9 things you don’t owe your parents an explanation for, according to psychology

We can often feel a burden of debt to our parents.

After all, they gave you life, they fed you, clothed you, and cared for you.

But does that mean you owe them?

It does according to one mother in China who successfully compelled the courts to force her daughter to “compensate her financially and also visit her once every two months.”

Some parents seem to carry this sense of entitlement to interfere in their children’s lives long into adulthood.  

Yet it’s your life to live.

The bond between parents and kids is undoubtedly a complex one.

But psychology tells us that even if you love your folks dearly, there are plenty of things that you do not owe them an explanation for.

Let’s take a look.

1) Your life decisions as an adult

We make countless decisions every single day. Most are inconsequential, some may be life-changing.

But regardless, each are yours to make. Collectively, they create the overall lifestyle you want to live.

That may be whether you decide to continue in further education or get a job. It could be if you choose to relocate and live elsewhere. It may be whether you opt to go traveling and see the world.

Psychologists say that autonomy is essential when it comes to our motivation, health, and personal development.

Those who have a sense of self-determination are more likely to be academically successful, do better at work, and generally feel more content in life.

It’s natural for parents to have opinions on your choices. They may voice those, but that doesn’t mean you have to justify your decisions.

2) Your own unique set of beliefs

Psychology tells us that as part of our developing identity, many people do grow up adopting similar sets of values and beliefs as their parents.

But plenty of us don’t, and perhaps for good reason.

Your parents may have outdated notions or limited viewpoints. It’s a part of social evolution that future generations expand and adjust their ideas. That can mean that your beliefs and values do not align with your mom and dad.

But as best-selling author Ron Carucci reminds us in the Harvard Business Review, it’s all part of becoming a healthy independent adult:

“Stepping into your unique identity may require stepping out of the borrowed philosophies and values-structures with which you were raised – and that’s okay. This doesn’t mean you need to abandon those values. It means you need to sift through and test them to see which fit the future you want for yourself.”


Families can still love each other without necessarily agreeing with one another.

3) Your love life

If there is one thing parents seem to love to meddle in — it’s love.

Some people face the dreaded question of “When are you going to settle down?” every time they go home.

Others have suggested suitors frequently promoted to them in an attempt to match them up.

Meanwhile, some face judgment and critiques of their chosen partners who their parents don’t feel are good enough.

Relationship counsellor Dawn Kaffel says parents can become intrusive and end up crossing boundaries or feeling entitled to interfere.

“Strong families are a gift but excessive parental involvement can create enormous tension and difficulties.”

It can become tiresome to deal with.

But it’s important to remember that your relationship status, sexuality, or choice of partner in life is not something you ever need to justify to your family.

4) Your career path

My dad excels in science and math. These were never my subjects in school. I always struggled to wrap my head around them.

My strengths were in the arts — music, performance, and drama. Needless to say, these were not topics my father valued or believed were worth pursuing.

So when it came to making a career out of them, he disapproved. This scenario is a common problem around the world.

One survey noted that as many as 14% of parents told their children (aged between 18 and 28) what career to pursue.

Our interests are not the same as our folks. So when it comes to choosing what we’ll study or the work we’ll go into, clashes can happen.

Licensed social worker Melody Wilding says when treading your own career path in life, it’s important to remind yourself that your parent’s opinions aren’t something you should take personally.

“Setting a boundary, too, is realizing that their concerns are more about them than they are a judgment of you. That is their own perception, their own beliefs that they are projecting onto you, a lot of times.”

5) The dreams you have

People who have a strained relationship with their parents tend to display these subtle behaviors 9 things you don’t owe your parents an explanation for, according to psychology

Most parents want the best for their kids.

But what happens when their vision of what that is doesn’t quite match your own?

Then you are in danger of being bullied down a path you don’t want to take, in a bid to try to make them happy.

Sadly, some parents do try to live vicariously again through their children. They may see it as another opportunity to do the things they never got to do or realize the dreams they feel were robbed from them.

But their dreams are not necessarily yours, and you always have a right to dream your own vision.  

Psychologist Jonice Webb powerfully reminds us that “parents are meant to launch you, not limit you.”

Nobody has the right to step on your dreams, not even your parents.

6) Your boundaries

Boundaries are essential in any healthy relationship.

The depth of intimacy in many families can mean that these important lines get crossed.

But psychology makes it clear that these rules we set for ourselves are there to protect us.  

Social Worker Hala Shamsi says that’s why when parents inadvertently cross them, we have to practice being more assertive, no matter how challenging it is.

She recommends slowly increasing clear boundaries as you go to make it easier.

“Honour the fact that putting your relationship with your parents on a healthier track will not be easy (for you, or them). Putting in a multitude of hard boundaries right in the beginning can feel overwhelming and this will reduce your chances of actually sticking to them.

Start off small.”

7) How you choose to spend your money

Growing up my mom would often moan to me about my sister’s spending habits. My sister and I have very different styles when it comes to cash.

I’m a natural saver, who gets comfort in squirreling away my dollars for a rainy day. She on the other hand is more of a live-for-today spender. My mom used to comment that money burned a hole in her pocket if it was there for too long.

But the truth is, how she decides to spend the money she has earned is her business and nobody else’s.

If the money comes from your folks, then arguably, they may be entitled to a say in where it goes. But financial independence is another important aspect of self-sufficiency.

When you work for it yourself, you don’t have to justify what you do with it.

8) Whether you want kids

Demanding grandkids is always 100% wrong.

Psychology says that sadly, child-free women already feel intense pressure to have kids. The last thing anyone needs is that pressure to come from your own family.

Clinical psychologist and author of ‘Complete Without Kids’, Ellen Walker says for some, this pressure is an unwelcome reality.

“I recently heard from a young woman who told me she’d mentioned to her mother and her grandmother that she didn’t plan to have children. The response from the older generation was, “You will have children. You must have children.”

As for how to deal with it, she highlights that you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

“If you find yourself in a situation where you feel pressured or judged due to not having kids, handle it as you please. If you don’t wish to talk about your personal life, simply say so. If you choose to speak out about your life choice, do so in an assertive manner.”

9) How you raise your own children

Those who did decide to have kids aren’t off the hook either.

You may have provided your parents with the grandchildren they longed for, but now run the gauntlet of constant commentary about how you should raise them.

It can be hard not to absorb these opinions and take them to heart.

But rather than offer an explanation, psychologist Laura Markham suggests reminding people that “The thing about being a parent is that each of us gets to make our own mistakes.”

It may have been shaped by your own upbringing, yet your parenting style is bound to differ from the one you received.

You are raising your children in a different time and under different circumstances. Your parents have done their part once you are grown, and so it’s not their job now.

Bottom line: You are not responsible for your parent’s emotions

Love can complicate boundaries between parents and children.

Sometimes we feel obligated to cater to the needs of those we care about. But in the process, we end up putting them above our own.

Guilt, manipulation, and emotional blackmail may make us falsely believe that we owe it to our parents to “keep them happy.”

Yet psychology makes it clear that you are never responsible for other people’s emotions, that’s always on them.

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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