People have a lot of hopes and dreams when they have children. They envision the fun things they’ll do together when the kids are little, and they smile at the thought of spending time together as adults, tending to grandchildren in a loving, harmonious family environment.
But what happens if and when someone finds that they dislike their grown child immensely?
What can you do if you look at the life you brought into the world so many years ago and realize that you sincerely can’t stand this person?
Quite often, the key to solving this problem lies in trying to understand why you dislike them, followed by determining what actions you want to take from here onward.
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you understand, process, and come to terms with your dislike of your child. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
Why don’t you like your adult child?
It’s easy to just say “I don’t like my kid,” but it’s important to delve into the reasons why you don’t like them. This may involve some harsh self-examination in order to figure out why your relationship has gone downhill.
You’re disappointed in them.
Did your adult child show great potential in their youth, but instead of going to medical school, they decided to be a music roadie or eyelash technician?
Are you disappointed that in return for the countless hours you spent driving them to hockey or ballet practice, they now don’t call or text you much, forget your birthday, and don’t seem to care about your wellbeing?
Or is the disappointment because they haven’t achieved the same milestones you did? You were able to get a great job, buy a house, and start a family by age 30, so why can’t they?
Their personality is the complete opposite of your own.
For every opinion, value, spiritual affiliation, and political leaning, there is an opposite. It’s rare for these opposites to get along well because there are so many differences between them, and they’re so intertwined with life choices and preferences that it can be almost impossible to find common ground.
The likelihood of a right-wing, conservative Christian being friends with a Zapatista-supporting, ultra-liberal pagan is quite slim. The same goes for those whose personal interests are very different. Can you imagine an extreme snowboarder getting excited to go to a quilting festival, or vice-versa?
People whose children grow up to be their absolute opposites often find that there’s little to like about their offspring. Not only do they have nothing in common that they can share, but even the most casual conversation can devolve into a shouting match over differences of opinion.
How can you find common ground with someone who hates everything that you love? Or whose values are so far from your own that you can’t even bear to be in their company?
In some situations—such as when one’s grown child espouses views or participates in practices that the parent finds abhorrent—these two family members will downright despise one another.
If you’re in this situation, you may wonder what you “did wrong” for your kid to have grown up to be so despicable.
They don’t share anything with you.
When kids are little, they tell their parents everything. This changes when they hit puberty, and by the time they’re adults, they might not want to share many details about their life with you.
This isn’t the case for everyone, of course, as many people call or text their parents daily to keep them apprised of everything from work assignments to medical appointments.
If your grown child never tells you anything about themselves, sticks to small talk, or doesn’t even want to communicate with you, you might feel left out, discarded, and even angry.
They’ve hurt you repeatedly.
Hurt can take a number of different forms and can happen unintentionally or intentionally. For example, you might be hurt that your child chose not to continue family traditions that have been held for generations.
Alternatively, they might have hurt you with vicious words or actions so often that you can’t stand to have any interaction with them.
This can sometimes happen when an adult child has a severe mental illness, such as borderline personality disorder or emotional dysregulation. They’ll lash out in all directions when something sets them off, seemingly unaware of the damage they cause while doing so.
They might not even remember what they said or did during those episodes, but those they’ve traumatized certainly do.
What To Do When You Have A Grown Child You Don’t Like
How you deal with an adult child you dislike will largely depend on what the two of you want out of this situation.
Do you want to have a relationship with this person, but you feel frustrated that your attempts are being thwarted at every turn? Or do they desperately want your love and acceptance but you have absolutely no interest in giving that to them?
Withdraw a bit so you can analyze the entire situation and determine what you truly want here. Then figure out whether what you want is actually viable, or if it’s a pipe dream that can never come to fruition.
Let’s take a look at some of the situations you may find yourself in and what you can do in each.
1. If they disappoint you.
Quite often, people dislike—or are even repelled by—children who didn’t meet their expectations in some way. As mentioned earlier, this happens quite often if the child is neurodivergent or non-gender-conforming, and thus won’t fulfill the hopes and dreams the parents had for them.
Alternatively, your adult child may have made life choices that you find downright distasteful. Maybe you’re from an upper-class family and your child has chosen to live like a “filthy hippie” on a farm, tending goats and playing a sitar barefoot in the mud.
