When Your Adult Child Becomes Abusive


If your adult child or children were anyone else on this planet, would you allow them the leeway that you are giving to your abusive child or children?

Tough question to answer, isn’t it?  Part of that is because we have that “bond” with our child or children as a parent that supersedes any other relationship that we can have or have had in our lives.  Love is blind as they say so, we often blindfold ourselves to the three dimensional view of our child or children.  We can see glimpses of their flaws and faults but, that’s as much as our guilt will allow us to see.  It’s nearly impossible for us to be as fully objective about our own child or children as we may be able to be with other people.

The word “guilt” was used for good reason. As parents, not only does the love we have for them become overwhelming and blinding but, we tend to tie our own self-worth into our child or children.  The moment we dive deeply into being critical of our own flesh and blood that we brought into this world or even adopted from someone else’s womb, we tie ourselves to that child or children in a way that we cannot tie ourselves to anyone else on this planet.  A put-down of our child even from our own minds and whether we gave birth to them or not, is oftentimes, felt as a put-down upon ourselves as both parents as well as who we are in general as people.  If our child or children are not doing well in life or is somehow “flawed”, we can unconsciously or even consciously, figure that it’s our faults.  We can leap to the conclusion that somehow, we have failed as parents and therefore we are also flawed as people in one way or another.

Not everyone will completely blame themselves for their child’s failures in Life.  Some parents will be able to see that our children have made choices in friends or groups that they’ve chosen to hang around and blame them instead of ourselves.  However, somewhere, deep down inside of us, there’s still a feeling of somehow being imperfect as a parent because our child or children have made those choices whether we’ve discouraged it or outright forbidden it or not. On some level or another, we feel “guilt” in one capacity or another and can tear ourselves to shreds as both parents as well as people.

This then leads us back to the question of whether or not we would allow any other human being to treat us the way that we allow our adult children to treat us.

First of all, were someone else to be treating us with any level ranging from disrespect to outright abuse, we’d likely toss those people from our lives to some extent or another, for some time frame or another or, more likely, until there was at least a sincere apology from that person.  If it was a long-termed thing, we’d likely walk away and not look back.   With family, it’s not quite that easy.  We can even find ourselves being victims as adults to poor treatment from our own parents and siblings out of a feeling of obligation and duty.  However, having said that, we can also come to a point where we begin to distance ourselves either somewhat or totally from them and their abusive or manipulative ways.  Friends or others in our lives are even more likely to be walked away from under these circumstances.  Our children are not quite as easy to distance ourselves from because of the above and for other reasons.

There is likely few people that we put more of ourselves into than we do with our child or children.  Even as adults, we are still invested in many ways in our children’s lives and well-being.  After all, isn’t that our job?  At least, that’s what we may reason with ourselves but, the answer to that is a resounding “no” once our children become adults and, we don’t need to continue to allow them to use, abuse or treat us poorly once they have become adults.  Our “jobs” are done.  We gave birth to them, loved them, raised them, gave them what we could reasonably give them and we supported them in more than a roof over their heads.  There are exceptions of course in the parenting world to this but, we’re talking about the average parent here, not those who were abusive to their own children or neglectful in any way.

There are a few things to take into consideration in how parents can deal with their adult-abusive or even estranged child (a topic that not many sites will deal with).

Your influence over your adult child was watered down many years ago.

We all like to think that we still have some sort of power or control over our children’s lives once they are adults.  For some, this is true but, for the most part, our influences over our child, all of our teachings, morals and values that we feel we’ve instilled into them, was long ago watered down by the influences of many other people in our children’s lives as they grow.  We are no longer their sole source of influence.  Peers, bosses, teachers and society in general, also including technology as well as entertainment venues, have taken over the largest portion of what affects them or doesn’t affect them once they are adults and have been doing so for many years before this point.  Oftentimes, those sources are the biggest reasons for their actions, decisions or choices at this stage of their lives versus us, as parents.  We therefore, cannot continue to place blame upon ourselves for everything that our children decide to do or not do.  Those choices were influenced by many other sources and we are the least likely sources at this point in our children’s choices or lack of them so, we can halt the self-deprecating right there for their poor choices or in taking the blame for the way they treat us now.

