Parents blamed by adult children. Are parents’ ‘mistakes’ worthy of hate?

A father recently wrote to me about an article he’d seen at AARP. Here’s a link to it: Avoid Mistakes That Could Make Your Kids Hate You.” 

Are parents’ mistakes, worthy of hate

parents blamed by adult children

Parents’ mistakes? Let’s turn that around.

Thousands of parents blamed by adult children for all their problems write to me. Among those, many have been called upon in drastic situations. A son or daughter makes a mess of things repeatedly and needs money or other help. The parent may help … and then try to tell the adult something to the effect of, “Look, you’ve got to wise up. . . .” In other words, the parents give advice.

As time goes on, the parent may see the adult son or daughter not learning anything from their mistakes, maybe not even trying to learn. Parents can begin to feel used. They may tell the “child” that the Bank of Mom & Dad is closing. Parents have their own bills or may be living on a fixed income or have a nest egg that needs to last their remaining years. It is often at that point that the child cuts them off.

Which makes me think of the abuse that sometimes happens. Parents can be isolated.  A parent may not be physically well, is disabled, or perhaps a widow or widower. The isolation makes them vulnerable to a son or daughter who knows what buttons to push. I have heard from many parents who say that they put up with abuse, financial, verbal, or even physical, because their child is their only family left in the world.

Parents blamed by adult children 

I hear from people almost daily who say, “My grown daughter blames me for everything wrong in her life.” Or, “My adult son says I caused all of his problems.” These children are often in their 30s or 40s or beyond, and remember with detail every “wrong” the parent has ever done. Sometimes the memories are completely different than that of the parent or even siblings and other family members. And many times, the “wrongs” are miniscule.

Twice in the last week, mothers shared that their daughters say all their issues derive from the fact they weren’t breastfed. One of these two moms was a single parent. It was a different world back then. Working mothers were not provided with understanding and a place to pump breast milk (as is the norm now). The other mom was encouraged to bottle feed by her doctor, as were many mothers in the 1960s. Yes. I said 1960s. . . . The daughter doing the blaming is 54. Maybe it’s time she did a little self-reflection rather than blaming the mother who worked two jobs to care for her.

Parents blamed by adult children, recognize the good you did.

It’s wise to recognize our own mistakes as parents, but it’s also wise for adult “children” to consider a parent’s point of view. One of my sons recently traveled to a very cold climate. Before he left, I said, “Do you have a warm enough jacket?” He made a funny face, and then we both laughed like crazy! It was funny, and I added, “I guess you’re old enough to figure that one out.” It’s a mom thing, but is it reason to abandon me. No. How about hate me? No. And he knows that (thank goodness).

The father who wrote to me about the AARP article said that one of the reasons he was successful in his overall life was that he had learned to recognize problems quickly and work to fix them before they were upon him.  When he sees his young adult daughter ignoring problems until she’s forced to deal with them, it causes him stress. His words, “The anxiety kills me.” So, he tries to offer her advice. She resents that advice. But is that reason to hate him or cut him off?

How about a rule?

The article mentions a parent forwarding emails, and not understanding that the son or daughter is already inundated. I know that feeling. A much older relative often sent me a batch of forwards daily. This individual wasn’t computer savvy, didn’t type well, and worried about his privacy on the internet, so I never received a regular note. Was it a reason to hate? No.

No, no, no. It was an opportunity for me to be understanding. And creative.

Perhaps an adult son or daughter can create a “rule” in their email account. That way all the forwarded emails go to a certain box, don’t clog the general folder, and everyone is happy. A considerate son or daughter who recognizes their parents’ motivation to communicate and stay in touch (which is what is behind the forwarded emails) might do well to check the special folder now and again and make a comment in reply. What does it hurt to let parents know they’re appreciated for their good intentions? Beats hating.

Okay to hate?

This is getting long, so let me close with what I see as the main problem with the article this father shared:  It covertly makes the point that it is okay to hate your parents. From the title (“Avoid Mistakes That Could Make Your Kids Hate You”) on, the warning is that if parents make these mistakes, their children will hate them. HATE them. I see far too much of this in our society these days. Kind, caring parents who aren’t all that horrible yet are considered “toxic,” and worthy of hate.

Lift the veil. See the good you did.

To the father who wrote to me, I want to offer my empathy. When one of my five grown children became estranged, I mined every memory with a fine-toothed comb, wondering what I did wrong. Parents are very good at taking on the perspective of their adult child(ren), which has been demonstrated in research related to estrangement. The same research, however, shows that the children who reject parents are not.

In time, I hope all of the caring parents who are nevertheless rejected by adult children will not only see their own mistakes and even magnify them, but also recognize all the good they did.

When you can look past the veil of estrangement that clouds your memories and steers you toward any mistakes, you might even realize that the good you did as a parent far outweighs the bad. There’s an exercise in Done With The Crying that can help.

