My Grown Son Hates Me. What Do I Do?

Updated August 22, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Defined as "feeling intense or passionate dislike for someone," hate is not a term we typically want to associate with how our loved ones feel about us, particularly from our children. But as with any deeply bonded relationship, strong feelings, including hate, sometimes arise between parents and children. 

While it isn’t totally uncommon, hatred directed towards a parent from a grown son can develop into something more serious when left unaddressed. If your grown son hates you, and you don’t know what to do about it, it’s helpful to visualize your desired outcome: a harmonious, balanced, healthy relationship. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the reasons that grown children grow to hate their parents and what you can do to repair the hurt feelings and move toward that healthy outcome.

Getty / Inside Creative House
It's Hard To Cope When Your Grown Son Hates You

What Could Be Causing My Grown Son To Hate Me?

Sometimes we aren’t as in tune with the feelings of our loved ones as we’d like to be, which can lead to complications when it’s time to try and resolve them. Before you decide how to repair your relationship with your son, it’s important to consider if you’re unwittingly exhibiting behavior undermining your efforts. 

Here are a few things that may contribute to your son’s strong negative feelings:

You’re Inflexible

We all have different stories and opinions, including a myriad of experiences that we’ve had with our children. Parents sometimes feel the need to be right no matter the cost. But if you insist your version of events is the only one accurate, your children may feel they don't have a right to theirs. Accept their stories as being valid for them. It doesn't mean you're wrong; it just means you're listening. If you are wrong, it’s vital to acknowledge that. 

You Aren’t Mindful Of  His Boundaries

Parents who find their adult children seem angry or avoid them may have confused good intentions with crossing boundaries. Not respecting your grown son’s boundaries can create animosity and cause toxic dynamics.  While it’s tempting to want to “fix” problems for our children like we did when they were little- it’s not always appropriate or welcome as they grow to adulthood. 

Sometimes our emotional attachments towards our children can cloud our judgment towards how they live as adults. While a healthy emotional attachment is a positive and nurturing thing, when emotional attachment becomes an obsession and preoccupation, it can be destructive and harmful.

You Don't Know Him As An Individual

We all change as we mature, developing unique views, opinions, and outlooks on life. As such, your son isn’t likely to be the same person mentally or emotionally that he was as a child. It probably isn’t helpful to assume you still know what he thinks and feels in adulthood- now is an excellent time to “reacquaint” yourself with him as an adult. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh

You Don't Let Him Make His Own Choices

Your adult son has a right to his lifestyle, religion, partners, choices, etc., as much as any other adult. You may give advice when requested or provide gentle encouragement. Still, unless he’s engaging in dangerous behavior, it’s important not to overstep and push your opinions and values onto your son if they don’t align with his life as an adult. 

You Listen, But You Don't Hear Him

Active listening is the bedrock of any relationship, especially for those undergoing challenges.

For many parents, it’s perhaps ingrained in us to take over conversations with our children or split our attention between them and other things. This is a relatively common thing, especially when they're young, but as they get older, it’s necessary to change our listening style to suit their needs. For example, if your son attempts to communicate something important with you, speaking over him will probably only yield frustration. Meaningful conversations work best when they’re a two-way endeavor, so try to listen attentively when he’s talking and allow him to speak his mind entirely without interrupting.

My Grown Son Hates Me, What Do I Do?

If you can identify with one or more of the above behaviors, it may be easier to see why your son hates you right now and work on the behaviors necessary to resolve your conflicts.  Below are some suggestions for what you can actively do to repair the relationship with your grown son and ease his feelings of hate toward you.

Minimize Guilt Trips

There are several reasons that parents use the recognized “guilt trip” (either unwittingly or purposefully) to sway their adult children’s behaviors. For example,  generations ago, adult kids wouldn’t typically consider spending the holidays with anyone but their parents. But with time, behaviors have changed, and that isn’t the most common scenario for many families. 

