We all did it as parents, or at the least, most of us did. We raised our child or children with love, care, concern and gave them everything that we could give to them in order for them to be healthy, happy, well-adjusted children and grow to be adults who have had a good start. Yet, here we are, with adult children who abuse us, estrange themselves from us and in short, throw the temper tantrum of a lifetime.
(Again, I wish to emphasize that I’m not speaking of parents who truly abused their children or were negligent willfully. This is about average parents whose children have walked away from them for no reason that makes sense to the parent(s) )
None of us are perfect people. We all have warts somewhere and we’ve all made mistakes that were it possible to do, we would go back in time and correct. Hindsight is always 20/20 but, we can’t go back in time. More than half of the time, an adult child’s estrangement from their parents, really had little to nothing-at-all to do with their parent’s or their childhoods anyway. It has to do with what they have come to perceive as an excuse for how they feel about themselves and their lives. Parents are easy targets for them to fire away at once convinced that there’s issues that they are dealing with and don’t know where it came from. Worse than that, is our adult child or children, having grown up then, finding friends or a partner who has issues with their own parents or even mental health issues or drug abuse troubles and has convinced our child or children that parents are the roots of all evil and to be avoided and distanced at all costs. In actuality, our child or children cannot think enough for themselves to decipher that it’s the world, their friends or partners that are at fault here, not their parents. More to come in a bit on that area.
In spite of all that we did as parents for our children and all that we gave up, not the least of which included sleep, showers, eating, possibly clothing, careers, new cars or a job we may not have liked but, which brought money into the house or, we worked because we had to work in order to afford the latest toys or video stations for our kids, we did it.
How many days did you as a parent, full of fever and barely able to stand up, stay up and take care of your kids anyway?
Is there a well worn path in your home or former home where you walked the floors all night with a sick or colicky child or baby?
Were there nights where you drove around with a child in their carseats so that they’d tire and be able to go to sleep?
How many bottles did you have to get up to heat up and feed, burp and change that child’s diapers?
How many baths did you give to them, washing their hair while they screamed like someone was killing them simply because they wanted more time with toys or friends or didn’t like water on their faces?
Were there doors that you knocked on until your knuckles bled because they told you that they were going one place when in actuality, they were going to another and it took you hours of walking, pounding on doors and calling their friends to figure out where they really were and all when you could have been putting your feet up or soaking them or watching your favourite television show instead of this type of thing?
Early morning hours, pacing the floors as your child or children grew up and it was 4 and 5 a.m. before they came home from a party, club or being out with friends and slept all the next day while you had to be up, doing things?
Unless we were independently wealthy or we had family buy us new vehicles, how many of us drove junk heaps and kept pouring money into cars that were ready for the scrap yard because we’d given our little darlings every cent we had instead of buying ourselves another vehicle because we’d paid out money to buy our children or child a safe car for them instead?
How many of us had to wear less than stellar clothing, shoes, coats and boots because we’d put all of our money into our kids while they went out, dressed in designer outfits or at the least, new clothes which left us to have what we could afford to wear instead?
The list is endless and could go on forever. Every parent will have their fair share of tales to share but, suffice it to say that as parents, we gave up a lot of things for ourselves in order to ensure that our child or children had everything that we could possibly give to them. Yet, here comes that temper tantrum as adults and all that we’ve done gets twisted, turned, churned and turned into a Stephen King novel with us, as parents, as Devils or Demons to be avoided or at best, used, abused and tossed away when not needed or wanted around.
What’s to blame for this phenomenon?
Let’s boil it all down into one simple word….“ENTITLEMENT”.
In short, the proper definition of entitlement is the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.
No matter what they do, how lousy they treat us or what kind of disregard they have for us as their parents and all that we’ve done for them, they somehow have come to believe that they deserved all that we did, gave up for them and we shouldn’t expect anything from them for it. In short, they will shout out that they “didn’t ask to be born” while walking away from us like it’s our faults as parents that they have any issues with Life whatsoever and deserved all that they were given by us. They blame us as parents or are convinced by society or others in their lives that we are somehow “evil” and deserve to be treated with total disregard and abuse. In their minds, it’s our faults and if we’re not still giving them everything that they want, we’re “the bad guys”. After all, they inherently deserve everything that we can give them and all that they can dish out to us. It’s their “right”.
The more I give, the worse I get treated. Why?
