Adult Children and the Skewed Definition of Respect

control freak parents
Let go of the Reins

Why do adult children find it so hard to ignore the opinion of a parent?

When I was pregnant with my third child, my husband and I went over to his parents to tell them our exciting news but my father in law was not excited for us. He was angry. He didn’t say anything positive; in fact he stayed strangely quiet. My mother in law didn’t say too much either but I got the feeling that it had something to do with her husband’s reaction.

The next day, my father in law dropped by to see us and said that his wife had told him that his reaction to our news was not fair to us and that he should apologize. He launched into his “I’m sorry but it’s just that …” and then he proceeded to tell us all his judgements about us having a third child, and why this was such a terrible idea. He didn’t bother to hide his opinion that it was my fault and entirely my decision; as though my husband was a victim of a surprise pregnancy or as though he was not a participant in the event that got me pregnant!  Even though I was 36 years old at the time and both my husband and I were excited about this new child coming and we had never made the decision to stop at two children, we didn’t stand up to my father in law. We pretty much both just sat there and took it. We didn’t say that it was none of his business. It didn’t occur to us that he was actually insinuating that we were not smart enough, mature enough or responsible enough to decide on our own how many children we could or should have and that as always, he was reminding my husband that he should never make a decision without his father’s approval.

The bottom line is that it was not his decision, nor was it his place to give his opinion of why we should stop having children, but at some level we thought it would be disrespectful to go against him. The thing is though, what was our alternative? I was pregnant. We were in a no win situation. We were having a baby with or without his approval. The whole thing just hurt.

So again, why do adult children find it so hard to ignore the opinion of a parent? Why didn’t my husband tell his father to mind his own business about how many babies we were going to have? Why did we just sit there and listen to him go on and on? Why did we let him communicate to us that we were not smart enough to decide on our own how many kids we could or should have? Well for one thing our definition of respect was skewed.

The only reason he didn’t want us to have any more kids was because it interfered with his plans for my husband. My husband was his father’s hired man even though we had our own farm. Having children interfered with my husband’s work hours. So who was it really “best” for if we didn’t have any more kids? It had nothing to do with my husband and I. Growing up, our parents had not empowered us to transition from child to independent adult.  We had rarely been validated in our decisions. We were never approved of and were caught in the spin of always seeking approval; always trying to please. Therefore when we got a lecture about why we should not have another baby, we were well conditioned to accept judgement and reprimand. We have a different definition of respect today and we strive not to pass the old family systems on to our children.

Just another truth I discovered along the journey.

Darlene Ouimet

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91 response to "Adult Children and the Skewed Definition of Respect"

  1. By: Cori Rice Posted: 15th August

    If more people realize that being a parent is a privilege and not a right, there wouldn’t be any bullshit statements like “but that’s still your mother or father” despite any abuse that was endured.

  2. By: Cori Rice Posted: 20th May

    I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m sick of people talking all this bullshit about how we should respect our parents. But no one talks about how parents should treat their children to get respect. It’s time for the double standards and hypocrisy to stop.

  3. By: PaulaL Posted: 10th February

    This article really hit home. When we announced the pending arrival of our third no one and I mean no one in our families was happy for us. We are mid thirties and fully self sufficient and have been since our early twenties. I will never forget the look that was on my mil face when told her about our son. She looked god smacked and was momentarily speechless. When the words came they were “well there is nothing we can do about it now.” I think a grandparent’s job is to love their grandchildren and rejoice in the fact their family tree is growing. What in the hell would cause such a negative reaction to a child she does not have to support, only love. He is over a year old and she still has hardly made an effort to know him. It is heart breaking since this same relative will twist herself into knots for the other set of grandkids. It has divided the family. I want these cycles of hurtful family relationships to end. I know I can’t persuade or force anyone to love another. We have addressed it to her and she will not acknowledge any of it! I know in my head that I don’t need the approval of older family members but its so reassuring to know they are supportive and when it is clear that they are not supportive it can be difficult to understand. Thanks for the article, it was a good perspective check.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 10th February

      Hi PaulaL
      Welcome to emerging from broken ~ When we drew our boundaries, my daughter (who was about 8 or 9 at the time I think) told us that they treated her differently. We had no idea that she KNEW they treated her differently than the other kids. Even her siblings had noticed it. I am so glad that we drew the lines before it was too late for the kids because this kind of thing causes so much self esteem damage to the child!
      hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Molly Posted: 20th November

    This is great stuff! I can’t thank you enough.
    A year ago last month it was my mothers birthday. I called her to wish her a good one and as usual she was miserable. She proceeded to rant and tell me “how her kids are pieces if s*^ts”. For the first time I stood up to her. Telling her I didn’t need to be spoken to like that, and if she wanted to trash me and my siblings she could go else where.
    We haven’t been right since. I called her offering help in April when she had knee surgery. The last 10 times we have talked have been me calling her. She says she gets no respect from me and she doesn’t have to call me. I’m supposed to call my mother. It’s been 3 weeks and neither one has called. Should I call or is this part if the boundaries that have been set? Everyone above has helped me immensely. I related 100%. Last night I cried for the first time and said out loud I miss my mom.
    Thank again,

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 20th November

      Hi Molly
      Welcome to EFB ~ In my exp. this “holding out on her part” is about reinforcing her wishes and the way she insists on doing relationship. It might help you to make your decision about calling or not, if you read a bunch more of the articles here. Check the mother daughter category posts. Thanks for sharing! you are not alone here!
      hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Amber Posted: 9th November

    Ugh, spellcheck mangled my last post! But I think the message is clear.

  6. By: Amber Posted: 9th November

    DXS, you needed a decoder book, and I needed the script to my Mom’s play. If I didn’t say the right thing ( the thing she expected me to say) I was in trouble. It usually involved having to agree with her or having her try to sucker me into whatever argument with whatever family member she was currently involved in. Now hen I opted out, I vibe came the family member she was arguing with. It was a no win situation!

  7. By: DXS Posted: 9th November

    Just wanted to read this again…….

    For me, it’s not so much that my mom had any specific “plans” for me…… just that… She wanted to conform to whatever was the norms of the small town I was from, so I had to be just like everyone else, and she had issues if I wasn’t….. despite telling me, “It’s ok to be different….” Didn’t mean what she said, didn’t say what she meant. Need a decoder book to talk to her…..

  8. By: Cori Rice Posted: 1st October

    Even though times have changed and people are realizing that children (minor and adult) are people too and not the property of their parents. There are still many people who are brainwashed by the false, one-sided belief that parents have the right to treat and talk to their kids however they please and we still have to respect them. This is absurd! This kind of thinking is the reason why so many children and adult children keep everything bottled up inside and refuse to reach out to others and they are forced to remain victims instead of survivors. The ones that do choose to become survivors are harshly judged and criticized for not calling or visiting the abusive parent in the hospital or attending the funeral. Comments like “that’s still your mother/father” is invalidating the hurt and pain the parents put you through. We should not be obligated to our parents especially if they have mistreated us in some way. We should not be pressured to forgive if the parent(s) justify abuse or have no remorse. The only time we shoud be allowed to forgive is when the parents have found Jesus. Respect should only apply to loving, supportive parents who treated you like the human being you are and not an object.

  9. By: Cori Rice Posted: 17th September

    I mean living out of my car as an alternative living arrangement due to not getting along with my parents.

  10. By: Cori Rice Posted: 17th September

    Parents do not have to like or agree with their adult child’s choices, but they still have to respect their decisions, in order for the adult child to WANT to be around his/her parents. Parents who are judgmental or verbally abusive are just asking for resentment and a distant relationship. I try to tell my parents this all the time but I can’t reason with them. For me, living at home as a young adult has been very stressful and rocky just because they don’t like where I work or my personality. Not because I can’t have a boyfriend over or I can’t smoke as a lot of people are too quick to say “their house, their rules” without knowing the whole story. After years of verbal and mental abuse I am strongly considering living out of my car but I know my family is judgmental and not sure how to go about it.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th September

      Hi Cori
      Not sure what you mean about living out of your car but your family is judgemental?
      hugs, Darlene

  11. By: DXS Posted: 27th June

    I agree with Dmgo’s assessment of her situation. Basic needs. I don’t see an issue with that.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th June

      Dmgo ~
      No I am not saying that is wrong at all, I am sorry my comment about this was unclear; I was asking because you told someone else as a direction for them; your comment was “DXS, as long as your mother’s basic needs are met, do no more.” and I was responding that each adult child has a choice about what they want to do as far as these kinds of parents are concerned. I would not judge someone for choosing not to take care of the basic needs of a parent that had been abusive.
      DXS stated “I’m just confused in general. Where is the line where a parent can expect a child to….. and a child is obligated to…… or NOT?
      I’m the only “unmarried” sibling in my family. However, I heard thru the grapevine of my siblings that if my mom needed care, mom does not want ME providing that care. I feel awful for this, but in my mind I’m thinking…. “Whew.” ”

      So What I was trying to say is that it is solely up to the individual if they wish to see to basic needs or not. Hope that clarifies.
      Hugs, Darlene

  12. By: Dmgo Posted: 27th June

    My reasoning for making sure my toxic mother’s basic needs are met is that, though she failed miserably with the psychological nurturing and stunted my emotional and mental health, I did have a roof over my head, and food, and medical doctor/dentist visits. I can’t let my mother walk the streets homeless and unable to feed herself due to her old age and dementia. I got her into an Assisted Living facility and then a nursing home where she is fed, clothed and has a warm bed to sleep in.

    You’re saying I was wrong to do that?

    Like I say, I felt responsible as a decent human being to make sure her basic needs were met. Beyond that, I have very little contact with her. And of course the staff at the nursing home and others think that’s terrible that I have so little contact. In their eyes I’m a bad daughter. But because I made sure she had her basic needs met, the Toxic Parent community thinks I was wrong. I can’t win!

    I’ve learned to do what I feel is right, and nothing beyond that and ignore what others think because there’s always someone out there to find fault and condemn you at some point. Knowing she is being fed and cared for keeps my conscious clear. Not having contact with her is keeping my emotional state healthier.

  13. By: Cori Rice Posted: 25th June

    It bothers me when people say “respect your parents” because to me it comes off as being one-sided. Whenever I try to confide in my mother about how my father treats me, all she says to me is “he’s your father” as if that gives him the right to verbally abuse me. No one should have to put with mistreatment just because they are your parents. If parents want respect, they have to treat me like a human being.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th June

      Hi Cori
      Yes and when it is ‘one-sided’ it isn’t respect. And it isn’t love. Being told “he is your father” is dismissive and invalidates YOU and the problem you are having. That isn’t love. Thank you for sharing,
      Hugs, Darlene

  14. By: Dmgo Posted: 25th June

    DXS, as long as your mother’s basic needs are met, do no more. Remember, no matter how much you do, it will not be enough or done correctly to suit her and you will stress yourself to the limit both physically and mentally. And since she does not want you providing her care, you are definitely off the hook. Yes, it hurts to realize that, but remember what you’re dealing with here. A selfish person who is not empathic to others, especially the scapegoat child.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th June

      DXSmax and Dmgo
      Dmgo ~ Why is it the responsibility of the adult child to make sure the mothers basic needs are met?? re; your comment to DXS. In my view, that is compliant with the dysfunctional system and the belief system that hindered me so badly in the first place.
      Hugs, Darlene

  15. By: DXS Posted: 25th June

    Veronica and Dmgo: This is the part where I get confused and feel like a tightrope. No, not from either of your posts. I understand both your posts. I’m just confused in general. Where is the line where a parent can expect a child to….. and a child is obligated to…… or NOT?

    I’m the only “unmarried” sibling in my family. However, I heard thru the grapevine of my siblings that if my mom needed care, mom does not want ME providing that care. I feel awful for this, but in my mind I’m thinking…. “Whew.” Maybe I’ll go have that Hawaiian Pizza that someone mentioned on another part of this blog…..

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 25th June

      I had to respond to your mother not wanting YOU to be the one to care for her and in my view that is a ‘truth leak’ ~ if you are the one that is standing up to her and drawing boundaries, if you are a truth seeker, then no wonder she doesn’t want you to be the one who is caring for her! She won’t be able to pull the wool over your eyes!
      I had pizza for my birthday this past sunday! Love it!
      hugs, Darlene

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