Home & Family

Are Your Parents Stubborn?

Jaime Cobb
By Jaime Cobb

Are you Parents Stubborn? The Journal of Gerontology says Yes! According to research conducted by the medical journal over 77 percent of adult children think their parents are set in their ways. This is not a problem when it comes to playing dominoes on a Tuesday night, but sometimes misguided stubbornness can place a loved one in an unsafe situation.

So, what are you supposed to when your nearly blind, 82 yr. old Dad, grabs the old paint brush and ladder to “touch up” the second story eaves? After all, he did it last time…20 years ago. You have told him time and again that it is not safe and to wait for you to help him. You even offered to pay a professional to repaint the eaves. Buy why should I waste money on a professional painter when he can do it just fine, right?

There’s no way you’re going to let that happen, of course. The question is how to keep dad safe without embarrassing him or making him feel inadequate? The answer is to talk with your parents, not talk at them. Ask open-ended questions, like “why do you think your doctor is a quack?” and “tell me why you don’t want the neighbor to help mow your lawn?” A respectful, open conversation lets them examine their own attitudes and circumstances, and can help you better understand their resistance. How we talk to our parents is crucial in getting them to listen and make the best decisions for themselves, and it can keep us from being our own worst enemies. As the Journal of Gerontology reports, “Children may behave in ways that parents perceive as demeaning or intrusive, which may affect relationship quality and trigger stubborn responses.”

The key to a successful negotiation with your parent is to find out what’s behind their stubbornness. Confusion? Fear? Embarrassment? A personality trait? Just the thought of having to depend on others can trigger a multitude of emotions and behaviors.

No one is saying it’s easy but respect, patience and persistence will win the day. To resolve these sorts of conflicts, you will probably have to take several different approaches over an extended period of time. So, be realistic going in. Just remember, your odds will improve if your parent feels like they have a voice in the situation.

At the end of the day, sometimes all you can do is what they will allow you to do.

Keep a close eye and be ready to lend a hand when needed. Our parents are grown adults with every right to make their own decisions, both good and bad. And perhaps, a respectful retreat on an issue today can give you credibility for a more important stand tomorrow.

Jaime Cobb
Jaime Cobb, is a Certified Senior Advisor and the Vice President of Community & Caregiver Education at James L. West Alzheimer’s Center.  She has developed and implemented a comprehensive Alzheimer’s & Dementia Family Caregiver Training series and other innovative programs that focus on enhancing the quality of life for families living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Jaime is also a Master Trainer for the Stress-Busting Program for Family Caregivers™, and for Second Wind Dreams Virtual Dementia Tour®. In addition to her work at the West Center, Jaime serves on the United Way Health Council, and as President on the Board of the Coalition for Quality End-of-Life Care.  She lives in Fort Worth and spends her free time with her family.

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