Hugs to all the hurting parents,
Sheri McGregor

Related reading:

Abusive adult children affect parents’ self-image

Beyond the shadow of estrangement

Freedom for a new era (parents rejected by adult children)

Estranged adult children: Why do they make contact now?

Mother yourself

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7 thoughts on “Parents blamed by adult children. Are parents’ ‘mistakes’ worthy of hate?

  1. RubyAndEmeralds

    I’m sorry too! That is extremely stressful!

    I hope you this forum and her book gives tips and suggestions to help!

    Stay healthy

  2. Ed

    Hello Helen,
    I am really sorry to hear that he is so destructive. My son blames me for all of the problems in his life too. He is 42. I realize he has this anger inside that he has to deal with. But I realize that those problems are his doing, not mine. My son is angry, because his biological father abandoned him. I adopted him when my wife and I married. He was 12. He chose me to take his anger out on. I am certain that your son is taking his anger out on you in the same way. If he did not love you he would disappear and not bother you. I realize my sons tantrums are his way of reaching out to me for help. My son is violent but has not gotten physical with us although my wife was scared at times. You need to do what you can to make sure he contains his physical anger and to be safe, understand his problems were not your fault, and know that he loves you.

    Take good care

  3. Louise k.

    I am going through same thing. I finally have joined forums and realized im not alone. And as i thought they dont like themselves. And the life they are leading. Easier to blame. And cry about their chilhood. Was not perfect. But it wasnt terrible. I am 53 and my son is putting me in early grave. Police do nothing. Hes allowed to kick my br down and threatin to kill me . He tells police im on drugs. Hes 27 just got out of prison. After 8 years. Has baby on way. Abusive verbally to her. Calls her same names he calls me. He has a car. Thats it. Works hard. And loves himslef told me when he leaves my home. He will never ask me for nothing never ask me to do anything for HIM. I said not one did. I will never do anything for YOU. Come out of your mouth. I have lost 35 pounds from the verbal abusive. Sometimes physical. And he tells everyone im on drugs. My older son saw me for 1st time in year. And text his brother and said what have you done to her. She does everything for you. Only one that does. Response was “dirty disgusting whore is on drugs”. My grandbabies were supposed to come i cant have them here in my home. I cant have friends over. He drinks and ruins the dinner. Anything i am doing he ruins. He doesnt own a razor. Ill just use mommys. Stuff. I pay all the bills. Refuses to give me a dime. I pay for him to be comfy cozy. Im tired. Worn out. Blames his childhood. One day someone asked him. Your a grown man what was so bad. No response. In and out of jail every 2 to 3 months i will not pay for bond. His freind did 2 weeks ago. I said he needed to sit there. He will have police contact In 3 days. Well yep he did. Woman officer did not want to send him with me. Police here in my city. Its small here. Let him get away with a crime of wrecking my home. He was turning in grown adult men he thinks sell drugs. To get out of a new charge he got. Felony. They know that their lives are a mess. And make it like we are the mess. I never have been called such horrible names. He called me names in front of the police. They are convinced his childhood was horrible. Inwas a single mom. He was spoiled rotten. He should have been beat. Robbing stealing. Fires. Hitting me at 9 years of age
    And up. Kicked my legs out from under me when i was 42. His brother beat him that day. He treats the gf mother of new born baby horrible. She looks terrible. Poor woman. But she loves him. Why??? He is his father. I have flash backs when he drinks. It brings back the life i forgot about. To all the parents out there going through this. God bless.

  4. Ladasha

    I go through this every four months. My adult daughter brings upp the samething. She yells at me says i am the worst mom ever, and tells me to beg her foregiveness, or i will never see my granddaughter again, i always end up saying sorry. She has done this for fifteen years. This time two days ago she did it again called me names and told me i am the worse mom and i should die. After years of begging her for her forgiveness i finally said no matter what i do you will never tthink i am a good mom, and you will tell lies about me, so i am walking away. And her reply was my dad should of killed you. I am 65 and way to old to threatened all the time. She even does the samething to her siblings that are my children, but doesn’t do.this to her siblings from her dad and his new wife .

    1. Bec

      Honey I feel your pain and grief. My son is 35 and he’s been doing this to me for 10 years. Every 6 months he starts some petty argument that leads to really heated situations and then blames me for all his problems, even though I have helped him financially over and over through the years. Our relationship came to a head last week when he started texting me regarding politics, yes politics. I’ve told him repeatedly to not bring up the subject because we disagree and we aren’t going to change either of us. He proceeded to text me and told me to F Off, said I was mean, manipulative and emotionally abusive, Well he’s describing himself to a t. Anyway I became so angry from all the years of dealing with this back and forth and forgiving only to get treated like this again. In my anger I told him I couldn’t believe he came from my body, I told him not to call, text, not come into our home spewing his venom anymore and like that it’s over. Now to make it worse he shared my private text on Facebook, not his, no! Just mine, at this point I don’t see a path forward.

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