Giving into our monster creature’s demands once they have the idea that they are entitled to everything and more, only gives them power. It’s like handing them a can of gasoline to throw onto glowing embers. The flames of Hell won’t burn as brightly. These adult kids are far from stupid. They’ve learned over their lifetimes that Mom and Dad or Mom and Mom or Dad and Dad or Mom or Dad, somehow will give in and give them what they want and expect to have. When parents do that, it enforces the idea that if they abuse enough or ultimately estrange themselves from us, we’ll cave and give them what they think that they want. We trained them into that type of belief by giving into them and now, they are using it as adults, against us and will keep it up as long as it continues to work for them. In short, it “enables” these adult kids to continue and even amp up their poor, bad, hurtful and even regrettable actions towards you. It doesn’t help either you or them.
Why are they treating me so badly?
There are many reasons and answers to this question. Often, we never truly figure out the reason completely and sadly, though they will often offer up some sort of silly sounding crap about how you treat them like a “child” and in spite of them wanting you to, they don’t really know either. There goes that old word, “entitlement”. Most adult children were raised to feel that their lives, work, social engagements and debts are the most important thing in the world. Eventually, they come to think of themselves as “gods” in some sense or another whereby, parents or whomever cared for them growing up, will always place their needs and wants first. The moment that one of us doesn’t, that’s when we start hearing rumblings from the centres of their throats. Unfortunately, they do not like to hear the words, “sorry, I can’t” in any form, cuss words added or not. They love the words, “sure…how high do you want me to jump for you and how soon?” The second that you utter that two letter word, “no”…they will become indignant and throw a fit, hoping that you’ll scare enough that they will get what they wanted. If you still don’t give into them (nor, should you as stated above), they will resort to all sorts of tactics which are akin to giant temper tantrums. After all, it got them what they wanted when they were younger more often than not or in one way or another. Why wouldn’t it work now?
When all else fails and the tantruming isn’t working, they talk to friends or partners who will guide them almost effortlessly through the process on how to get what they want. If that fails, they or someone they know, will lead them to the ultimate act….ESTRANGEMENT and they will have a plethora of reasons why it’s necessary in spite of the fact that it all sounds like crap and has zero justification for such a drastic, painful and hurtful move on their parts. However, that’s what they want. They want us to hurt and be in pain. They didn’t get what they wanted from you this time or perhaps, on a few occasions. Heaven forbid that you actually asked for something from them or needed their help for once. That’s a recipe for them to take off and not look back.
Have you heard the phrase, “I need space” or some version of it?
How many parents haven’t heard those words or some variation of it? That’s especially true of those who haven’t lived at home for years or come and go as they please if they do. How much “space” does one need? We didn’t get “space” from them as crying babies with sleepless nights under our belts, when they cut teeth or were sick but, they think that they need more space for some odd reason.
Of course, we’re not talking necessarily geographical space here though that may be part of it as well. We’re talking metaphorically here. The moment that they utter those words, what they are really meaning is that as long as you’re useful to them, not asking them for anything nor expecting anything from them, doing things the way that they want it all done for them and agreeing with everything that they do, they’re fine and you’re ok to be around. The moment that you lay down any sort of boundary, expectation or gasp, ask them for help of any kind and, especially if you disagree with what they are doing or wanting or thinking, they want “space”. Equally, that also goes for those who have spouses or partners. The moment you aren’t giving them exactly what they want or worse, you expect or ask for something big from them, they quickly believe that you’re worthless in their lives or worse, a noose around their necks. You’ve become an “albatross” to them. If they didn’t feel that way to begin with, their significant others or even friends will ensure that they do by the time you can spit across a room.
In other words, in their minds, you’re “controlling, manipulating and ruining their lives”. It can be any number or all of those and more. The bottom line is that they don’t want you to rock their boats so to speak. They want smooth sailing and you’re a “wave” in their journey.
Then again, we simply have other people’s influences over them and they choose to chase after this person versus us, as parents.
So, this is a big temper tantrum, huh?
Answer: Essentially, yes.
This isn’t to say that you never meant anything to them as a parent or parents and, it certainly isn’t to mean that they don’t have feelings towards you that causes them to feel bad as well. They feel hurt, pain, sorrow and grief over all of this as well. They’re not robots. Our kids will go through a realm of emotions and this isn’t easy on them either. Don’t get me wrong though. It’s much like a doctor who learns to turn off emotions so that they can do what they’re doing otherwise, they’d fall apart and be dysfunctional. Estranged adult children have either convinced themselves, had others help convince them or they are misinformed by themselves or others about you. Sadly, these kids turned adult, lack the ability to see things in a realistic light whether it be because they chose to have it this way or because someone else has helped them to see it this way. The result is still the same. You are misunderstood whether they think that they know you and your motives or not.
