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So have few family members, including my mom, who are base in general and particularly nagging. For example my mom (she's uneducated) keeps nagging me on not eating out that I may get sick when she clearly doesn't understand, or at best misunderstands, health and nutrition. Or for example, when I am driving she will nag me on not taking this turn because the car will travel 100 feet more and this will burn more fuel. This is when my family is not at all poor : in fact we are rich from my country's standards. This kind of nagging happens repeatedly even after I explain the correct things, and she does this for almost everything to the point that my dad get super mad at her. I think her mind might be too base to understand simple things. Most of the time I say OK and ignore her, but sometimes I get pretty annoyed.

So I was wondering today what would Buddha do with such people ? Would he simply ignore or would you try to teach them? Any advice on such people from the Suttas or personal experience?

Thank you.

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  • Sometimes, we forget our parents won't be with us forever. It's not that I missed my late mom's nagging. But I sure wish we can have more time to chit-chat about anything under the sun.
    – Desmon
    Jul 12, 2023 at 6:40
  • @DesmonicaSin yes I see it like that also sometimes. But most of the time, even though my parents are alive, they almost never talk heart to heart. My mom will be preoccupied with useless stuff like 'oh if we do this thing this way, it will be 50 cents cheaper'. I would like to talk about anything other than that too, often I just agree and hope she gets quiet soon or changes topics. Jul 13, 2023 at 4:38
  • @DesmonicaSin yes I see it like that also sometimes. But most of the time, even though my parents are alive, they almost never talk heart to heart. My mom will be preoccupied with useless stuff like 'oh if we do this thing this way, it will be 50 cents cheaper'. I would like to talk about anything other than that too, often I just agree and hope she gets quiet soon or changes topics. Jul 13, 2023 at 4:38
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    It’s tough as they have been worn down by life’s harsh demands. For them to still see and believe in the vast possibilities and potential in them and in their lives at this late stage and to take actions to fulfil their potential is something that they may have forgotten or given up. Perhaps, you can ask her what was her aspirations as a youth, would she like to give those dreams a go? Perhaps, you might want to awaken the bodhisattva’s spirit in yourself or practise the paramitas by accompanying her on this journey. Either way, it’s a chance to chit-chat on a new topic.
    – Desmon
    Jul 13, 2023 at 5:58

4 Answers 4

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To me it doesn't sound polite or kind to "deal with" family like you "deal with" a nuisance or a chore.

Your description of the problem sounds "conceited" as described here and here.

So I was wondering today what would Buddha do with such people?

I think he left home.

So far as I know the Buddha used to talk with people, or not talk -- and perhaps not "do" very much?

He did give advice to laypeople, there is this whole book which someone lent me once ...

  • The Buddha's Teachings on Prosperity: At Home, At Work, in the World
    (by Bhikkhu Basnagoda Rahula)

... which might help, it's all advice to laypeople (a lot of the Buddha's advice was for monks). It includes advice about family relationships, I think it's an accurate summary of suttas sorted by subject. I read it (a few years ago) and found it good. I don't have a copy so I can't quote it but I think you can buy it easily.

Any advice on such people from the Suttas or personal experience?

Personally if ever I feel a moment of annoyance, especially with family, I view that a (temporary, unpleasant) mistake on my part -- unskillful, rude (or childish, immature), hopefully quite rare, and a symptom of heedlessness.

More specifically, if ever I am driving I believe it's of utmost importance that I control myself and the car. I won't drive when intoxicated -- including "intoxicated by anger".

The Dhammapada says ...

  1. He who checks rising anger as a charioteer checks a rolling chariot, him I call a true charioteer. Others only hold the reins.

... but I don't entirely trust myself to "check" my anger after I am "feeling" angry. If the sequence is:

  1. Irritation
  2. Rising anger
  3. Anger "checked"

... the I may want some "alone" time or low stress (a walk, a nap, some work, or simply change the subject of conversation) to let the anger (physiological/chemical/hormonal reaction aka "poison") subside.

