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Love & Relationships

How To Require Respect From Your Parents As An Adult

I believe I’ve shared on this platform before that whenever the topic of unconditional love between parents and children comes up, more times than not, I’ve got plenty of pushback to offer. Mostly because, through my fair share of experience and boatloads of personal observation, I’ve come to realize that what a lot of people think is unconditional love is actually manipulative control.

What I mean by that is, when many people say that they can’t unconditionally love an adult (like their spouse), yet they can their kids, the reason why kids are easier for them is that children have to do whatever they say. Oh, but let that child get old enough to have their own values, perspectives, and opinions (especially around the late teen years) — and watch all kinds of “conditions” from the parent arise (just think about it).


And a big part of that, in my opinion, is there’s not enough discussion that’s centered around if people RESPECT their children —you know, allow them to have their own views, don’t talk over them when they’re speaking, find other ways to discipline instead of always, and/or immediately putting their hands on them, giving them space to process their emotions…basically treating them as human beings who are just as worthy of respect as anyone else (because they are).

It’s kind of another topic for another time that a lot of grown folks basically suck at respecting other people, and it’s because their parents did a piss poor job at respecting them because I am a huge believer that it’s human nature to do what’s familiar more than what’s actually good or right (unless you’re hyper self-aware, very intentional and open to therapy). That’s the sad part.

How Do You Deal With Parents Who Don't Respect You?

The good news is if you’ve never even pondered the kind of respect that you are worthy of when it comes to your parents now that you are an adult or if you’ve been feeling disrespected and you’re not quite sure how to address it with one or both of your parents, here are some things that you can do to get the kind of respect that you deserve (because you absolutely do deserve it).

How To Deal With Parents Who Don’t Respect You #1: Be Okay with Setting (Firm) Boundaries

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I once heard a therapist say that abuse is about having total disregard for someone else’s boundaries. As someone who grew up in an abusive home, on a few different levels, I would certainly agree. Boundaries are limits, and when it comes to mine, not only were some of my basic ones totally disregarded, but I also had a parent who went through my diaries, listened in on my phone calls, and pressured my doctors to give them intel — past my teen years.

Even well into my 30s and 40s, there would be things that they were explicitly told would be a violation of space, feelings, and needs that they would railroad right over — and feel totally justified in doing so when it came to my home, my relationships and my personal information.

I always knew that their actions were triggering as hell, yet it wasn’t until I read a book that I shout out every chance I get (Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't) that I got just how UNSAFE they were to act that way because a foundational truth about all healthy relationships is that boundaries exist and people respect them. And you know what? Parents don’t get a pass on that.

In fact, if they were serious about their role in your life, they would understand that they were to raise you to get to a point where you would know what limits should look like and which ones need to be set for everyone; them included.

Some of us have been controlled/manipulated for so long that we don’t even get what disrespect from a parent looks like. Honestly, it’s no different than when anyone doesn’t honor your boundaries:

  • If someone dismisses your feelings or needs, they are dishonoring your boundaries
  • If someone disregards your “no,” they are dishonoring your boundaries
  • If someone pressures you to do something that you don’t want to do, they are dishonoring your boundaries
  • If someone is hypercritical of you to the point where you try and be what they want instead of what you want, they are dishonoring your boundaries
  • If someone has to be constantly reminded of your boundaries, they are dishonoring your boundaries

And again, they do not get a pass on this if they are your parents. In fact, if ANYONE should be the walking definition of “safe,” it should be them — and they aren’t emotionally safe to be around if your boundaries are not adhered to (only unsafe parents would disagree).

How To Deal With Parents Who Don’t Respect You #2: Remember That You No Longer Need Their Permission

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One of my parents is so off the chain that when they would stay in my house, they would try to tell me that I needed to stay with them whenever I took them to visit someone and that I would need to come back to my own house at a certain time — as I was on a curfew. Chile. And because I was afraid of what would happen if I said “no,” I would reluctantly agree. That is until one time — the last time I will ever allow this to happen — they violated a boundary and then tried to control my reaction to it.

It was then that I decided no more. Something in me realized that I didn’t need their permission to tell them that I wasn’t going to do or allow something…because I didn’t…and fully accepting that was oh so freeing! Permission means “authorization granted to do something; formal consent,” and we all reach a stage in our lives when our parents don’t have authority over us. Listen, I know that is difficult, especially in Black culture (especially if you were raised in Black church culture…more on that in a bit), to hear, yet it’s still the truth.

