setting boundaries with adult kids

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
setting boundaries with adult kids
14
Tue, 06-04-2013 - 1:35pm

Hi,

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. 

 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 12-17-2008
Tue, 06-04-2013 - 4:03pm

I thankfully have never had that problem. However I do have Friends who do. Stick to your guns and I know it's extremely hard when it come to your kids but once they get it through their heads that under no circumstances will you let them mistreat you, then I have no doubt you will see them start to finally respect you. Good luck and I truly hope it gets better for you.

Tawna
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
Tue, 06-04-2013 - 5:33pm

Thanks Tawna,

Yep...that's why I am here. To get some help know what those guns (boundaries) look like.   

Is this a good gun? ( in quotes)    A good start with this kid in letting him know what I'd like from him.  He has not yet acknowledged me texting the info he wanted.  How hard could a " Thnx, Mom"   be????
Didn't his mother teach him any manners? What is wrong with kids these days? LOL

I am hoping that this asks for what I want with a bit of lightness, no guilt no confronting, no lines in the sand,...yet.   Hoping it to get my point across without offending  and maybe even a bit of humor?  

 
Hey M.........,

I know that you are  really busy but I am wondering if you would  mind acknowledging stuff I send to you.  Otherwise I wonder: Am I invisible?  Did the post office fail to deliver? Did my message fall into a black cyber hole?  Did my phone screw up again? Do my efforts matter? Should I make an effort?

Thanks, Mom

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-17-2008
Tue, 06-04-2013 - 10:42pm

I'm thinking that will definetely get the point across with some humor in it as well LOL.

Tawna
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
Wed, 06-05-2013 - 12:54am

Tawna Thanks. 

Well, I can ask till I'm blue in the face.  The next big thing is so what am I actually  going to do about it if he choses not to honor my request.   That's where I've failed for too long. Asked til I'm blue in the face but did nothing but ut up with ugly resistance. Then for the last ten years, I asked little, did nothing, and put up with too much.Walking on egg shells. Boy did they have me trained well.  YUK

Thanks again.  it is good to ha from people who don't have this problem, too.. Can get a better picture of  what a healthy ault  kids parent relationship look like? 

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-17-2008
Wed, 06-05-2013 - 9:53pm

You have to stick to your guns and don't back down. I know this is much easier said then done. I have a very good relationship with my Adult kids. However not so much my Parents and Sister. I to need to stick to my guns and values and stop letting People make me feel like dirt because I don't agree on their ways and they not mine. Hang in there and you have a right to want to be treated with respect!

Tawna
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
Thu, 06-06-2013 - 3:09am

Thanks you guys,

Tonight i am feeling really sad and a bit crazy.  I got my son's printed school invitation in the mail tonight.  So am on one hand wanting to just move the sun and stars to be there.  Yes, I Ireally do have a work committment that day that would be too difficult to change around.

On the other hand I feel why should Ibecause he still is not responding to my messages to him. Then I feel mean because I feel that way.  ( that is the crazies)   I sent the one I posted here but added, " I sent you the info you asked but have heard if you got it.  i also sent an important letter a while back.  Would you mind letting me know......etc."  

He is not one of my kids who verbally abuses me, just doesn't really communicate very well.   He has helped me with a lot with  stuff like my computer (remotelye) because he lives about 7 hours away, tons of "fix it stuff, etc.  We mostly related talking about that kind of stuff.  

I just always doubt myself, am I being too unreasonable, am I too sensitive, get my feelings hurt too much, or expect too much, expect too little?     Yet it has been other people who are pointing out to me how I am putting up with unacceptable behavior. People who have good relationships with their adult kids. More of my crazies. 

