Recently, Anguished in Altamont wrote in to talk about the anger she received at the hands of her daughter. Today we’ll finish up the topic, with advice from many of you who have suffered at the hands of children – and one letter from a daughter whose suffering came at the hands of her mother.
Children, no matter how old, can give us grief and anguish because they are our children and we love them. What is really tragic is that the grandchildren are learning that words don’t count, that respect and manners don’t count, and that parent behavior is not responsible or predictable.
Perhaps this abusive behavior might be the result of mental illness. This will not go away on its own; it will get worse. The sooner the whole family gets professional medical help, the better their future as a family is.
Been There, Done That
Thanks for the counsel, BTDT. You’re right in that the messages being given to the daughter’s children are not good ones. This is a situation that may surface years or even decades from now if the situation isn’t resolved soon.
I also have had this same behavior happen to me on more than one occasion with my daughters. The first time it happened I thought somehow that it must have truly been fueled by something I had done. Over a period of time (and children who did this!), I have discovered that it can be much easier to get through than I ever thought.
It hurts badly, no matter who is doing this to you. However, loving detachment is the secret. That means you stick very closely with your Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ and have faith that the person will come to her senses.
However, with each of my children who has done this to me I discovered later (sometimes years later) that the problem had truly been theirs. Their own personal sins were eating them up.
Sin is a destroyer. Whatever is going on with her will be hers to fix. You can only hold tight to your faith, composure, and, yes, love for this person. You may need to detach physically and emotionally to get through this. You can get through it! I’m sure this scenario is being played out over and over again today.
Your Sister in Michigan
Thanks, Michigan, for a new perspective on this. The problem could indeed have nothing to do with the mother. I like the idea of “loving detachment,” too. Sometimes the last thing a person needs is hovering from a person who is causing (or who is only perceived to be causing) a problem.
What a timely topic for me! I have a similar situation in my family that has caused agony in family interactions during the past two years. Any attempts to apologize or mend fences have been treated as further offences until I am paralyzed by the pain that spreads through our family, adding awkward pain to nearly all family relationships.
In fact, last night I went to bed in pain, pleading with our Father in Heaven to apply the healing power of the Atonement and take this burden from me because I can’t carry it anymore.
When I awoke, I turned to my scriptures (having resolved to put an Olympian-style effort into studying). My scriptures fell open to Ether 12:37, the scripture Hyrum Smith was reading just prior to his murder. The Spirit bore witness that it applied to my situation. I’ve been badly treated; I’ve done all I can at this time.
1) Satan rages in the hearts of some men (and some women) (see 2 Nephi 28:20) If you are trying to be like Jesus, know that Satan will try to find someone willing to attack you and undermine your testimony and confidence. I’m sure we all have people in our lives who live in a way that invites the influence of the adversary to sow seeds of discord. That’s an explanation, not a solution, I know. But it helps me to know the source.
2) Mothers have a unique role. The things we say carry a heavier weight in the minds of some of our children, Therefore they are more easily offended if they are willing to be offended or if they are married to someone who is easily offended. We are held to a higher standard. And even our adult offspring tend to think we are “all powerful” and therefore able to endure their “tantrums” or lashing out. This can lead to some adult children being downright cruel. This is another explanation, not a solution.
3) Some of earth life sorrows are of the kind that must be endured gracefully. After all we can do, maybe some family relationships are in this category.
So what’s the Solution? The same One who is always the Solution. I, too, intend to continue in fasting and prayer asking the Lord to strengthen me, heal my heart and work on those loved ones who “hate” me.
Steven Covey said, “Not only is the Savior our advocate with the Father; He is also our advocate with our Father’s other children.” I intend to listen for the promptings of the Spirit and be aware that the Lord may have something further for me to do.
I hear the call to forgive, but I know my forgiving someone doesn’t change their character. It will, however, free me from the burden.
There’s plenty for me to think about, repent of and work on while I “wait upon the Lord.”
Whew. Earth life is tough! And, yes, Anguished in Altamont, this does happen in LDS families. We aren’t exempt from anything! But we have the precious gift of the Holy Ghost and knowledge of the life-saving Atonement. I hope this helps. It helped me to write it.
Leah, thanks for sharing your experience with Anguished in Altamont. Your struggles (and your answers to prayer) will be a help to her in her own journey.
Wow, that is so sad and concerning too. I’m so sorry that she is treating you this way. By how you and your husband describe her behavior, I think it sounds like she may have a mental issue and is taking it out on you.
The only thing that I find confusing is that she apparently has the ability to turn it off and on by being mean to you but nice to others. Have you two ever had problems in the past? You said that you are not her biological mom. Is it possible she is having some sort of latent anger over not having her bio mom with her instead? I know it wouldn’t make much sense, but emotions don’t always make sense.
Have the grandkids ever expressed that their mom has anger issues at home? I agree with your husband that you should limit contact with her; there is no point in exposing yourself to someone who is cruel and toxic for you to be around.
Would you consider speaking to her bishop since her husband is apparently useless in this? I don’t know what he could do other than talk to her and maybe that would further anger her, but I’m just trying to think if he could help. Maybe he could offer her counseling through church social services.
Clearly something is wrong and she needs to get it worked out so she stops going after you. Normally my advice would be to avoid toxic people, but it’s not so easy when she’s your daughter. I’m so sorry for what you are going through!
San Jose, California
Thanks for your letter, Carolyn. You’re right in that the daughter’s bishop may have some insight that can help Anguished in this situation. He couldn’t divulge anything that had been told to him in confidence, of course, but he may have some input that could help. It’s worth considering!
