Respecting parents

My mother’s been complaining that I don’t respect her, again. As I was thinking about it, I realized this is actually true. I don’t respect her. At the same time - I don’t particularly see why I ought to respect her. I don’t think she’s behaving in a way that’s particularly worthy of respect. And I’m not sure how to reply, here. I want to honor my mother as my mother, but I don’t know quite how to answer her here, or what to do. What do you think? What does it mean to respect a parent? Is it something required, or not?

You ought to respect her because it’s a violation of the fourth commandment not to. Respecting a parent means speaking to them and about them with respect-- e.g. Don’t use an ugly tone of voice with her. Don’t say mean things about her. Treat her the way you’d like to be treated if you were a parent.

I don’t know the depth of your situation, so i cannot make good advice but i can only say to think about Jesus passion and what he endured but still forgive anyway.

Pray for your mother and pray for God to guide you with your situation with her. It is true that God is pretty clear about honoring our parent but again, i don’t know the details. If she ask you to sin or to do immoral thing, then of course, you must say no. If you feel she doesn’t behave like a good mother, please pray for her but do your best to love her anyway, and being respectful of her with your action and your words .

I pray for you to have peace in your family!

You are required to honor your parents. Respect is not the term that is used, but there is a certain amount of respect that is owed to every person, based on their dignity as a human being. When you don’t respect the way she lives her life, or the choices she makes, you may have to dig deeper and focus on the good things about her that ARE worthy of your respect. First that she is a child of God. Second that she gave you life. Third whatever difficult choices she may have made in her life, whatever good she did for you as a mother, etc… You should be able to say, “I respect you as a person, but I don’t respect the choices you are making.” Of course, consider what she means when she says you don’t respect her? If she is saying that because you speak to her rudely, or because your tone of voice shows contempt, then that IS something that you would be obligated to change. It doesn’t mean you can’t tell the truth, or give an honest opinion about her decisions, but as your mother, she should always be spoken to in a respectful way.

See at this point I’m not even sure what “respecting” her means anymore. If anyone who was not a member of my immediate family spoke to me in the way she does I would refuse to ever interact with them again. As it is there are a number of issues that I refuse to engage with her, and I feel like I have to be sharp with her before she will listen to any boundaries at all. She’s not asking me to sin, exactly - but she is asking me to put up with a LOT of manipulation and emotional pain from her. I’m tired of listening to her litany of everything I’m doing wrong in my life, but I feel like I’m being told by her and those around her that I’m being disrespectful if I don’t hear her out yet again.

Your obligation is to be a good son. Do you thank her for things she does for you? Do you say thank you when she prepares a meal for you? I don’t know your age, but do you thank her for taking you places, or doing your laundry? Do you help her cook or wash dishes, in fact, 9 year olds can do their own laundry. Do you help with yard work? I am only saying that sons and daughters should show gratitude for what parents do to raise them. I don’t know your particular situation. Pray for wisdom to know the right thing to do and say. Pray to Our Lady who is the Mother of us all. My mother and I had the typical teenage problems but we loved each other enough to respect each other as individuals. We discussed things but never was angry with each other. I will pray that you and your mom will have a loving and caring relationship. God bless you.

I’m not sure how old you are, if you are living on your own, etc. Those things make a difference.

As a grandmother I’ve been child, parent, and now grandparent, and so I have not just one perspective to consider. I haven’t just experienced ‘being a child’, so I have a better idea of what might be going on in the mind not just of ‘child’ but of ‘parent’ as well. As a grandparent now I can also more clearly and impartially see ‘both’ sides.

Back when I was ‘just’ a child, it seemed like my mom was so ‘negative’. . ."don’t do this, do that, be careful. . ’ like she didn’t trust my judgment.

When I was a parent, I experience the ‘negative’ comments from my children, "you’re so critical, you put me down, you don’t trust me’. . .

Now I look back at both. A lot of what I thought was my mom trying to ‘run my life’ because she didn’t trust me I now see was her trying to spare me pain, because she had made mistakes in the same areas. Far from being critical of ME, she was trying to help me.

