Adults: Do Not Obey Your Parents

BoundariesAs an adult, loving and honoring your parents does not equal obeying. God placed you with your parents for a season of time to help you grow into a mature adult. At some point this season ends, and your relationship with your mom and dad changes from child-to-parent to adult-to-adult. The roles change from dependency and authority to mutuality. While you are to respect and care for your parents, you are no longer under their protection and tutelage. Children are to obey parents, while adult children are to love and honor them. Therefore, sometimes you will need to confront parents, disobeying their desire for you to agree with them or go along with a bad situation.

People often have difficulty confronting parents, because they still feel like a little child with them. Emotionally they have not left home, so they do not feel free to be separate, truthful, and honest with them. There is too much to lose. If this sounds like you, it might be very helpful to work on these issues in a small-group setting or with a counselor in order to free yourself up from the past so that you can be an adult in the present.


Click to Tweet: Children are to obey parents, while adult children are to love and honor them.


One concrete example of moving out of obedience and dependence on parents happens when you decide that you will not spend some traditional holiday time with your parents. This can often be a cause for a confrontational talk:

You: “Mom, I wanted to let you know as soon as I could that I’ve made plans to go to the mountains with some friends this Christmas. I know this will be the first Christmas I won’t be with you and Dad, so I wanted to talk to you about it.”

Mom: “What are you talking about? You always spend Christmas with us. Your father will be so hurt.”

You: “I’m so sorry you feel that way. I would never want to hurt you. But this year I have a really good group of friends from my singles group at church that I want to spend the holidays with. It’s not about not caring about you; it’s about wanting to be involved with these people at a deeper level.”

Mom: “Can’t you do that at another time? I mean, it will ruin our holiday.”

You: I hope it doesn’t ruin things for you. That’s why I’m telling you this several months in advance, so you can make sure you have time to make any other arrangements you need to so your holiday will be good.

Mom: “Don’t you care about how we feel?”

You: “Yes, Mom, I care very much. And I do like spending time with you. If you think that I don’t care, then maybe we can talk at some other point about your feelings, because I would like to reassure you that I care. But the point of this phone call was simply to give you a heads up so that we can plan and adjust for this change.”

In addition, don’t forget that your parent may need for you to be a change agent in her life. You may be one of the few people in her circle who is aware of her hurtful behavior or attitude. So, just as her job was to correct you in years past, your job (without the parental authority role) may be to correct her in the present. I know of many situations in which an adult child’s confrontation of a parent was life changing for both.


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  1. Linda says

    Boy, this is right on time. My family are all dead, so I don’t have to deal with this, but I hear about it every year in my codependency support group. People hate the holidays. So many people say “wake me up on January 2nd” and it’s because of having to spend time with family.

    On the other hand, it’s a great time to practice boundaries. Good luck!

  2. Kitty says

    Thank you for doing this work. I wish I had known this information years ago. My parents were very good to us, they did their very best, and at the same time there were issues that if we could have only dealt with the problems, everyone’s life really would have been more enjoyable. We were all so afraid. So afraid of conflict. It took my parents dying for me to emotionally leave home, if I in fact did. God bless you for doing this work.

    • Annamae Sterling says

      I also appreciate the work you have done . My father was mentally ill. My mother was also negative with me . My sister married when I was 10 years old . Everyone was afraid of conflict . There was a time when I recognized I needed to confront my mother but didn’t realize the value it was to me.

    • Ashley J Culp says

      I don’t get along with my family my mom is so bossy and controlling and she hates my boyfriend and threatened to call the police I am 24 almost 25 and she says I mess everything up she doesn’t care or help me with anything but always be laxy

  3. Elizabeth says

    My mom would threaten to harm herself if I said I wasn’t coming for the holidays. How am I supposed to deal with that?

    • J says

      This is just a suggestion. Could it be that she is lonely and that she is too proud to admit it and maybe it could b that she is set in her ways that the holiday period is for family.
      I live very far away from my mum and tell her in advance if I cannot be at her place for the holiday , mum will grumble and I will listen but I will be firm in my situation but I assure her that the reason for not being with her is very important to me. I make sure that I call her on that day to wish her for eg merry Christmas if it Christmas and just chat with her . I also tell her how much I love her and whether she has receive her present. I always try my best to put myself in the other persons shoes and honestly ask myself how would I feel if I’m in her place.

    • Hadley says

      You can reasssure your mother that you love her, but her threatening to hurt herself is HER choice. That is manipulation at its finest, and that IS NOT love. No where in the Bible does it say love is manipulating and controlling. She may not be aware that she is even doing that to you, and by her doing that is, in a way, trying to force you to carry a burden in which you were never created to carry. Only Jesus’ shoulders are strong enough to carry her burdens.

      I would encourage you to really chew on 1 Cor 13, the love chapter, and see what the Holy Spirit has to tell you through that portion of Scripture. He will show you. He wants you to know truth!!

