How to Set Boundaries With Parents (17 Ways to Do it Right)

Your parents—they love you, they support you, but sometimes… they can be a lot. Maybe they give too much advice, call too often, or have a hard time seeing you as an independent adult.

It’s perfectly normal to seek a bit of space from your parents as you carve out your own path in life. But how do you tell your parents you need more space without starting an argument or making them feel unwanted?

Stick around as we talk about some effective ways to establish and communicate boundaries to create a better, stronger relationship with your parents.

Know Your Rights

Setting boundaries with parents can be tricky. You love them, and you value their opinion, but sometimes, you need your own space to grow. And it’s totally okay to feel that way! Because—and remember this—you have the right to make your own choices. It’s your life.

You have the right to your own beliefs, values, and dreams. You have the right to choose your own friends, partners, and career paths. And yes, you even have the right to make mistakes and learn from them.

It might sound obvious, but sometimes we need a little reminder that our needs and feelings matter.

Reflect on Your Reasons

Before you start setting boundaries, take some time to really think about why you need them in the first place. What specific behaviors from your parents are bothering you? Is it constant phone calls? Unsolicited advice? Maybe they try to control your decisions?

For example, let’s say your mom calls you every single day, multiple times a day, and it drives you crazy. You feel like you can’t breathe, and it’s affecting your concentration at work!

This reflection not only clarifies your needs but also prepares you to discuss them clearly. And when you share these reasons with your parents, it’s more likely they’ll see where you’re coming from.

"Throughout your childhood, your parents taught you lessons in everything from reading and writing to personal safety, respect, and more. They have been thrilled to see you put those lessons into action, succeed as a result of their care and efforts, and become an adult.

They may not be as thrilled when you use those lessons to put boundaries in place with them. Like many things in life, though, just because something is hard to do doesn't mean it's not worth doing.

If you are struggling with whether or not to draw a boundary, consider the following:

- Would you allow a friend or colleague to continue treating you in the way in which your parents are? Would you allow them to overstep or overreach in the same way?

- What problems are being caused by the behavior towards you? Is it causing you pain? Is it causing strife in your marriage?

- What do you hope to gain from setting the boundary? What outcome are you seeking?"

Niki J. Yarnot, MSW, LSW | Life and Career Coach, Forest for the Trees Coaching

Let Go of Guilt Over Having Boundaries

In many cultures, setting boundaries with parents can feel disrespectful or even taboo. You might worry about hurting their feelings or causing conflict.

Here’s the thing, though: it’s possible to set boundaries with love and respect.

Setting boundaries is a sign of maturity and self-awareness, which ultimately leads to healthier relationships all around.

So, shake off that guilt by reminding yourself that boundaries don’t mean you love your parents any less. Plus, most parents are likely to understand over time, especially when they see the positive effects clear boundaries have on your well-being and your relationship.

Be Clear and Concise

Now, when you’re talking to your parents about boundaries, it’s super important to be clear and direct. Don’t beat around the bush or be vague—they might misunderstand you, and things could get messy!

Instead, tell them exactly what you need and what the boundary is.

For example, if you don’t want them giving unasked-for career advice, tell them kindly but firmly: “Mom, Dad, I really appreciate that you care about my job, but I want to figure things out on my own for now. I promise to come to you if I need your advice.”

See? Simple, straight to the point, and no room for confusion!

Being clear and concise not only helps your parents understand you better, but it also shows that you are serious about your boundaries. It shows them that you’ve put thought into this, and that’s always a good thing!

Be Assertive and Compassionate

While you express your needs, remember that your parents love you, and they probably just want what they think is best for you.

First, make sure to speak up about your needs clearly—this is being assertive. If you feel that your parents are calling you too often, you can say, “I need some quiet time in the evenings to relax and recharge.”

Next, add a touch of kindness to your words. This shows compassion. You could follow up by saying, “I really love our chats, and I want to be fully present for them. Can we set a specific time to talk that works for both of us?”

In these conversations, it’s really helpful to keep a calm and gentle tone. This shows that you respect your parents and their feelings, but also that you respect your own needs. Keeping this balance helps everyone feel good about the conversation and understands where the other is coming from.

Communicate Your Boundary Without Blame

Talking about boundaries doesn’t have to feel like a blame game. It’s all about the delivery. Instead of pointing fingers, focus on your personal feelings and reactions. This can be done using “I” statements.

Instead of saying, “You’re always meddling with my relationships,” try: “Mom, I feel overwhelmed when you constantly offer suggestions about my relationship. I need some space to figure things out on my own.”

