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Getting over parents who wound their children: the 2nd stage of growing up and leaving home

By Ben | April 25, 2008

Obviously there are great parents.  And there are children who repeatedly wound their parents.  But let’s focus on parents who repeatedly wounded their children … and still continue to bully and control them even after the children have become adults.

Whether that’s done consciously and intentionally, or the parents are righteous and oblivious to the effects they’re having, or they think that they’re preparing their children to be humble and moral or to face a hostile world, the pain is real and the effects can last for decades.

Before we review a typical case study and offer the keys to moving on and creating the life you want, let me ask, have you been wounded by your parents?

In general, boys are wounded just as much as girls, but let’s look at Irene.  She’s now a skilled and competent nurse, but getting there was a long struggle.  Her parents relentlessly belittled, denigrated and punished her.  They didn’t hit her often, but they forced her to do everything their way.  They knew best and were always right; she was always wrong.  They said that her character and personality was fundamentally flawed.  Despite everything they did for her benefit, they knew she’d never be a good or successful person.  She’d always be a loser.

In response to their hostile criticism, emotional blackmail and verbal abuse, Irene became insecure and shy.  Although she was very mature and competent in her professional life, when she faced her parents, she became a little girl again.  She was intimidated by their certainty and rules.  Facing these bullies, Irene became a self-bully; bullied by the old attitudes, beliefs, rules and critical voices she carried in her head.

Irene was like so many other wounded people in life-long therapy.  She was completely focused on her parents’ continuing bullying, on resisting them, on hating them, on finally pleasing them, on getting past them.  She gnawed on the bone of her parents endlessly.  She was depressed and sometimes suicidal.  She thought she needed repeated catharsis to keep functioning.

The relationship with her parents consumed her life.  Irene kept trying to convince them to give in to her and to approve of her so she could feel good.  She just wanted them to be fair and reasonable … and to like and appreciate her.  She thought she mustn’t ever create a safe distance from them even though they still bullied her.  The guilt would be overwhelming.

Let’s focus on the perspective that gave Irene back her life.  I think there are developmental transitions we all go through.  The first stage of growing up and leaving home is when we leave physically.  Most of us go to school, get jobs, get stuff (homes and cars), get spouses or partners, get children, get debts … get self-supporting.  We often move away so we can spread our wings without our parents’ eagle eyes on us.  Then we think we’ve become free and independent adults.  Externally, maybe.

We usually make this outer transition between the ages of 16-35.  When did you?

But that’s only the first transition.  There’s a second, necessary transition before we become truly unique, independent selves.  In this transition, we clean out the internal mental, emotional and spiritual homes we gave our parents.  We discard everything we took in when we were children.  And we take in what fits us now.  Some of the attitudes and ideas may be the same as our parents have, but much of it will be different.

In this transition, we get over our parents.  The present and the future we want to create become the focus of our world.  Our parents aren’t the focus any more.  They no longer fill up our world.  We move them off to the side or into the background, whether they like it or not.

Now we can take in attitudes and ideas as adults; adjusting them with our adult experience and wisdom.  Children take in ideas as black-or-white, all-or-none RULES, and apply those rules everywhere.  There’s no gray for them.  Adults know there’s gray in many areas.  We all did our best and it was good enough to keep us alive and get us to where we are now.  But we didn’t have the experience to judge with wisdom.  We misunderstood, misinterpreted and had very narrow visions.  We were kids.

This second transition is usually age and life-stage dependent.  For example, our careers reach a plateau, we can see the children leaving home, we become middle-aged, we notice the same, repeating life patterns and lessons, or we wonder if we’ll ever fulfill our heart’s desire.

Are you there yet?

When we’ve done this, we’re no longer controlled by our parents’ voices, rules, beliefs and attitudes.  We have our own view of life and what’s important for us and how we can get it.  We can create the life we’ve wanted, independent of whether they like it or not.  We may or may not reject them; we’re simply not controlled by them or by having to be like or different from them.  We make up our own minds.

