How many conversations have you had with your family; how many books have you read; how many movies have you watched hoping for a few moments of enlightenment when it comes to dealing with your toxic mom?
As daughters of toxic mothers sometimes it feels like all we do is eat, pray and cope.
My dream of writing a book about surviving toxic moms will include plenty of stories on coping and directions to rich resources, like Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook. If you’re looking for help figuring out why your mom acts the way she does, I want to introduce you to a wonderful book.
Coping with your Difficult Older Parent: a Guide for Stressed-Out Children by social workers Grace Lebow and Barbara Kane (with Irwin Lebow) was published in 1999 by Quill (Harper Collins). This slim volume offers tons of information to help you decode your mother’s behavior. It also provides great information on warding off arguments, stress and guilt.
Not sure what “type” of difficult mom you’ve got?
The book includes a short multiple choice questionnaire. Maybe it’ll warm you up for my “Confessions of an Undutiful Daughter ” questionnaire found in my previous column “Got a Dream? Ask for Help.”
Here’s the link: Got A Dream? Ask For Help
And yes, I’m still collecting them; still want them.
“Coping with your Difficult Older Parent ” was written by elder-care experts with the goal of educating the reader on typical problems and workable solutions. They stress kindness and communication but emphasize setting boundaries and taking care of oneself first in order to be there for a parent. They regularly recommend limiting contact, hiring helpers, making unpopular decisions (like taking dad’s car keys or moving mom into a retirement home) with step-by-step scenarios.
I can’t say enough nice things about this smart book especially for those of you who would prefer to maintain some kind of relationship with a toxic mother. Here’s your guidebook.
The book commences with descriptions of basic types of difficult parents, which can help the daughters of toxic mothers get a handle on what they are dealing with. (Sometimes we are so close to our mothers we cannot see what kind of people they really are.)
The categories put forth by Lebow & Kane include:
The Dependent, The Black & White, The Negative, The Self-Centered/Vain, The Controller, The Self-Abusive/Depressed, The Fearful, and The Mourning parent.
How would you deal with The Dependent (or an insanely clinging and guilt inducing) mother?
Whatever you do…
- “Don’t get angry and give your parent hell. It makes both of you feel worse and solves nothing.”
- “Recognize that deep down your parent feels miserable. These feelings are what are at the root of difficult behaviors.”
- “Don’t try to reason with your parent. Her behavior is not rational. Decide ahead of time what you can and cannot do.”
A lot of us with toxic mothers think of them as negative. Lebow and Kane say you can manage a black mood mama.
- “Keep your visits with a negative parent short.”
- “Avoid the trap of doing things with and for your parent that are most likely to bring out her negativity. Pick activities that are most pleasurable for her and for you.”
- “Try to keep from becoming negative yourself. Negativity is contagious.”
This is the type of little self-help book that you can read in an evening or in a few minutes dig out the bits that apply to you. It’s obvious in every page that the authors know their stuff, want good outcomes for all parties and encourage readers to do the work they must to have the best family relationships possible.
Have you read a book that you can recommend to your fellow readers? That’s what the “comments” section is for. See it there? Down at the bottom? We’re all looking for answers so if you have a great book recommendation, please share.
One thing that really stuck with me while reading this book was Lebow and Kane’s theory that so many difficult parents are actually victims of their own limitations; a concept that might help you attain some level of sympathy for a toxic mother.
It could happen!
The authors acknowledge that many people have to face a simple truth:
“Giving up the hope that your parent will one day show you more acceptance and love is an extremely painful experience.”