If you grew up with emotionally immature parents, you might find it hard to set boundaries.
A therapist shared how to set boundaries with your parents even when arguments get heated.
Pausing, staying calm, and keeping a neutral tone are all key in protecting your peace.
If you struggle with people-pleasing, there's a good chance you grew up with at least one emotionally immature parent or caretaker.
Dr. Lindsay C. Gibson, a clinical psychologist who wrote several books on navigating these kinds of relationships, defines emotionally immature parents as people who only see their side of an issue and have poor empathy for their children.
If you have an emotionally immature parent, you probably realize you need to set healthy boundaries with them — but have absolutely no idea how to do it without a screaming match or guilt-laden texts that eventually make you cave in.
Gibson said that even realizing a parent is emotionally immature is a huge first step, because you learn their limitations.
"You have a chance to learn how to accept and work within that to have the best possible relationship you can have," she said, rather than frustrating yourself by trying to change them.
Once your goal shifts from "I need them to finally understand how they've hurt me" to "I want to maintain a pleasant relationship as much as I can," setting boundaries becomes a lot less daunting.
Gibson shared three tips on how to get into the habit of establishing — and keeping — boundaries with emotionally immature parents.
Remind yourself that you're not actually harming them
Gibson used an example of wanting to stay in a hotel instead of your parents' house when you visit. But doing something outside what your parents are comfortable with can elicit anger and guilt-tripping.
That's why the first step is remembering that disagreeing doesn't mean you're actually hurting them — even if they act like you are.
"You're not asking to do something that's harmful to them; you're just asking to do something that you want that's different," Gibson said. "The emotionally immature person will make you feel like you've been disrespectful or unloving when you've just been yourself."
As you set a boundary, it will likely be challenged more than once. Truly believing that you're not in the wrong for stating your needs helps you remain consistent.
Slow yourself down, even if it's uncomfortable
Gibson previously told Insider that people-pleasers who grew up with volatile parents are usually nimble and quick to keep interactions moving smoothly. As a result, you might compulsively placate your parents the moment you notice a shift in their tone or mood.
If your parent starts talking fast or criticizing your boundary, you may resort to old habits and take the boundary back, finding the tension too foreign and uncomfortable.
That's why Gibson recommended slowing down and taking a beat before reacting. "Once you start determining that you are not going to detach from yourself, you have that opportunity to meet the moment from your own position," Gibson said.
Maybe you end up budging a little to meet your parent more in the middle. As long as you do it from a conscious place, it still feels more empowering than nodding on autopilot.
Calmly restate your position
One of the hardest parts of stating a boundary with an emotionally immature parent is dealing with their response. Gibson emphasized how important it is to avoid matching that energy.
"They know how to get emotional and blaming — that's their sweet spot," she said. "So if you get reactive and try to beat them at that, most of the time you're going to lose because you won't be able to stand it like they can."
Instead, the best course is usually to "just to stay calm and keep repeating your position in a way that is not contentious," she said. You can use polite phrases like "I appreciate what you're saying, but I'm going to do it this way."
The main challenge is patience. "Remember what your goal is and then repeat, repeat, repeat," Gibson said. "Because emotionally immature people are accustomed to rolling over other people's preferences."
If you keep the conversation on the outcome you want, they'll eventually run out of steam. It might take a while, but standing up for yourself is worth the wait.
Read the original article on Insider