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What To Do When Your Adult Child Criticizes How You Parented

Kim Muench Images August 2022

Kim Muench, Becoming Me Thought Leader

“My 22-year-old daughter has decided she is very angry about how I parented her.”

“Big emotions, from our kids, can range from anger to completely shutting a parent out of their lives.”

“She likes to tell me all the ways I messed up her life. I realize I pushed her too hard at times, and yelled more often than I’d like to admit. I’ve tried to apologize, but to no avail. How can I repair this relationship?”

Adult Child Criticizes:

It can feel like a punch in the gut when our kids grow up and share all the ways we let them down in childhood. Especially, since we were actually trying so hard to be the best mom we knew how to be. Some of our parenting is attached to the childhood we experienced. Sadly, we may not have had the best mom or dad role models ourselves, which may have influenced our parenting.

Big emotions, from our kids, can range from anger (as in the case with the daughter above) to completely shutting a parent out of their lives. I’ve worked with several moms who’ve had this experience.

First, it will not be productive to continue to beat yourself up over what you cannot change from past behavior. Beyond acknowledging your part in how the relationship has developed, it will also be a waste of energy to sit in the “muck” of it. Yes, definitely reflect on and acknowledge where, looking back, you see hurtful or negative behavior, and then it’s time to move forward.

Consider The Following Approach:

If your daughter is living close by (or is still living at home), after doing some self-reflection, write her a letter sharing your thoughts. Keep this letter about your specific behaviors and try to steer away bringing in your emotions. Do not launch into justification for any of your behavior (after you’ve written the letter, have a trusted family member or friend review it before you share it with her). 

“Our time for doing most of the talking has now passed.”

Allow your daughter some time to read and process the letter and then invite her to coffee outside of your home to discuss the letter and her response. A coffeehouse is neutral ground and a public setting which provides the opportunity to keep high emotions on both sides in check. Better allowing you both to talk through the problems with less chance of either one of you bailing out of the conversation. 

Listen To Understand:

Listen to understand where she is coming from. I like the 80/20 rule. Which means we will listen 80% of the time, talk 20% of the time when our kids are young adults. Our time for doing most of the talking has now passed.

Listening to understand does not mean you have to agree with everything your adult child criticizes. But, it will give you great insight into her logic and emotional life – if you can take the time to listen. Validate her feelings; even if you don’t agree with them. Our kids, like everyone else in the world, want to be seen and heard. Apologize where it’s needed. Ask how you can move forward. And, consider what she’s requesting with an open heart and mind.

A Letter Gives Her Time To Understand:

If your daughter lives far away, use the same approach, only mail the letter and, if possible, after giving her time to digest your thoughts, ask for a short visit. If that’s not possible, ask to have a Zoom call.

The reason for the letter is to give her time to review and understand your perspective on where the relationship went awry and to give her time and space to process and respond. This may not happen overnight. Hopefully, with time, a calm approach, and some emotional maturity, the two of you can work through this chapter in your relationship. 

Sending you patience and strength Momma!

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Kim Muench Becoming Me

About the Author:

Kim Muench (pronounced minch, like pinch with an “m”) is a Jai (rhymes with buy) Institute for Parenting Certified Conscious Parenting Coach who specializes in working with mothers of adolescents (ages 10+). Knowing moms are the emotional barometer in their families, Kim is passionate about educating, supporting and encouraging her clients to raise their children with intention and guidance rather than fear and control. Kim’s three plus decades parenting five children and years of coaching other parents empowers her to lead her clients into healthier, happier, more functional relationships with compassion and without judgment. 

You can find out more about her mission and services at www.reallifeparentguide.com. She is on Facebook at Real Life Parent Guide, Instagram, and on LinkedIn as well.