My Grown Son Hates Me. What Do I Do?
By: Russ Womack
Updated August 03, 2021
You wake up one morning and ask, "What happened?" I seemed like just yesterday that your precious son was cuddling in your arms smiling up at you and giving off those precious cooing sounds that forever melted your heart. And now, 20 years later, you find yourself at odds with him, arguing over anything and everything.
Hate is a strong word. Defined as "feeling intense or passionate dislike for someone," the description of hate is anything that resembles the child you nurtured, loved, and cared for all those years, and nothing exemplifying the grade school kid who would run home to show you that he could write out his ABCs. What happened? Why does he appear to hate you? And what do you do? Let's first look at some possible reasons why you're battling it out, and then look at ways to heal the fractures between you two.
What Could Be Causing My Grown Son To Hate Me?
You Insist on Being Right
We all have different stories and opinions, including a myriad of experiences that we've gone through together with our children. Parents sometimes feel the need to be right no matter the cost. But as long as you insist your version is gospel, then your children don't have a right to theirs. Accept their stories as being true for them. It doesn't mean you're wrong; it just means you're listening to them-something they desperately need during this crucial time.
You Cross Boundaries
Parents who find that their adult children seem angry or avoid them for no apparent reason may be confusing having good intentions with not looking in the mirror and realizing the real problem may be looking back at them. Not respecting their boundaries falls into this category and can cause toxic dynamics. A good example is marriage. Gentle, loving advice? Yes. Judging them? Never.
Just because you're still their parent, that doesn't give you the right to interfere with their life and cross boundaries. They're now an adult. Let them be. You need to stand back and wait to be asked for your help or opinion. Having a healthy emotional attachment is a positive and nurturing thing, but when emotional attachment becomes an obsession and preoccupation, it can be destructive and harmful.
You Don't Know Who They Are
We all change as we mature. We develop our unique views, opinions, and outlooks on life. Bottom line-your son is not the person mentally or emotionally that he was as a child, even if you think he is. Don't assume that you still know what he thinks and feels. Get out of the rut of seeing your son as a child and thinking he's the same now as he was then. His goals and aspirations have risen well above the innocent dreams of yesteryear. In fact, his new and revised plans for his future may very well surprise you!
You Think The Divorce Doesn't Still Bother Him
Ok, if your son was not an innocent victim to a divorce situation, you can skip over this one; although the message behind it might still pertain to you. Divorce, separations, arguments between you and your spouse that he witnessed. Sound familiar? Read on. Divorce introduces a massive change in the life of a child no matter what the age. Witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two separate households, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a challenging new family lifestyle. Ask him how he feels about it no matter how many years have passed, and then love on him and listen.
You Don't Let Them Lead
This is pretty straight forward and important to list. They're adults now (yes, adults)-they have a right to their lifestyle, religion, partners, decisions, and choices. You can advise, but don't overstep and intrude (remember boundaries?). Let them lead the life they're destined to walk through.
You Listen, But You Don't Hear Them
This is a longstanding habit that has been engrained in us as parents since our kids were barely walking. Why? Because at that time, we did know more, and it was our responsibility to be ready with advice to protect them from the dangers of this world. If you find yourself still jumping in before they've finished talking, telling them things instead of asking them, or talking over them, not with them, then your communication skills need to improve. Be quiet, and let their words sink in before you jump in with a response.
Now that we've looked at some of the possible culprits to what is causing your adult son to feel hated toward you let's look at a handful of remedies.
My Grown Son Hates Me, What Do I Do?
Allow Them To Shape Your Relationship
Our adult kids often call the shots with regards to their relationships with us. What does this mean? Well, for example, generations ago, adult kids would rarely consider spending the holidays with anyone but their parents. That's just how it was back then. Guess what? Things have changed, and that doesn't cut it anymore. Just like your child has matured and changed, so have the recent generations. Don't treat your son as if he is growing up in your generation; instead, be flexible and go with the flow! Your relationship with him is sure to heal, and you'll be glad you did it.
Don't Compete With Your Child's Partner
The more a parent complains to their son about his partner, the greater the chance they'll drive him away. This is a developmentally important process that must be respected. Stay out of his business unless he initiates his need for advice. He needs to learn the ups and downs of life on his own without you holding his hand, and you protecting him every step of the way will only do him, and your relationship, a disservice.
Treat Him Like The Adult He Is
You son is an adult. Treat him like one. Period.
Get out of your mind the little boy you raised all those years when you gave him the necessary tools he needed to survive in life. He's ready now. Yes, he will go through trials and tribulations; but when he does, you want to have a strong and healthy relationship with him where he can feel safe to approach you and be vulnerable. He needs independence and room to grow on his own, on his terms.
Don't Feed The Anger
Yes, you might feel angry. This is a whole new world that is something completely new and scary to you, and sometimes we as parents act out of fear, and it looks like anger. In our attempt to be supportive, friends and family may also fuel our feelings of betrayal, inadvertently increasing our anger. Anger is natural but not helpful. Step back and soul search within yourself what led to your estrangement and his anger toward you. What were the patterns? What started the downslide? Forgive yourself and your son, and move forward. Give you both a bucketful of grace and understanding, so when the door opens, you will be in a much better position to reconcile.
Focus On Yourself, Not Your Child
Put your efforts into changing yourself, not your child. Let go of your resentments regarding his harsh and angry words and the appearance that he hates you. Understand his need to flee-and forgive him. By focusing on yourself, you are not only bettering and improving you as a person and parent, but you're also giving him the time and space to nurture and grow into the man he is destined to be.
Be active, go to the gym, take a cooking class or courses at your local community college on things you love to do. The mere fact that your son left the nest is a lifechanging event in itself, and focusing on things outside of this emotionally traumatic event will do wonders toward healing you, and in turn position you and your son for healthy reconciliation.
"Do I have to?" you might be asking yourself. If you're in the wrong, then yes! Even if you're not in the wrong, it won't hurt to take the high road and ask for forgiveness, even in the smallest of things. This will position your relationship with your son for success. There are few things more powerful to the ears of a child than a parent admitting wrong to them and asking for forgiveness. Remember, you're the parent, you've certainly been through the highs and lows of what your son has yet to experience. Swallow your price and love on him no matter the cost-you won't regret it. Remember this-apologizing to your child is a strength, not a weakness, and will help to open up communication like never before between you. Here are some steps to take when apologizing.
- Own your feelings and take responsibility for them
- Connect the feeling to the action (explain in your apology why you felt the way you did)
- Apologize for the action
- Recognize your child's feelings
- Share how you plan to avoid this situation in the future
- Ask for forgiveness
- Focus on amends and solutions
Hearing the words, "I hate you!" feels like a punch in the stomach. It takes all the wind out of you. And being cut off by your son with no ability to communicate and resolve things is equally difficult. You need support in a situation like this. That's why being connected to others who love and encourage you is particularly important. In addition to reaching out to friends and family, consider joining a support group. If you are not able to function at your best, get some professional help.
ReGain is always available to those in need of help. Whether you need advice on relationships with your adult son or anything else, know that you are not alone and that we at ReGain are here to help you work through it. With ReGain, you can speak with a therapist 24/7, seven days a week. With chat, text, phone, and video chat options, you can speak with a therapist in a way that is most convenient for you.
You can contact ReGain by clicking here.
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