Long after grown kids leave home, they still like getting kudos from Mom and Dad. They beam when their folks say, “You make us proud.” They know they’re on the right track when they receive an occasional “attaboy” from home.
But sometimes those accolades are notably absent. Parents don’t express pleasure about their adult offspring’s achievements. They may even go so far as to be overly critical of the lifestyles and decisions their kids choose.
Sometimes that displeasure is understandable. A daughter marries a convicted felon, then has to leave him because he physically abuses her and their young child. Or a son is unable to hold a job because of recurring struggles with drug abuse.
At other times, adult children function at a perfectly normal level, but their folks still express disapproval. The grown kids are gainfully employed and contributing to their communities. They’re tending to their families. They’re staying out of debt. But the parents overlook the pluses, focusing only on perceived flaws.
Even when mature children are overachievers or working overtime to gain parental recognition, they can still fall short in their folks’ eyes. The family bar can be set to such to unreachable heights that nobody passes muster.
In other clans the accolades are distributed willy nilly.
One grown child is randomly considered successful, while another is labeled a flop. The criterion for such differentiation is inexplicable. Yet it dictates who is praised and who is scolded.
The results of undue parental criticism can be devastating. Adult kids feel unloved and unappreciated. They question, “What’s wrong with me?” They try fruitlessly to make things better. Parent-child relationships are strained.
Of course, parents aren’t always pleased with their grown offspring. It’s natural that at times they harbor sadness or concern for their kids’ actions. Occasionally, they’ll be able to assist with the problem. Most times, it’s best to remain silent and simply reaffirm their underlying love.
It’s also possible that mature offspring are hypersensitive about their folks’ opinions. They feel unloved or unaccepted even though the parents are pleased as punch.
Grown children realize they’re adults and that they don’t need approval from Mom or Dad. They recognize it’s time to write their own life scripts, regardless of what others in the family say. Still, close family bonds require a steady influx of love and appreciation to thrive. When that’s blocked by condemnation and disfavor, relationships shrivel and die.
HOW TO DEAL WITH ONGOING PARENTAL CRITICISM
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com