When Irene saw her life’s movement with this perspective, she heaved a sigh of relief.  She wasn’t a loser or flawed sinner caught forever in an insoluble bind.  Her parents’ opinions of her faults and what she needed to do were merely their personal opinions, shaped by their upbringing.  Nothing more truthful or important than personal opinions.  She no longer put them on a pedestal.

She wasn’t helpless.  The situation wasn’t hopeless.  She was normal.  She just had to persevere in order to create a life that she could call her own.  And if her parents didn’t like it; so what?  They didn’t get to vote.  If they wanted to get close to her, they have to pass the tests of her 9 Circles of Trust.

Some people get this in a blinding flash when they’re relatively young.  For Irene, it took much longer.  The transition wasn’t easy for her but it was do-able.  She felt free and light, like a great burden had been lifted from her shoulders.  She was always stubborn.  Now she could use her stubbornness to persevere.  The light at the end of her tunnel was the life she’d always wanted to live.

She won’t let her parents wound her any more.  The big difference from decades ago was that now she was just as tall as they were.  She was an adult.  Keeping herself safe from them was more important than old rules that had led her to accept their abuse and control.  When she made her parents’ opinion unimportant and she turned to face the light at the end of her tunnel, she could feel her wounds healing, as wounds naturally do when no one is picking at the scabs.

Where are you with your parents?  Where are you with your own growing independence?

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Topics: Bullies at Home, Coaching, parenting, Relationships | 32 Comments »

32 Responses to “Getting over parents who wound their children: the 2nd stage of growing up and leaving home”

  1. You can care too much about winning your parents’ approval | Stop bullies at home work | Hostile workplace and Emotional Abuse Says:
    April 28th, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    [...] last post was about adults who carry to their graves the wounding and scars they got from their parents.  These adults never grow up mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  They never leave their [...]

  2. Recession-induced fear and stress stimulate self-bullying | Stop bullies at home work | Hostile workplace and Emotional Abuse Says:
    March 3rd, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    [...] know where we heard those voices that told us they knew better – our parents, relatives, siblings, teachers, ministers, schoolmates, peers.  We know how we [...]

  3. recovering2219 Says:
    March 18th, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    I love this article because it is totally true. Currently I am 25, in college, have a 9 month old and have traveled around the world twice. Whenever I talk to my parents they never support me with what I am doing, I do not even think that they will attend my graduation because they are so self-centered. It has been a hard road but something happened tonight and I think that is was the straw that broke the camels back. I just really do not care what they say anymore. I will support and care for them but their opinions can just take a hike, because I am really just tired of it.

  4. Ben Says:
    March 19th, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Hi Recovering,

    Keep recovering … which means create your own life, lit from the depth of your own burning spirit.

    See, see, see – your own path is yours to make and take. Don’t count your parents’ opinions any more than you’d count anyone elses’ opinion. Their opinions tell you about them and their “stuff” (hopes, dreams, fears, hates, likes) when they think about facing life, not about you or your chances.

    Find people who encourage you before they want to help-correct you. Of course, you’ll have to learn to make better and better decisions on your path.

    Eventually, as you move further along your path, you’ll be able to see your parents simply as people. The sting of their opinions will be gone and all that will remain are two little, old people.

    How’s that for an old-person rant?

    Best wishes,

  5. Stop Bullies: Especially Toxic Parents | Stop bullies at home work | Hostile workplace and Emotional Abuse Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 7:41 am

    [...] think that a key sign of becoming an independent adult is deciding what criteria you’ll use for who you allow on your island.  If you believe that [...]