Having given your child too much attention or in short, spoiling them.

A lot of parents from the 1980’s onwards are likely guilty of having given their child everything they could possibly give them including monetary things as well as attention, devotion, praise and love.  Parents of children from the 80’s onwards were also victims to a new way of thinking about parenting. Society was at a point where the theory was to reward children for almost everything that they did, including potty training.  They got stars, praise and even rewards or trophies for simply participating no matter how well they did or whether they did anything or not.  They simply had to show up more than half of the time in order to get a reward of some type or another.  Even education was play based and grades were given out according to effort, not necessarily, achievement.

This was a time frame in which parents were also encouraged to praise our children to the hilt for even small endeavours in the home and, it was done by most.  Support, praise, rewards and more of the same.  No matter what children did or didn’t do in those times, they were rewarded for one thing or another.  Not only did that lead us to believe that our children could do no wrong but, it led them to feeling “entitled” to getting rewarded in one way or another no matter what they did or didn’t do.  It was that entitlement that turned a fairly good chunk of those children into little narcissists who believed that the sun rose and set on them no matter what they did or didn’t do.  That wasn’t just parental influence but, also that of society in general.  Even were children to be disciplined at home, they were rewarded for even poor attitudes and skills outside of the home. Parents couldn’t override an entire system and if they tried, the parents became “The Hated Ones” because the rest of society and its systems were telling these children that they were “entitled”.   We did them no favours as human beings because it made it tougher for these kids to grow up into a tough, dog-eat-dog world where they weren’t able to cope well because everything had been handed to them up until this point.  That wasn’t necessarily parent’s faults but rather societal experimentation that failed these children and turned them into narcissistic tending little monsters who eventually, would grow up into adults who felt entitled and angry when they didn’t get what they wanted anymore from Life or their parents.

The “experts” are still saying that parents should tell their children they are loved no matter how badly they’ve treated us or, even if they have walked away on us and are now estranged from us.

Not to put down the so-called “experts” but, how many parents have tried with their children, always telling them that they are loved, only to find themselves being either doormats or punching bags for their children?

Answer:  Lots!

Sadly, many parents of children from the ’80s onwards are now finding their either fully adult or nearly adult children, treating them like yesterday’s garbage and being tossed to the side while they’re still telling their child, “I love you” and continuing to do so no matter how badly they are treated by their children.

Far be it from me to tell parents to not tell their children that they are loved and wanted.  Every parent needs to let their children know that much but, when that child not only disrespects that parent but, treats them poorly, it’s time to give up on the loving words and time to get real with their adult children by letting them know that while they are still loved, their attitudes and abusive, using actions will not be tolerated.  Enough already with sending them messages of “I love you” and leaving it there while rolling with the punches.  These are no longer 10 year old children who can’t understand the meanings of their actions fully.  These are fully grown adults who must learn that for every action, there’s an equal or greater reaction.  That doesn’t mean withdrawing love for them however, it does mean that these adults don’t get to treat their parents poorly and still get the benefits that they would if they were treating their parents with respect and love too.  Poor actions get poor reactions.  Withdrawal of love for them is never a solution but, rewarding them by permitting poor treatment is not the answer.  They need a wake-up call for their sakes as well as the parent’s own well-being.

If you wouldn’t let others treat you this way and would walk away from them, why are you letting your child do this to you?  

As has been said throughout this piece in differing ways, rewarding poor behaviour is akin to a form of abuse from parents.  We are not doing them any good by rewarding our children for their poor treatment of us or by putting up with it and giving them more and more of ourselves.  Life doesn’t work that way so, why should we?

When a child is rewarded for poor behaviour, attitudes, actions, choices or decisions, it re-inforces that behaviour within them.  No, they won’t like being said “no” to nor, will they love the idea that they’re not getting their own way or what they want if we do start to stand up to them as adults and let them know that it’s not ok to treat us in a poor manner.  However, continuing to give them what they want, expect or feel entitled to getting, is only bolstering the idea that poor behaviour, temper tantrums, threats of withdrawal from our lives and whatever else they can throw at us to manipulate us into giving them what they want is simply training them to continue treating us as parents, wrongly, poorly and with disregard as well as disrespect.