Yet, with my friends, when there is an event we are all discussing it together.  Not leaving one person out of the loop and in the dark about the plans.  The only word I've heard about my son's event was I'm graduting from my classes in a month.  Invites later. And a text the other day from his wife, R U coming. I need to make plans.  I would have needed to make plans, too with work, with travel arrangements, pet sitter, 

Oh man I do feel crazy tonight and sad and guilty. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-17-2008
Thu, 06-06-2013 - 6:06pm

I think you might be over thinking it to much. I'm not meaning that in a bad way but I tend to do that myself. One thing I have figured out with my Daughter is that if I am bugged by something the best thing to do with Her is act like it doesn't bother me. If none of them are communication right and some are not being respectful, I would not go out of my way to give them what they want if they want something and are perfectly capable of doing something for themselves one way or another. If it's something such as getting the invite to a school graduation, yes I would make an effort to go. I wouldn't make a big deal of it though. I would just go and say contratulations and hope your well and see you later. That's my opinion but I'm not in your situtuation. It's hard for sure.

Tawna
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
Thu, 06-06-2013 - 9:32pm

Yes, I know the crazies. No -win over thinking on my part, despressed and feeling guilty.  This graduation..... I really have another committment related to my work and am not making the effort which would upset the schedule for a lot of other people   He lives a whole day's drive away.  He is 35 and it is his 4th graduation including high school. His Marine Corp Graduation I flew across the country, The first AA he got he didn't celelrate.  Yes, I am not diminishing the imporatn of his accomplshments,

I also fee bad I won't get to my grandson's 2nd birthday because it ,too would be another day's journey earlier and I am really busy with my work, trying to build a late in life business and support myslef with no retirement and very little SS.My main career was raising these kids full time and that does not have a very great retirement plan.  So I am trying to make ends meet now.  Anyway, I sent them a cards and gifts but still feel bad. That I can't be there 

My request to son asking him to acknowledge when I send  messages, mail, phone calls, gifts, ect. :   No response!  So......Do I want to put out the effort to drive to the next state (On the west coast that is a distance!) .and upset  clinets" schedules to be at his graduation. The clients have already made an allowance for me a short while bak so I am not so comfortable asking for another shcedule adjustment again.  This is my livihoood.

Thanks again Tawna....

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
Thu, 06-06-2013 - 9:37pm

Yes, I know the crazies. No -win over thinking on my part, despressed and feeling guilty.  This graduation..... I really have another committment related to my work and am not making the effort which would upset the schedule for a lot of other people   He lives a whole day's drive away.  He is 35 and it is his 4th graduation including high school. His Marine Corp Graduation I flew across the country, The first AA he got he didn't celelrate.  Yes, I am not diminishing the imporatance  of his accomplshments,

I also fee bad I won't get to my grandson's 2nd birthday because it ,too would be another day's journey earlier and I am really busy with my work, trying to build a late in life business and support myslef with no retirement and very little SS.My main career was raising these kids full time and that does not have a very great retirement plan.  So I am trying to make ends meet now.  Anyway, I sent them a cards and gifts but still feel bad. That I can't be there 

My request to son asking him to acknowledge when I send  messages, mail, phone calls, gifts, ect. :   No response!  So......Do I want to put out the effort to drive to the next state (On the west coast that is a distance!) .and upset  clinets" schedules to be at his graduation. The clients have already made an allowance for me a short while bak so I am not so comfortable asking for another shcedule adjustment again.  This is my livihoood.

Thanks again Tawna....

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2004
Tue, 06-18-2013 - 12:45pm

You can't change other people; you can only change yourself.  My first advice is to buy, read and follow the suggestions in the book "The Language of Letting Go".  Sure you want to be close to your grown kids, but allowing yourself to be a door mat is not going to get you what you want or need.  You have to first respect yourself before they're going to respect you.  You may never get the closeness, respect or thanks you deserve...

No, I wouldn't send any "cutsey" notes to any of your kids no matter how much humor you think you put into the note.  It will be taken as sarcasm or as mom whining.  Instead simply be honest and direct.  When your DIL asks "are you coming?", text back "please forward the details of the event (date, time, location, etc)".  If the details work for your schedule and you want to go, then txt back "yes I'm coming".  If you receive the information and can't come, text back "Sorry, but I have another committment at that time."    If they don't send the details, then send your son a congratulatory card saying you're proud of his accomplishment (if you want), but I wouldn't personally go out of my way to send money or a gift. 

As for gifts in general, give gifts ONLY because you want the person receiving the gift to have that particular item.  Don't send a gift out of obligation or because you expect a thank you in return, especially from people who aren't likely to respond (or not respond)  in ways you feel are appropriate when they receive a gift.   If you truly WANT your grandson to have a football, then by all means send him a football for his birthday.  If you're sending a football because you're his grandmother and you know he expects a gift from you on his birthday and you hope it will "buy" you some grandson/grandmother loyalty, then DON'T send him a football.  Send him a nice card saying "I hope you have a wonderful birthday" and sign it "love, grandma".  Gifts should be GIFTS, not expectations.  (Though I agree it's completely rude and tacky for them not to acknowledge gifts.) 

Your son asks you for information, you have the information handy and it's information you feel is appropriate for him to have, then send the information...with NO expectations.  If the information will take time, money or much effort to find and pass on to him, I'd send it when I have the time, money or energy to do it.  In other words, I wouldn't tear the house apart to search out that photo of he and his best friend taken in 3rd grade that's stored in a box somewhere in the attic, basement or one of your storage closets, but would instead send it to him when or if it works for you to send it.    Don't withhold it because you are getting even; just don't go beyond your comfort level seeking out and sending the information, and assume up front you're not going to get any thanks. 

You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear...and unfortunately, your children are behaving like sows' ears.  It would be wonderful if all grown children appreciated their parents and treated them appropriately, but it's so rarely the case.  You live in another state, so you aren't relying on your grown children to be your social life.  Seek out friends who appreciate your unique qualities and treat you kindly and spend your efforts growing relationships with them.  You are on the back burner at this point in your childrens' lives unfortunately, and you're only going to be sad wishing and hoping for more from them. 

I'm not at all suggesting you play games by not sending gifts or by ignoring inappropriate requests...I'm suggesting you do things that feel RIGHT to you with no expectations.  If it's a bad career move to put your clients off (again) to go to a family event, it's a bad career move no matter how much you feel you "should" go to the event...especially when you know you're going to come back home feeling sad, cheated and unappreciated by your children only to have to meet with unhappy clients!  If you don't go to the 2 year old's birthday party, then send him a small gift and a nice card with a sweet, personal "I love you" note from grandma.

On the other side of the coin, if your style is wanting to poke your kids in the eye with a sharp stick, here's what a friend of mine whose grown kids are real stinkers when it comes to being nice to their widowed mother does.  For years, she worried herself sick what to send her kids for birthdays and Christmas and was always heartbroken and sad that they didn't reciprocate, send thanks or rarely even acknowledged receipt of her gifts.  She has lots of money and her kids are quite vocal about how they're going to get a nice inheritance  when she's gone.  When she first became widowed, she went to work being "a good mom" by pinching pennies and scrimping so she would be able to leave each of them a nice BIG nest egg.  She was obsessed with wanting their inheritances to be big enough that they'd "always remember me with love".  One day she woke up and realized they are simply NOT the people she hoped they would be and that leaving them a nest egg wasn't going to win her any post-death adoration, so she started living HER life.  She has traveled around the world taking wonderful vacations, enjoying life, having new life-affirming experiences and enjoying what she and her husband worked their whole lives to put away.  She sends them birthday cards from all the wonderful places she visits and every year sends an updated 8 x 10 photo of herself in some exotic location she's visited.  It's her subtle way of saying "having a ball spending YOUR inheritance" while remembering each and every one of them with the gift of a photo of their happily-traveling, smiling mother on her latest adventure!  Now THAT's classy "revenge" in my humble opinion! 

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