  6. colleen Says:
    January 8th, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Hi Ben,

    Just came across this web site today and wanted to say thanks, Stop Bullies, especially toxic parents was something I needed to read, that is why I did a toxic parent search.
    When I was around 9 years old my mom remarried and my step-father would try to touch me in the wrong ways I was able to always get away, but did not like it so I told my Mom she started yelling that I was lying and my real father put me up to this to destroy her and her life, when we got home she sent me to my room and latter that night when she went to bed I heard her crying, so I decided to tell her the next morning that it never happened I made it up myself not my Dad, I remember thinking I could stay away from my step-father and I would be able to move out in a few years so why should I ruin her life, she is happy and in love who am I to disroy her life.
    I maintained a relationship with my parents.
    I was able to forgive him because I would see the look on his face in his eyes change just before he would try something so I knew to get moving and as I got older I thought he is just real sick but does not really want to do this otherwise how could I have got away from him?
    I have been married for over 25 years and we have a daughter 21 and a son 16, I tried to help my Mom in many different ways over the years, but the longer I have been a mom myself the harder it was becoming for me to reconcile her behavior with that of motherhood.
    The truth about my step-dad came out several times over the years and about 10 years ago a cousin sent a letter to him, my mom opened it and the truth was out for good I thought.
    Over the last 10 years she keeps going back to it, finally, she said she thought my step-sister owed her an apology for not giving her the heads up on the letter before it came, I said Mom please I just can not keep going back to the past, I just can not do this anymore and she said why? At least he did not rape you.
    I realize now I can not help her and she will go out of her way to say mean things to me in an effort to get a response, I have never told her about how I feel about anything cause I did not want to hurt her and now I realize maybe that goes back to the whole destroy my life thing when I was a kid.
    My daughter knows about my childhood but my son does not, I think it would be best for me to cut all ties with my parents, as I never know what she will say next and I can’t seem to box up my feelings any longer,also although I knew that something had happened before to someone else I just found out what happened to my cousin before he married my Mom and lets just say when I saw them at x-mass I could not stand to look at him.
    I just wonder if it is okay to tell my son about what has happened so he will have some understanding of why Mom is no longer talking with Grandma and grandpa any longer.
    Your advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Best regards,

  7. Ben Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Colleen,

    You’re on the right track; keep up the good progress.

    I’ve seen and heard a lot of people like your mom and the 2nd husband (stop calling him a step-father). Her dream of a wonderful marriage and family may be great. But the real life she’s trying to squeeze into that dream is a horror show and does need to be destroyed or, at least, you need to get far away.

    A wonderful movie, “Second Hand Lions,” is about a boy being taken care of by his wonderful and slightly wacky uncles, but the picture of his mother is like yours. She tries to squeeze terrible men into her weak dream. And she’ll excuse, justify, pardon and defend them forever – even when they’d hurt her son.

    You can’t help your mom, like the boy can’t help his. He has to get away in order to have a shot at a great life. You may keep an option open of seeing your mom on her death bed, but even then most people still defend their lives and the reasons for their terrible choices. She tried her best … but it wasn’t good enough.

    Check out the case studies of Carrie, Jake and Doug in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” available on this web site. They had different situations with their moms but they used the approach you need to.

    Your son will want an explanation. Give him the whole truth. Don’t argue if he tries to defend his grandma. Let him make up his own mind. Know that he’ll change as he grows older and wiser in relationships.

    Get a coach to stay strong and clear.

    Best wishes,

  8. colleen Says:
    January 12th, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Thanks Ben,

    Today is actually my son’s 16th birthday, so I will wait a couple of weeks to tell him I don’t want him to associate this stuff with his birthday, I have talked with my husband and we have decided to sit with him and our daughter and tell him as a family, no more secrets.
    I ordered your book and should receive it in a couple of days I think it will be good for me to learn how to stand up to this kind of behavior. I also have a book on toxic parents coming, so I should have some tools to help me with this.
    I was thinking of e-mailing my Mom some of the things I feel as I have never said anything in the past thinking it would hurt her more but now I think it might be good to just let it out. It might be good for me.
    Do you think that is a good idea in your experience with this type of situation?
    Thanks for your help,

  9. Ben Says:
    January 13th, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Hi Colleen,

    Sounds wise to do it as a family after your son’s birthday.

    Be prepared (prepare ahead with your husband):
    1. Your children may tell you horror stories you didn’t know.
    2. Or they might try to talk you into reconciliation, as if your love will cure your mother and stepfather.

