The Silent Treatment


I am a 48-year-old man holding down a senior position in the financial world and my mother still treats me like a child.  A key memory of my childhood is of her not speaking to me, sometimes for several days at a time if I displeased her in any way.  Often I wouldn’t know what I had done wrong.  If I asked, she’d not reply.  As a result there was often a terrible atmosphere at home.    

She didn’t speak to me for two weeks after my wedding for some slight she won’t discuss.  My wife thought it might have been something to do with the table plan as we chose not to have a top table in case she caused trouble.  I asked my late father at the time if he knew what was wrong but he wasn’t in the least helpful and said the usual: “well, you know what she is like?”   My wife and I call it The Silent Treatment. 

She remains unable to discuss things in an adult way.  I wouldn’t take any notice except for the fact that she is now quite elderly and lives alone.  If she doesn’t return my calls I worry about what might have happened to her.  I try to ring at least once a week and pop round to see her every fortnight.  I keep both quite short to avoid confrontation. She gets cross if I change dates or times, but this is sometimes unavoidable due to work commitments. 

 Any tips on how I can manage this?


It is really hard to manage a horrid parent who refused to communicate and it gets tougher as they age. She is obviously trying to punish you but you seem to be managing pretty well communicating regularly but briefly.   

It might help if you could start a gentle conversation with her about  what options of support she might need as she grows older.  It won’t be easy and is likely to need several attempts. She may totally resist a logical conversation but it is important for you to try. A good start is for you to find out about local schemes that provide services such as a personal alarm system for the elderly. You haven’t let us know if you have siblings as it would be a good idea to talk it through with them and perhaps her friends and neighbours.   

Ultimately though this is her life and she needs to choose any plans.  If she refuses to discuss the matter we feel there is no reason for you to change your arrangements. Her lack of response may well be to raise your anxiety and manipulate you into visiting her. 

In addition you should continue to be firm and clear about your work commitments when you have to adjust your visits. Remind yourself that her treatment of you is very childish and unkind and her behaviour is not your fault.