And as a parent, I tried to help my children the same way, only to receive far more virulent criticism than I had ever given to MY mother.

And now as my children become parents they are starting to see a different side to the ‘criticism’ they thought I was giving them.

I’m not saying your mother might not be critical, even ‘unfair’ at times. We’re all human.

I am saying it is possible that you haven’t totally considered that at least SOME of her comments might be her trying to help you. Of course, back in the day, I never thought that my mother’s comments which disagreed with what I thought ‘right’ on any given topic/area/action were anything BUT mean-spirited, hateful, annoying, never ended and unjustifed nastiness . Now I think somewhat differently. She was never always right (thank goodness, because I’d have no self-esteem whatsoever if that were the case), but she was ‘right’ far more often than I gave her credit for, and she was actually much less nasty, when reviewed from the perspective of time and having to deal with my own then-teens, than I had considered when I was a teen.

Just some food for thought.

It’s impossible to have any idea what’s going on from your vague posts. I get that you want to vent, but there’s not much we can say without knowing what’s going on. Yes it’s hard to treat someone with respect if you don’t feel like she treats you with respect. And yes, you have to treat her with respect anyway. Sorry, the fourth commandment is non-negotiable. If (or when) you’re old enough to move out (if you haven’t already), then you probably should. If she’s treating you badly and none of your efforts to fix the relationship have worked, then getting a little distance from her may be the only solution.

There are two kinds of “respect”; verb and noun. The noun “respect” is a feeling of high approval, something which is difficult to control and which is based on your observations of someone. The verb “respect” is an action, something completely within your control. We are called to “respect” people with our actions and words, even when we cannot approve of them.

Just so we’re clear, I’m 24, mostly self-supporting, and do not live near her. I receive a little bit of help from them on medical issues, because I have some fairly serious medical issues and the insurance we get here doesn’t cover.

I just feel like she can’t let anything go. Choices I make that have nothing to do with her are “rebellious” - like my wardrobe, which she immensely dislikes and goes on about despite admitting that there’s no moral issue at stake. She’s free to have her opinion, but I don’t want to hear about it every time she sees me! But I feel like I can’t tell her to back off without it being “disrespectful”. Religious issues are even worse - during a recent phone call she spent 10min lecturing me on why a belief she assumed I had (based on a fragment of conversation during which she cut me off) was wrong. When I’ve tried to correct her on certain views she’ll tell me to not contradict her.

I feel bad for some of my reactions, but I also don’t feel like they’ve been entirely under control. We’ve had several conversations that have ended with me in tears from them - something that’s gone on as far back as I remember. That used to be much more frequent, actually, before I got old enough to walk off. I’ve also often not been able to hide my irritation, especially when I’m hurt by her words.

I do feel like she’s trying. I just…feel like she’s living in a world where everything is about her, and where I’m still a rebellious teenager to be set straight every time I do something she doesn’t like. This seems to occur no matter what I say or how I act, and I don’t know what to do. I do think she’s trying to help and protect me, but…I’m not a little girl anymore, and I am going to make decisions she doesn’t like.

I’m sorry that does sound like a tough situation. It really isn’t appropriate for her to treat you like a teenager, and it must be very frustrating. I don’t have any good advice on how to turn things around though. My mother consciously made the decision to treat me like an adult when I turned 18, and for the most part she’s stuck to it. :thumbsup:

I don’t know how to talk a parent into doing that though, if they don’t already feel inclined to. Sometimes there isn’t much you can do. My grandmother still treats me like I’m a teenager (I’m nearly 30), and I get along with her by just accepting that she’s 88 and that I’m not going to change her. Your mother is doubtless younger than that, and hopefully there’s a better solution than that for your situation. It’s good to hear you do have some space though.

Did this just start suddenly? Has it been going on all of your life? Reason I ask is that perhaps something is going on with her mentally or neurologically.
Likewise was there a loss in the family? A changed condition, she had to move, lost a job, etc? Perhaps she is reacting to some loss of control in her life by trying to control your life.

I read somewhere, “A mother always knows how to pull your strings - she’s the one who tied them there in the first place”.