  4. Steelmagnolia says

    While I don’t expect my grown children to spend every holiday with us and we understand that after they are married they have not one, but two families to visit on holidays, I do not regret spending some time with my parents on every major holiday. I lost both my parents within the last two years and it will be difficult this year to adjust to the fact that I am an orphan. I know all about boundaries and such, but I would rather have the time and freedom I have now to do the things I want, knowing that I will never regret spending all that time with my parents. My mother was not the easiest person in the world to deal with at times, but she was my mother and I respected her enough to talk to her about problems. And yes occasoinally it would get a little heated with her and she would get her feeings hurt for a few minutes, but she knew how much I loved her and tha tI would be there on major holidays. I was taught to honor them and not dishonor them by hurting them. I never missed a Mothers Day, Fathers Day or a Christmas with my parents in my 64 years until they passed.

    • Jamie says

      That is great for you but you must understand that others may be dealing with too much toxicity and have to go no contact for our own health and mental health.

    • Ju says

      @steelmagnolia talk about dramatising – you’re hardly an orphan at 64yrs because both your parents have died!! An orphan is a child in age whose parents have died or permanently abandoned them. I’m sorry you’ve lost your parents and glad you enjoyed spending time with them whilst alive.

  5. Sue says

    I can hear my mother’s voice raising to a fine high pitch saying, “Other plans? Other PLANS?! Christmas if for family, NO ONE is going to be available to have Christmas with me, THEY will be with THEIR FAMILY!!!” My mother is boundary immune and a master of manipulation. She will take no way but her way. For my mother it wasn’t Christmas unless if was celebrated on the actual day. She would go to great pains to NOT wish anyone a Merry Christmas if we were celebrating on a different day. As a result none of her adult children spend much time with her at all. She has driven us all away with her strict unbending attitude. I am sad for her, but accept after all these years that I cannot fix her or make her happy.

    As a result I’ve learned to be less strict and more bendable to others plans and schedules. For years since my adult son started his own family I’ve let him know while I want to spend time with him and his family at Christmas-time, it can be before or after or two weeks before or after or more – any time that works around their busy schedule of work and children and in-laws.

    Not sure if this is a good boundary or not, but it seems to work for us. I have only one child and I don’t want to drive him away as my mother has all of her 6 children.

    • Marissa Richards says

      I believe your doing great. I’m proud of you not repeating your mom’s behavior. On the other hand, your is afraid of being alone so she demands having you guys around but doesn’t know how to show it. I’m sure she feels lonely at times. The older she gets, the worst she will feel. I would suggest finding a middle ground to spend quality time but you establish the rules with spending time with her. It’s up to her to take it or leave it!

  6. James Oladele says

    I have grown-up children who may soon leave the ‘nest’ but ITS don’t plan to hold them down to please my self centredness especially when I can still take Care of myself.
    However I feel for aged parents who can’t let go off their older children. And I can only advise such children to patiently educate them without being unrully that if they hold on to their ‘kite’, then it can’t soar high.
    God bless every truely whorthwhile parent with the grace to let go. Amen.

  7. Morris Hinson says

    Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

    I’m almost 70 and see areas in my life where I still struggle because in a manner of speaking, “I have not left my parents”. I still cling to many of their ways including some unhealthy mannerisms.

    Thank you for bringing this out, especially for the season.


  8. Doris says

    Thank-you for this. i am in the midst of establishing boundaries with my 89-YO mom who feels entitled to being the center of my world. She is widowed, dependent, and lonely, and expects the most from me since I’m the last-born, divorced and have no kids of my own.

    I am just starting to “Take My Life Back” with the help of New Life Live and culturally-appropriate Christian counseling. I still struggle with being a “good Chinese daughter” and putting God first – the latter directly contradicts Chinese culture, hence my struggle!

  9. Joyce says

    Thank you so much for this. I have struggled with boundaries with my 55yr old mother for over 10yrs. She is divorced, alone, and very dependant on me. She is very capable and able to work and do for herself. She lives with me and I can’t seem to find a way to advise her to move into her own place without her being manipulating and saying bible quotes that I am to obey her. I need my space. This is not fair to me and my daughter, because when we spend time together, she always wants to go and I have to fit the bill for everything. I’m a single mother. I’m starting to resent her for it and yet I’m upset with myself because I have a passive personality.I’m still struggling and it’s hard to motivate someone who doesn’t motivate themselves.

    • Sam says

      You know….it is VERY interesting that the issues are always with the mothers and daughters. My father treated me as an adult and I respect him for that. My mother, on the other hand, is another story. I am 48 and my mother is 68. She is young and able. All I can think about is me taking care of her. My brother is not going to do it!! I have serious things going on in my life and I REALLY resent my mother for thinking that she is to be the center of my world! I have soo much guilt and anger towards her! Plus, she has done some things in my adult life that I really did not appreciate. I have not been able to confront her about it. When I tried, she went into a panic attack! She would not even accept a letter from me about it! But I am supposed to pick up with her and be lovey-dovey and best friends?! UGh!!

  10. Gam says

    I have dealt with this issue from both sides….with a manipulating, narcissistic mother AND a manipulating and narcissistic adult child. And holidays were at my house. Couldn’t invite my dad who lived in the same town, even tho parents were divorced for decades, or mom wouldn’t come. Ended up cooking two Christmas meals for years. Before the Boundaries book.

