“I could go at any time.”

My mother said that line for a good 15 years.

It got old.

I knew she said it for attention, but did she really want negative attention?

Was she afraid of dying or just wanted us to reassure her she wasn’t?

Is your parent or spouse negative all or most of the time and is it driving you crazy?

It’s bad enough on the occasional visit, but if your caregiving responsibilities have increased, and you may be even living with them, then the negativity might be getting to you.

I know it got to me. And this isn’t the only kind mother engaged in.

“Why don’t your children like me?”
“Are you really going to wear that? Women your age shouldn?t wear mini-skirts” (It was barely above the knee)

“This chicken is rubbery.”

“You’re not as spiritual as you used to be.”

And my favorite?

“I don’t know why the good Lord just doesn’t come on and take me.”


I won’t tell you all the snide and irreverent comments I had for each of those, but I bet you can guess.

Basically, being grumpy and talking negatively is a bad habit.

It’s meant to draw attention, to gain back power, or to make a jab at all the resentments that are building.

Basically, it’s saying something mean instead of having an honest discussion and/or it’s a bad habit and thought pattern that’s been there for years.


  • Call their bluff — I know you’re trying to get my attention, but there are better ways to do it. How about Or, You want to run by the funeral home?  You said you wanted to go?  (sounds mean, but it just might get your point across)
  • Shift their attention, offer something better in its place. Turn on some music, change the conversation, make an excuse and leave the room. Get the point across that this is no longer working.
  • Say, “STOP!” Say it firm and with eye contact. If it continues, say it louder and firmer.
  • Be a good example. Stop yourself when you hear it. Stop mid-sentence. Say, “STOP!” to yourself. Correct what you just said with a positive spin.
  • Be consistent. Just like with a child, if they sense a your defenses might crumble, they’ll hit harder and more manipulative the next time.

Negativity leads to depression and depression leads to all sorts of ailments.

Besides, who wants to live with, drive with, or work with someone who always negative and complaining?

Will someone who is in their 80s or 90s and has been this way for years really change?

They can. Especially if there’s simply no tolerating. They may still think it, whine it under their breath, but you as a daughter, son, spouse, caregiver set the mood and tone of your household and all those who are around you. You have the right and the obligation to keep things on an even, pleasant keel. It’s best for everyone, so suck up the fact that it may take a confrontation and do it. You’ll be glad you did.

Negativity rubs off and can damper an entire household or place of work.

But being positive is contagious too. You don’t have to be annoyingly, overly giddy, but being pleasant, helpful, and easy to get along with is something all of us aspire to.

“Folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Abraham Lincoln

~Carol D. O’Dell, Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon


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Carol O'Dell

Carol D. O'Dell's gripping memoir MOTHERING MOTHER, (April 1, 2007 by Kunati Publishing) is for the "sandwich" generation and overflows with humor, grace and much needed honesty. Written with wit and sensitivity, Mothering Mother offers insight on how to not only survive but thrive the challenges of caring for others while keeping your life, heart, and dreams intact. Carol is an inspirational speaker and instructor focusing on caregiving, spirituality and adoption issues. She has been featured on numerous television, radio and magazine and podcast programs including WEDU/PBS, Artist First Radio, "Coping with Caregiving" national radio, Women's Digest and Mature Matters Publications. Her fiction and nonfiction work has appeared in numerous publications including Atlanta Magazine, Southern Revival, MARGIN, and AIM, America's Intercultural Magazine Carol appeared on the radio show "Healing the Grieving Heart" with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss "Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir." To hear Carol being interviewed on this show, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley031308.mp3

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