Teen Wants to Know How to Respond to Overly Critical Parent

Can you help me deal with a mom who is always putting me down? Nothing I do is ever good enough for her. My room is never clean enough, my grades are never high enough, my friends are always a "bad influence," and my hair and clothes are always an "embarrassment to the family." There are moments when this gets me so depressed that I wonder why I was ever born. At other times I get so mad that I want to do something just to aggravate her. What should I do?

We’re sorry that this has been happening to you. The first thing we want you to know is that God loves you. He brought you into this world for a special purpose, and He has a unique plan for your life. Your worth as a person doesn’t depend upon what others think or say about you – not even your parents. Instead, the value of your life is determined by the fact that the Creator made you in His own image and sent His Son to die on the cross so that He could enjoy an eternal relationship with you.

If you can remember this basic truth, it may give you the strength you need to cope with your mom’s criticism. It might also help to try to see things from her point of view. Stop and think for a minute before you react too strongly to this advice. Your mother may be picky and petty, but has she ever given you any serious reason to believe that she doesn’t really love you? There are exceptions, of course, but most parents do what they do out of genuine concern for their child.

If you can look at the situation from this angle, it may appear to you in a very different light. Could it be that all this nagging is an expression of your mom’s desire to protect you, teach you right from wrong, and ensure that everything turns out right for you? We think this is a possibility. Mothers, after all, are only human. They don’t get to take a trial run before becoming parents. They just have to do the best they can with the temperament, personality, and family background they received from their own mom and dad. Raising you is a first-time experience for your mom, and her uncertainty is compounded by the greatness of her love for you. Her approach and methods may not be pleasant for you, but it’s likely that she has your best interests at heart.

Maybe you can make things better. It might be a good idea to sit down with her and calmly and honestly tell her how her criticism makes you feel. Catch her when she’s in a good mood and ask her if you can have a heart-to-heart talk about some things that have been on your mind. Let her know that you’re doing the best you can and that you want to please her, but that it really hurts when she puts you down. Admit that you’re only human and far from perfect. On the other hand, if you aren’t ready to cooperate to the best of your ability, you may need to do some thinking and praying before you and your mom have this kind of discussion.

If things don’t improve, you might consider getting some outside assistance. Maybe you’re acquainted with a teacher or counselor at your school, a pastor or youth leader at your church, or another objective and trustworthy adult who could help you in this area. Naturally, your mom would have to agree to this, since it would be best if the two of you (and perhaps the rest of the family as well) sought counseling together.

Call us. Focus on the Family’s staff counselors would be more than happy to talk with you. They can also provide you with a list of qualified family therapists practicing in your local area.


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