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

  1. Melody

    Mike, thanks for sharing the penguin story. As much as this makes me sound like a female dog, I would turn away in a hot moment if I financially could. I’m going to find that National Geographic penguin segment. I need some hope for today.

    Reply
  2. Edward P.

    It is comforting to know I am not alone. My son always continues repeating mistakes until the consequences become too severe. Then for some reason it’s my fault because I didn’t teach him. (He just never listened). He is 43 now and won’t talk with me. His memories are of things that did not happen or happen that way. He doesn’t remember big event in his life. He is musical so for summer, three yeas in a row I sent him to band camp for two weeks. He loved it but now doesn’t remember it happening, yet remembers and hates me because I bought a dog for my wife. It is really crazy and makes no sense. My wife asked me what I wanted to do for Father’s Day and I almost cried. I have been working with therapist to try to end this fighting but when he talks with the therapist he says they take my side because I pay them. I which for him to get help, but he refuses. I do feel so alone with this, my wife is wonderful about it but I would just love to be a family again but realize it will not be possible. Sorry for the rant.

    Reply
  3. Gail

    One of our local shopping centers currently has a display of little pennants on one wall. When I went closer to read what was written on some of them, I realized it was a Mother’s Day feature. Children had been asked to finish the sentence “I love my Mum because…” There was such an outpouring of love and appreciation (often misspelt), sometimes with crude drawings of the Mum. I paused to read quite a number of them and as I did, I was surprised to find that it was affirming, not depressing me.

    Why? Because it helped me to remember some of the good I had done as a mother of young children. My daughter, now mostly estranged, could have written any number of those tributes and meant it at the time.

    i hope everyone visiting this website will be able to recall, without too much angst, the loving Mother’s Day cards they once received.
    Hopefully you will also be able, as Sheri so wisely advises, to
    “Lift the veil” . & “See the good you did.”

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Gail,

      I love this. Yes, we really did do good! We were there for them in a million ways!

      Hugs to you,
      Sheri

  4. margaret b.

    thank you for these people writing these letters. I need to try and walk away from 26 years of verbal abuse.
    In the past, I would just apologize and turn the other cheek ,just to keep the peace. I would apologize for things that knowingly were not my fault. I was brought up that way and my Mother would always suggest to just take the blame because it’s not worth it to keep fighting. My Mother passed away a year ago and I stopped apologizing …” to just keep the peace “. My daughter continues to blame me for everything in her life that has failed her. I continue to defend myself and tell her it is NOT my fault. I know I need to let it go and walk away, but its a horribly lonely feeling. How on earth do you do this and have the courage to stay strong ?

    Reply
    1. Terrie L.

      well I have put up with lies and manipulation from one of my kids to the point I’m done. You are responsible for how other people, including your grown children, treat you. You deserve to be happy and surround yourself with positive people who lift you up instead of putting you down. You will reach a point where you have had enough. It’s taken me 10 years, but I’ve had enough. My youngest wrote me out of his life because I used the word change instead of transition during a conversation and he turned nasty stating he was not taking my shit. Well I’ve made the decision I’m not taking his any longer. He is starting to show signs of re-instating contact and I will not be replying, I’d rather be alone then continue to take his lies manipulation and overall abuse.

