AUDIO VERSION: (Transcript below for those who prefer to read)
I wrote awhile ago that parents shouldn’t be rewarding adult children for treating their parents poorly. In THIS PIECE, I said,
“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.”
First of all, think about what has been said here and why then, picture any other person who is or was in your life, treating you the way that your adult child is doing. Would you continue to tell them that you “like” or “love” them in spite of the abusive, negative and hostility that they’ve shown you?
My bet is that the answer is a resounding “no way”. Why would you want someone around you who is mistreating you or even stepping on you and to top it all off, reward them for it? You wouldn’t, right? So, why would you continue to offer up praise to your adult child who is treating you poorly or worse, abusing you?
In the past, we were taught that as parents and with a new way of thinking, “reward your child” for practically everything that they did, even if they didn’t succeed but, gave out some sort of attempt at it. While it’s likely most everyone can see the reasoning behind that thinking, it’s also equally sure that the opposite can be seen as well. It’s not a sound practice to reward people for everything, is it? Why should our child or children be any different?
People got lectured and punished for poor behaviour in the past but, from the 1980’s onwards, kids got rewarded for anything and everything that showed any attempt whatsoever.
It’s likely that most parents of children from the 80’s onwards can remember giving praise to their child or children for even attempting to fill the dog’s bowl of water with it slopped all over the floor and a trail from sink to bowl area and only a half inch of water in it or, giving them praise for making their beds even if the blankets were simply thrown across the bed and it had to be re-done by you or someone else.
The idea behind that type of thinking seemed to be to reinforce positive behaviour. Meanwhile, nothing happened to them if they didn’t attempt it or do it right. That appeared to come from the idea that it bolstered the negative actions and made them larger than the rewards for good intentions. After all, negative attention was still attention and we weren’t supposed to give out attention to “bad” things. It was thought best to ignore it and reward the child for doing good things. That often led to parents ignoring screaming, temper tantrum filled children through stores and other public places where others had to endure what the parent was ignoring. A half hour or more later, you’d bump back into the once little demon, happily munching on a chocolate bar or playing with a toy that they’d wanted an hour ago. The reason behind that was because the child had cried themselves to sleep, were quiet so, they were bought what they had wanted in the first place as a reward for shutting up finally and done so with praise usually. The child hadn’t stopped crying in all actuality. He or she had cried themselves to sleep and tired themselves out. That was the reality behind it all, soaking wet hair, faces, jackets or t-shirts and all.
Enter these kids who have now grown up into adults but, still expect that their parents should treat them with rewards for a lot of things.
Hey…I called and asked you for money. I asked nicely, called you or showed up, they may be saying inside their heads. Reward me. You always have, and honestly, expect it to be handed to them with no questions asked nor, conditions placed upon that point.
When a parent has to say, “sorry but, I’m living hand to mouth now and can’t give you anymore money,” or “wow, I am not funding your lifestyle anymore as not only don’t you live with me but, I never see or hear from you,” and watch the angelic like creature do a 360 degree head spin akin to “The Exorcist” scene and turning into Satan, spewing out hatred or guilt-tripping the parent into selling their kidney to give them the money they wanted.
If they still don’t get what they want from you anymore, you’re useless to them.
Here is where estrangement or abuse kicks in. You’ve said “no” to that child. You’ve gone against every code of ethics that the child has been used to you doing for them and with them. It’s time to call you a “narcissist” or “toxic” and even walk away, telling you that they “need space” and you’re treating them like a child.
The bottom line here is that they have no more use for someone who isn’t “rewarding them” with everything anymore. You are of no further use to them and they’ve most likely commiserated with hundreds of other adult children who have walked away from their parents until they’ve convinced themselves that you’re now flawed, faulted, warted and are “toxic” to them or, narcissistic or that you’re controlling them and their lives. They’ll cut you off of all communication with them or little of it. In short, they have the opposite view of this “reward” system that they grew up with. They are out to punish you as the parent. “That’ll show them,” type attitudes. More than likely though, they’re temper tantruming without crying or throwing themselves on the floor until they pass out. They literally, have no use for you if you’re not the reward production machine they had become used to having with you. In other words, you’re useless to them now so, get rid of anything useless. It’s all about me, me and more me. I know that’s what my childhood was about and you’re always going to love me so, I’m going to hurt you now that I don’t get anything from you anymore.
I need space.
How many of us as parents have heard that term? “I need space”. That’s code for, don’t hold your breath or hang by your fingernails, waiting for me to be around you because I’m too busy doing what I need to and want to do for me.
What the heck is that anyway? The child or children have moved out of the house, rarely see or even talk to the parent, the parent(s) have no influence over their child or children anymore and yet, they “need space”? They need space from what? That’s the $64 million question isn’t it? It’s now not only a common phrase for these adult children to utter but, it’s also unbelievable. They’ve been calling the shots all along. They see us when they feel like it and not when they don’t. They call when they need something but, don’t bother to ever ask how we are doing while listing a plethora of things that have gone wrongly in their lives, if that much. More than anything, we’re miles from them and haven’t seen nor heard from them or, they live at home still but, they’re out most of the time. What kind of space do they need?
Can you imagine having said that to our own parents? We would have been shown the door and told to let the knob hit us in the arses on the way out. Parents from a generation before this wouldn’t have put up with that type of a statement except to say, “have all of the space that you need then.”
The parents who still have their children around them, are the ones who instilled not only a tiny bit of possible doubt into their child or children’s minds about being wanted and loved but, who also instilled respect and a small smattering of fear into that child or children.
It all sounds counterproductive and even a bit cruel to hear those words spoken, doesn’t it? That’s especially true of those of us who were trained into believing that not only were we doing what Society and “the experts” taught us to do as parents but, it sounds like something that we don’t have in us to do, right? We’re supposed to and, we do, love our children unconditionally and we figure it’s our job to teach our kids that we love them unconditionally and without exception. However, let’s look at the actuality behind that so-called “unconditional love” and the idea of bettering our own childhoods to give our children everything they could ever have wanted and continue doing so. They’ve come to not only expect it from us but, they’ve lost a lot of respect for us as parents. If you doubt what’s been said here, think of your child as anyone else in your life. Would you truly be putting up with that kind of disrespect, lack of boundaries and even abuse from anyone else? I’m sure that your answer would be a resounding “no” to that idea. If it’s not then, help for yourself is needed because you’re the only one who can demand and command love and respect for yourself. That’s not meant as a put-down but, more as a wake-up call towards loving yourself. We’re on this planet for a finite, not infinite amount of time. It’s our duty to expect both respect and love from those who we have in our lives, not limited to others but, more importantly, loving ourselves.
People learn what we teach them. If we teach them that we’ll be here for them, no matter how they treat us, they will treat us like crap, wipe their feet on us and we won’t hear from them again until or unless they need something. Sound familiar? For most parents of estranged adult children, it will strike a chord or two or three. As a matter of fact, it may have become so ingrained in us to give, give and give some more that we forget that we are people too with needs, wants and feelings. When we get that far into this type of situation, that’s when we can honestly say that we’ve taken “giving to others” too far and lost sight of ourselves.
So, the experts have it all wrong?
Most do, yes. Who am I to be saying that though? I’m not a counsellor nor am I professionally trained in this type of thing. What I do know though, comes from both experience as well as having looked back at the progression of childcare. That dates back from Dr. Spock to the 1980’s and beyond. What I saw was a direct shift from the Dr. Spock idea of “spare the rod, spoil the child” type thinking to where it went completely in the opposite direction of “spare the rod, give the child everything” type of thinking in both parents and society. In the process, we tended to spoil the child to the point where they no longer held any real regard for us as more than machines with which to grant their every whim, wish and hope, slathering them with praise for things like even going to the bathroom, finishing their dinners or going to bed without World War III erupting. It’s the things that most parents knew were part of life and expected, not rewarded for having done. The experts taught us as parents and as a society that children were to be treated as though they’d won the Nobel Peace Prize for brushing their teeth or going to school. This type of bleeding heart thinking was an experiment gone terribly wrong but, they don’t know how to reverse it now in these adult children so, they take the same old worn-out stances of the parent bowing down to their child and prostating themselves for these adults to walk on, kick and take precedence over all else while expecting to be served positive compensation for being here on earth.
“I didn’t ask to be born,” one child mutters angrily because their parents weren’t financially capable of buying them a car or a pair of $250 running shoes as the latest fad that their friends have.
Gone are the days of saying, “yeah, that isn’t going to happen because I can’t afford it. Go ask Johnny or Jane’s parents to buy it for you,” as many of our working parents used to tell us when we demanded outlandish things. While times have changed and 2 incomes are coming into homes now so that more can be afforded than our parents could give to us, taking these kids to McDonalds for Happy Meals 5 days a week because of time constraints or because kid’s schedules are so full that no one has time to cook, let alone eat it too, the reality is that the cost of living has gone up at a fast pace. While we may have a bit more disposable cash on hand than our parents did, that also has to be put aside for us to be able to retire before the age of 90, if we live that long. Adult children have long since learned that it’s now all about instant gratification, worry about the consequences later and know that you’re going to live on credit and never pay it off before death. That’s for their kids to deal with, not them. Sadly, many of this generation’s kids will grow up without an inheritance and have to learn the term, “bankruptcy” at some point in their lives. They will also have to live at home much longer too. However, that’s another story in and of itself.
Worse than that, jobs are truly scarce in today’s world. It’s hard for a lot of kids to get jobs but, that said, they will fill out a few applications, put them in and call it a day. Most will also expect and get a full education, including college or university that they will never get to use because there aren’t jobs for those degrees. Pub Night 101 doesn’t hold a lot of employment opportunities. I say that with chuckling, tongue in cheek tone though because not many degrees are worth the paper that the child’s name is written on nor, the specialty that they’ve graduated with but, the parents have usually scrimped, saved and worked extra jobs to pay for it though or, the child now an adult, has student debt so deep that they start off their adult life with that debt. Those kids expect a larger than usual salary or hourly rate to work and they’re not about to do some type of menial work or odd hour job either to pay for it. They have a degree after all is said and done in their minds. They shouldn’t have to lower themselves to the lowly work like we did and our parents did. Forget them having more than one job as well. They need their rest and play time. Also comes the all inclusive trips every year with other friends to southern destinations with tropical drinks and night clubbing within the resort. Things that we couldn’t do until we were in our 40’s or even 60’s and possibly, still can’t do because these kids still live at home where we’re providing meals, doing their laundry, cleaning their rooms and garbage left behind from an evening with their friends in our living rooms until 2 and 3 a.m. because they only work part time or don’t work at all. Who needs to work?
However, it’s this type of thing that the experts didn’t see or foresee happening to and with these kids. They only saw their so-called “studies” that cost society millions, if not billions of dollars and turned out entire generations worth of spoiled, entitled, disrespectful children now adults in a world that isn’t the same as the one in which they did the studies and watched fail miserably. Their only answers to estranged parents of these adult jerks now are, “send them love”. Yeah, that works. It’s been done over and over and over again without success. Not only that but, these adults walk on us as parents but think that somehow, their own children will be different and not walk away on them too. Maybe, they won’t? Maybe, they won’t be able to do it because there’s no money with which to do it and your estranged adult child’s children will remain living at home well into their 40’s? Who is to know?
I don’t have a Time Machine and I can’t go back but, I want my child with me. What can I do to stop the pain, hurt and anger?
There’s not so much that we can do now that our children have become estranged adult children as we certainly don’t have the means to go back and re-do it all. What we do have though is ourselves and self-love. We need to learn those things first. We can’t change our adult children’s choices (and, make no mistake about it, these are choices that they’ve made to estrange themselves from us) but, we can change ourselves. That is coming in another piece in the not too distant future. Hang in there and read all that you can on “self-love” as well as how to treat yourself as you’d treat your children. Remember that one. Treat yourself as you’d treat your children and see what happens in your life.
From my little corner of life to yours,
Be well. Love and Light,
Have a great day or evening.