How to Nicely Tell Your Mom to Back Off

A mom’s job is to take care of her children. No matter how old you get, your mom is likely to offer you unsolicited advice, want to know all the details about your kids and perhaps even have the urge to clean your cupboards every time she visits. It's not unusual for a mom to always want what’s best for her child, but sometimes this type of motherly love can translate into controlling or annoying behavior. If you don’t tell your mom to nicely back off, she might never know how you really feel.

Gain a clear understanding about why your mom’s hovering or controlling behavior upsets you. Maybe you feel as if your mom’s behavior or words make it seem as though she doesn’t trust you, or finds fault with you. Perhaps you want to try doing things your own way. Or, maybe your mom’s behavior simply makes her seem like a bossy know-it-all. Before you tell your mom to back off, you need to know why her behavior bothers you and how you feel so you can have a civil conversation.

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Try to objectively understand her behavior. Keep in mind that your mom might act the way she does because this is how her family raised her or because she thinks that her actions will ensure your success. For example, if your mom nitpicks about your cooking or lack thereof, this might be because her parents taught her that the best way to show guests respect or affection is with five-star meals. When you try to understand your mom’s behavior, don’t make excuses for it. Instead, you should try to empathize with her situation, upbringing and/or fears.

Tell your mom about your feelings when she does or says something that seems controlling or critical. Use the moment as an example so you mom has a better understanding of what behavior bothers you. For example, if your mom makes a statement that starts with, “You know, you should really…,” use this as an opportunity to tell her your feelings regarding this type of phrase. Let her know that her always pointing out what you should really do upsets you.

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Explain your emotions clearly 1. Instead of getting upset and making an unhelpful statement like, “Why do you always do that?” tell your mom how you feel and why. For example, you might say, “Mom, I feel smothered because you come to my house every day without asking and then tell me how I should do things.”

Outline clear boundaries so your discussion comes to a resolution. The boundaries that you set will help your mom have a better idea about when it’s appropriate for her to offer suggestions or advice, or take over a project. For example, you might tell her that you want to try preparing new recipes on your own, but will call her over if you need help.


Be assertive when you speak to your mom about how you feel, but still show respect.

Use "I" statements to let your mom know what you're thinking -- and try not to sound as though you're accusing her of doing something wrong. For example, say, "I would appreciate it if you didn't say..." rather than, "You're wrong for saying..." You don't want your mom to feel as though you're personally attacking her.