If your parents seem to become more stubborn as they age, don’t despair, you are not alone. Stubborn parents and how to deal with them is a common issue that children of ageing parents face.
A study by Penn State University found 75 per cent of children and 66 per cent of ageing parents agreed stubborn behaviour “such as insisting, resisting or persisting – is happening sometimes”.
From this research we have some top tips to best deal with stubborn behaviour.
1. Understand why there is stubbornness
If there is a topic that keeps getting a stubborn response you need to change the way you talk about it, or get to the heart of why there is resistance. Is it the topic itself, or the way you are addressing it? Understanding why parents may be “insisting, resisting, or persisting in their ways or opinions,” can lead to better communication, the study found. The study has some advice for the adult child: “Do not pick arguments. Do not make a parent feel defensive. Plant an idea, step back, and bring it up later. Be patient.”
2. Don’t take it personally
The study found that “adult children link perceptions of parent stubbornness with how children see their relationships with their parents, but parents link their perceptions to who they are as people”. The strong desire older people have to hold onto their independence is often the driving force behind stubbornness. It is not a reaction to the children or what they are suggesting.
3. Talk about goals
Speak openly about the goals you both have, especially when it comes to care options. This includes long term goals such as staying at home versus residential aged care and short term goals about the day to day running of their lives. Allison Heid, project director, New Jersey Institute for Successful Ageing, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine says “helping families learn how to talk about older adults’ preferences and about goal differences may be important in helping families best support older adults.” .
4. Keep lines of communication open
Don’t be scared off by stubborn and resistant responses and think there is no way to get through to ageing parents. It is par for the course as their life stage transitions from independence to dependence and as Heid explains, “for families providing support to an older adult, this work confirms that these behaviours happen, but also that there is room for continued communication to ensure that there are shared goals in care and support.”
Some useful links
The original news article from Penn University outlining the research https://news.psu.edu/story/342263/2015/01/27/research/communication-key-when-dealing-aging-parents
The original version of this article appeared on careseekers.com.au. https://blog.careseekers.com.au/2016/03/21/4-tips-to-help-you-deal-with-stubbornness-as-your-parents-age/ Reproduced with permission.
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