Breaking Free From Your Adult Child’s Manipulation

This life has been an interesting journey for me.  From babies, to toddlers to pre adolescent, to teens to adult children.  It was a shock to me as I found that the teen years were by far my favorite.  For my husband it was the toddlers and young elementary.

The most complicated, I guess hardest for me to to evolve into has been the adult child stage.  I kinda wonder some times if only I had done this or that at one of the other stages if this stage would’ve been easier?  And there you go – the guilt.  One thing I have learned is that guilt cannot be the basis for the relationship between you and your adult child.

Stay Calm but firm

Be calm, firm, and non-controlling as you explain what is acceptable for you.  Trust me there may be some push back as this is new and different.

Limit time

Limit the amount of time you spend resolving your child’s crisis. Encourage them to solve their own problems.  Even though you think they want you to fix it what they really want is for you to believe that they can fix it. If they respond with an “I don’t know.” to your question about what they think they should do then let them know you have confidence in their ability to work it out.

Let them know that you believe that they are the solution to their problem and you’re excited to see what  they come up with, since they know their circumstance better then anyone else.

Firm boundaries

Set firm boundaries with your child if he’s constantly using your guilt to manipulate you. One of the most important things is to change the pattern. You need to remove yourself from the emotion of guilt and center yourself in the emotion of love. Let them know of your love but let them know that guilt will not work any more. Describe to them the relationship you desire to have with them, and explain that to have that relationship there needs to be mutual respect and not blame.

Write your story

One thing that has worked miracles for me has been to write the story.  When I’m struggling with a child I write a story about what I want our relationship to look like. I talk about how it feels, how we treat each other and the good times we have.  I am telling you this works wonders.


If your child is living with you sit down and talk about the importance of contributing either in money or housework or both. They need to get a feel for what independence feels like and it’s not cheap.

Money Tree

Do not become their money tree.  They are adults and the sooner you help them to understand this (not with words but with what you do) the better off they will be. Trust me you don’t want a 30, 40 or 50 year old coming to you asking for money for a car payment!

Take a Timeout

Let them know you can’t give them an immediate answer but you’ll let them know in the morning or in 24 hours.

When my children were tiny at times I would need to take a “time out” I would shut myself in my room and lock the door.  I would watch as little finger would push under the door and they would say mommy don’t take time out!

With adult children take timeouts when they ask you to do or give things that really are their responsibilities to do. Think through the consequences of IF you do it how it will impact them, who will it effect.  Are you in effect “breaking their legs?” Are you crippling them? Take a time out.

School of Life

Remember you are the parent of adult children and are learning the rules of what does and does not work at the same time they are pushing the limits.  It’s OK to tell them you changed your mind. This is a journey take advantage of life’s lessons along the way and don’t repeat a mistake just because you promised them something earlier.

Not a popularity contest

Remember parents are not always the most popular people, and that’s ok. Be prepared for the negative response you may get if  for years you have allowed manipulation.  Show love but don’t allow the manipulation. He or she will most likely come around later.

Complicated, complicated, complicated that all I can say about this stage of life for me.  One minute I feel like I can’t say anything and then next I’m saying too much!  And then it changes depending on the child and on their mood.  But I have found that clear boundaries and expectations are a lot healthier then being mistreated and unappreciated. Write the story and go from there –