Like your child has matured and changed, so have the recent generations. When you feel your son should adhere to the norms of your generation by coming home for every holiday, you may use guilt as a tactic. Guilt isn’t an effective means of getting what you want out of any relationship. Trying to use it on your adult son can create strong feelings of aversion or even hate. It may also mean you won’t see him at holidays or family gatherings. 

Don't Compete With Your Child's Partner

Choosing a mate is a developmentally important process that must be respected. Criticizing your adult son’s choice of partners can cause tension, but if they’re committed and in love, complaining to your son about his partner is a sure way to drive a wedge between you. Unless he initiates the conversation and asks for advice, it’s probably best to stay out of his relationships (unless you see that they’re abusive psychologically and physically). 

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It's Hard To Cope When Your Grown Son Hates You

Don't Feed The Anger

Because humans often exhibit “fight or flight” behavior when faced with a perceived threat, we sometimes react to strong emotions like fear with anger. When you’re fearful about your son’s future and your relationship, you may rely on friends, family, etc., for a listening ear. In an attempt to be supportive, those people may inadvertently fuel your feelings of betrayal, inadvertently increasing your anger. 

Anger isn't typically helpful when repairing relationships, even if it’s from a well-meaning place. Try to diffuse your anger towards your son for the sake of reconciliation- even if you and others feel that they’re warranted. 

Focus On Yourself, Not Your Child

Letting go of resentment regarding your son’s feelings and your relationship may begin with focusing on yourself, not him. By focusing on yourself, you are bettering yourself as a person and parent and giving him the time and space to nurture and grow into the man he chooses to be.

Try to nurture yourself by engaging in pleasant activities that you enjoy. If you like cooking, taking a cooking class may be helpful, or if you enjoy nature, spend time camping or hiking. Becoming an “empty nester” is a life-changing event. Focusing on things outside of this emotional time may give you the fulfillment you need and, in turn, position you for healthy reconciliation.

Apologize

If you’re wrong about something, it’s essential to express your apologies to minimize feelings of animosity from your son. If you aren’t wrong, take the high road by refraining from insisting that he apologize to you. Remember that apologizing when you’re wrong is a strength, not a weakness, and will help open communication between you. 

Here are some suggestions for delivering a heartfelt apology:

  • Take responsibility for your feelings. 

  • 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.

  • Discuss how you’ll avoid this situation in the future together.

  • Ask for forgiveness.

  • Focus on amends and solutions.

Takeaway

Hearing the words "I hate you" from your adult son can be exceedingly hurtful. And being cut off by your son with no ability to communicate and resolve things is equally difficult. But it’s essential to remember you’re not alone when coping with those feelings. Support is available through family, friends, colleagues, and your community. 

But the most effective way to handle difficult situations such as these is to speak to a counselor who can provide you with strategies for recognizing the behaviors that you exhibit that don’t serve you or your relationship with your son. A counselor can help you uncover the roots of the thoughts that influence your behavior and teach you how to manage your feelings best and reduce harmful reactivity in communication. 

Therapy is effective, but despite its benefits, only some choose to speak to a professional. The reasons for these are varied, from scheduling conflicts to feelings of insecurity around confiding in a stranger about sensitive topics. 

But online therapy is an excellent solution to these and other barriers for people who could benefit from treatment. Online platforms like Regain pair individuals with licensed, accredited, experienced counselors with a wide array of specialties. These include using techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help individuals and families navigate the difficulties associated with relationships and family dynamics. 

You can speak to a therapist via Regain on your schedule from the comfort of home via text, phone, video chat, and online messaging. Online therapy is as effective as traditional therapy for using methods like CBT to help individuals cultivate healthy, balanced mental and interpersonal health. 

Below are some reviews of Regain therapists from clients coping with personal and familial relationship challenges: 

“Dr Bown has made significant impact in our lives and She is always giving honest advice and we feel she genuinely cares about our family. She is a valued treasure that we are grateful for in our lives :)”

“Yumi is amazing and a perfect fit for us. Just having one video session help our family so much in so many ways. He responses are on point and we value it greatly. I can’t thank her enough for all she has continued to do to strengthen our family. I would recommend her to the world that’s how amazing she is.”

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