Based on my experiences as a mom of young adults (terrifying!) and the daughter of a difficult mother (frustrating!), I’d say the best reaction is direct eye contact, lowered voice (both in timber and volume) saying “I know you love me - but I disagree.” (or words to that effect).

In my experience, this will be followed by her ranting / explaining / elaborating, after which you simply repeat the same phrase with no added explanation. Repeat this for however long it takes. Treat yourself if you make it through a whole interaction without losing your composure.

Arguing with a mother is futile - again - in both my experiences :slight_smile: - but I reacted best when my children put up a calm but firm boundary and got the best results with my own mom when I do the same. My prayers for you and all your family.

Just as a point, respecting/honoring your mother does not mean pretending that everything she does is ok. Nor does it mean giving in to her every whim when you’re an adult.

It is also true that conflict during early adulthood this is unfortunately not uncommon. I am 25 and currently have a great relationship with my mother, but immediately before going to college and immediately after, things were… rough. Similar to how you describe. Some of it was undoubtedly my fault, but there were times when the slightest thing would be like setting off a barrel of gun powder. At 17 I could forget to take out the trash, and receive a sort of explosive anger response that I still don’t understand, especially given that I had forgotten to take out the trash lots of times at 11 and only received a “don’t forget to take out the trash” (followed, generally, by me taking out the trash).

I have 3 brothers. All were the same way. Fortunately for my family, some separation has more or less solved the issue, as we all had time to reflect. I suspect my mother just had a hard time realizing we were growing up.

If it is impossible to calmly discuss the issue with your mother (it was for me when I was having issues), I might suggest writing a letter explaining how you feel. You may also consider having a long calm discussion with your father (if such would be possible) and ask for his advice, and/or ask if he could talk to your mother - not to ask your father to try to control your mother, but just so that the issue can be brought up by someone who is not you so that there won’t be the reflexive “don’t contradict me” reaction.

CradleJourney’s advice is also good. One of the phrases that worked well with my own mother was a calm (usually feigned-calm) “I love you, but I’m not a child,” [weather mini-rant] “I love you, but I’m not a child” [weather mini-rant], repeat.

It’s always been somewhat this way. I know I never let her find out about anything she wouldn’t like all through teenage years and most of the way through college, because of this sort of mess. It’s intensified recently, but then it’s been pretty recent that I stopped hiding everything from her.

I really feel for you in this situation. It sounds like you’re really trying. Like a previous poster stated, honoring your mother, doesn’t mean being a doormat. If you aren’t doing anything sinful, than she needs to see that as an adult, you need to live your own life. As a mom, it’s hard…painfully hard, but eventually a mother needs to quietly step back and put her children in God’s Hands.

As for the issue of respect. I believe respect isn’t something that is earned. It’s something that should be automatically given. Every person in this world is made in the image and likeness of God, and therein lies the reason. Now that doesn’t mean approval! Your mother may be very much in the wrong, and continue to say mean hurtful things, but if you respond in kind, nothing gets solved, the fighting escalates, and resentment builds. To respond with kindness not only gives you the upper hand in the situation, but over time melts resistance. Just simply tell your mom, “I disagree.” If she presses the issue, say “It’s not worth an argument. I love you mom, but I have to hang up now.”

Praying for you:)

Thank you. I think part of the difficulty is that she seems to genuinely not realize that she says hurtful things. She tells me all the time that I am too sensitive, or that I’m only hurt because I know she’s right. And it is so very hard to control my reactions - I try not to respond, but I can’t fully control everything. My feelings will get into my body language and tone of voice, and then she thinks I’m just being childish for getting upset and I don’t deserve her respect. I really want a relationship and I feel like I just can’t win - every time I slip or express hurt or even boundaries, it’s further proof that I’m a rebellious child.

I have been in your shoes and know how difficult it is.

Some parents don’t know how to treat their adult children. Behaving as they are still youngsters is often explained as care and love. You can only change the way you behave with her, but you can’t change her. I don’t know your mother so can’t offer any insight, it is something you will have to figure out on your own, or with some help from people who know you both well and understand your family dynamic.

