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

  1. SimplifyPleaseSimplifyPlease

    Great article, Sheri! Wish there was some way of making this go viral on social media … So many hurting, bewildered rejected parents need the comfort of those wise, wise words and perspectives.

    Reply
    1. rparentsrparents Post author

      Dear SimplifyPlease, SHARE it! That’s how to make it go viral. Also, there is a place to comment on the article that the father told me about as well. You’re right. There are TOO many caring parents who are hurt.

      HUGS,
      Sheri McGregor

  2. AvatarStephen

    I am the direct result of the adult child hates me. I can not go back and change the past, nor would I want to. My mistakes are no different than the average persons, this day and age. I was totally in my child’s life, all the way up to the “Blame Game” of her adult life. I learned certain people live off the past and there is no stopping it, until that person wants to stop it.

    My Update is, I have left my adult child alone for the past 6 months (completely on my end, until she makes contact 1st). Now it is my fault for not wanting to be part of my grandchild’s life, as I give her and her family the space they asked for. See how this works? It is called set up for failure. She tries really hard to pull me back into the wake of suffering, but I am over that hump now. I cringe to her call. I wrote the grandchild off, meaning getting to be part of his life (package deal, specially at 2 years old), but yes, I do love him and pray for him. Want one learns there place and importance (or not important) to certain people, it is time to write it off and move on. We just learned recently, she hates anyone who goes against her wishes and then she writes them off if they do not bow down to her (some call it walking on eggshells). Life will really slap her someday, and I will not feel sorry for her, as I will not make myself available, until she comes back on her hands and knee’s begging for forgiveness. Let’s just say, I will not hold my breath on this one. My 2nd adult child, what a blessing he is and he does not live in the past and he has a good heart and a good (but challenging) life.
    Life does not end because your blood writes you off, as life is not all about one BAD SEED!
    Happy Mothers Day Sheri and to all the Mothers out there.

    Reply
  3. Avatarelizabeth55

    We are members of AARP and get this magazine. The day this issue came, that cover headline jumped out like a lightning bolt and hit me just as hard. After two years of estrangement, (ES) with ALL the soul searching, questioning, and self-doubt that goes with that, trying to convince myself “I was NOT a bad parent”, that headline put me right back to square one. “Mistakes” parents make. Causing their grown children to “hate” them! And that was just the cover headline. Wow! So although I hated myself for it, I turned to it right away, actually thinking maybe there is actually something, something I hadn’t already thought of that would finally explain why my 50 yr old son would turn on me with a totally unexpected foul-mouthed tongue lashing, at a large family gathering, leaving me (and other family members) devastated and speechless. And then, basically cut us off after that. Because I was/am at a loss, still grasping, as we tend to do, I read the article. Well, not only was I not guilty of any of those so-called hate-worthy “transgressions”, it didn’t matter. Because when I read them, I thought “what??” THIS is what causes a grown child to HATE a parent or parents? Too many emails?? Unwanted advice?? And other annoyances? Because that’s what they are “annoyances”. And as a daughter, I have been on the receiving end of a couple of those in my lifetime, and yes, they can be frustrating and head-shaking But I am beyond disappointed at AARP for essentially green-lighting a grown adult’s willingness to “hate” and cut a loving parent totally out of their lives so easily for those “mistakes”. Short of physical and /or unrelenting emotional abuse, I’m sorry, I don’t see it, and that article misses the mark on so many levels. And while I didn’t find MY answers in it, It was an eye-opener as to the stunning reality that in this throw-away society, “kids” can also throw away, seemingly easily, those that loved them first, and most. As always, Sheri, your article in response to this is spot on and full of the wisdom we all benefit from. Thank you!

    Reply
  4. AvatarSasha

    Hi elizabeth55
    They tried to get me to buy that magazine and you couldn’t pay me $1 million to buy trash like that .
    Kids of thought they were entitled for years. We can only hope for Karma and that they go through exactly the same thing they put the parents through.

    Reply
  5. courageousmecourageousme

    I have another suggestion for a solution when you are an adult child and your parent is annoying you … have a conversation. On the surface, there is some good advice in the AARP article. For example, boundaries are always a good thing. But, the underlying message is that 100% of the responsibility lies with the parent. I see this as a huge problem in our culture today – and in estrangement. Most of these adult children don’t take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and actions – and this article basically says that is OK. It suggests to these adult children that you can continue to blame your parent for “mistakes” or annoyances – and you could even “hate” them. It also suggests that those parents who are “hated” by their children should go on feeling guilty. There’s no implication that the adult child (emphasis on adult) take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings and maybe set some healthy boundaries themselves. There is not even a hint of a suggestion that the adult children bear some responsibility for cultivating a healthy relationship.

    Reply

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