This approach not only makes the discussion about boundaries smoother but also maintains the warmth and love that is fundamental to your relationship with your parents.

Frame Your Boundaries With Gratitude

While it’s crucial to be firm about your boundaries, remember that your parents are coming from a place of love and concern (most of the time, anyway!). So, how you frame these boundaries determines how the message is received.

Starting with gratitude not only softens the introduction but also expresses that you value your relationship. For instance, you could begin with, “Mom, Dad, I really appreciate how much you care and want to help.” This sets a positive tone.

This is more likely to be well-received, as it doesn’t put them in a defensive position. It’s a reassuring way to maintain a healthy relationship dynamic, making sure they know their efforts and love are recognized, but boundaries are necessary for your personal growth.

Say “Thank You,” Not “I’m Sorry”

Often, when we set boundaries, there’s a temptation to apologize—for taking up space, for having needs, for existing. But hold on, you don’t need to apologize for taking care of yourself!

Remember, you’re not doing anything wrong by setting boundaries. It’s perfectly okay to prioritize your needs. So, instead of saying, “I’m sorry,” try saying, “Thank you.”

For instance, “Thank you for understanding” or “Thank you for respecting my decision.”

This shift in language reinforces the idea that setting boundaries is a healthy and positive step, both for you and your parents.

Keep the Discussion Positive

When bringing up boundaries, the way you talk matters a lot. Start the conversation with a positive note like, “It’s great when we can work together on things that matter to me.”

Focus on solving the issue instead of talking too much about the problem itself. If unexpected visits are bothering you, try saying, “I love our time together. What if we plan your visits in advance? That way, I can give you my full attention.”

Finish on a high note, saying something like, “Setting up these visits beforehand could help us have even better times together, don’t you think?”

When you keep the conversation hopeful and solution-focused, it makes the whole process of setting boundaries a lot more productive and positive.

Get Used to Saying “No”

You know, setting boundaries can sometimes mean saying “no” to things you’d normally agree to or maybe feel obligated to do. It can feel really uncomfortable at first, especially with family, but don’t worry, it gets easier!

Think about those situations where you usually give in—even when you want to say no.

  • Maybe it’s when your mom asks you to run errands for her.
  • Maybe your dad wants you to come over for dinner every single Sunday.

Start by saying “no” to smaller things, then work your way up to bigger requests.

And remember, you don’t always need to give a lengthy explanation. A simple “No, I’m not able to do that right now” is perfectly fine. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll become in asserting your boundaries.

Set One Boundary at a Time

Introducing too many boundaries at once can be overwhelming—for both you and your parents. Take it slow, and don’t try to change everything all at once! 

Once you and your parents get comfortable with one boundary, then you can move on to the next!

  • Start with the boundary that feels most important to you.
  • Give it some time. Let your parents get used to this change.
  • Once it feels comfortable, introduce another boundary.

For example, you could start by setting a boundary around unsolicited advice. Once that’s working well, then you can address a different issue, like too many phone calls. Slowly but surely, you’ll build healthier and more respectful patterns of interaction.

Find a Compromise

Setting boundaries doesn’t mean you have to be completely rigid! It’s all about finding a middle ground that respects both your needs and your parents’ needs.

For instance, if they want to call you every day, but you can’t handle that, maybe you can agree on a specific day and time for a weekly call. This way, you’re still connecting with them, but you’re also respecting your own need for space and time.

Remember, compromise is all about finding that sweet spot where everyone feels respected and heard. It may take a little bit of trial and error, but it’s definitely worth the effort!

Give Them Time to Adjust

Just like it takes you time to get used to new routines or changes, your parents also need time to adapt to the boundaries you set. They have been used to relating to you in a certain way for years, so they might not get the changes right the first time.

  • Acknowledge their efforts, even if small, in respecting your new boundaries.
  • Keep reminding them gently if they forget.
  • Show appreciation for their attempts to respect your needs.

Be prepared for a few bumps along the way—maybe a slip-up here and there or some initial resistance. That’s okay! Just gently remind them of the boundary and keep reinforcing the new pattern you’ve established. Over time, things will fall into place.

Know When to Take Some Space

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your parents or if conversations become too heated, it’s totally okay—and healthy—to step back for a while. This could mean limiting phone calls, declining invitations to family gatherings, or simply taking a few days to yourself to recharge.