  5. Chrissy

    I have blamed myself for so long, I left her (cheating, lying father) that walked out leaving me with £50k worth of debt!! I found out years later after applying for a credit card I had a CCJ against me!!! I had to go to court to pay back something I never knew I had. I married young because I was in love and thought that’s me and my family security forever. He cheated and stayed out most nights. After my daughter was born he didn’t even stay with me at the hospital because he had to ‘wet the babies head’ that lasted for a week. Guess I should have known then. He worked away for 2 years so I was a part-time working mum but also ensured she got to do everything I couldn’t. (My family didn’t have much money) I was so proud of her dancing, ballet, tap, drama, Brownies, singing, karate, swimming, gymnastics you name it I took her there. When her dad walked out I had no choice but to work full time. So she went to breakfast club/after school and holiday clubs (which were not cheap) but the work kept us afloat and I even managed to save her a lump sum for when she turned 18. When she was 7 I met someone who I thought was a good person. We bought a home together, he was made redundant so I worked longer hours and when I found out I was pregnant well I made sure not to go without. The day my son was born my partner was offered a job in London. Obviously he accepted but this changed him. Not having the financial security when my daughter was born but being assured of it now I was confident and trusting that we would be okay. So after MAT leave it was suggested I take a year out to spend with my new baby son. Something I couldn’t do with my daughter. It was okay for a while but at some point he became grumpy, controlling, self absorbed and very short tempered. My daughter got the brunt end of this. Being now 11 years she was challenging her boundaries. It caused a rift in our relationship which eventually led to me leaving our family home, with two children and zero savings. I know my daughter was never happy my being with him and moving into somewhere else just us, me, my daughter and son would be happy times. Now here’s the question we all as parents ask… where did I go wrong??’ Shortly after moving she became angry, resentful and rude to people. She went through a stage of smoking marijuana so much she was either asleep or throwing up. She is now at college and doesn’t seem to have any friends, can’t seem to hold a relationship and has nothing but aggression towards everyone. My main worry is my 6 year old son. She constantly picks at him, shouts at him and calls him names (she is 18) she says nasty things about his dad and says it’s not his home and he should live with his dad. She tells him he’s a brat and she hates kids and he isn’t her brother because his dad isn’t hers and if I step in she tells me to F¥@ck off and I am a weak
    Mother who should discipline her spoilt child oh and I need to get a proper job because apparently my current one makes her feel insecure. (I am a weight control consultant) i own my own business which was ideal to work around school/college meetings, appointments, drop offs etc…. also pays okay. Apparently my job makes her paranoid about her weight. Before anyone asks why please know, my children have always eaten good home cooked food, yeah we obviously had takeaways, McDonald’s etc but this was more a treat than a regular occurrence. So I was to blame for her putting on a little weight, not getting the big parts in plays even though she took drama lessons. It was fault she was reprimanded at holiday club for calling someone names, it was my fault we moved and so couldn’t make friends, I was to blame for allowing my ex to be mean to her even though I didn’t know but when I did I left, it’s my fault she had to leave her bedroom with en-suite into a smaller house she hates, it’s my fault her and her boyfriend didn’t work out because we moved, it’s my fault I didn’t get her doing driving lessons when she was 17 yrs even though we’re in lockdown and no lessons are taking place. It’s my fault she hasn’t got a job even though ( I wrote her CV and sent it to everywhere locally, even people I knew who were more than happy to help) I got her 3 jobs, she was sacked from all 3. She won’t go to an interview if it’s a bus ride away and next year when I am finally able to buy my own home it’s on her terms and can’t be to far away from public transportation. Woah I guess I’ve talked a lot and if you’re not asleep by now then thank you for reading this. With everything I’m worried my sons personality will be damaged and that he will become just as angry and disrespectful like his sister. It’s what he’s seeing and he has on several occasions pushed the boundaries. But he’s 6 yrs. anyway, feel like jumping on a plane and never coming back

    Reply
    1. Terrie L.

      same situation here, left an abusive and over controlling spouse who did parental alienation tactics and played our kids against each other and the kids against me, only one of the four has remained neutral and stood by me. One refers to me by first name and has not bothered with me for years, the youngest pulls me back and forth. Our kids blame me for everything and even though their father still is abusive they put up with his antics and treat me totally disrespectful and nasty. Well my kids are all grown and in their 20’s and I am not longer willing to accept the blame they keep using as a bashing tool or the disrespect they continue to shove at me. One told me she doesn’t like me since I left her father, she preferred me when I was in an unhappy marriage being mentally beaten down. She doesn’t like the independent happy me which is questionable in itself.

  6. JAB

    So glad I’m not alone. I am a divorced Mother of two adult children. My son, the elder, is thriving. He has a great job and is planning a wedding with his lovely fiancée. My younger child, a daughter, is not doing so well. She is 28, has always lived with me. She has had anxiety and depression since a teenager and refuses to see therapists because she says they make her feel worse. She hasn’t been able to keep a job recently because of her stress. She has wailed over the phone “I want to die!” while seated in her car after finishing a shift. She is a good employee when she works because she works hard. She leaves the jobs respectfully. However at home it’s a nightmare. She blames me for all her problems because of a sh*t childhood and the divorce from her Father when she was 11. Her childhood wasn’t perfect but far from bad. The split was amicable and he has maintained a good relationship with her. I have bailed her out financially with bills and she hasn’t paid me rent in 4 years. Her partner just arrived 3 years ago and moved in without asking. He works full time. He has never paid me rent. My dining area is overrun with plants. She keeps buying them because she says they help. She will have screaming/wailing fits and hysterical sobbing if the slightest thing goes wrong or for no apparent reason at all. I’m on tenderhooks every time I hear a raised voice. Recently she has called me the ‘c’ word and says I upset her because of my ‘tone’. I tell her I’m worried about her and wish she realised how sick she is. She says she knows but refuses to do anything about it and expects everyone else just to put up with her behaviour. Her partner tries to help her but he gets frustrated too. I’m surprised he’s still here. I have asked them to move out but I think he will go and leave her here. I don’t know what to do.

    Reply
    1. Allison

      I can’t imagine the worry and frustration you must feel daily. I wish your daughter would get the help she needs. That is no way to live and thrive. I’ve been on my own since the age of 17 and never had any help. I raised my two daughters with no child support as a single parent. I’m having similar problems with my 20 year old daughter who recently moved back in after I made her move out last June for her disrespectful attitude towards me as well as my fiance. She has a huge chip on her shoulder and blames me for her lack of motivation and for the fact that she still doesn’t have a driver’s license. She expects me to drive her to work and continues to disrespect me. I have recently decided to stop bending over backwards for her constant disrespect and ungratefulness. We’ve done so much for her to help her thrive and succeed including paying for an apartment out of town so she could attend college. I’ve cut ties as far as giving her rides anywhere until she respects me. My only thoughts on your situation would be to give her an ultimatum and tell her if she refuses to get the help she needs that you will no longer support her. It only takes two signatures to force her to be evaluated in a psychiatric hospital. that may seem harsh but it seems to be the only answer in your situation. I do feel for you because I understand what you’re going through and I pray that you were able to convince her to get the help that she needs. She is lucky to have you and needs to appreciate everything that you are doing and have done for her. My mother and I have a very strained relationship but I will say as far as what she told me growing up is to never enable bad behavior no better who it is that is treating you that way. I certainly wish you the very best. When our children show no accountability for their actions it is impossible for them to thrive in life and as long as they blame us or others for their shortcomings they will continue to disrespect and blame us for anything and everything that goes wrong. Dr Phil said something that I never will forget and that is you teach others how to treat us.

    2. Carlene G.

      I am so sorry. I lost my 2, 4 and 13 year old grandchildren overnight.
      I believe the pain is as close to losing your grandbabies to death as you can get.

    3. Terrie L.

      I’m beginning to notice a pattern here. For those of us who did our best and provided nothing but unconditional love and kindness, even if we did not have much, are the doormats.

    4. Laurie

      Look up NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). They have caregiver support groups and many other resources to help you figure out how to help your daughter, if possible. I attend a caregiver support group on zoom and get emotional support and good ideas from others who are dealing with the same.
      Good luck! ❤️

  7. Rebecca S.

    Mike, Wow…I love the story about Penguins. I have become hardened by 6 years of abuse of two of my daughters. (Both in their 40’s ) They blame me for our divorce 26 year ago. They loved me when I could babysit…but now that the kids are teenagers, they don’t need me anymore. I don’t even cry anymore. I feel I need to just put them away in a box and put it on a shelf. I need to enjoy the remaining time I have left on this earth. I saw my lawyer and took them out of my will. If they don’t want anything to do with me now, then they don’t need my money. (just more money for my other two children) My lawyer said that this is becoming very common. What a shame. God bless us all.

    Reply
  8. Irene

    I can’t believe my eyes reading these posts. I thought that I was the only “bad” mom. My sons are 35 and 44. I have come to conclusion that one cannot be called an Adult, until he/she rethinks his/her life, stop blaming his/her parents, and move on his/her life. What I see now… they are still teenagers.

    Reply
    1. Carlene G.

      My 40 year old daughter has always been extremely emotional when things didn’t go her way. Most people see her as sweet, loving and kind. She is. Or can be. Hoowever, close friends and family have seen her melt downs. And say she is temperamental and difficult.
      She literally never liked younger brother. Admitted to it regularly. He was 6 1/2 years younger. “We always blamed her when he was little.” Her Dad became mean when her brother was born.”
      She went through 3 years of an abusive marriage. It was bad.
      When I became disabled. I took the kids as much as possible. But I did have limitations.
      At 39 she complained about her piece of junk truck, I not we, bought her in high school. I gave her crappy gifts. (I always gave money and a few things with it.) I did spoil her.
      Suddenly I am toxic. I didn’t handle relationships right. I was married to an abusive man for 35 years. He was ok with the kids till they were 16 or so. But my daughter was difficult. You can’t tell her no.
      I had a boyfriend for 8 years. I never told her that she was part of the reason my last 2 relationships failed. She was not the full blame but they did say that giving in to her on things as big as a house and how she talked to me at times was stressful to them. I never told her this. Probably never would.
      I went from keeping my 4 year old granddaughter 2 nights a week, taking her to school. Running my 12 year old grandson all over and keeping my 2 year old granddaughter every week to no contact. I needed too much help was the last comment from her and she didn’t have time.
      Everything I did was wrong. Even what I didn’t do was wrong. Then she blocked me and anyone who felt for me too. My children had vehicles, horses, horse trailers. Show animals, everything I could afford to give them. I gave her my vehicles to drive, a house to live in, food and money till she got back on her feet. She did her best so I didn’t mind, with the exception of giving up a house to her that I really wanted for myself. That affected my relationship at the time.
      But when I became disabled, I was too needy. Though I paid others to help me.
      My son says I did nothing wrong. He said she was always ungrateful, and threw temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way. My friends and family agreed. Even most of her friends, husbands family and my ex spouse agree but are too afraid to say so. I am amazed how many don’t agree with her but are afraid to say anything.
      Therapy was a must for her but no one could disagree with her. Even her new spouse said she punished him when they got home after a session if he tried to bring up his side.
      Even he shared her toxic posts yet is hopefully things will straighten out. She has a way of making people say they side with her when they don’t.

  9. Kristine B

    My 25 year old son, diagnosed late with ADHD, blames/hates me specifically, while he gravitates to his dad, who did not even want him to be diagnosed or take the medication.
    His dad pretty much does every task for him, so it’s a hotel atmosphere.
    Even with ADHD he still needs to be responsible.
    Cook something, do your dishes.
    Say something awful, say you’re sorry.
    If I tell him, softly, his shirt is on inside out, he rips my head off.
    Being a rude & disrespectful to those who support you when you are the most down, do not deserve to be sworn at with such vile comments.
    I have Hashomoto’s thyroiditis, so some how, I gave him ADHD on purpose?
    He can’t wait for me to die, thinking he will get the bank account.
    Imagine your son, hoping his crippled mother, “falls down the stairs?”
    I am disabled with 9 levels fused in my spine and he will not even carry a 12″ x 12″ ice pack up the stairs for me.
    He won’t move out, even though he hates me.
    He said he wants me to evict him.
    I told him, evictions stay on your record for 7 years, and ruin your credit.
    He thinks he is out smarting me.
    His therapist should be wanting all of us in at least one session.
    I went to therapy in 2002 for 2 years from child hood PTSD.
    I am not against outside, third party help.
    I called the crisis line one day, and got voicemail.
    What a mess.

    Reply
  10. 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 .

    Reply
    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.

    2. mike

      I once saw a show on national geographic on penguins and the rearing of their chicks. Interestingly the Parent Penguins raise their chicks for two years, then as nature works they turn away from the chick, and walk away never to see the chick again. Maybe that’s a practice you should try. My children treat me like shit. Blame me for all of their faults. Its seems easy to blame a parent 30 years ago for something, ignoring all the sacrifice you made for them and the good things you did
      . I did not abuse my children. I was firm in direction when I needed to be. Families are not democracies, young children do not have equal say they don’t have the capacity to do sol As I said I think the penguins have it right turn your back walk away. Children do not have the rights to abuse their parents because of their flaws. It will be hard at first but freeing. You only have one life and it was meant to be enjoyed by you. You have to choose between yourself and your children.

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