Or they’ve squandered the opportunities you’ve tried to set up for them and started venture after venture that have all failed miserably. You might be embarrassed to be seen with them and change the subject when people you respect ask questions about what your kid is doing with their life.
Determine whether you want to have this person in your life at all. Do you still love them and want to have a relationship with them? If so, try to view them objectively, rather than through a parent’s eyes.
If this person weren’t your child, would you like them?
Do they have any traits that you admire?
Or do you despise them because they fell so very short of the mark of what you wanted?
If you keep trying to form your adult child into a version of themselves that you like better, you’ll both be absolutely miserable. You’ll be setting them up to fail in your eyes on a constant basis, and they’ll feel rejected by you simply for existing.
Can you stop seeing what your adult child isn’t and start seeing them for who they are?
Can you accept that they’ll never share your interests or skills and try to appreciate the ones they have instead?
If so, try to find common ground. You may have dreamed that your child would grow up to be a lawyer, but they’ve inherited your love of carpentry or sewing instead. While they might not be the person you wanted them to be, you may discover that you have more in common than you realized.
In fact, you may find that one of the reasons you dislike them is because you’ve been trying to live vicariously through them, doing the things you thought you wanted to do in your own lifetime.
If they disappoint you because of the aforementioned inability to meet the same life milestones you did, then you’ll need to gain a greater perspective of the situation. For example, you might have hit those milestones because those were goals that you wanted, but that doesn’t mean that they share the same goals.
Alternatively, consider that the world is a very different place now than it was when you were younger. My parents’ generation was able to stay in the same job for decades and then get a full retirement package. My in-laws bought their big, beautiful home for just over $30,000 in 1975. That same home would sell for almost a million dollars today.
Try to be more open to learning about the struggles they’re facing, rather than assuming that you know all the details about what’s going on around them.
Something that was easy for you to do at their age might be significantly more difficult for them due to circumstances that they have absolutely no control over.
Just because someone got their master’s degree with honors doesn’t mean they’ll automatically get a job that 4,000 other people—who are just as qualified as they are—are also applying for.
2. If they don’t respect or obey you.
You might dislike your offspring because they don’t listen to you, whether you’re advising them on a situation or simply telling them what to do.
Ask yourself whether you’re being overbearing, and if that behavior is causing your child to respond in kind. Do you show them respect and courtesy? Or do you simply demand it from them and then infantilize them in turn?
The key thing to remember here is that your adult child is an adult. As such, the dynamic you had when they were eight years old isn’t going to be the same anymore. You are no longer in a position where you can tell them what to do and expect to be obeyed without argument, even if they disagree with you.
Do you respect your adult child’s boundaries?
Or do you overstep them and attempt to establish dominance, and then get angry when they insist on upholding them?
Maybe you feel that because they’re your child, you don’t need to respect them.
Alternatively, their perceived boundaries might be extreme or even unhealthy. In cases like this, you might need to “trigger” them and step in for their own good.
If you don’t like your adult child because they seem disrespectful or disobedient to you, then it’s a good idea to take stock of the situation as a whole.
You may discover that you have been intentionally overstepping because you don’t like the idea of not being the adult in control, at which point you can apologize to them and let them know that you will do your best to respect their wishes in the future.
When we own our missteps and take action to remedy them, that shows the other person that we do care and want the best for everyone.
If instead you find that you’re absolutely in the right, and they’re being rude or disrespectful to you without any just cause, then call them out on their bad behavior.
Instead of pulling the “I’m your parent so you need to respect me!” card, ask if they would behave this way toward their doctor, employer, or even a stranger. If they wouldn’t speak like that to anyone else, then it’s absolutely unacceptable for them to speak to you that way either.
They might respond with anger and even rudeness, at which point it’s a good idea to take some space from them. Don’t reach out to them, and maintain a “gray rock” response if and when they contact you. Be civil, but not warm, and don’t offer to do anything for them until they apologize and take action to build a new bridge between you.
It’s possible that they’re experiencing personal difficulties and lashing out at the one person in their life they truly feel “safe” with, because they know you love them unconditionally. You can still love someone at a distance, while making it clear to them that you won’t accept poor behavior from them. You’re their parent, not their scapegoat or emotional punching bag.