Back when you were not an adult, and your parents were providing for and protecting you under their roof, there was a certain level of authority that they had. Now that you are out on your own, though? You absolutely do not need their authority to do something. To think otherwise would basically imply that they have rules for your life, and I don’t get how any parent (short of perhaps some things that have to do with one’s culture) would need to do that for a self-sufficient adult.

Believe you me, once you really settle into the fact that a part of what comes with being an adult is being able to move without needing the formal consent of your parents, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to apply these other following points to your life.

How To Deal With Parents Who Don’t Respect You #3: Also, Remember Their Words Are ADVICE, Not INSTRUCTIONS

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Many of us are aware of the Scripture, “Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 — AMPC) And the fact of the matter is, a lot of us know it because our parents taught it to us.

Yet, like a lot of people who only take the part of a verse that they like or is convenient for them and then disregard the rest when it comes to so much of the Bible (Psalm 37:4 comes to mind: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”), many mothers and fathers stay parked at “train a child up” while forgetting (or is it ignoring?) that a child does not need their training forever; at some point, they are required to hold their own selves accountable in a way where the adult-child choose what training they will not depart from (Isaiah 7:14-15 is a good example of this).

And when it gets to that point and place, that’s when a parent shifts out of the position of giving instruction to giving advice — and no, an adult child does not have to agree with their parent’s advice, nor do they have to take it.

Because here’s the deal — advice, by definition, is “an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action, conduct, etc.” An opinion or recommendation isn’t always, nor does it mean that the opinion or recommendation is automatically right, especially right for someone (because all of us are different). Plus, a good advice giver knows that it’s not their role to force it on anyone. Typically, it’s not even volunteered because a wise advice giver knows that it is best received by people who actually ask for it. Not only that, but they also get that it’s not their job to conduct another adult’s life; that is the sole responsibility of the individual.

So no, healthy-minded parents of adult children aren’t invested in giving instruction because they know that is no longer their job, and they offer up advice…when it is sought after. They are able to chill out in this department because they release fear, remove ego and give their adult children the respect of living their lives how they want to — because that’s a huge part of what comes with adulting.

How To Deal With Parents Who Don’t Respect You #4: Don’t Accept Biblical/Spiritual Manipulation

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Do y’all want to talk about how a lot of parents spiritually manipulate their adult children because they allow the leadership of their church to spiritually manipulate them? Since they don’t really know how to think for themselves, they pass that toxicity down to their offspring? Not now? Okay, just let me know when.

Because look here, the stories are countless when it comes to adults who have either told me that they lost their identity thanks — yet not thanks — to biblical/spiritual manipulation or they are out here living the lives that their parents mapped out for them instead of what their passions actually are. And how are so many parents able to get away with that? It’s with the help of one verse that happens to be a commandment (the fifth one, to be exact): “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12 — NKJV) Okay, but just what does that mean?

Let manipulators and control freaks speak on it, and they will jump right into the word “obey” when that isn’t even what honor means. To honor someone is to respect them. To honor someone is to give credit where credit is due. To honor someone is to give them a place of distinction that no one else holds. Now tell me where “do whatever they say and tolerate whatever they do for the rest of your life” is in any of those definitions. Yeah…exactly.

Some synonyms for honor include praise, celebrate, and paying homage. Yeah, looks to me like honoring one’s parents is more about recognizing the sacrifices they made in your life, not belittling their role, and giving praise where praise is due — not letting them talk to you any ole’ kind of way or intimidate you into living the kind of life they think is best for you. I mean, if we’re going by actual word definitions and not scripture manipulations.

So, does that mean that children aren’t to obey their parents? Ephesians 6:1-3 is clear about that being important — for children to do not adult children, though. Besides, I find it mighty interesting that usually, the parents who try and twist and distort the Fifth Commandment will be the same ones who act like Ephesians 6:4(NKJV) does not exist: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

What does it mean to provoke someone? Provoking is about triggering them. Provoking is about emotionally stirring them up. Provoking is about saying or doing what you know will make them angry. It’s about arousing negativity in them — and parents aren’t even supposed to do this to little children, yet so many parents do this so much of the time.

So yeah, if you happen to have a Bible-thumping parent in your life who acts like the Fifth Commandment is the joker card in a spades game when it comes to justifying how they try and violate your own boundaries, you are more than well within your rights, as an adult, to remind them of what provoking someone means — and that if you feel provoked by them to let them know.

