If you recognize these 10 signs, you probably grew up with overbearing parents

It has been often reported in the past that Richard Williams—father of tennis icons Serena and Venus Williams—was an overbearing parent and tennis coach to his daughters. 

There was even a biopic film on him called King Richard—played by Will Smith who won an Oscar for the role.

Williams coached his daughters from the age of four and was said to be hyper-focused on making the girls become star athletes.  

In an interview with The New Yorker, Williams shared that he actively discouraged any boyfriends for fear that this would split the focus of his daughters.

He said that he even ripped the heads off his daughters’ dolls so as to destroy any possibility of early motherhood. 

It’s no wonder that Williams is seen as one of the most overbearing sports fathers.

While Williams’ parenting style was certainly extreme, many can relate to how strict and inflexible it was growing up under the care of overbearing parents. 

Here are ten signs that you might be able to recognize.

1) Their love seemed like it was conditional 

People who had overbearing parents usually had to work to get their attention and affection. 

This could be anything from getting exceptional grades, excelling at extracurricular activities, performing well in dance classes, or being on top of chores at home. 

“Conditional love is when someone expects perfection at all times, and if you fail, they’re extremely disappointed,” says Kimberly Diaz-Rosso from Tiny Buddha. 

“They treat failure as a character flaw and have a hard time accepting mistakes. They don’t truly see you. They rarely build you up and instead tear you down.”

A parent’s love should be without confines, adds Diaz-Rosso. They should be able to express their love to you whether or not you succeed with what you’re doing. 

“They don’t hold it against you if you’re going through a tough time. Their love is constant.”

2) Even minor disagreements turned into drama

Overbearing parents are sometimes that way because they have narcissistic traits. 

They abhor opposition and have a tendency to lash out if the child expresses any kind of push back or disagreement. 

This can happen in even the most trivial of things. For instance, let’s say a child doesn’t agree with their parent’s picking out a particular set of clothes for them and they object to the outfit. 

The parent might raise their voice and say that choosing what clothes to wear isn’t the child’s decision or choice. 

If the child goes ahead and wears what they want, the parent might “retaliate” by grounding the child or making them forgo dessert in order to “teach them a lesson.” 

3) They might have gone through your things

Overbearing parents are often controlling parents. They like to know everything—even in minute detail—about what their child is up to.

They aren’t above snooping through the child’s notebooks to make sure they’re aware of every grade and teacher comment. 

They might also regularly go through their child’s backpack to make sure they aren’t doing something they shouldn’t be doing such as smoking or doing weed and the like. 

While this might seem understandable to some, an overbearing parent will do this even if they have no reason to suspect anything. The bottom line is that they don’t trust their child. 

An overbearing might also go through their child’s diary or journals in an attempt to collect information and “police” them. 

This only makes the child become hypervigilant at hiding everything from the parent. 

4) They exaggerated everything you did “wrong”

Say a child receives 75% on a math test. While this is a pretty good grade, an overbearing parent won’t see it this way.

They might ask something like: “What happened to the other 30% percent?” Or: “How did you manage to get barely a ‘B’?” From there, they might determine that you were never good at math. 

Or say a child fumbled one of their lines in the school play because they were nervous. An overbearing parent—expecting perfection—will point the “messing up” of lines out instead of saying how well the child did. 

They’ll even bring it up periodically to “prove” other points as well. 

5) Their rules were pretty rigid 

No doubt an overbearing parent will have a plethora of strict rules that a child has to abide by.

This could be a rigid curfew with no flexibility despite circumstances, and things like no makeup, modest clothing and hairstyle, no dating, and the like. 

Authoritarian parenting is a parenting style that is characterized by a high degree of strictness, says Christin Perry of Parents Magazine

“Parents expect kids to follow the rules and obey without questioning their rationale,” he says. “This style is controlling, with little room for give and take.”

What usually happens is that the child will either openly rebel, or become very strategic at breaking the rules behind the parent’s back.  

What’s worse is that the child may see the parent as a kind of “enemy” and develop a love-hate relationship with them. 

They also won’t be able to trust the parent in return. 

6) They meddled in many of your relationships 

signs youve been raised by a narcissistic parent If you recognize these 10 signs, you probably grew up with overbearing parents

While it’s a good thing for a parent to know who their child is dating in order to make sure this new person is safe to be with and has good values, an overbearing parent’s involvement is usually more about control. 

They may not trust the child to be able to take care of themselves and insist on chaperoning their dates. They may also give every potential boyfriend or girlfriend “the third degree” to make sure they’re suitable. 

They may also reject a potential relationship without a good reason and don’t believe they need to explain their rationale. 

7) They made you afraid to take risks 

Because an overbearing parent is controlling and authoritative, they tend to make most, if not all, their child’s decisions—even in early adulthood. 

This, in turn, can have harmful effects on their child’s autonomy and sense of independence. 

As a child they might be afraid to try out for the school play or the sports team even though they really want to. 

As an adult, they might second guess which career path to take, for example. They won’t trust themselves to take on challenges and may ask the parent what they think they should do when really it’s their life and their choice. 

They’ll end up having a low sense of self-esteem and will miss out on opportunities to be proud of themselves, gain confidence, and have a life that is separate from their parents

8) They also made you doubt your decisions 

Similar to the above, even if the child of overbearing parents ventures out to follow pursuits of their choosing, they may constantly doubt their abilities. 

They might take the easy route and go for things that are safe and don’t challenge them too much. 

They may not trust themselves on who to date for example, so will refrain from dating altogether. 

This is because they’re used to being constrained and invalidated, says Pamela Li from Parenting For Brain. “[Overbearing] want to keep their kids emotionally dependent and enmeshed with them.”

9) They always acted like they had your best interests at heart

Overbearing parents often believe that they know what’s best for their children and no one—not even their child—can tell them any different. 

Even if the child’s teacher suggests the child joining band practice because of their exceptional musical talent, an overbearing parent might reject this idea because they see something more academic in their child’s future instead. 

They don’t want any distractions from the path that they have envisioned for their child. 

10) Their word was always the final say 

You often cannot negotiate with an overbearing parent. As mentioned, ego and even narcissistic qualities can often be the culprit. 

They are determined to have the last word and their decisions are often final. 

Some parents may also back themselves up with the idea that that’s just how things are done in their family, community, religion, or culture. 

Challenging their authority often led to some form of punishment or perhaps even the silent treatment. 

Here’s our final word on if you had an overbearing parent growing up

You might not have had a whole lot of choice in how your childhood and teenage life unfolded, but you have a choice now as an adult.

You can slowly but steadily start to put more faith in yourself and make decisions that suit you. Even if they turn out to be the “wrong” decisions from time to time, you’ll learn from any perceived mistakes.   

In fact, mistakes can be a good thing and they’re a part of life.

If you have to create boundaries or even some distance from parents who still think they have a right to run your life, so be it. 

Your life is your own, so you should be the one calling the shots. 

Picture of Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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