Let me say something perfectly clear here.

Giving more of yourself and handing everything to someone who is treating us badly, let alone our children, is a recipe for becoming a “doormat” for others.  In short, we are laying ourselves down on the ground and letting people walk on and wipe their feet on us.  That’s not right.  We are people too and it doesn’t matter who they are to us.  

Sadly, sometimes, we have to let them go and hope that they will eventually come back otherwise, we risk our lives becoming infected with toxicity.  

There’s no bigger health threat than having someone we love, treat us like dirt beneath their feet and making us feel like we don’t matter in this life.  That goes for our adult children.  We all need to feel wanted, loved, respected and treated fairly and well.  We deserve that from others especially, the very children that we lovingly raised to the adult level and oftentimes, sacrificed more than a good night’s sleep for.  Many parents can tell stories of having given up great careers, being able to travel or do things that they, themselves wanted to do for themselves that would have made them happy, in order to give everything to their child or children, leaving themselves unhappy, unfulfilled and only to be treated in an abusive, uncaring manner or worse, have that child or children walk out of their lives, without contact, care or concern for their parent(s) and their well-being.

More to the point, those children have become what one can consider a “toxin” to the parent, making them feel as though they’ve wasted those years of their lives on someone who cannot or more to the point, return that love, care or respect to their parents.  Not only that but, it wears on the parent’s psychological well-being and soon after, their physical health.  It’s a vicious cycle especially, when the parent continues to feel as though they simply need to do more, try harder, give more or plead with that child to keep their love or the adult child in their lives.  It’s akin to a dog or cat, chasing their own tails.  It’s a fruitless exercise in not only futility but in a form of an illness of one sort or another.  It won’t change your child and sometimes, the only way to make one person’s lives healthier, is for the parent to either distance themselves, limit their time or exposure to that child’s ill behaviour and treatment or, to completely walk away if the child doesn’t do it for themselves.

Yes, that all sounds counter-intuitive to what we feel or have been taught to think of as “proper parenting” but, this all leads back to the original question….

If this were anyone else in your life, would you continue to let that person abuse or mistreat you?

If your answer is “yes” then you, yourself need to find some counselling because you’re not valuing yourself as a person and instead, are valuing others above yourself.

If you answered “no” to this question then, why are you allowing and encouraging your adult child to continue to do it to you?

From my little corner of life, while this is a longer piece than I usually write, it’s an under said topic that needs addressing more and more fully.  We’ve turned out a couple of generations of children now, both adult and children who need to learn that you aren’t rewarded for treating others poorly.  There are consequences to their behaviours and reactions to their actions of equal or greater proportion.

Be well and let me know what you are dealing with in the comments, please.

Best wishes from one parent to another or to adult children who might be reading this and recognizing what may be happening in their own relationships with their parents.





18 thoughts on “When Your Adult Child Becomes Abusive

Add yours

  1. Seeking comfort around my current turmoil in coming to terms with the reality that I need to “let go” of an adult child whose abusive and toxic behaviour has broken me, I cannot believe the blessing of coming across this article.

    I am struggling daily with the challenge of knowing what I need to do and believing it is the right thing to do. Although I do have support from my doctor, phsycologist, husband and family, I still struggle.

    So to read and know that there are others like me is a comfort I find hard to explain. Thank you for the article and for the open and brave comments alike.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are most welcome Rhonda. As I have been finding out, we are not alone in this type of behaviour from our adult children. Do what is right for you. Your child has had their turn and honestly, if they want the comforts that you provide, they need to step up to the plate and change how they treat you. Since that is not happening…time to teach them a lesson and change how you have to live. It’s not right that you live, walking on thin ice. You brought your child into this world and gave them everything you could…not the other way around. Time that they learned that much and realized how good that they had it.

