setting boundaries with adult kids

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
setting boundaries with adult kids
Tue, 06-04-2013 - 1:35pm


I am embarking on a scary undertaking that is  to set healthy boundaries with my adult kids.  Scary because there has been a pattern of ignoring me or verbal abuse  when I say anything to express my need to be heard or not be talked to that way, etc. then there is a long period of sience until it is broken by someone.  It is time for me to stop putting up, putting out and shutting up inorder to keep the peace.  Since they have been grown up I have given them a lot of space to decide when they want contact, etc.  So, with some there has been minimal contact except when they want something, or too much verbal abuse, or just ignoring.  A general disrespect and disregard for me. For example, gifts to the grand kids are not acknowledged, the other day after we have not talk for a while ( nothing negative, just busy I presume)  without any greeting of Hi mom, how are you doing, one of these lovely adults called asked me to do something,  I knee-jerked into my Good Mom, sure honey.  Texted him the info he wanted and had been calling me several times a day to get. So, do you think there was even a "thnx Mom"  NO!   Normally i just let it go. But today I sent the exact same text again.  You know in case the first one did not get through.  I am always the one who calls at Christmas, birthdays, etc to find out if my package arrived.   So, this needs to stop.  I need to set some boundaries and have no clue how to do it.  I mean in very practical what to say ways.  So I end up not saying anything because if i do there is usually a blow up.    How to talk to people who do not really seem to care. in order to set what I will and will not put up with and lthen how to not put up with it.  I do not want to jut ignore back without saying anything first. 

After one of my daughters started getting very rude with me while making plans for a family get together at eastser and her brother just the week befreo spoke to me in an extremey condescending way and the daughter ended up making me choose wether to drive her around on a side trip whe wanted to take but hadn't planned for or have to drive alone across the state for this event I choose, to not go.  And decided that this has got to end.  Looking back I could see a long pattern of a typical cycle of ontrol and abuse with this one.  The honeymoon period, the buld up of tension with little picky things that i ignore, the push the envelope which I can not ignore but very calmly say something and the silence, then she will call all lovely and I welcome her and everything is great until the next time.  This time i said, nope we are not just going out to have a fun evening until we talke about what happend at Easter,  WEll now she won't talk to be at all and called me stubborn and wanting my own way. and alientating the family.

After the Easter incident, I sent a very heart felt letter to each of them inviting them to think about what they would like for our family and if they wanted to find ways to be closer,  There was nothing confrontive or offensive about this it was a very loving letter. It ended let me know how you feel about this. I got one text that said got your letter mom, sounds good.  We haven't talked about that yet,  with the other five, not a single acknowledgement.

First daughter, will not talk to me now.  Middle kid is in contact, whe does stay in touch with little things like thanks for the card, got your letter, etc.

I would love to hear from you specific things to say that are healthy self-respecting responses that will set healthy boundaries.  My confident in talking wto these kids is shot.  I walk on eggsshells, really even when things are pleasant. 

So for example with this son who needed me to text something and has not acknowledege it or a couple of other things I've sent lately like birthday present to his daughter, that letter from my heart, a message that I could not come to his graduation finishing a special program for work. Only contact has been will you do this for me mom.   Please let me know how to next respond to this kid.  Next time he calls or texts, I want to say something like, I'm happy to do talk to you now, do this or that for when after you acknowledge my communications of late.  OR WHAT DO I SAY.  I feel like I let myself down  by just knee jerking sure, when there wa not even any minimal greeting to me the other day and especially when there was no acknowledgement of me doing that for him.  It is relly a little thing but a pattern. It is not an isolated incident.  

Myattempts at even engaging in a normal pleasant conversation is one-sided.  They may initiated something i say thank you then maybe aska conversational type of questions adn then there is no anser.  Because they live so far away a lot of our contacts are through phone callse or emilas, texting, 

In the last ten years I have longed for communication regarding how will we do holidays.  Or say, lets get together for a holiday , no answer and then later find out they were communicating with each other and got together.  I was out of the loop.  This Christmas I will make my own plans, not put them first and end up alone and if they do invite me I will have other plans.  That is how is ends up too.  So no matter what i end up not going to a lot of family events.  And get blamed.

I want to make it very clear, I am NOT trying to continue parenting my kids, i accept they are grown up have and have their lives, I do not need to be front and center.  I have my own very full life and am building a business  which sometimes does make it difficult to travel long distances.  I live on a small Social SEcurity (because I was a single stay at home mom) and did a lot of free lance to support us)  But if it is not me traveling there, well I would not see any of them because they travel every where except here. I send gifts to them, I get few once in a while.  

I am ready to let them go if they don't really care.  If I have a realtaion ship with any adult, including my kids, it needs to be respectful and reciprical.  NOt as in tit for tat but not all one sided either. I am tired of walking on eggshellls, not ever knowing where I stand, 

It is so difficult to know what to say to set the boundary.   Thank you for your help. 



iVillage Member
Registered: 01-22-2004
Tue, 06-18-2013 - 7:06pm

I feel for you because I´m in the same boat. I´m, glad you realize you have to set some boundaries. About your daughter who doens´t talk to you and blame you for alienating the family. Well, ignore her and if she doesn´t speak to you for a long time. Make it be her problem. I have the feeling here, that she is trying to manipulate and control you.(if you complain or open your mouth you will regret it) (

I would stop sending them letters were they reply "good  letter mom, sounds good" and to the rest didn´t say a word.I seems that the only one who is making an effort to keep the family together is YOU. It is good to fight for a relationship, but it is not good to FIGHT ALONE. That is tring you and making you resentfull.