    I’m glad you said, “It might be good for me.” I think that’s the crucial reason. If your information has a good effect on your mother, wonderful. But there’s only a slim chance of that, so don’t make that your goal.

    Every situation is different, so I always ask people to consider whether they want to have the conversation with the mother:
    1. In person.
    2. By phone.
    3. Email.
    4. Snail mail.

    It’s a balancing act and there’s no “Right” answer. Each method requires different things from you and your mother. Of course, in person conveys more visual body language and voice tone. If you do it in person, meet her somewhere neutral like a restaurant.

    Now for your moving on: “What could you do, that when you do it, will put that ancient history way behind you, behind bullet proof glass and make it very tiny. And also allow you to remember what you need to do to protect yourself and your family from your step-father and mother or if you ever see such a situation in the future?”

    Best wishes,

  10. colleen Says:
    January 13th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks so much again,
    I have a lot to think about with the moving on part, I have no idea at this point but with your book on stopping bullies in their tracks and the toxic parents coming in the next couple of days I hope to develop some tools. I have not spoken to them since Jan 1st and the more time that passes the stronger I feel it is hard to explain.
    I do know that it would be better for me not to see her in person because things have escalated.
    I had previously told her that I can no longer talk to her about the letter or anything of that nature, that I can not help her with her feelings, we have talked and talked about how she feels and it has not helped her feel better that I have shared all I have regarding forgiveness, love and happiness all the techniques I have and nothing has helped, things would seem okay with her but only for a short time then she would start all over again.
    I told her it hurts me and that hurt is taking me away from the present with my family.
    That first time I told her was in July and I have just tried to stay firm with that but when I went to their home in December to pick up some decorations she wanted to pass down she started in on me trying everything she could, I realized she just wants to be able to dump her toxic waste on me so I will say things to make her feel better that has been the cycle, but here is the new twist when nothing was working for her she lied to my face and tried to say the letter from Carmen was to her, I did not call her out on it I just said I still can not help.
    I came home and was bewildered she lied, there would have been no way to know if the last 10 years were not already always that Carmen wrote the letter to him, and logically that would be the truth anyway, Carmen lived with him while he lived with his first wife, Carmen does not even know my Mom.
    Two days latter I meet up with my step-sister we already had plans before this happened but I decided to talk with her about what happened at the house, that is when I found out what really happened to Carmen, and yes Carmen wrote him a letter as part of her healing process, Janet and I just cried together and hugged.
    The next day I went to work out and had to leave the gym and come home I just started feeling this rage within me, a rage I have never felt before.
    That rage turned into a clear understanding of what he really is and how my Mom is just using me, this is how I have ended up sitting here now.
    I do not have the ability right now to forgive, I read about me on your web site I am one of those who believe in the golden rule, I always felt I choose my parents and the experiences I have had, But now I understand maybe I choose to learn how to stand up for myself and this requires a new way of looking at things, it requires judgment of others and I have never allowed myself to do that, it just requires skills I have not developed but that are as I understand now very important to a happy and healthy life.
    The thing is if I had not been hanging out with my family that July night when this all started I would not be sitting here, it was because my family and I were laughing and goofing off and I was pulled away for her call that I realized how much this is taking away from me and the strength for now is more of a willing to fight for my family and our life than for myself.
    Ben I just can’t thank you enough,
    I have been reading your site and the narcistic bully all 7 points blew me away, she embraces all 7. I feel some weird comfort from seeing those qualities written on this site and know that there will be a way to move through this as others have dealt with this personality a well.
    I have not yet come across the 3 case studies you pointed out but I will keep my eye out for them, I am also thinking I might just need to get the whole bullies system and study that.
    It’s kind of funny I taught my children to always stand up for themselves and others, I even hired a civil rights attorney for my daughter in high school when they suspended her for standing up to a bully at school, but here I am just now learning to stand up for myself.
    Thanks also for the heads up on the family meeting, my daughter already knew and she has never had a bad experience with him, I realize I have been is some denial but I did always stay in the same room as the children usually my husband as well. I remembered how fast he could move in for a strike even if other people were around so I never wanted to take a chance, but until I talk with my son I can’t say for sure about that.
    Please share any ideas you have I am completely open to learning, I understand that I have made some poor choices and welcome your advise as everything on your site sounds like wise, true and refreshingly clear truth.

