Hi Tina, I wonder if you can help me with some suggestions on how to deal with my daughter. She is 20 years old and lives at home but, especially in the last couple of years, she has really begun to disrespect me.

I find it very difficult to live with her as she seems to take all her feelings and aggression out on me. Have you any suggestions on how I should react please, I would never have dreamed of treating my parents like this. Any insight would be much-appreciated thanks.

I keep reading a constant theme of young people not accepting responsibility for their actions and their parents just accepting or putting up with it.

Sometimes growing up as children we are taught that we are gifted or special and this is especially true in a protected environment. Once we’re out in the world we find we’re not necessarily what we thought we were and we have to live with the world as it is, not how we would like it to be. This can be very difficult for a child who has been brought up to think they are master of all they survey. That is still no reason for their parents to accept or enable disrespectful behaviour.

Everyone needs to learn how to manage their own stresses and emotions in situations like these. I realise it’s easy for a parent to get angry after all the sacrifices, time, and energy that went into raising their child. Your child acting ungrateful or disrespectful can feel like a slap in the face, but anger as a response usually makes the situation much worse because it reinforces that the adult child has the right to think the way they do or act the way they do and fight back.

Think back, was she disrespectful towards you when she was growing up, particularly during her teenage years when her hormones were going haywire and she was trying to figure out who she was?

In many societies children, as they turn 18, are considered adults but apparently that isn’t reflected in the way our brains develop. There is a growing scientific consensus that suggests that the adolescent brain continues to mature well into our twenties. In many cases, some of these young adults want what their parents have, a home, a car, money to spend, nice holidays but they’re not willing to do what’s necessary to get those things, sacrifice just isn’t in their vocabulary and that brings me back to the fact that children today are given too much and in turn expect way too much as they grow. They are constantly searching for more, never happy with what they already have which is so sad.

This development is both in a cognitive sense and an emotional sense. They don’t fully understand or at least they don’t consider the consequences of their actions, nor do they have the emotional wherewithal to regulate their behaviour. So in essence what the scientists are saying is you aren’t arguing with a grown child until they are nearer to 30. If they are younger than this, it might help to accept that they are still on the path to becoming an adult in the neurological sense which I know to the older amongst us seems ridiculous as back in the day, many of you were running a house and raising  3 and 4 children by the time you were 25.

There are not many people in this world whose love for us is unconditional. Parents are probably as close as any of us will get. A strange consequence of this love is the freedom it can create to think we can treat our parents poorly. Your love provides a safe space in which your grown child can vent and rage and show their innermost feelings. Perhaps their work or studies are getting to them. Perhaps being unemployed is harming their self-esteem and self-worth or it could be that their romantic relationship is in a bad place so they take their frustrations out on you because you’re there and you will take it. In psychology this is known as displacement. They feel unable to direct their emotions at the cause of the sad emotions but they feel able to express them towards you in the form of disrespectful behaviour. Unfortunately, they know that you’ll love them no matter what but, it can be very difficult a lot of the time!

In a lot of cases, I think there may be something else going on. Part of their identity may come from needing a feeling of independence, they need to spread their wings to find out who they are and what they stand for. If they still live at home, they may be struggling to experience any kind of real independence which could be frustrating their efforts to develop their sense of identity and, with the way things are with the cost of living etc, a lot of our children will be with us for a lot longer than we may have anticipated, this could be a difficult reality to accept for her and you after most of her basic needs were met while she was growing up and it seems never-ending.

My suggestion to you is to sit her down, explain how you feel, that you both need some space,  especially when she’s feeling angry as it’s not getting either of you anywhere. You are more than willing to listen to any problems she may have, you’re her mother and you love her but if she is to remain in your house, this constant flow of aggression must stop immediately to enable you both to lead a peaceful and respectful life for as long as she’s there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *