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Sudie Crouch: ‘What you need to do’ often falls on deaf ears
Priscilla du Preez, unsplash

Five words can set my teeth on edge and make me double down in my stubbornness. 

These words are some of my mother’s favorites, being uttered quite frequently, regardless of the situation. 

Sudie Crouch
Five words that even if true, I will refuse to listen to them because of their pushiness. 

What you need to do. 

These simple words are often followed by whatever my mother thinks I need to do to solve my current and ongoing predicament. 

It doesn’t matter what that predicament is, she has the answer for it and it’s right at the tail end of “what you need to do.”

I don’t know about you, but the minute someone starts a sentence off with that phrase, it wouldn’t matter if they were giving me the winning lottery numbers to play or telling me how to get a free Mercedes, my ears would immediately shut them out. 

What is it about that phrase that is so annoying? 

Is it because it’s unsolicited advice or is it because it’s the truth we really need to hear?

No matter what it is, those words set my teeth on edge and will make me do the complete opposite, even if the words were accurate. 

“You never listen to me,” Mama chastised one day.

“Yes, I do,” I replied. “I just don’t do what you tell me to; there’s a difference.”

She made her little “hhumph” noise that makes her sound like a disgruntled cat, which would be a fitting way to describe her at times. 

“That’s terrible. You should listen to your mother, and do what I tell you to do.”

“Maybe if you weren’t always trying to tell me what I need to do, I would listen.”

She made her little grunt again. “I am just trying to help you. Maybe I know a thing or two.”

I rolled my eyes. She always thinks she is right and knows the steps I need to take better than I do. 

“She don’t listen either,” Granny said. “Your granddaddy and I have told her a million different things, but she won’t listen to a lick of it.”


Granny nodded. “She ain’t never liked for someone to tell her what to do, so I don’t know why she goes and tries to do that same thing to you. She’d get her feathers all in a ruffle whenever me or your granddaddy would tell her something.”

“So she got irritated when y’all did the same thing?”

“Oh, heavens, yes. But she’d do whatever the opposite was, probably out of stubbornness and spite.” She paused to look at me. “You’re like her in those ways. Just as stubborn and spiteful.”

Funny. I thought I got those personality traits from Granny. 

“But she wouldn’t listen. No matter how right we were.”

This was an interesting little insight. 

My own mother didn’t like to be told what to do, yet she was always telling me what I needed to do.

If she hated it so, why did she do that to me?

Is that something that many of us do without realizing it? 

We inherit a parental pushiness the minute we become a parent and start to tell our children what they need to do.

Do we do the same thing with our friends?

Granted, sometimes friends may ask us for advice and to join in our pity party, but I don’t recall ever telling them what I felt like they needed to do in a given situation.

Was this behavior, these words, reserved solely for offspring? 

I wondered what made me loathe these words so deeply. 

Mama insists that she uses them as a means of communicating wisdom to help me. 

I declare them dictates of control — she wants me to do what she thinks is best, not what I want to do. 

What you need to do. 

Sure, it may seem like it’s expert advice, but it’s not wanted. At least, not at that moment. 

It may be welcomed if it was presented in another way or with a better introduction. 

Since she had felt the same irritation with her own mother, maybe she realized when she got older that Granny had been right about a few things. 

Was her turning of the phrase her attempt at trying to save me from making mistakes and avoiding some similar heartache or headaches that she had experienced, simply out of bullheaded stubbornness? 


Our hindsight is always 20/20 and crystal clear when we see someone else about to take the same steps we have. 

While listening to my son tell me about something he was doing, I was thinking of how I had been in a similar situation before and what happened. 

He needed my guidance and insight at this very moment. I knew how to deal with this situation and what his next steps needed to be.

“What you need to do–”  I caught myself. 

I, for one, know better. 

Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.