If I'm trapped in a room with someone who's upset, i.e. angry and loud, experience tells me that can be contagious after a while, i.e. begin to upset me too. Very occasionally in my life I have stopped the car (where it's safe to do so) because my passenger was having a tantrum.

This might have happened more often in my life if I had been driving children! I'm pretty sure my parents sometimes threatened to stop the car, when my brother and I were very young; maybe all parents do.

But driving with adults, my family's convention has been that it's the driver's job to mind the road and avoid accidents -- when I'm driving I sometimes ask for talk to stop when I need all my attention (like when merging onto a highway). A passenger then is free to tell a story if they want to -- or to navigate, read the map, and tell me which turn to take (in advance i.e. with plenty of time to do that safely, not at the last second).

I think that's fair.

My mum was a pre-school teacher so she's very experienced at dealing with small children, like nearly 40 years experience with more than 20 children a year. One bit of advice is to offer a child a choice of alternatives which you find acceptable. For example you don't ask "Do you want to go to school today?" because "No" is not an acceptable answer. But you might ask, "Which shirt do you want to wear to school today, this one, or this one?"

Similarly if someone is going to be a passenger it might be good to offer them some choice, some "agency", some deference (by letting them navigate if they want to,

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You need to grow up and realize what you have in your life. A lot of people in the world never had a mother or a father. A lot of people didn’t grow up with a lot of money or choices. You sound like a spoiled little brat to be honest. This is your mother. Treat her with the utmost and highest respect, love and care in the world.

She won’t be here forever. She might not be here tomorrow, next week or next year. Actually anyone of us can die at any moment. Try to remember that next time you’re with her.

Lastly, remember to be mindful when being with her. Cherish her and buy her a meaningful gift and tell her how much she means to you. Do that as often as you can. She deserves to hear that.

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  • If it's true that "my dad get super mad at her" it might be easy for a child to follow that example.
    – ChrisW
    Jul 12, 2023 at 11:15
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    I actually do that - I get gifts every single time I go home. I do keep in mind her age etc and I actually try to point out to her some of her harmful habits and the way out of them. She has been to two viapssacna courses coz I have been motivating her for the past few years. Despite all this, it is really hard to not get annoyed by constant nagging and unconscious hurtful behaviour. Eg I tell her to not touch things in my room coz she doesn't know what is what and she messes things up which causes me problems later. Despite saying this multiple times she sometimes does it - then I have probs Jul 13, 2023 at 4:51
  • @zantamaduno. Thanks for the info. It is very good and wholesome that you’ve motivated her towards the Dhamma. Very good. Sorry if I were too hard on you my friend❤️ Just do the best you can and be happy about it. Have you thought of moving out into your own place?
    – user24100
    Jul 13, 2023 at 12:58
  • @ChrisW. Yes that’s true Chris:/
    – user24100
    Jul 13, 2023 at 12:59
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Well, you can always watch her behaviour (including nagging and other annoyances) as your stored karma. Then to be free from it, as with all kind of karma that I can think of, one must observe it "sharply" (mindfully) along with any secondary phenomena/feelings that arise. Thus watching "sharply", or being mindful, one will not attach self to it, and consequently, remain equanimous in the midst of that nagging. I believe this could have been advised in the suttas at many places, however, I do not have any exact references as of now. Good luck!

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My mother loves when I buy her gifts. This keeps her in a good mood.

While you are obviously not your mother's husband, the Buddha said in DN 31 a husband should regularly buy their wife a gift (because this keeps their wife feeling loved & appreciated).

The principle applies to sons. When sons give their mothers gifts, the mother feels loved & appreciated.

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  • This has been flagged twice as "not an answer", but I think it is an answer -- partly because although this is unreferenced I think there's a sutta which mentions that "giving gifts" is part of proper behaviour (I think the sutta is about gift-giving from a husband to a wife, but I suppose it's also appropriate from an adult son).
    – ChrisW
    Jul 15, 2023 at 7:48

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