How to Deal With a Disrespectful Grown Child

Goda Brzozauskaite
  • Apr 18, 2022
  • 5 min read
stressed teenager thinking about his actions

If you have kids, then you know that no matter who you are or where you live, parents around the world all share one thing: the dream of watching their children grow up. 

You’ll often wonder who they will be, what they will become, and how their relationship with you will change as time goes on. 

While kids are young and innocent, it’s easy for parents to envision a loving, healthy relationship with their children as they get older. 

However, for some families, this isn’t the case. 

For various reasons, as children grow into teens and adults, the solid, loving relationship they once had with their parents is shaken. As a result, animosity is ultimately wedged between the parent and the child. 

A mother’s love is unconditional, and despite the strained relationship, they’re still one of your closest connections. 

While wondering how to deal with a disrespectful grown child, the idea of reconciliation may seem too far gone. However, it’s entirely possible with intentionality, commitment, and an open, forgiving heart. 

So, if you’re a parent and you’ve ever thought, “why is my grown daughter (or son) so mean to me?” then this article is for you. 

Read on to understand this difficult situation better and how to work to repair the relationship you once had. 

What Could Be the Reasons for the Lack of Respect?

Recently, the term emerging adulthood has become more and more prevalent with the high rates of young adults still living at home with their parents. 

Defined as a new developmental period ranging from late teens into early adulthood, emerging adults are missing many crucial milestones once thought of as segways into adult life. This can cause feelings of frustration and stress that can then spill over into everyday relationships. 

In addition, emerging adults often desire the freedom they feel they deserve, while still having to obey the rules of the house set by their parents. Due to this imbalance in power, tension and strain can occur. 

Parental characteristics, family dynamics, or home environment can largely play a role as well, whether intentional or not. 

Past familial history of abuse can also be the reason why adult children are disrespectful as well. For example, sons who treat their mothers poorly may act this way because of watching their own father do so for years. 

In addition, mental health and substance abuse can cause damage in relationships between parents and their children. 

Whether the parents are raising a child struggling with their mental health or the mother/father themselves are a victim, there’s no surprise that long-term miscommunication and misunderstandings can cause deterioration between an adult child and their parent. 

Why Does Disrespect Feel So Painful?

As a parent, the day your child is born, you begin to make sacrifices. Whether it’s sacrificing a career, your sleep schedule, your social life, or simply sacrificing yourself, parenting is all about giving – out of pure, unconditional love. 

So, when we experience disrespect from a grown child, it may feel as though all the sacrifices that have been made over the years have gone unappreciated and unnoticed. 

Parenting is no walk in the park. It requires blood, sweat, and tears. Many long nights, early mornings, and difficult situations are all worth it when we know we are providing our children with the best life possible. 

Yet, when parents are faced with grown adult children showing them blatant disrespect, it’s almost as if they’re saying none of it mattered at all. 

In addition, parents – particularly mothers – tend to lose their sense of personal identity when they become a mom. Often, mothers feel as though their self-worth is directly reflective of what their children think about them. 

When daily disrespect and resentment becomes a constant battle, mothers and fathers can begin to feel as though it’s precisely aimed at them as a person, rather than at the strained relationship. 

As a parent, you may experience the pain of regret and guilt over things you wish you had done differently. Nobody is more aware of your wrongdoings than your child, so when a grown adult child begins to list off all your failures, it can hit into the core of your very being. 

A third reason why disrespect may be so hurtful is that it triggers every parent’s worst fear: losing their child. 

Over time, parents become even more invested in their children, while children become invested in their own personal lives. 

When bitterness begins to surface and the adult child pulls away from the relationship they once had with their parents and, in turn, directs their energy towards personal relationships or careers, mothers and fathers can begin to experience the devastating emotions of feeling as though they’ve lost their child forever. 

How to Manage Disrespect

So, how do you deal with a disrespectful grown daughter or son?

When it comes to addressing this issue, the ball is ultimately in the child’s court. 

As children get older, they get to make the decision as to whether or not they want to repair what’s been broken and reconcile or walk away. 

However, there are some things you might want to look at to get a better picture of the situation:

Adjust your parenting style

No parent wants to admit they may be part of the problem. However, overcoming this sense of pride and humbling yourself to change is the first step in repairing a damaged relationship. 

Parenting rules and regulations you may have enforced during their childhood most likely won’t be as effective to use on an adult child and could be causing a great deal of frustration and hostility in the relationship. 

There are 4 parenting styles common to people who have children. One of the first research studies done on this relatively new concept of emerging adulthood showed that permissive and authoritative parenting styles were more positively received by adult children. 

However, research also showed the possibility of parenting styles affecting each gender differently. Emerging adult women had higher rates of depression directly linked to their parents' neglectful and authoritarian parenting styles, while emerging adult men did not have this link. 

Own up to any hurt you’ve caused

One of the most difficult things as not only a parent but a human being is admitting your faults. However, it’s also one of the most important things we can do when asking a loved one for forgiveness. 

No parent is perfect, and even through all the sacrifices and difficult decisions made over the years, you may have hurt your child, whether intentionally or not. 

Even if you don’t exactly remember a particular instance your child has brought up, acknowledge your part in their pain and take full responsibility. 

Don’t attempt to justify or rationalize. Express your regret and vocalize how you’ll avoid making that mistake in the future. 

By admitting your mistakes as a parent, you’re repairing that bridge of trust and open communication with your child. 

Consider therapy

Therapy is a great place to turn when either the situation is unable to be resolved at home, or you feel as though you and your child could benefit from talking to a professional. 

With family therapy, a counselor can examine the relationship and offer the best course of action with tasks such as exploring different methods of communication, setting healthy boundaries, and looking into past childhood experiences. 

With more and more schools and jobs using Zoom or Facetime, online therapy has become an option as well, and it may actually be a more comfortable and familiar format for a young adult. 

However, if your child refuses your suggestion to attend family therapy, you can also opt for individual in-person or online therapy. This way, you’re allowing a third party to give their unbiased opinion on the predominant stressors and triggers damaging the relationship. Identifying the most distinct problems and working through them together is an integral part of therapy. 

Final Words

Your child will always be your child. Due to the years of investment poured into them and the unconditional love you have for them, learning how to deal with a disrespectful grown child may feel like an uphill battle. 

Take comfort, knowing you don’t have to fight this battle alone. Sometimes as a parent, our words can fall short, no matter what we say or how we say it. Sometimes, a third party can say the same exact words we do, and instead of being shut out, the child will receive it with open arms. 

Allow in-person or online counseling to guide you and your child back into the relationship you once had. 

If you are interested in individual counseling, you can repair your broken relationship with your child from the comfort of your own home by utilizing online therapy platforms such as DoMental.

The road to reconciliation may not be easy, but with the expertise and assistance from counselors at DoMental, it will always be worth it. 

You Don't Have to Fight This Battle Alone

Talk To a Licensed Therapist Today!