    This year I made reservations out of town for my husband and I for Thanksgiving. Alone on purpose. Peaceful.

    The grandkids got very upset when I talked about someone else doing Christmas at their house…they want it here. I am great with the idea of not doing all the cooking, cleaning and work. So, since the grandkids are all in their teens and very aware of the family issues, I told the grandkids I am sending all the adults notice that everyone is invited and welcome in our home, but if they can’t get along to let the grandkids enjoy the holiday, and unless this family focuses on Christ and the kids, then I am done hosting it. They are to leave their differences and weapons at the door and enter in peace with goodwill, or not at all.

  11. APerez says

    This is such a breath of fresh air – so freeing to know we don’t have to “obey.” Throughout my life I’ve dealt with an overbearing mom and didn’t realize how toxic our relationship was until now that I’m an adult.

    I read the Boundaries book and soaked it all in. However, I wish there was a version for adult children who struggle in their relationship with parents.

  12. Sara says

    Well I’m almost 18 and I lived in Serbia for about 13 years of my life and im leaving with my aunt and uncle right now in America so anyway I wanted to spend my 18th B day in Serbia with my parents and family and best friend and all that good stuff but they told me they don’t think it’s good for me to come it’s not from God they would love to see me but they r coming in January and yeah so it says in the bible to pay your parents so I have the money and that I mean I would make the money but I don’t know what Im suppose to do I want to be obedient to God and at this point I don’t know what that is.

  13. Michele says

    A lot of manipulation was done during holidays especially Christmas, when I was younger with my sister, mom, and sister in law. Everyone made demands so there was always conflict on who went where and. When. I swore that. Would never happen with my own family. Now. I’m the older parent and they all come here. The conflict had been to ge t people to share the cooking. I do get some help but it’s still too much for me.

  14. Kay says

    I am 55 yo, a single parent of a daughter now 26, married and a new baby. I very seldom dated while raising my daughter working 2-3 jobs to make sure she was well taken care of gave her the wedding of her dreams, etc.. I hardly received any child support and he refused to help pay for our daughters wedding. We were never married. 3 years ago, after my daughter married, I met a nice christian man (online) and our friendship has grown into a great relationship. I initially, my daughter was very happy for me but thos quickly changed. Any time we i voted them to meet for dinner orni invited them to my house house, there was always an excuse why they couldn’t. My texts/calls would not be answered or answered days later at times. On my birthday I was invited to their house for a birthday party, but Dave (my boyfriend) was not invited and specifically told her could not come. At that visit, they revealed that I was to be grandma! I was so excited. Then the gender reveal party came along. Dave was not intied again. Other family and (close) friends were invited, spouses and significant others. But they insisted Dave couldn’t be there. I also found out a few days before, that my daughters dad from out of state was coming in. I refused to be thrown together with him at the gender reveal and didnt think it fair that Dave wasnt I cited. My daughter sent me a long text giving me ultimatums, one being if I didnt want to come without Dave to just not come. so that’s what I did. Things were very tense at that point. My daughter didnt speak and refused to see me for weeks after that. I did have a shower for my daughter and when my grandson was born I went to the hospital. On the e he went home, it was like pulling eye teeth to get them to let me come see the baby and it had to be exactly the day and time they chose; always making sure my son innlaw.was there if I came over. Before the baby was born, i asked my daughter to meet me for lunch so we could talk. They insisted my son in law be there. The discussion became heated and ended with my daughter getting up in my face raising her voice and stomping out. Then the day came that they would not let me come visit any longer unless i apologize for treating them badly a d aay it was my fault the meeting went bad. I apologized but my son in law (who was texting me) insisted I say the exact words he asked. I did so n.v in order to be able to see my grandson. They tell me they have set boundaries and that I have to agree to abide by their boundaries or I wont be a part of their lives. They agreed to come over for Christmas. Dave was there. My son in law said nothing unless he was spoken to and I could tell he hated that he had to be there. I was excited to have Christmas with my grandbaby! Then we all went (separately) to NC for our big family Christmas. Dave always goes with me. My daughter and son in law didnt even speak to me (except my daughter awkwardly tried to speak as they were leaving.) I didnt even get to see my grandson. My dad could see that I was very upset and my sister had said something to him. So he talked to me before we left NC. He also talked with my daughter and son in law before they left. Bottom line.. I and.most of my family feels that my daughter and son in law are being ridiculously rude and disrespectful to me as the Mother and to my boyfriend. He has done absolutely nothing to them and when specifically asked, my daughter says they just dont like him or think he is right for me. Any and all excuses they give either ate not true or just dont make sense. My dad agrees totally and is appalled that I’m not able to be a part of my grandsons life. This year, birthdays and Mothers Day is coming up and I am doomed whatever I do! Any opinions or suggestions?

  15. Timothy says

    Then there is the flip side…….adult, professing christian children who are purposely hurting and dishonoring their parents and withholding time for the parents to enjoy the grandchildren in the name of “boundaries”. Stubbornness and rebellion is the raw truth that needs to be repented of …’s not a time for “boundaries”

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