Sometimes, a little breathing room is all you need to come back to the situation with a clearer mind and a calmer attitude. Remember: taking care of your mental and emotional well-being is super important, and it can also make it easier to have a healthy relationship with your parents in the long run.

Hold and Don’t Back Down

Once you have those boundaries in place, it’s important to stick to them! If your parents start to push back or try to test the limits, stand your ground! Remember why you set those boundaries in the first place. It was to create a healthier and happier relationship for both of you.

Now, I’m not saying you need to be rigid. There’s always room for flexibility and adjustments. But don’t let those boundaries completely crumble just to avoid conflict. Your needs are important.

"Don't give in to your parents' demands just because you feel bad about saying no. Your relationship might endure temporary discomfort but ultimately benefit from setting boundaries.

If you cave into breaking pre-determined boundaries, your parents will continue to push you until you break down and give in. There's no need to argue as long as you remain firm and consistent."

Colleen Wenner-Foy​, MA. LCMHC-S, LPC, MCAP​ | Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor | Founder and Clinical Director, New Heights Counseling and Consulting LLC

Get Your Own Place

Sometimes, physical distance can be helpful! When you live with your parents, setting boundaries can be extra challenging. It’s like their presence is there, even if you don’t want it to be! If you’re able, consider moving into your own place.

While moving out is a big step, here are some benefits:

  • You can control how often you engage with your parents.
  • It establishes a physical boundary that supports emotional and personal boundaries.
  • Your home becomes a personal sanctuary where you recharge and make your choices.

This change doesn’t mean you love them less; it simply highlights your growth into an independent adult who values their privacy and autonomy.

Seek Professional Help

If you find that despite your best efforts, setting and maintaining boundaries with your parents is still challenging, or if it’s causing significant stress and conflict, it might be helpful to seek professional help.

A therapist or counselor can provide you with tools and strategies to assert your needs effectively. They can also offer a neutral perspective on the situation, which can be incredibly valuable.

Here’s how a professional might assist:

  • They can help you articulate your feelings and needs more clearly.
  • They can guide you and your parents in navigating complex emotions respectfully.
  • They could mediate discussions to prevent misunderstandings and reduce tensions.

More Insights From the Experts

“As you settle into adulthood, these boundaries keep you from getting angry or resentful toward your parents. Boundaries also allow you to maintain your independence while still being able to relate to your parents.”

Colleen Wenner-Foy​, MA. LCMHC-S, LPC, MCAP​ | Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor | Founder and Clinical Director, New Heights Counseling and Consulting LLC

If your family refuses to respect your boundaries, use what I call “N.E.B. communication: Necessary, Emotionless (when able and appropriate), and Brief.” This will help decrease the chances of getting sucked into a difficult conversation where your boundaries are pushed or even disrespected:

For example:

  • “Yes, we have to leave by 5.”
  • “We are unable to come on that date, but thank you!”

Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS, MSW | Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Board Approved Clinical Supervisor, Choosing Therapy

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my parents get upset when I set boundaries?

It’s natural for your parents to have a reaction, especially at first. They might feel hurt, confused, or even a little angry. Try to remember that they’re adjusting to this new dynamic, just like you are. Be patient, stay calm, and keep reiterating your boundaries, but also acknowledge their feelings.

What if my parents don’t take my boundaries seriously?

Keep reinforcing your boundaries every time they’re crossed. And remember, your actions speak louder than words. If you say no to something, then don’t give in. Stick to what you’ve established.

Will setting boundaries damage my relationship with my parents?

When done respectfully and thoughtfully, setting boundaries should not harm your relationship. In fact, clear boundaries can lead to a healthier and more honest relationship. However, it’s important to approach the process with care and consideration for your parents’ feelings and needs as well.

Final Thoughts

Setting boundaries with your parents isn’t just about learning to say “No” but more about saying “Yes”—yes to a healthier, more respectful relationship.  This might take some courage and a lot of patience, but it’s worth it. 

Be patient, be clear, and most importantly, be respectful. With time and effort, setting these boundaries will help you and your parents understand each other better. 

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Clariza is a passionate writer and editor who firmly believes that words have great power. She has a degree in BS Psychology, which gives her an in-depth understanding of the complexities of human behavior. As a woman of science and art, she fused her love for both fields in crafting insightful articles on lifestyle, mental health, and social justice to inspire others and advocate for change.

In her leisure time, you can find her sitting in the corner of her favorite coffee shop downtown, deeply immersed in her bubble of thoughts. Being an art enthusiast that she is, she finds bliss in exploring the rich world of fiction writing and diverse art forms.