      HUGS and much love from one mom to another. XO XO XO


  2. Your article is a godsend! So are the comments. Thank you to everyone who is contributing to the dialogue. I believe there’s more family estrangement than people are willing to admit. I believe we need to talk about it openly and I’m willing to do so with anyone who makes their own well-being the top priority. No wallowing for me because I also believe the most important outcome is feeling good about myself, even if reconciliation with my children never happens.

    I have 3 children, all over 40. A complicated back-story tipped us into estrangement about 7 years ago. I hear from one of them every year or so, when somebody wants something; but hearing bits of news about their lives only serves to remind me I’m not part of it. The negative emotional price of these encounters is extremely high.

    My search for understanding – on-line and through counselling – leads mostly to trite advice like “always love them” and “keep trying”. The usual subtext: it’s my responsibility for whatever went wrong, it’s my responsibility to fix it, and if it’s not fixed that means I’m still doing something wrong. Your article’s reference to them not being 10-year-olds who can’t appreciate their own behaviour resonates strongly with me.

    Recovery from being pushed out of my children’s lives is an ongoing process. As I became stronger, liked myself more and, importantly, stopped doubting myself, my idea of what reconciliation might look like started changing. A few years ago, I stopped wondering whether I could muster the emotional trust needed for reconciliation; and started questioning whether I even want to reconcile. One thing for sure – in the absence of being the victim of serious crime at the hands of my children, I found zero support for this line of thinking!

    I wasn’t prepared for such hard-line non-support. It was mostly emotional blackmail based on “you’re a mother” and “they’re your children”. As I struggled with that, I lost sight of the most important lessons I had already learned. A random contact from one of my kids spiraled me into a health downturn. Details don’t matter. There was no medical issue. It was all about the anxiety. Here are some thoughts that helped me get back on track.

    – I dismiss the notion that any outcome other than reconciliation is failure.
    – The absolute best outcome is feeling good about myself, regardless of whether reconciliation ever happens.
    – When it comes to feeling good about myself, the only person with the real power to make-it-happen is me.

    Thanks again for the article and the comments. I look forward to more! As I said above, you can count me in for any dialogue about estrangement and the imperative for parents to take care of themselves first.

    Best regards to all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Personalsnapshots, I have to thank you as well for such an insightful comment. It goes to teach everyone going through this (it’s far more common than what we might believe) that we don’t need to put up with this type of treatment from beings that we not only brought into this world but, gave up so much of ourselves to care for and raise.

      I have often wondered what I would feel like if our child/children were to be any other person(s) than our children? Would we accept the treatment that we’ve been handed by these “entitled monsters” (as I like to call them)? The answer for me, personally, would be a resounding “NO!” So, why would I keep putting up with it because my own child is treating me in this fashion?

      At my age now, I have had health issues as well because of this type of scenario as you have stated (anxiety, depression etc. created) and I don’t wish to continue on with this type of thing for myself. I cannot change my child’s mind (she’s an only child) but, I can change how I deal with it.

      To date, 3 therapists/counsellors later, all of them have said the same as you’ve recounted, “keep the lines of communication open.” Well, I have done as you’ve done, only to be totally ignored until or unless the next “need” for something has arisen.

      I figure that if I’m good enough to come to when something is needed/wanted, why not at all other times as well? If I’m not wanted other than the games to get what’s wanted/needed then, I’m not wanted nor, will I give anything anymore. That’s over and done with.

      I still have days when I’m down, anxious or whatever but, I try to keep myself busy and love myself even more. I figure that I’ve put in my time, done my job as a mother and now…well…it’s time for me to be what I need/want me to be.

      From the ages of your children, I’d say that we’re within the same age group roughly. Isn’t it time that we started to say to ourselves, “life is for us to live now” and really live it? I think that’s accomplishing something of tremendous importance…even if it wasn’t how we envisioned things to go in our lives.

      Blessings to you. Love and Light and many thanks.

      There will be more to come. Of that, I can assure you.

      Be well!