But this is one piece of advice that I can offer. It is crucial that you establish certain boundaries. When mom crosses them then there are consequences. I’m not suggesting for a moment that these consequences should be brutal, just that there is a reaction from you that forces her to take notice and change the way she operates. I believe it is only when we establish this that we can have a healthy relationship with a domineering parent, which includes respect. It is also worth noting that respect ought to be mutual. The 4th commandment is not about a master and slave relationship.

Oh mye, now that i read a little bit of what is going on, i feel for you and truly do feel. Nevertheless, you will have to find a way, not to tarnish your soul. Truly prayer is powerful and especially when you ask Mother Mary to help out.

She seems to have control issue. Take and leave. If she is controlling or criticizing as you mentioned, don’t talk about your private life and don’t give her any opportunities to do so. You will have to accept that she is what she is and if there is any chance for her to change, it will be through prayer. Maybe she feels that she isn’t validated by you (not saying that you have to do this), many time, those little bad habits come from something else (her childhood, her marriage etc…).

Find a way to be unconditional love to her and truly love her even though that she is changes or not. Remember that your true father is God and your true Mother is Mother Mary. This will give you peace that you are loved beyond word.

When you say that you don’t know what respect mean, perhaps, think about how you would like your child to treat you even though she doesn’t like your opinion or view. Try to reverse the situation.

There are great opportunities for soul growth. The ego and pride will lose their power if you choose love and many graces will pour on you.

Be brave and pray!
-Chantal

p.s When you want to set boundaries with her. Pray first, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and for God to arrange the perfect opportunity to talk with her. She may no like what you said, but she will get the message. In the future, truly don’t give her opportunity to put you down. Keep secret about your life.

I really feel for you. I’ve seen and tasted a tiny bit of what you describe… but I’ve not come close to being where you are.

You are required to Honour your Father and Mother.
“Respect” when properly understood is included in Honour: However that does not mean Kow-Towing to their every whim, nor does it mean being a doormat for abuse.

Your Mother is required to Love you. She is required to forgive you. St. Paul, in his instruction in the New Testament to us to Obey our Parents (Fathers) in everything. but it is followed immediately with "Fathers do not drive your children to resentment [anger] lest they be discouraged.

The 10 commandments apply to us because they are a summary of Natural Law, not because they are part of the Law of Moses.
St. Paul’s writings are part of the New Testament and are not subject to a pick and choose attitude.
However… you are no longer a child. you are an adult. you live seperately from your mum, and your duty to obey her in everything is severed. If you were married it would have been replaced… but the authors of the bible did not describe the 20th century living arrangements.

You remain duty bound to Honour her, but to kowtow to her is not honouring her. She is now your equal, and it does her serious disrespect to pretend otherwise.

Others have given good guidance here on the practical methods of setting boundaries.
What I will say is this:
Time and Distance are normally a great healer in this type of relationship. Your mum will eventually come to recognise and respect you as an adult. you must do what you can to help her to get there. Be worthy of that respect.
Ask her to describe to you what she means by respect. help her see that respect is not kowtowing.

For me: I have said to my Mum that I will go out of my way to seek her opinion on important matters. That her opinion matters to me. But that I will use her opinion to make my own decision. If I do something different from what she advised it doesn’t mean I don’t respect her or want her opinion.

  • Sometimes I know in advance that I’m likely to do the opposite of what my parents advise: but I’ll want to hear their opinion and reasons anyway. sometimes it will change my mind. other times they surprise me.

My relationship with my parents now is immeasurably better than it was when I left home 17 years ago.

When someone is being abusive to you, you are not required to put yourself in the way of that abuse. You need to define boundaries. You need to demand respect in return. That is a respect that acknowledges that you are your own independent person. that respects your mothers experience and interest in you, but is no longer subordinate to your mothers will and wishes.

If there are specific topics which are particularly contentious then they must be made taboo.
You mention clothing:That’s a classic example. Sure we live in a culture where there is pressure on our young men and women to dress in an immodest manner, and that is an issue of morality, but beyond that your mum has no right to do more than say she doesn’t like your style. that’s all it is: a choice of style.

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