    Best regards,

  11. Ben Says:
    January 16th, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Colleen,

    I know it’s hard, but you’re doing all the right things.

    Thanks for ordering the books – the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” will help.

    Your story illustrates why we need coaching to design a specific plan tailored to your needs – the details of your specific situation, the people involved and, mostly, yourself.

    Your mother is typical: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

    Beware of a repeat of the Christmas decoration situation. She’ll use a nice reason to try to suck you in to coming over and then whack you from behind.

    Put off thinking about forgiveness and the Golden Rule until we talk and you have a better understanding of what effective forgiveness means and also how and when to apply the Golden Rule to who.

    Best wishes,

  12. Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones… : Diary of a First Child Says:
    September 23rd, 2010 at 3:01 am

    [...] blog Bullies Be Gone has the following to say about parents who bully their children: Whether that’s done consciously [...]

  13. Diana Says:
    November 1st, 2010 at 4:55 pm


    My name is Diana, and that is all that you need to know. My parents are constantly saying that I am a crybaby and that I am stupid. They make fun of me and always call me ugly and useless. I do not know what to do anymore. I don’t know how much longer I can withstand all this, that is happening around me. I feel as if I have been dead for a long time.

    –A Ghost Girl

  14. Ben Says:
    November 6th, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Hi Diana,

    Coaching can help design an action plan that fits your specific circumstances. But the general direction is clear even though I don’t know how old you are. And I’m assuming you aren’t as bad as they beat you with.

    You need to survive and keep a spark of strength and courage and perseverance alive in your heart. Keep it burning bright and strong.

    If you are too young to leave home, often the best you can do is to fly low while you don’t take what they say to heart. Keep what they say far away from you while you keep your own spirit strong.

    Get a skill so you can leave and become financially independent – don’t just hit the streets. Keep that life in you strong but hidden from them. Like you would if you were in prison and enduring for years until you got free.

    Don’t let anyone break your spirit!!!! Remember the sign from the movie on the “Bridge to Terebithia” – nothing crushes us!!!!

    You may be a target and they can do bad things to you, but don’t be a victim in your mind and heart.

    Keep your spirit strong. Find allies. Become invulnerable! I know that sounds hard, but it’s what we all need to do. Remember, you come from a long line of survivors, who survived worse than this. We all have.

    Coaching can help you distinguish between two types of people:
    1. Those whose opinions you think about, but still don’t follow blindly.
    2. Those whose opinions you keep far away because they’re jerks.

    Then you don’t take the jerks personally, while you figure out how to deal with them – like you already have. Never take jerks to heart. Keep them away.

    Learn about and model great people who survived this way. Nelson Mandela was in prison for 28 years. Elizabeth Barrett’s father kept her locked up. Winston Churchill’s parents were worse than yours. Sojourner Truth was a slave. Find others who will inspire you to stay alive and become independent.

    Don’t listen to jerks. Endure. Be invulnerable – no matter what.

    In “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” read the case studies of Carrie, Doug, Jake and Ralph who had rotten parents.

    Best wishes,

  15. Grace Says:
    November 17th, 2010 at 10:16 pm


    Thank you for the article, but I’m still having a hard time getting past how my mother verbally abused me as a child as an adult. My father works back and forth between North America and Asia, and was (and still is) rarely home. My mother feels stressful and she used to take her anger out on me – not physically but mostly psychologically. She used to tell me how she wanted to throw me down the stairs after I was born because I was crying too much. She used to tell me to go be with someone else’s daughter and not hers. And she once questioned me how much my dad paid me because I stook up for him when he had to go back to Asia to work again. Up to this day she’s still acting the way she used to and recently she wanted to sign legal documents to deny our mother-daughter relationship. It hurts, it really does. There was a point in my life where I just wanted to die because I couldn’t bare the pain of the constant feeling of abandonment and lost of control over my life.