3. If you feel alienated because they “never tell you anything.”
Once again, ask yourself why this is, and what factors may be contributing to their silence.
Many parents want to be their child’s “best friend,” and thus overstep boundaries that really should be upheld.
For example, you might want to be chummy enough with your kid that they’ll spill the tea about their love life, but they’re not comfortable discussing that kind of thing with you. Similarly, you might overshare details about your own personal life that they never wanted to even think about, let alone hear (or envision).
The best way to bridge the alienation gap is to talk to your kids and get to know them as the individual adults they are. You might assume that you know what their interests and preferences are because of what they liked 20 or 30 years ago, but that doesn’t mean that they’re still interested in those things.
People change a great deal over the years, but if you keep assuming that your grown child is the same person they were at age 12, there’s going to be a lot of conflict.
Treat your grown child as though they were a stranger whom you’re interested in getting to know better. Act as though you have a blank slate on which to take notes, and find out who they are.
Ask the kinds of questions you’d like to be asked, such as the kinds of music they like, whether they prefer films or books, and what they do in their spare time. If they seem wary and ask why you’re asking so many questions all of a sudden, be honest with them. Explain that you are simply trying to get to know them better as an adult.
*Note: When and if your child opens up to you about their various preferences, try to refrain from making comments about what they were like as a child, especially in terms of definite statements.
As an example, let’s say you ask your child what kind of food they like most these days, and they tell you that they’ve been really enjoying sushi. Your knee-jerk response might be to say, “But you HATE fish!” When you say something like this, you’re informing them about who they are based on your own perceptions, rather than listening to what they’re telling you.
They might have hated McDonald’s fish sandwiches at age five, but that doesn’t mean that they still do. Palates and preferences change a great deal over one’s lifetime, and what’s despised in childhood might be adored in adulthood, and vice-versa.
4. If they don’t appreciate you.
Perception is everything, and that also applies to parenting.
If you dislike your ungrateful adult child because they’re resentful toward you instead of appreciating everything you did (and/or still try to do) for them, take some time to figure out why they feel that way.
Examine their behavior toward you, including some of the things they’ve said to you. People often choose to ignore information that they don’t want to hear, and this is especially true for parents who still see their adult offspring as children.
Maybe your kids have told you straight out that you were distant and mean toward them when they were kids, and you dismissed what they said as being overdramatic or ridiculous.
Or they’ve told you that they’re dealing with trauma as a result of being hit or overly punished, when in your opinion you were simply teaching them discipline and respect the same way that you were taught.
From your perspective, they aren’t appreciating how much you sacrificed for their sake, how you had to scrimp and save to pay for the extracurricular classes that they didn’t even want, but that you felt would be beneficial to them.
Meanwhile, from their perspective, you may not have allowed them to have a real childhood. Back then, if they had tried to explain to you that they were stretched too thinly and wanted some downtime, would you have listened to them? Or did you punish them for being lazy and ungrateful?
When children’s needs and preferences aren’t listened to or respected, when instead they have their entire lives dictated by another, they feel utterly disempowered. They have no control over their own life, and they develop resentment and mistrust.
Those emotions don’t simply disappear; they are repressed until the person can get away from their perceived oppressor(s). Now that they’re adults and have sovereignty over their own lives, they may be lashing out at you and punishing you for what they experienced as young children, if they talk to you at all.
From your perspective, you were a diligent, devoted parent who only wanted the best for your kid, and now you don’t like the person they’ve become. In their eyes, you were a demanding control freak who made their little life a living hell, and now they have a chance to hurt you the way they felt you hurt them.
You can try to bridge this gap by talking with them, explaining where you’re coming from, and asking them how they feel about things from their perspective. If it’s too difficult to discuss this verbally without raised voices, then communicate via text or email. Getting everything out in the open so both of you have a chance to explain your perspective without interruption can be immensely healing.
Understanding a situation is always the key to remedying it.
5. If they’re behaving like irresponsible freeloaders.
In most cases, adult children leave the nest sometime between their late teens and mid (or even late) twenties, depending on their personal choices as well as cultural expectations. For example, some leave home as soon as they turn 18 so they can start university or dive into the workforce, while others will live at home until they get married.
That’s not always the case, however. Some adult children choose to keep behaving like teenagers, and they stay at home for as long as humanly possible. Why would they leave when their parent(s) will support them? What’s more appealing, living in a tiny apartment and working a crappy job or playing games and partying while someone else is cooking and doing laundry?
