My 18-year-old son truly hates me. I try so hard to love him but nothing I do is right.

- User Submitted

Hey, I want to say thank you for taking time to ask your question here at Parent Guidance. The question that you asked is a difficult one and, so I've chosen to spend some time answering it. The question is:

"My 18-year-old son truly hates me. I try so hard to love him but nothing I do is right and he tells me to F off, etc. on a daily basis. I have a younger child and it breaks my heart that he has to witness such hatred and lack of respect. I am worried that he will one day be the same as that is what he sees. I am finding it very hard to live with my 18-year-old son but he has no where else to go. He struggles to go to work and expects my husband and I to hand everything to him on a platter. Every conversation ends in aggressive words and I am so over it. This has been going on for years and I really don’t know how much longer I can do this. Everyday is exhausting and distressing. I feel it could be some mental illness but I have made multiple appointments which he will not come too. I say hello to him and he tells me to F off and an hour later he asks me a question like nothing happened. I honestly don’t know what to do, it’s a terrible situation."

You know, it absolutely is a terrible situation. What you're describing is a form of verbal abuse. Now, we typically don't think of children abusing adults, but clearly in a situation like this, your 18-year-old son is old enough to understand and be responsible. But I wonder about your son's, as you say, mental illness? I wonder about what is driving that? You say it's been going on for years, that type of aggression. I wonder about his other relationships? Does he treat other people in your family this way? Does he treat your husband this way?

The reason why these things matter is that there's probably a story here that started somewhere. When we look at situations like yours, there's always a story and there's patterns that we develop, and these patterns seem to be going on repetitively in your interaction with your son. If change is going to occur, we need to change the pattern. In order for you to do that, you and your husband really need to sit down and identify boundaries that you're going to have with your son. It's not okay to treat other human beings this way.

Moving forward in adult relationships, those types of words, that type of interaction, will not last in any relationship. His relationships will falter or fail because of those patterns. This is going to be hard to hear, but you and your husband need to create boundaries now, so he realizes that those behaviors are not okay. Now, I know that may not sound easy, but it's essential. Because, if there are no boundaries then he will think that it's okay to say those things. So, there needs to be consequences and I know he's been doing this for years, but those consequences are going to be essential, if he learns how to be relational. Ultimately as parents, we want our children to be relational. We want them to learn how to attach how to get close to people. Clearly, there is something wrong. He's angry. What's he angry at? What's that story?

Now, I know you've set up appointments, but there are certain boundaries that you and your husband need to create. He does need to go to counseling. He needs to vent his frustrations, whatever those are. I wouldn't be afraid of those concerns. I would be more of like, how did we get here? What has actually happened that has created this type of interaction pattern.? Those are the things that concern me the most because your son thinks that's normal. And I would want to get him out of the idea that his behaviors are normal and acceptable in human relationships. In particular, in family relationships.

As you say you're worn out, and this is my final thought on this. Only by doing the hard thing now, will you create change. You and your husband need to identify some boundaries. What are those boundaries going to be? And you need to be on the same page, even if it means that your child is no longer living with you. I know he has nowhere to go right now.
But what he's doing is not okay, and so you have a decision to make. Can he go live with a friend or somewhere else for a period of time and realize the value of his parents' home? Is there any softness? And there is a lot more that I would say to this.  Can he have a soft heart? Does he come close? Those are the times where you may want to have the most interaction with him is when he soft and say "where does this go when you get angry, and you call me or tell me to f off? Son, I love you. I care about you. I want a better relationship."

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Take care and thank you for your great question.

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Answered by:

Dr. Kevin Skinner

Dr. Kevin Skinner