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

  1. SimplifyPlease

    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. rparents 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. Stephen

    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. elizabeth55

    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. Sasha

    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. courageousme

    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
    1. Sasha

      I think the reason adult children blame their parents for everything, or one of the reasons, is because parents don’t make their kids own the crap they do.
      As a child, I dealt with blame, belittlement, emotional and physical abuse. BUT I never blamed my parents for anything, although I hope they felt guilty, particularly from the physical abuse I endured.
      I am satisfied that none of them are here today because I might have a few choice words to say. I do feel bad that I never spoke up before they passed and that is something I regret. They sure wouldn’t do it now.

  6. Waxwing

    Has anyone else had something similar to this? I was very close to my younger daughter. Then, suddenly, we met for dinner and after an hour’s perfectly normal conversation I asked her how she was, as she’d said before that she’d been depressed. She shouted, “Do you want to know why I’m in therapy? YOU!” She then came out with events I simply don’t remember. I haven’t seen her now for three years, and I am devastated. I have had a few emails from her, which have got worse and worse, and are full of therapy-speak and hatred. I don’t understand. She’s a very inteligent woman of forty, happily married (I assume), but has no children. She changed her views on this when she got married. Her elder sister (who I get on with) sees her, but refuses to get involved. Her father and I are divorced and don’t speak, so no answers there.

    Reply
  7. HayleyD

    Sheri, you are exactly right that the AARP article legitimizes hating your parents.

    I spent the day reading the stories on the introduction posts in the forum, and was dumbstruck at how many there were, and at what young ages kids estranged themselves from their parents so I did a google search on parent child estrangement and came across an article talking about a forum on Reddit for kids of narcissists. I’m sure you’re aware that Narcissist is one of the catch-all phrases you label someone you disagree with, and this article said there were 97,000 members of this group! I believe young people are being encouraged to estrange themselves from their parents in these groups as people tell them how what used to be normal family ups and downs is abuse, and how the kids need to protect themselves from their ‘toxic’ parents by cutting off all contact. This is a national epidemic. I came across another article saying that approximately 10% of mothers are estranged from one child.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      HayleyD, so you found one of the smaller parent-hating groups?! LOL. There are many such groups. One talks of us as “old people,” and I think, hmm. They are discriminating against their future selves. You are right that there are some who are being encouraged by these groups, youtube “experts,” and others. Regarding the research, it is not always presented clearly. Things like study size and narrow demographics are often not shared in popular media. But yes, there are many, many parents who are facing rejection from adult children.

      Hugs to you,
      Sheri McGregor

  8. 3DogDays

    Should not have gone there…

    With way too much time on my hands and mind, I looked up some sites that started with, “I hate parents because…”
    and (foolishly) thought I could write a defense to the ‘kids’ on the site. Making a case for, ‘I was young, I did not know, I am so sorry, forgive me’, ‘what can I do?’ ‘Can I see my granddaughters?” “Want more money?” I used many words to cover all net search engines.

    The hate-filled sites and comments were stunning! Absolute targeted hate from the, once children, people posting on the sites. Without question, the author wrote back in support of every filthy rant. Many of the accusations against parents were so outlandish and bizarre that I finally deleted everything I wrote and blocked the site (s). Obviously, the site was encouraging hate, retaliation, threats and slanderous behaviors.
    There is no way to win estranged kids over, bring them back into your life or reason with the hate that is being perpetrated by some people.
    The saving grace is those angry hate-filled estranged people will be OLD soon. Praying, they remember the damage they did to others.

    Reply
    1. Liss

      Waxwing, my 2nd son 48 years old hung up my me 3 years and 2 months ago,Want take my calls, doesn’t answer my emails or letters. All this because I asked if his father and I could come to visit he and his wife they live a thousand miles away. He said I want to reiterate you cannot stay here, I said I know that you have told me several times. He wasn’t raised to be like that, he came from a family that always visited or phoned our parents every week. They were taught to respect family and have compassion. It is all very heart breaking. It’s like I am in limbo, waiting, waiting. I’m sure this makes some think, they must have had a stormy relationship but it was never like.

  9. Mary

    I was not the perfect mom, but I did my best. I was torn between my mom telling me to suck up my abusive husband(s) behavior and talk nicely and be a good wife. My dad beat my mom into paranoia and now I was told to live the same. 3 kids, 3 failed marriages, no self esteem. All of the kids abused me as they got older, one physically the others verbally and psychologically. All 3 went to prison. And all the blame was on me. I was obsessed with writing letters, traveling to visit, filling the canteen accounts. My mother continued to drive a wedge between them and me. Now in my 60s, these 3 have banded to berate me with every aspect of their lives. I moved back to the area and it was the worst decision ever. I won’t see my granddaughter if I stand my ground. There crimes put them behind where they should be. I have isolated myself from all but 3 friends out of shame and guilt. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, SSD and depression. Suicide comes to mind so they can have what little I’ve saved. I fight not to loathe myself daily. What do i do?

    Reply
  10. Elizabeth L.

    I really identify with what you write Mary. Although my parents relationship wasn’t abusive, there was a lot of aggression among my mother’s family towards my dad.
    I married a man who I later found out was a clinical psychopath. He was wanted by the immigration authorities for overstating his visa by 15 years and I was told at the time how lucky I was to be alive after the beatings I received. He had various false passports and aliases.
    My daughter never knew her father but when she was old enough I explained it all to her and she didn’t seem to be affected.
    As an intelligent girl, she went very far in her education but after going to university for 7 years I saw less and less of her every year.
    Eventually, she became a visitor I dreaded, always verbally abusing me for the smallest things.
    In a lot if ways I’m relieved I don’t have to deal with her behaviour now, but im aware that I now have no other living relatives which is hard to swallow.
    Sending out best wishes to every parent in this position, my heart goes out to you all.

    Reply
  11. Linda T.

    Being rejected by my daughter is the greatest sorrow I have ever experienced, however this is the first time I have ever felt hatred from her. Like many, I was very young when I gave birth to her, and made my share of mistakes. I have devoted much of the last two decades to changing, and, of course, making it up to her. I genuinely had faith that if I gave her the validation she needed, and encouraged, praised, and affirmed how very much I loved her, that she would eventually forgive and move on. I was wrong. For more years than I care to count, she has threatened me with total estrangement, and of cutting contact with my grandchildren. In my horror and fear, I permitted this blackmail. Earlier this year, the dynamics of our relationship changed. I no longer responded in the same manner. I guess I finally had enough of guilt, and forgave myself.
    Focusing on the positive and refusing to be manipulated by guilt has resulted in my beloved and only child’s finally expressing her hatred, and blaming me for every ill in her life. I have been completely vilified to anyone who will listen to her, and cut off from all media contact.
    There is much more that I could share, but the result is still the same. The person I love most, has erased me from her life.
    The thing is, she too is in pain. My very heart and soul affirms this. Until she faces her pain, and finds a way to move on, this canyon between us will remain. As her parent, all I can hope is that she gets the help she needs, and becomes strong, healthy, and happy. I can love her whether I am part of her life or not. Easy? Not at all. Painful? Unbearably. Survivable? I hope so.

    Reply

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