Being a parent is no walk in the park, especially when your kids are still young, living at home and fully dependant on you.
But once your son or daughter grows up, to the point where they are fully grown adults themselves, it’s only natural to think they will treat you with kindness, respect and show appreciation for everything you’ve done over the years to raise them.
Sadly however this is not always the case, and if you’re reading this there’s a good chance you feel that your grown up son or daughter is being mean to you.
There are many reasons why grown up children are mean to their parents, ranging from jealousy and envy, to resentment of past events, feeling unappreciated or even because they are crying out for help and don’t know what else to do.
Whatever the cause, it can be reassuring to know there are certain things you can do to improve your relationship with your child by using some tried and tested methods and solutions.
Why Is My Grown Up Child Mean To Me?
Here are 7 reasons that might be behind your child’s behavior:
1. Cry For Help
Some people naturally find it a lot harder to ask for help than others.
If your son or daughter is someone who’s usually seen as strong and independent, and they are facing challenges in certain parts of their life – be it financial, work or in their relationships with other people – then it may be against their nature to simply ask for your assistance.
Being mean or disrespectful to mom or dad could be either a conscious or unconscious act, but either way it’s your child’s way of letting you know something isn’t right in an important area of their life.
2. They Need More Space
If your son or daughter is mean to you, one common reason is because they desperately want some space or separation from mom or dad.
As a parent it’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming too nosy, inquisitive or to set unrealistic expectations in areas of your child’s life.
But despite still being your little boy or little girl in your eyes, you are now dealing with a grown up who is old enough to make their own choices, and who wants the freedom to live their life on their terms without apparent interference from mom or dad.
3. Feeling Underappreciated
Parents are meant to look after their children, not the other way round, right?
Well, yes and no, because there are millions of examples out there where children of all ages look after, or to use a more pertinent word – parent – their own parents.
Many times this is dictated by circumstances, for example a parent’s age, health, level of income or relationship status, but nonetheless it can create a feeling of underappreciation for the child.
When a child feels taken for granted, it can therefore lead to them lashing out or being mean to their mom or dad through anger, resentment or sheer frustration.
4. Feeling Disrespected or Unfairly Criticized
Parents naturally want what’s best for their child, but that can sometimes lead to conflict if it results in your child feeling like they are being disrespected, unfairly criticized or that you are being too hard on them.
Although it can be a lot more difficult than it sounds, once your son or daughter becomes an adult, it’s time for mom and dad to “let go” to some degree, and to let your child live their life and make their own decisions, however much you may disagree with them at the time.
Dealing with your grown up child is very different to dealing with a teenager for example, so a child that feels like they aren’t being treated like an adult may retaliate by being mean or disrespectful to their parents.
5. Jealousy or Envy
If your child is jealous of you, or you are envious of your child to the point where it shows, then this could be the reason for the way they are treating you.
Perhaps your child is jealous of your career, lifestyle or financial freedom?
Or maybe you are jealous of your child’s youth, freedom or even their husband, wife or partner!
Whatever the root cause, jealousy can lead to tension, and if it’s not confronted and dealt with it can lead to unkindness in you and your child’s relationship.
6. Lack Of Coping Mechanisms
We all cope differently to life’s problems and struggles, and some people cope better with issues than others.
Have you ever had a bad day and taken it out on a loved one?
The same thing might be occurring now with your child, as they take out their anger or frustration on those they love and are closest to, which in this case is you.
7. They Resent Past Decisions, Actions Or Events
Finally, an all too common reason for your child’s behavior can be traced back to past actions of events.
For example, maybe your child (perhaps unfairly) resents you for something that happened a long time ago – for example a divorce, moving across the country and taking them away from their friends, financial difficulties that they blame on you etc.
The key thing here is that if feelings or emotions have been bottled up, they can build up over time to the point where they explode later in life, and this might be what’s happening with your child right now.
Advice For Dealing With A Mean Grown Up Child
If you think any of the above might be the cause of you and your child’s strained relationship, then don’t lose hope.
Here are some tips and advice that you can follow if your adult son or daughter is mean to you or your spouse.
1. Open Up
The first step to dealing with your child’s mean behavior is to have an open a frank discussion with them.
You shouldn’t automatically assume that your son or daughter knows or realizes that they are being mean to you, or at least not to the extent that they are.
Talk to your child about how you are feeling, and what effect their behavior is having on you.
And ideally you want to get them to open up too, and to try and find out why they might be acting the way they are (more on this in a second).
Open communication is often the first step to dealing with all conflicts and can greatly help solve a problem, and it’s no different in this situation too.
2. Listen Well
Moving on from the above, when it comes to communicating with your child, it’s important to listed well without passing judgement or becoming defensive.
Encourage your child to express how they are feeling by having a very open discussion.
Some helpful tips for effective communication include:
- Listen to what your child is saying and ask questions like “why”, “why not” and “what if”, as these will help you better understand the situation and their thinking.
- Show sincerity in your desire to get to the bottom of things.
- If appropriate, don’t be afraid to offer an apology, without expecting one back.
- If you want your child to change their behavior, be specific in what you’re looking for, and likewise encourage them to do the same if they think your behavior needs to change.
- Stay relaxed and patient, look for areas of agreement and never lose your temper or become frustrated.
3. Written Communication
Most of us dislike conflict, and often do whatever we can to avoid confrontation in our daily lives.
This might make certain situations easier to deal with on a day to day basis, but can mean that we don’t have the necessary experiences or tools at our disposal to communicate when we want to get things out in the open.
One helpful strategy can there be to communicate via written words with your son or daughter, which means writing letters or emails rather than talking verbally.
The great thing about letters is that you can get your point of view across without being interrupted or becoming side-tracked.
It’s also a good way for the other person to properly digest what you’re saying, because they can re-read the letter as often as they want.
Your child may or may not write back, but either way writing a letter can be a good first step in your bid to improve your relationship with your son or daughter.
4. Reflect & See Their Point Of View
Once you and your child have a two-way dialogue, it’s important for both sides to reflect and see each other’s point of view.
Without reflection it’s almost impossible for someone to change their actions, and that’s bad news if you are even partly responsible for causing your child’s mean behavior.
Ask yourself things like “is what my child saying true”, “have my actions contributed to this situation” and the like, because these sorts of questions will greatly help you see things from your child’s point of view and help you come up with a solution.
5. Acknowledge You May Be To Blame
“It takes two to tango” as the saying goes, so depending on what your child has said when they opened up, it’s important to acknowledge that you may be to blame – at least to some degree – for your child’s behavior.
Yes, perhaps their meanness and disrespect is an overaction to anything you’ve done, and as an adult they should know better.
But if you are a good listener and you’re able to reflect well, then you should be open to the fact that you might be partly to blame, and you may therefore need to change your behavior accordingly.
By being the bigger person you’re setting a great example for your child, and this in itself could help diffuse the situation and subsequently lead to your son or daughter amending their behavior accordingly – i.e. becoming less mean to you!
6. Give Them Space
Once things are out in the open, it can be tempting to rush for a solution, but that can often be a mistake.
If feelings have been hurt, or new information and points of view need to be digested, then it’s a good idea to give things some time to settle.
Time is a great healer, perhaps even the very best know healer out there, so give yourselves some time and space to reflect, to think about everything, and to come up with possible solutions.
If you are also guilty of being too nosy or placing too high expectations on your child, then giving them some space could be the perfect remedy.
Every relationship is different, but often some time apart from each other – which in this case might mean not contacting each other for several days or weeks – could be just what the doctor ordered to get things on the mend.
7. Small Steps
You’re desperate to repair your strained relationship with your child, or at least in a hurry for them to stop treating you so meanly and start treating your with respect.
But a word of caution – don’t expect things to get back to normal immediately just because you’ve now communicated how you feel.
It’s very difficult for someone to change their behavior overnight, especially if there are deep-rooted issues that may have caused your grown up child to be mean to you.
So have the mentality of trying to resolve things step by step and piece by piece, especially as this slowly-does-it mentality will help take the pressure off you both to come up with an unrealistically fast solution.
Last up, it’s worth remembering that there are professionals out there that are trained to deal with situations like the one you are facing.
A family therapist can help you to see both sides of the story, and their impartiality is one of their greatest attributes, along with their ability to help you and your child understand one another better and learn coping skills to bring you both closer together.
There are multiple reasons why a grown son or daughter might be mean to their mom or dad, and hopefully the list above will help you identify the possible reason within your family.
There are several things that you can try to help change the way your adult child treats you or your husband or wife.
Open communication is key, as is the ability to reflect, see things from all sides and to have the patience and will to improve your relationship.
Depending on the causes, some solutions will result in a faster resolution that others, but the good news is there are definitely things you can do to strengthen the respect, kindness and courtesy that you show each other, and hopefully over the long term your relationship will get to where you both want it to be.