If you have an adult child who treats you like a personal chef and maid while contributing next to nothing to the household, it’s understandable why you’d dislike them. Nobody likes to feel used, and if you’ve been taking care of your kid for 30+ years, you may feel like you’ve had absolutely enough of this.
In a situation like this, once again it’s important to understand how you got to this point. It’s the whole nature VS nurture situation. Is this person naturally a selfish user? Or were they nurtured into being that way? Very often, behavior like this is a result of how the kid was raised, so you might be dealing with a case of your own consequences coming back to haunt you.
Did you instill a sense of responsibility in your child by giving them household chores and cooking skills when they were young? Or did you do everything for them? If you spoiled your child terribly and now dislike them because they’re an entitled freeloader, that little monster you helped to create merely got bigger.
You may have had the best of intentions when they were growing up, wanting to spare them the hassle of chores so they could have a carefree life, but that doesn’t do anyone any favors in the long run.
In order to remedy an issue like this, you’d have to stop enabling your grown child.
You can sit them down and let them know that if they want to keep living with you, they’ll have to pull their own weight. Make them pay for half the groceries as well as a portion of the rent and utilities. Taking care of specific chores should also be a new requirement.
Know that you’ll be met with a seriously unpleasant reply. Some may respond with anger and resentment, while others might cry and try to manipulate you with weaponized incompetence.
You’ll need to stand your ground and let them know that this is the only option if they want to stay in your home. If they don’t want to pull their weight, then they’ll have to move out.
Be prepared for them to pack their things and leave in a huff, or they might get passive-aggressive if they stay. They may even pull pranks or sabotage your things to get back at you for being “mean” to them.
Ultimately, you’ll need to be prepared to kick them out if they don’t abide by your rules. You might even need to seek help to get your adult child to move out, such as asking relatives to come stand by you or getting law enforcement involved.
Don’t allow yourself to be used. You might feel obligated to keep taking care of this person because you gave birth to them, but although they’re your child, they’re an adult now. They can take care of themselves now.
*Note: Some people are hesitant to kick their kid out—especially if they’re a single parent—because they’re afraid there won’t be anyone to take care of them when they get old. In a case like this, talk to a social worker about the elder care options you have available to you so you can plan ahead to ensure you’re taken care of properly when the time comes.
If you think that your relationship with your adult child may be salvageable, and there are some traits about them that you actually do like or respect, then you can ask them if they’d be willing to try family therapy with you.
Working with a great therapist who can help you all work through your issues and learn to hear and respect what each other is feeling may assist in healing the wounds between you so you can move forward.
Alternatively, you may decide that you don’t want to put any more effort into this relationship at all. And that’s okay too.
6. If the relationship isn’t going to work out.
While many people cling to the idea that being “family” requires unconditional love and acceptance, that isn’t necessarily true. If you discover that your adult offspring embodies everything you despise in a human being (and vice versa), then you’re under no obligation to put any more effort into that relationship.
In fact, since they might feel similarly toward you, it may be a huge relief to them that neither of you has to continue going through the motions of pretending to care about one another.
Your grown-up child is an individual with their own personality. If you wouldn’t like this person if they were a stranger to you, then you don’t need to like them simply because you share genetic material.
This doesn’t mean that you have to be hateful or cruel toward one another. You don’t have to sever all ties and burn their baby photo albums in an attempt to erase their existence from your mind.
Merely treat them like you would any other person you don’t get along with. Be polite but distant when and if you ever have to interact, and then don’t communicate with them afterward.
Protect yourself if needed.
As a final note, please know that abuse toward you is never acceptable, even if it’s from your own child. Elder abuse is deplorable, whether it’s financial, verbal, or physical.
If you’re being abused by your adult child, please seek help immediately. Let your friends and other family members know what’s going on, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the authorities to help you if needed.
Get counselling to assist you with the healing process, and get legal advice if your child is listed as your power of attorney or has access to your finances.
Finding it difficult to accept and come to terms with the fact that you don’t like your grown child?
Speak to a therapist about it. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to dig deep into the reasons why you aren’t able to think and feel positively about you child, and provide tailored advice on how you can find peace in spite of this.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.