How To Deal With Parents Who Don’t Respect You #5: Manage Your Emotions When It Comes to Their Disapproval

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If some of this is resonating with some of y’all to the point where you feel like you can break from the shackles (yes, shackles) of feeling like you have to constantly do what your parents say or put their happiness above your own, that’s awesome. I will say that as you’re easing into this new head and heart space that there is something else to keep in mind: yes, as an adult, you have the right to make whatever decisions you want — and no, your parents do not have to like it, agree with or support it. Ironically, you are trying to control them if you think that they should.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen this scenario play out. One example that immediately comes to mind is a college student I know who initially took on a major that their parents pressured them into. When they decided, during their junior year, to switch to something totally different, they basically threw a temper tantrum when their parents pulled their financial support out of their tuition.

Yeah, that’s the part of adulting that a lot of people don’t want to deal with: they want to do whatever they want and still have their parents back their choices no matter what. Yet that’s not how it works. If you want your parents to respect your right to make certain decisions, you, in turn, must respect how they choose to respond to those choices. It’s not about if their reaction is “right” or “wrong,” it’s about them having the freedom to do what they will, just like you.

Another example that comes to mind is the movieWrath: A Seven Deadly Sins Story, which came on Lifetime several months ago, starring Michelle Williams and Tina Knowles-Lawson. Michelle’s character had a boyfriend that she asked her father’s opinion about, and then she got mad when he disapproved (he ended up being right, by the way). And you know what? That was immature on the daughter’s part…she asked.

It’s not like it doesn’t make sense, though. Just like parents of adult children have to, well, grow up and realize that their authoritative role has shifted once their children are grown, the children have to realize that their parents don’t have to like everything that they say or do — and that doesn’t mean they aren’t still loved (at least if the parents are healthy); it just means that there comes a time when parents and adult children have to learn to agree to disagree on certain matters. And that’s more than okay.

Yep. If you want the freedom to make your own decisions, you must also give your parents the freedom to be overjoyed or disinterested or even extremely disappointed about those matters. Real talk, they don’t have to celebrate everything you do. As you mature, you will learn to be fine with that. Again, it comes with growing up.

How To Deal With Parents Who Don’t Respect You #6: Be Okay with Providing Consequences (or Being Their Consequence)

One more. When it comes to setting boundaries, one quote that I like a lot is by an author by the name of Nick Chellsen. He once said, “Boundaries are what you say 'no' to. Priorities are what you say 'yes' to.” When you were a child, on many levels, your parents determined what your priorities should be; now that you are an adult, that call is solely on you. And yes, this means that you get to fully and freely determine what to say “yes” to (priorities) and what to say “no” to (boundaries).

So, what happens when one or both of your parents try to disrespect your call on these things? That’s when you need to introduce consequences. Yep — CONSEQUENCES. See, a controlling (which is an unhealthy) parent will already take issue with that because they have fooled themselves into believing that they are above consequences, yet all a consequence is, is the outcome of a certain action — and the reality is that most of us do not learn without consequences.

That parent of mine who I told you earlier in this piece crossed a particular boundary for the last time? There is a particular consequence that I have upheld for years now, ever since they did it. Because for years, I had been telling them to stop dismissing my boundary, and they didn’t care — and since they didn’t respect my needs on their own, a consequence had to be enforced. I’m at complete and total peace with it because the consequence is what finally got me what they refused to grant, just by my requesting it. The consequence is what reminds them, daily, that if you won’t grant the respect that I deserve on the merit of being an adult on your own, I will require it with particular outcomes.

Y’all, another article for another time is just how much I have been okay (more than okay) with living by the motto, “Sometimes you have to be someone’s consequence so that they will learn hard lessons so that they will stop wrecking other people’s lives.” Because the irony here is some of the main people who are out here “demanding their respect” are the very ones who are also out here being totally disrespectful to others.

And that’s because they think that respect is a one-way street when it absolutely is not. Never has been. Never will be.

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Is trying to get respect from parents who aren’t used to respecting you easy? I ain’t got no lies for you, it absolutely is not. For years, they had a lot of say about what happens in your life, so it takes “both sides of the fence” to get reprogrammed in this department.

At the same time, what I will also say is if they always respected you, even as a child, the shift will be far less challenging. Meanwhile, if they never really did…well, all the more reason why you should start requiring it now. ASAP.

You know, I once read a quote by an author by the name of Michael Bassey Johnson. He said, “If you truly want to be respected by people you love, you must prove to them that you can survive without them.” Whew. Requiring respect sometimes comes at a high price when you’re dealing with people who would rather control you than respect you. Yet never fall for the myth that you are “out of bounds” for expecting respect from ALL people in your life. Your parents included. And don’t feel bad about doing what needs to be done to get that respect, even if the consequences have to be extreme for folks to learn. Your parents included.

It truly can’t be said enough — respect is a basic right. Require it.

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Featured image by Carlos Barquero/Getty Images

 

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