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?
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.