  3. What a balm to the heart and soul of any parent that’s had to make this agonizing decision….I wish peace and healing to you all and I cannot express how grateful I am to know that I am not alone in this…thank you so very much

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re most welcome Amber. It’s not a club that we ever want to be part of, is it? But, here we are and I felt that other parents should know that they are not alone. This is very under-talked about but, common with a lot of generations. I’m glad that something I’ve said has allowed you to feel as though you have others in that boat with you. HUGS


    1. No you are not alone, Tracy. I hope more comments will help others too. it does feel horribly lonely, doesn’t it? But, we are a group of parents who don’t deserve what our children have dished out to us.
      HUGS to you!!!!!!!!!


  4. Thank you for helping me sever the ties. It has been 5 years of hell and questioning everything in my life. 4 daughters, the oldest 3 I have no contact with the youngest is the spokesman for the group. Last month I received a text stating if I did not obey the rules they have set in place for me I could be physically hurt. That pretty much did it but your article helped me deal with some underlying guilt. These girls are the perfect example of your article, given everything possible, told repeatedly how loved they were, never punished or made to do chores. Boy did I screw things up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Janet for sharing this.

      First of all, I am so very, very sorry for the pain that your 3 daughters have put you though. It is sounding as though they are huddling together to make their “demands” of you in an extremely abusive fashion. I’m wondering if they realize that a threat such as physical hurt, is a criminal offence? It’s sad to say the least that they have come to this point of threatening you in all ways.

      Secondly, it’s sounding as though they are well “organized”….kind of like kidnappers, holding you for ransom. It’s not only unfair but, it’s completely wrong of them to be doing on a lot of different fronts. Threatening in a text message is a “coward’s” way to deal with things and yet, that’s what they did. I hope that you kept that text message?

      I’m glad that something that I’ve said has helped. It’s taken me a lot of hurt, pain and now…anger (as well as a lot of self-searching, internet and book research) for me to come to these points with my own adult abusive child.

      Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as though I don’t have my “days” but, it’s more that they are filled with anger more than hurt now. In other words, “how DARE she treat me that way? If she were anyone else, I wouldn’t have let this get to this point or, for them to have this kind of power over me.” I am slowly taking back MY power now. It sounds as though not only are you doing the same thing but, your JUSTIFIED in doing so! NO ONE has the right to treat others this way. This is “Gang Mentality” and it’s not right. Good for you if you are standing up for yourself now. Love yourself. You’ve done your very best and while you are paying a price now, it’s THEM who will eventually have to pay the price down the road in one way or another somehow.

      Stick to your inner strength and realize that you are WORTHY of MUCH BETTER than this no matter what! We are all just humans who are doing the best that we can. They have the issues. You don’t. You screwed nothing up by letting them grow up as kids. It was part of that generation’s teachings that we, as parents followed. Have some pity on yourself and take it easy on YOU. Love you as you are.

      HUGS…from one parent to another.
      XO XO XO


  5. My situation with my adult children is too complicated and long to go into here, but know that this situation is far more prevalent than one might realize . .. certainly was surprised to find I wasn’t alone in this several years ago. It definitely needs more discussion , I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janis, first of all, I wish to extend my sympathies towards your problem. It’s both hurtful and angering, isn’t it? I vacillate between hurt and anger (at the situation). We raise these kids with everything we can pour into doing so and to quote another mom, “this is the thanks that we get?”

      Secondly, I do want to agree with you that this does need to be talked about. It IS far more prevalent than we know but, we feel so alone with it and frankly, it seems that each case is individual so there’s no “one size fits all remedy”. It does need to be talked about more. (Thus my sharing my own story and experiences.)

      Lastly, but not least, I wish to thank you for taking not only the time to read my piece but, to spend your energy to comment. Thank you.

      Be Well and please, let’s open up some dialogue on the topic. Perhaps, if we get it started, others will join in.

      Hugs and best wishes!


