We are choosing to post this classic Ask Colette again since this question (or a variation) seems to come in every holiday season.
Help! My annoying mother is coming to town, and I dread her visits. She’s really not that bad, but I get tired of her “helpful” advice, whether it’s a better way to deal with a co-worker, remove stains, make gravy or discipline my 3-year-old daughter. I do my best to wake up every day feeling positive, but it never fails that the advice-giving gets going before I’ve even managed to clean up the breakfast dishes. I realize she’s only trying to help, but it taints our visit and leaves me feeling childlike. What should I do?
Dear Hurtful Helping,
For what it’s worth, you are not alone. This is a common challenge in the mother-daughter relationship and here’s why. As a mother, you will discover no matter how old your daughter becomes, she is always your baby. After years of guiding and teaching her, you might feel compelled to continue to dish out advice. You do this to protect or make her life easier or better, but too often it becomes habitual and annoying. Some mothers understand the power of biting their tongue in order to allow their daughter her own experiences and choices. Some never get it. Some simply need to feel needed.
In these circumstances you need a strategy to get through the “help” that does nothing but push your buttons. Perhaps every time your mother opens her mouth, you can see her through the eyes of a 3-year-old, when you needed her advice, assistance and love to make it through the day. Believe it or not, she still is this same woman. You’re the one who has grown and changed.
Another suggestion might be the following. When she makes a suggestion, simply turn to her, give her a hug and with a smile in your voice say, “Mom, are you ever going to stop taking care of me?” Or simply be direct. “Mom, I know your intentions are pure and you want to help. Are you aware how often you suggest I do something your way, rather than simply honoring my own choices?”
She may not realize how often this happens. Follow it up by saying, “I’d so appreciate it if you would stop giving me so much advice and simply enjoy our time together.” Next time she starts up, say softly, “Mom, you’re giving me advice again.” Maybe through awareness, she’ll stop the how-to’s. Either way, you’ll get to practice when your own daughter is grown.