Think back to the first time you had to say “no” to your child. Was it a toy that they wanted and you couldn’t afford it or had just bought it for them as a gift? How about a chocolate bar or ice cream cone because you wanted them to finally eat a decent lunch or dinner instead of junk food? Did you ever have to tell them that they couldn’t go some place that they wanted so badly to go with their friends and you had to give that dreaded word, “no” to them because you had to get up for work and would stay up all night or perhaps, it was because you plainly and simply didn’t feel it was a safe venture for your child or children? There are many scenarios which could have caused a tantrum but, if you’ve ever had to say that tiny phrase for one reason or another, you’ve more than likely witnessed their tempers going haywire as well as a tantrum that may have lasted for a few moments to a few days. Whether they wrecked their bedrooms or they gave you the silent treatment for days, threw themselves down on the ground and kicked and screamed or threatened to run away. One way or the other, you’ve more than likely seen your child have a full blown temper tantrum. What you did with it was more than possibly what you could stand or couldn’t stand to put up with anymore.
Maybe, you gave in and let them have what they wanted because you couldn’t take the ruckus anymore? However, if you did that, they know that temper tantrums work. In the end, they get what they want. Most of us as parents are guilty of having done this. Hey, we’re humans too and our nerves can only go so far. They bank on that fact.
Perhaps, you didn’t give in at all and while they know that their tantrums didn’t work for them, getting away from you, The Tyrant was what was needed as an adult? Again, most of us did that as well. We didn’t back down and let them have their hissy fits without blinking and even if we did need a bottle of wine or a few aspirins afterwards. Yes, even we felt badly at having to say “no” and sticking to it. It hurt us to have to do it, didn’t it? We weren’t without emotion. Some of us may even have explained why we weren’t giving into their demands and commands. It’s not an easy road to go down, is it? However, it’s parenting to the best of our ability.
Did we make mistakes as parents?
Answer: Of course we did.
No one is perfect and the little bundles of joy didn’t come with a manual. We tried to improve upon how we were raised, keep up with the times or maybe, we raised our kids as we were raised because our parents told us that it was best. No matter what scenario you can think of, there’s no such thing as a “perfect parent” nor will our own estranged adult child be a “perfect parent” to their kids. Every generation will need to but, may not, end up on a therapist’s couch at some point or another. That’s the nature of humans, screwing up other humans. It just is. Their friends, partners, significant others, spouses and others in their lives, aren’t perfect either. A lot of them are just as screwed up as the other and a lot of them, even more so than you could ever dream. That’s where their influences are chiefly coming from now and has been for a long time. You and everyone else in your family has long ago been watered down in your influences over your adult estranged child. Feel no guilt in spite of how thick they can slather it onto you unless, of course, you know that you did wrong to them. Apologize for it sincerely and let them know what your thinking was and is about it all. Be honest with them and yourself though. They can smell a ploy 20,000 miles away and if they can’t, someone else will be only too happy to help them with that struggle.
Finally, for now, understand that your estranged adult child is having a temper tantrum in the only way that they know how to do it as an adult. They can no longer throw themselves down on the floor, kicking and screaming or trashing their rooms. They can only stay away from you unless they want or need something that they figure you can or will provide for them before they disappear again.
If your child is hooked on a substance or someone who doesn’t like you, you’re toast to them. They know only too well that you don’t and won’t agree with their choices so, staying away from you, blocking you in every conceivable fashion and estranging themselves from you is the only way to feel ok about what they are doing and why. The very moment that you are part of their lives in any way, even a glimpse of you from across a parking lot or room, will be enough for them to turn away because it will remind them of what it is that they’re doing or who they are with and the “shame” of it will show through within them. It causes a lot of pain, hurt and sorrow, within them. It’s easier to not have you as a reminder around even if you’re not saying a word or doing a thing. You, yourself, are a reminder to them that they are wrong in some way or to some extent. Keep that in mind.
There’s more to come in the future but, let’s leave it here for now because this is getting long enough to be a book.
From my little corner of life to yours, know that you’re not alone in this situation even if others aren’t talking about it. There are all sorts of reasons why they don’t talk about it. Speak up here if you want. Let’s talk as parent to parent of Adult Estranged Children.
Be well. Love and Light.
Have a great day or evening.