|“My Spoiled Adult Daughter Claims She Had a Bad Childhood!”
BY DR JOSHUA COLEMAN
I had a very, very, difficult upbringing which was mainly my mother as my parents were divorced and my father had nothing to do with us. My mother was beyond emotional to put it mildly and extreme doesn’t cover it. She loved us children in her own way as dysfunctional as it was/is and as an adult I grew to an acceptance of her lack of being a supportive, being there type of mom, full of unhappiness always, etc, etc. just was and is what it is.
My husband also came from divorce and not a good situation.
We tried our best to be loving, supportive, fun, have experiences with our daughter. While we did for over a year and three years even prior to her not talking with us we always ask ourselves what did we do wrong in this second year of her not talking to us? We have come to the conclusion we didn’t do anything wrong and tried our best. Your book and listening to these seminars has helped re-enforce this belief. thank you.
So my question –we get nasty, angry emails from our daughter and or her boyfriend she lives with and it is full of lies and hate which she also shares with family. It is SO VERY HARD not to respond with anger to the lies and insult and accusations and that we are the mean ones. When we try to respond in a decent mature manner we get we are wrong and acting like a victim. We try making attempts to meet and or go to therapy and get yes and make arrangements and then get no.
How do we stop? my husband is at the point of just not wanting to answer my daughter at all.
ANSWER: It is hard to not respond with anger to false accusations and blame when you have tried hard to be a good parent., and especially when you know better than anyone what a bad parent looks like. Your daughter sounds troubled so it’s probably best to not personalize her actions. That said, I would follow the recommendations that I make in my webinar on dealing with abuse and disrespect, below.
1. Decide what you want to say before the interaction. What are
your goals? Are there particular points that you want to make sure you make? Write out the 2-3 most important that you want to say. If you’re particularly nervous, practice saying them out loud.
2. Have an exit plan. How will you get off the phone or away from the interaction if it starts to head south?
3. Consider prefacing the conversation with some ground rules if prior interactions have gone poorly. Say something like, “I know these conversations haven’t gone very well when we’ve had them in the past, so let’s both make a good effort to keep it calm and reasonable, okay? Maybe you should tell me what you’d like to get out of the conversation and I’ll tell you what I’d like to get. How does that sound?”
4. Express good intentions: “I really do want to understand what you’re saying. I would like to have a closer relationship with you.” Or, “I’m sure these interactions haven’t felt very good to you in the past either.”
5. Start by expressing a belief in the child’s good intentions even if you don’t like how he or she is saying it: “I think that you’re telling me something that you really want me to understand. Something that you think is very important.”
6. Describe your perception of your child’s dilemma that is causing them to talk to you in a disrespectful manner: “You must feel like I’m not going to understand it unless you beat me over the head with it”
7. Describe your dilemma: “While I want to understand what you’re saying, it’s hard to focus on it when you’re yelling at me or calling me names. I’m sure you can understand that.”
8. Ask for different behavior: “Do you think you could try to tell that to me in a calmer way so I can focus on what you’re telling me? It’s actually hard for me to hear what you want me to hear when you talk to me like that.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – JOSHUA COLEMAN
Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and a Senior Fellow with the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-partisan organization of leading sociologists, historians, psychologists and demographers dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families. He has lectured at Harvard University, The University of California at Berkeley, The University of London, Cornell Weill Medical School, and blogs on parent-adult child relationships for the U.C. Berkeley publication, Greater Good Magazine.
Dr. Coleman is frequently contacted by the media for opinions and commentary about changes in the American family. He has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, NPR, and The BBC, and has also been featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, Good Morning America, America Online Coaches, PBS, and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television. His advice has appeared in The New York Times, The Times of London, The Shriver Report, Fortune, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Psychology Today, U.S. World and News Report, Parenting Magazine, The Baltimore Sun and many others.