  6. I don’t even have the words to express how grateful I am to you and these words!!! I needed to hear this for a very long time. You have given me the tools I need to get my self respect back. Thank thank you from the bottom of my heart. Val Kopko.
    P.s do you know where I can go online to find more tools like this?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Val, my heart goes out to you for what you are going through as well as the very likely loss of self-esteem that has been taken from you by your child/children. I truly hope that you are able to return to some sort of semblance of self-love instead of self-beating. You are not alone though. There are many of us out here who are struggling with the same issues.

      I have googled my fingers off to find something to help me as well online. There are a few pieces that are semi-decent but, most are written by professionals who give out the advice to simply tell your children that you love them and they leave it there. They don’t tell us how to regain self-esteem nor, how to put limits on how much damage we are willing to allow our adult child/children to afflict upon us. This is especially true of those who have become estranged.

      There are some books out there but, I have not bought them. The reason being, they are filled with some sloppy advice that most of us should not be listening to. We need concrete steps to take. While no two children can be lumped into one basket and everyone’s circumstances will be different in some or many ways, the bottom line seems to rest upon the idea that we, as parents who have given up so much for our children, are being slapped around, metaphorically speaking or perhaps in reality. We need more than, “take a bubble bath” and “listen to music” type solutions…or, at least, I do. I have a need to understand what happened, why and how I tick so that I can deal with these issues in a healthy way, not more fluff solutions.

      A few sites will allow parents to write their stories out and everyone will give condolences, which do help but, beyond that, there is no guidance and once everyone has vented out their stories of pain, suffering, frustration and wanting to know what to do about it all, there is no one to answer those questions or even hint at answers. Perhaps, I simply haven’t found the correct ones? What you’re reading here in my piece is my own research, along with some psychology courses behind me that don’t qualify me as a psychologist but, pain makes one learn more quickly, doesn’t it?

      I hope to write a few new pieces with more. I simply didn’t feel that anyone was truly interested. I will write them soon though and I’m thinking on putting this into book form…not because of money but, because I think parents who have been mistreated need more than “tell them you love them” or “take a walk” answers.

      Know that my heart goes out to you and please, feel free to discuss this with me. Perhaps, it only takes a couple of us to get the ball rolling and others will join in. The stats on this piece are showing me that readers are searching for info like this but are too afraid to comment. You were not only brave enough to do so but, I thank you for starting the ball rolling by doing so. Kudos to you! You’ve taken a step in the right direction towards taking back YOUR power.

      Hugs, Love and Light


  7. Thank you so
    Much for discussing a topic that isn’t addressed often. One thing you did not mention is the shame and guilt that is reaped upon the parent who walks away by others who have a seemingly perfect family life. Walking away from an adult child also changes the family dynamic and adds strain to the other child or children and can affect the parent’s relationship with them if they don’t agree with the decision. Their opinion of the parent can change if they always believed that the parent’s love should be unconditional. Most people dont understand the conundrum that this causes and that the decision wasn’t made lightly. More discussions like this could be a tremendous help for people suffering with this situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Edith, thank you ever so much for your comment and thoughts on this topic. You’re 100% right about everything that you’ve said.

      It hurts badly and causes so much dismay, disruption and horrid feelings in everyone concerned. Parents are people too and it’s not ever taken lightly when we walk away from our children or they walk away from us. You’re equally correct in saying that it affects every other child we have as well in one way or another, for one reason or another. It’s so tremendously hard on everyone and the guilt, self-bashing, self-questioning can make it 100 times worse.

      Oddly enough, with this being Mother’s Day (I have no other children so, it’s not Mother’s Day for me at all), I was going to write another piece as it’s been over a year and a half since my daughter exited my life (and, my husband’s and all of her friends and family’s lives). Edith, here is the piece.


      I really think we need to go into this topic a bit more because I know that we’re not the only ones who are in this horrid predicament.

      I do hope that more estranged parents will write comments on this. It helps to know that we’re not alone in this even if knowing that much doesn’t solve it.

      Thank you Edith! I very much appreciate the time that you’ve taken to write out your feelings and thoughts to share. Please feel free to share more. Perhaps, if we can discuss this topic, others will join in?

      HUGS, Love and hoping you’re somehow finding ways to have a happy day and many more. XO


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: