We are in a new normal and I hope all of you and your loved ones are safe. It is unbelievable how just 4 weeks can change the entire world. Crisis of this magnitude has a way of introducing you to your best self. Your bravery, your courage, your perseverance, and fortitude. Your kindness and generosity and sacrificial spirit. And for some it also magnifies our worst selves. Our fearfulness, our criticalness, our bickering or complaining, our negativity, our victim mindset, or our self-centeredness and selfishness. Which self you allow to be in charge is up to you. Please take time during these difficult days to nurture your amazing self and put boundaries around your negative, fearful, or more critical self. We all have both, but which part of you is in charge is your choice.
Today’s Question: What can I do about grown children 33 and 36, who get mad at me and are verbally abusive toward me? I’ve always been there for them. I have helped them move numerous times. I’ve listened to them when they were down. I babysit their children all of the time. When they had no food in the house, I brought them necessities. I took care of them after surgery.
When one of them divorced, I made a point of inviting her out to dinner so she could get out. Not that it matters, but we are upper-middle class. We do not curse; we did not physically or verbally abuse our kids. They just lash out verbally if and when they get mad, mainly at me.
I have a neurological disease that affects my eyesight and speaking voice and ability to get my breath as well as a minor heart condition. These two children I’m talking about are my youngest daughters. We also have an older son and daughter. We have no problems with our son and our older daughter went through a “blaming” period in her life, but has matured and knows that her life is the result of decisions she has made.
What can I do about these two girls that cut my heart out with their words?
Answer: It is so painful to see our adult children express their worst selves, especially when it is against us, their parents, who would give our very lives for our children. Sadly there is nothing you can do to change your girls, that is their responsibility. But, there ARE some things that you can do about how they are treating you that may begin to influence and invite your girls to change themselves. You do not HAVE to let yourself be abused. That is not loving them or your own self.
When you are a repeat victim of mistreatment by someone you’re in a relationship with, you must stop and ask yourself what is your part? Please don’t misunderstand me. Taking a hard look at your part does not mean you are at fault for their mistreatment. But you must ask yourself why you have allowed yourself to continuously be mistreated and verbally abused by your own children without protest or consequence? Click To Tweet
My guess is that you fear that if you put your foot down and say to them, “I’ve had enough of this!” you fear to loose your relationship with your daughters and grandchildren. It’s true that they may respond poorly and not call you for a while because you’ve stopped putting up with their abuse. But my guess is that over time they will come to their senses and realize that you love them and they were wrong for the way they have treated you. Your stand helps them be more conscious of the kind of self they want to be. Continuing to allow them to be their worst self towards you does not help them stop to reflect.
But if that doesn’t happen, ask yourself what kind of relationship do you really have with them? It’s miserable and painful. Therefore, it’s time to gather up your courage and put your foot down with your daughters. The next time one of them goes off on you and is abusive, I want you to say something like this:
“I’ve decided I will no longer allow myself to be treated this way. I’m willing to discuss what you’re angry about with me, but I will not allow myself to be yelled at, cursed at, or abused the(or whatever specifically they are doing at that moment).”
Then stop. Watch to see how they respond. If they mock you or continue the verbal tirade, simply say, “ I guess you didn’t understand. I’m not going to allow myself to be treated this way. I’m going to hang up now.” And then do it!
That shift in your behavior will shock them. They probably will call back, ream you out if you answer your phone. If you don’t answer, they will probably leave an ugly voice mail. Don’t call them back, don’t engage, don’t argue with them or get into a verbal war over your simple request for them to communicate with you in a respectful way, even when they’re angry.
You will have to sound like a broken record and say the same few phrases over and over and over again. For example, “I will not allow myself to be treated this way any longer. If you’re upset with me and want to talk with me, you’ll have to do it without (screaming, cursing) at me.” Be specific here as to what the specific abuse is.
If they refuse to comply, hang up or walk away. Your new response is to keep repeating these same phrases again and again and again until they get it. They don’t receive the privilege of your attention or your company or help when they are abusive or disrespectful toward you. If they stop their behaviors, you are all ears and willing to engage.
Sound like a plan? Try it and let me know how it goes. Don’t give up or get discouraged if they don’t respond positively right away. They won’t. They’ll test you to see if you mean it. Stick with the new plan. Change doesn’t happen overnight and your daughters are in some bad habits that they probably aren’t even conscious of. But as you set your boundaries and firm your resolve not to be abused any longer, I believe that your daughters can learn to be more self-controlled and to express their anger or hurt in constructive ways. That is a win-win for everyone in the family.
Friends, when your adult children or any other adults have repeatedly treated you disrespectfully, what part did you change to change the dynamics of your relationship dance?