When our parents step in, take control, or seem like overbearing parents at 30, it may be because we’re not driving anywhere.  Can you answer these questions with confidence:

  • What are your goals? 
  • Do you have a career plan? 
  • How are you providing for yourself? 
  • Do you have a plan to earn money? 
  • What’s your budget and how will you afford to pay rent and buy groceries? 

Before moving out of my parents house, my parents made sure I had answered these questions and had a plan to support myself. 

If you’re dealing with over controlling parents in adulthood, then develop your concrete plan. It’s hard to argue with a woman who has a solid plan and a destination in mind. 

How to set boundaries with overbearing parents

Even so, as you’re developing your adulting plan, you may want to set boundaries with your overbearing parents. 

Have another adult conversation and share with your parents:

  • Areas where you would like their support / advice
  • Areas where you would not like their support / advice
  • What next steps you plan to take on your own
  • How you will respond if they don’t respect your boundaries
    • Note: this shouldn’t be retaliation against them. It should be something you can do on your own, such as go apartment hunting on your own or find a separate financial planner to help you with budgeting, etc.
  • How much you appreciate them respecting your boundaries

Now that you’ve had that conversation, it’s time to follow through. 

  • Complete the next steps of your plan to reach your career goals / support yourself as an adult. 
  • Keep your parents updated to let them know that you are keeping your word.

In my experience, no parent wants a 30-year-old child. They truly want you to become independent and support yourself. But you have to be proactive and take the initiative to get there.

3. How do you get your parents to stop babying you?

Last but not least is the question of how to get your parents to stop babying you and treating you like a child. Like in the previous section about controlling parents, the name of the game is action.

Your actions speak far louder than your words when it comes to adulting.

Here are ways to stop your parents from treating you like a child:

  • Develop your adulting plan – To get your parents to stop babying you, assure them that you are ready to be an adult and have reliable means to support yourself. 
  • Stop acting like a kid – You also need to stop doing the child-like behaviors that prompt your parents to treat you like a child.
  • Have a conversation – Talk with your parents about how you feel like they are babying you. Listen to their responses and reasons why they’ve been treating you like a child. Is there validity to their statements? What actions can you take to stop acting like a child?
  • Set boundaries: You can suggest talking about other topics when you’re with your parents and avoid those where it feels like they are treating you like a child.
  • Start contributing like an adult – If you’re living at home with your parents, make a list of ways you can contribute more around the house.
  • Act like an adult – Lastly, start taking action today to be more independent and be able to support yourself without your parent’s financial support.

Check out this post about how to start adulting. It includes tips on how to prepare for adulthood and adulting 101.

Is it normal to still live with your parents at 25?

Many circumstances can influence your living situation, such as cost of living in the area, job salary, means of transportation, parents’ needs or that of elderly relatives, etc. Thus, it’s hard to say whether it is normal to still live with your parents at 25. 

No matter the reason why you’re living with your parents at 25 (or whatever age), it is normal to assess your living situation periodically to see if it’s time to move out of your parents’ house.

When you decide it’s time to move out, create a plan for your finances and budget and use a checklist for apartment hunting

Moving out with a plan for your income and expenses will prevent you from having to move back in with your parents because you mishandled your funds. In which case, your parents will be treating you like a child at 30 because you acted like one at 30.

At what age should your parents stop supporting you?

It depends on the family and the person in each case. But when I pitched this question to my mom, here was her response:

“If I’ve helped a child get a college education (earning a degree in an employable field) or learn a trade/skill, then about 4 or 5 years after high school when they are able to find a job, I expect them to be able to take care of themselves.”

“As a parent though, I would be okay with them living with me without rent as long as they are saving to move out on their own. And living with me without rent would mean I’d be asking about their finances so they would have to be open to sharing that information with me.”

For more about navigating the transition from college to the adult working world, check out this post on tips for navigating the post grad life.

young woman with laptop open, talking on the phone sitting on couch enjoying a cup of coffee

What to do When Your Parents Treat You Like a Child?

The line between child and adult is more of a gray area. It’s hard to know when you finally arrive to “adult” because the path to transition from child to adult is different for everyone. 

Redefining my relationship with my parents has been the hardest part of navigating the adulting struggle. But because of the work I put into our relationship, I can genuinely say that my parents and I are on great terms. 

Our relationship is built on clear communication, mutual respect, and grace for each other through Jesus Christ.

Even when my parents treat me like a child, I’m reminded that oftentimes they are trying to help me. They want to see me succeed and bloom. By taking their wise advice in stride, I can keep my hands on the steering wheel of life and drive to wherever God leads me next. 

How have you handled overbearing parents or adults in your life? 

Leave me a comment below!

Don’t miss this! More posts in the Living & Adulting Category:

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