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How to Handle Your Adult Children’s Disapproval of You

How to Handle Your Children's Disapproval


“Honor thy father and thy mother,” -The Ten Commandments

How to handle your adult children’s disapproval is a tough area to discuss.

These relationships are almost always skewed but if I were to pick one reason for an adult child’s disapproval of their parent(s), I would use the word, expectations.

My written thoughts below are from my experiences;  listening to my friends and acquaintances, reading and living through my own set of problems.

There is a multitude of reasons that adult children disapprove of a parent(s) actions.

Many adult children do not feel their parents are living up to “their expectations” and they become bitter. Bitter is a word I never use, and it is the first time in five years of writing I have put the word in a story. The word bitter means resentful, aggrieved, begrudging, spiteful, petulant with a chip on one’s shoulder. So, how does a parent handle an adult children’s disapproval?

On the other hand, there are situations where adult children are correct in voicing their disapproval, but respectfully.

The Worse Case Scenario

For starters, it takes two to tango. If your adult children have broken off contact with you and you have tried and tried and tried to rekindle the relationship with no success, my advice can be summed up in one word. Accept what you cannot change. Unfortunately, you have no choice when one or more adult children become so bitter, they no longer see the forest from the trees. This adult child does not know how to express anger, a common emotion. Sometimes, even though they are ‘our children,’ their actions are unforgivable. In rare cases they have turned the table on themselves, losing their parent(s).

A Major Decision

So, in the worst-case scenario, you are left with a major decision. I suggest you decide to live your life to its fullest.  Let your adult children carry the burden of bitterness on their shoulders. Shame on them, not shame on you. Surround yourselves with loving friends,  interesting acquaintances, family members you enjoy and activities that spark your interests. I will leave you with a fact: adult children who do not talk to their parents is epidemic in the United States.

Other Types of Adult Children’s Disapproval and What To Do

They don’t like the way you spend ‘your’ money. They don’t approve that you remarried. They don’t like your spouse or significant other. It upsets them that you are not at their beck and call to babysit. You should not have said this or done that. Perhaps they are jealous of your lifestyle. These situations and more create a major disruption in the relationship between parents and their immature and sometimes bitter, adult children. Everyone loses, especially innocent grandchildren.

There is a saving grace. The saving grace is communication. Most situations are solvable if parents and adult children… talk. So, my darlings, you are the parent. The best way to begin the conversation with these disapproving adult children is to say, “I want to listen to you.”  And follow it with this: “I acknowledge we have a problem and I want to solve it together”.

When Your Are At Fault and What You Should Do

I know we have invested our time, money and emotions in our children. I also know many parents cannot let go and overstep their boundaries. They bud into their adult children’s lives. This is a no-no!

Darlings, you no longer have uninhibited boundaries with your child or children. I suggest you keep your comments to yourself. One gets a lot further with honey than vinegar.

Don’t pick on your daughter or sons-in-law. Don’t rearrange the furniture in the living room! Don’t tell them how to raise their children. When one of my daughters left for college, she gave me a framed poster (that I have in my memory drawer) that reads: “You gave me my roots, now my wings.”

Darlings,  please don’t have faulty expectations of your adult children. Let your adult children live their lives by their set of rules.

I hope my musings have set a realistic tone. If you are abandoned by a child or children, you have no choice but to accept that you have no power to change them and go on with your life.

If you and your disapproving children communicate please make the time to engage with them in positive dialogue. Their feelings, right or wrong in your opinion, are really theirs, so do not become defensive, listen and respect their every word and find a solution while staying true to your feelings and opinions.

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  1. Excellent and thoughtful writing, Honey. I, too, have one of those “lost” relationships… my first-born, a son. His father, my husband, died when he was 13, and I carry the feeling in my heart that I have been very much a disappointment to him. He is now 53. I have two other children, his siblings, that I am close to… however, I grieve deeply the loss of this son. He has a good life with a wife and a son of his own… but is distant with the rest of his family. I have, long ago, communicated my feelings to him in a letter, but we have been unable to speak about anything personal in person. It is sad and such a loss for us both, I know. I know that he has missed having his father in his life, and I feel so very badly that I haven’t been enough. Thank you for listening.

    1. I know, there are no words. This is not about you. This is about him. For him to live in the past and punish a loving mom who was not perfect (none of us are) is unkind, unloving and disrespectful. It is time for you to stop feeling guilty and put your gilt on a back shelf and revel in your other two children until or if he comes around. If he never does, you will have to try and accept things you cannot change. Warmly, Honey

  2. Always keep the door open. When they get into their 40’s, it seems a balance can be achieved. Earlier, they often think everyone else had better parents. This is usually not true. We hung on, did our apologies, made amends. They are also. Just took some patience, understanding a few changes regarding our comprehension of these generational differences.

    1. You are lucky. Other parents do what you did and their children turn their head. It is a disgrace. Shame on them. Not shame on the parent who tried. I am glad your children are blessing you now. I am happy. Warmly, Honey

  3. Thank you, Honey, for this writing. You are spot on. While this may be the most painful thing moms will ever deal with, what makes it worse is when we dwell on it and miss out on precious times with the others who love us. I want to again remind Sharron and other moms out there what you said about this being an epidemic problem. Once I opened up about it happening to me, I was amazed and saddened at how many moms are hurt by their adult children.

    1. I cannot grasp why this is happening to mom’s who do their best.No matter what an adult child is upset about this display on their part is just awful. They are blaming their mothers for their lifestyle and anger. They should look in the mirror and accept responsibilities for their adult actions. Mother’s have to try and ‘accept’ what they cannot change. Warmly, Honey

  4. Thank you so much for this. I’ve spent way too much precious time trying to figure out what “went wrong”, longing for happy years past, and trying to make amends. It felt like giving in to say “that’s the way it is”, but, truly, sometimes it just is. I’m saving your piece to reread when I need some reaffirmation and a little boost.

  5. I found this article while searching for advice on “how to cope when a parent remarries” I have been a “bitter adult child” since my Father passed away two years ago. The thing is… I don’t want to be bitter, I hate it! I have been searching for an answer as to why I haven’t been able to let these negative feelings go without much success until I read the word “expectations”
    Thank You,
    Miss/Mrs. Susan Honey Good for writing this article.

    1. Oh I am so happy for you and your mother. I have tears in my eyes.You will feel so much better.And, you will make your mother happy.I understand how you feel. It is very difficult to see your mom with someone other than the father you love.I have struggled with this situation with my daughters. Warmly, Honey

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