Just want to say that the receiving of anger is very familiar. The problem many adopted children are facing is called RAD (reactive attachment disorder). The child feels anger toward the birthmother and shows it toward her adoptive mother for no apparent reason. The receiver’s feelings get to the heart.The mind better ignore it. My solution is prayer and patience.
Anonymous, I Hope
Thanks for bringing up RAD, Anonymous. I hadn’t heard of it before reading the letters last week, and it’s certainly something that’s worth looking into.
The mother who has experienced the wrath of her daughter is not alone. I have experienced this problem with several of my inactive children. They have a hard time forgiving even when it’s something I can’t control.
I know sometimes we don’t know we are offending our children. Holding fast to gospel principles has a way of annoying those who aren’t quite into following the Lord’s teachings. Let’s face it. If they don’t tell you what’s wrong, this behavior can and does go on for years, dividing the family and causing major stress. While I don’t know what her particular problem is, I know that communication needs to start for a happy ending to take place.
I agree that communication is the answer Judy. I’m not sure whether Anguished should be the one doing the communicating or whether it should be done through an intermediary, but this situation may harm everyone involved (including the grandchildren) if progress isn’t made.
My response would be:
1) My child with the same sorts of issues (though in his late teens) told me in quieter moments that he directed towards me all those ugly angry words he felt towards himself. I was just the safe target. Be sure all your words to her are praise and encouragement. Calling her to repentance won’t help; she knows where she is. We all need love, not criticism.
2) Consider why you felt the need to explain in this letter how she isn’t your biological daughter. Believe me when I tell you that if you feel that makes a difference, she does too.
3) Ask her to get medically evaluated (including but not exclusively for sound sleep). Physical issues can exacerbate every stress.
4) If you haven’t read Bonds That Make Us Free, by C. Terry Warner, do it. It was hard to view our own contribution to family struggles, which we think are our children’s alone, but it helped a great deal.
5) Be grateful for a rare opportunity in this world, which is to learn what the unconditional love that God has for us all is like and we must have to be like Him is. Agency isn’t for wimps.
What a fine list, RPN! It’s always great to get a good book recommendation, and your last sentence was terrific.
I think the advice the husband has given is excellent. We are supposed to love our families and remain close, but we are not required to make targets out of ourselves.
There is an unknown issue going on – most probably a mental health issue. Or, she has been told something very negative about the mother and is lashing out without finding out if it is true or not. A discussion with the daughter’s husband is certainly in order. Or there could be a hormonal issue going on that the daughter herself doesn’t even realize.
A discussion with the daughter’s bishop should be considered as a last resort; otherwise it could be considered a real breach of privacy. But if the anger is to a point that it is beyond even the bounds of unrighteousness, it should be an option. Where the husband may not be stepping in to intervene (he may be scared of her!), a bishop would be able to step in and confront her.
Thanks for a great letter, Bruce. I especially liked your observation that loving our families does not mean we have to make targets of ourselves. Well said.
As promised, our last letter on the subject comes from a daughter who looks at the issue from another perspective. Let’s see what she has to say:
I have debated all week to say something or not.
I am sure most people will take the mother’s side, but we have to remember we have only seen one side of the story.
I have a difficult relationship with my parents. I feel they are constantly judging me and nothing I can do is right. I struggle with my self-esteem and perfectionism because of this, and my husband gives me a lot of support.
The thing is, they have no idea of how their constant “jokes” and comments hurt me. Most times I ignore the comments and try to brush them off, but it isn’t always easy and sometimes I snap when it gets too much. I have previously tried to explain how what they say hurts me and they stop talking to me for extended periods, make me feel guilty, or just ignore it and continue.
They are harmless comments to some – constant comparisons to other people, to other people’s children (Wow. They are so quiet. Why can’t yours be quiet?), constant questioning of my choices (Why do you live so far away? How could you like that movie/music/book?) to really hurtful things about liking me better before my mission than after.
But they don’t see any harm in these comments and treat them like huge jokes – not realising they are the only people laughing.
They may only be small comments, but if they are coming constantly for 40 years they wear on you.
My parents speak to me and treat me like a child even though I am 40, happily married with children, and in a very happy home. We both are active and hold callings of responsibility in our ward/stake (as do my parents).
I know my sister-in-law gets the same treatment. She tells me of things my parents say and do to her, and so she and my brother have limited contact (they live one hour away compared to my 3000 kilometers away). My parents can’t understand why. My parents constantly complain about my brother and sister-in-law and the way they treat them.
There is nothing I can do but turn the other cheek and appreciate the distance between us that stops it from getting too much. The advice I have is to stop and really analyse your relationship with your daughter. Are some jokes or comments that you think are harmless really hurting?
Seek counselling together in an environment where everyone gets to have a say. And really listen to what she has to say.
Wow, Hurt. Except for the non-American spelling, I could have written that letter. I know all about the “jokes” that aren’t jokes at all. I know all about being called stupid (they pronounced it “stoopit,” but it’s the same thing) because of the way you list your name in the phone book or the color trim you choose to paint your house. I know all about people who drive others away and then cry and moan because you don’t visit them anymore.
I’m not speaking to Anguished now – I’m speaking to every parent who has an estranged child or anyone who has a friend or relative who suddenly turns a cold shoulder. If someone does not want anything to do with you, it just may have something to do with your behavior. It’s food for thought.
Until next week – Kathy
“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.”
Want more Kathryn H. Kidd? Visit www.planetkathy.com to read her blog, get free stuff, and participate in the new Ask Madame Kathy forum. Kathy also has a weekly column at the Nauvoo Times (www.nauvootimes.com).