It seems almost taboo to talk about. In fact, we so infrequently discuss the topic of toxic adult children, that most people don’t even realize it is a thing. We want you to know that you are not alone. When an adult child holds you emotionally hostage you may find yourself experiences toxic behavior as controlling you with use of money or further threatening to hurt or kill themselves when they don’t get what they want. While suicide should never be taken lightly, if it is a repeated, guilt-inducing, manipulative, toxic plays for attention or leniency to get out of facing responsibilities, it needs to be directly called out and addressed.
One of the many ways your child may be abusing your is with what psychologists call “lying through selective memory”. It is a form of gaslighting, which we will touch on in a later article, however, the quick review of it is you are made to question your memory and your sanity. Your child will pretend that what really happened, didn’t actually, and make it appear as if it was your fault.
Money is also a key factor in toxic abuse. Do you find yourself constantly taking on their debt, taking on a second job, or taking on additional responsibilities? This is usually where you find your child making it appear as if they owe you. They’ll do a small menial favor, or something like mowing the lawn, and all of a sudden you are responsible for their well being. Alternatively, it can go the other way. If you find yourself under their care, they may end up using their money - or even your own - against you. Toxic children feel they are entitled to what is yours. You will notice that they constantly need to borrow money, while they have no intention of paying it back. Especially since they can not maintain solid or consistent employment. While it is okay to help adult children out financially at times, ensure that you are not being exploited in doing so.
Whenever a child has problems, it is understandable that you as their parents want to help them. It is a very natural, human nature response. However, toxic children will take this as an opportunity to take you for granted. And when you turn around and stand your ground you may notice that the will guild you for showing them no respect, when it was originally them that did not show respect. A lot of time this is where passive-aggressive behaviour will show itself, and you will find yourself feeling more and more worn down, and accept this emotional chaos as the norm.
Now that we understand a little more about why they behave the way they do, let's look at a few tips to help you break free from this behaviour and manipulation. First of all, remember it is not you! It is not your fault. When approaching your child, be calm, firm, and non-controlling in your demeanour as you express your emotions and ideas listed in the following few bullet points.
This one is especially important for your own sanity and well-being. Set a limit on how much time you spend helping, instead promote problem-solving. Ask them what their ideas for solving their own problems are. If they respond with, I don’t know, prompt them with a compliment on their resourceful skills. Give them the confidence to make the decisions or act on their own.
Ensuring that you are setting boundaries for yourself too. Have a safe space for yourself, a sanctuary only you can access.
Have Them Work For Their Money
Have your child help out around the house with gardening, cleaning, or other chores. Anything, even if it is small steps. Don't just indiscriminately give them money, as this is where they will easily take advantage of you.
Have A Safety Net
Create a buffer zone and a response that you can offer in the event that you are caught off guard. Perhaps set a rule that you won’t give an answer for a certain time period, such as an hour or two.
Important Things To Remember
You have the right to say NO.
You have the right to change your mind.
You have the right to reject your child.
You have the right to be loved.
You have the right to be cared for.
You have the right to a happy life.
There is a good chance that your child may reject you. They will leave with anger, claiming that you are the worst person in the world.
However, rest assured, that tough love is sometimes the best thing you can do for your child. And they will eventually come around.