I really don´t know how old your grandkids are , but I would center to have a relationship with them. Talk with then if they have received and liked their presents, and also talk with your grand daughter about her graduation.Skip your kids.

Your son who doesn´t akcnowledge your emails with the info he requested. Make a copy of the emails you send so you are sure it was sent, and drop the issue. It is his problem not yours.You can say something as "I really never knew if you received my reply because you didn´t say a word about it" Probabaly he will get the hint and if he doesn´t realize, that is just the way he is.

If you ask for something and you get no response, don´t show interest in people who are not interested in you having interest in them.

Send gifts to those who send you gifts. Ignore the others.

 I´m in the process of letting go my own kids because they don´t have time,or want to do anything for me. My only daughter seldom visits me even though she lives 20 minutes away form me, so I don´t visit her. She never gives me a present for Xmas of for my birthday, even though she makes good money, so I don´t give her any present..The only thing I care there is  the relationship I have wirth my grandson.. The only time I go to my daughter´s place is when my grandson is sick and he needs me there. I call him and invite him for a copule of days on weekends to stay with me. We have a wonderful relationship and he is the one I care at the present moment. My daughter is like a dissrespectul teenager who gets annoyed if I open my mouth, so I don´t like to be around her. I have worked in making my social circle bigger and I rather be with a friend or even an aquaintance, or alone  that being with her.

Making all those changes has made me feel less depress, but it has mean a lot of work.

Kids are selfish, at least mine are and I wont be a door matt for them or anyone else. We parents have our pride and If we are not treated wirth respect, love and certain consideration, there is not a place for us to be. Kids take their mom´s love for granted they had the feelig that they will be loved no matter how rude and unconsiderate they are. But that is not true, peole get tired of doing and making an effrot ofr things to work out.

They are busy living their lives, so get busy living your own life. We had to give a lot when they wre kids but now their are suposedly grown adults, not ethernal kids. They need to grow, but some of them will never do it.

Please buy a book  "Boundaries", excellet book, and there is alo a bok about "Boundaries with adult children" Focus on yourself, do things that you like, give to yourself what you need, and center your happiness in yourself.

There would be here only two outcomes either they change or they won´t. But whatever happens will be less important for you.

They might not like you changing and will try to force you to the old ways but you have to be corageous. Your kids need tough love.

We can´t change anyone, we can only change ourselves.

Hope I have helped!

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-22-2004
Tue, 06-18-2013 - 7:31pm

There is a reply for you in the second post, because it was duplicated.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-22-2004
Tue, 06-18-2013 - 7:35pm

Just neede to add a small comment. Days ago, my daughter complained with me that is seems that she has No family. With out being tude and confronting i just added "Well, it is the same for me". I FELT GREAT!

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2010
Mon, 07-01-2013 - 6:17pm

  I, too , have problems with my 4 adult DDs (ages 21-29) more due to their parents divorce 6 years ago and my remarrying someone they dislike, but that's another story.

I am sorry your children treat you like this, but you have gotten much good advice as I have, too, on these boards regarding my own children.  It's not easy setting boundaries, but, it IS necessary, although painful when that adult child chooses to remove themself from your life as my DD26 has from mine.  She was cruel, disrespectful, etc...until I broke and told her we were done until she did XYZ.  She has refused by her silence and absense from my life.  She will respond to my texts that remain generic and did return the one phone call I've made to her since January (but I couldn't pick up as  was on the phone with one of her sisters).  Anyway,  It still hurts to hear she is "family" with her father & his wife, but not with me and dh.  It hurts to hear she attends THEIR family functions and eats dinner at their house, but none of my children will even make the effort to go to MY mother's 80th birthday party this month and I told my DD21 so today when we had lunch.  She mentioned a family gathering at her father's yesterday and I told her I ddn't want to hear about it (my ex's family was MY family for 30 years, so still stings to hear about the gatherings I am no longer a part of) and that it hurt that she & her sister won't EVEN  make the effort to go to their grandmother's party.  (My DDs were raised mostly around my ex's family, so barely consider MY family "family").  My older 2 DDs live on opposite coasts, so obviously can't attend, but wouldn't anyway.  It makes me very sad. 

Anyway, I remember Sonergy giving me good advice from time to time as well.  I have tried everything to make it quit hurting...even see a counselor, but the pain of knowing how they feel about my family and my new dh and won't be "family" with us...still hurts.  I try to just accept it like my counselor has told me to do, but it's difficult and my heart still aches when I hear of them being with "family".  I'm hoping as they get older, marry, etc...that things will get better (my counselor tells me it will), but I'm still waiting. 

Sorry to have rambled.  I, like you, probably centered my world around my DDs (I, too, was a stay at home mom) and now I have been hurt, disresepcted, and often, shut out, so know how you feel.  I know it helped me to know that other parents of adult children have problems as well, so thought I'd share mine with you and hope it helps.  Set those boundaries and good luck!