    I’m 23 now and I haven’t talked to my mother in months. I feel guilty for all the bad thoughts I have about her but I can’t help it. I was so alone as a kid and no one stood up for me in my family. My father was rarely around and my brother was too young and naive to say anything.

    Could you please provide me with some advice on how to achieve some level of inner peace? I still feel hurt and it’s really not a good feeling to have everyday of your life.

    Thanks for your time.

  16. Ben Says:
    November 18th, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Oh Grace,

    I’m so sorry for the torture and pain.

    It’s easier than you think to get beyond this but it can’t be done with a few words of advice on a blog. It’ll take expert coaching. Find someone where you live or call me (303-458-6616) and we can talk (by phone or by Skype and web cam).

    You’re on the right track. Don’t talk to her. Don’t allow someone who hates you to have opportunities to whack you.

    We can help you find Grace — and strength, courage and peace of mind. Really. Truly.

    Best wishes,

  17. lucy Says:
    December 14th, 2010 at 4:55 am

    I bully my son. I certainly didn’t set out with the intention of bullying him. I adore him. But I find myself losing my temper time and time again and when I do, I say things I deeply regret, like, you’ll never get anywhere unless you change your attitude. A little observer at the back of my head recognises exactly the opposite – that I’ll never get anywhere unless I can change my attitude to him. I try to support him as much as I can when I am in control of my temper, but I tend to have periods – quite often to do with hormonal cycles – when I just can’t seem to stop myself from losing it completely, and then I swear and rant and sometimes pull all the clothes out of the cupboard (I always help him put them back). Help. He’s eleven. His Dad and I love each other very much but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to live with him too because we’re into such different things. We’re financially strapped. I’m studying for a PhD. I have two other jobs and am finishing a third. My son is also bullied at school and when I am sane, I go through books with him on how to stand up against bullies. I’ve told him I’m a bully, and so has my husband, but I still flip periodically.

  18. Ben Says:
    December 16th, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Hi Lucy,

    You have a big problem and must solve it soon before your son is too damaged.

    Get an MD for the hormone side of it. Get a counselor for the mental/emotional side. Whatever the cost, it’s worth your son’s life.

    Part of the problem may be that you’re too stressed out. Often, stress and frustration lead to explosions.

    Your son needs help. He’s bullied and scared and can’t win at home. He’s bullied and scared at school and probably doesn’t think he can win.

    Telling him you’re a bully doesn’t help him solve his problem. Probably, you can’t help him by teaching him anything. The only way you could help is to change or to give him a big stick to beat you with when you get out of control. Maybe that way he could get a sense of power.

    If I were talking with your husband, I’d probably say to keep his son away from the bully in the family. But if he’s not protecting his son from the bully at home, his son won’t believe that he knows how to help with the bully at school.

    Get help ASAP.

    Best wishes,

  19. Negative, Bullying Self-Talk Will Destroy Your Spirit | Stop bullies at home work | Hostile workplace and Emotional Abuse Says:
    May 9th, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    [...] kids who think the deck is stacked against them. Their parents have treated them badly or one or both have blamed or abandoned them.  If they convince themselves they’re stupid and [...]

  20. Stop Bullies: Start Here | Stop bullies at home work | Hostile workplace and Emotional Abuse Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    [...] of the Greeks about how to face whatever the world throws at you – whether overwhelming odds, verbal and physical abuse, unfairness, your fear and hesitation, your loss of self-control, [...]

  21. Shirley Says:
    October 23rd, 2011 at 7:54 am


    I recently had a dream – that I woke in a tiny dark room (where I had been shut in) & a wiseman was calling me, he opened the door just a little onto a woodland bright with light & with birds singing.

    I had thought – some years after I left home at 18 years old (to pursue a degree against my parents wishes) that I had broken away – both physically & mentally. I had made my own life a long way away. On leaving home my mother had gone to great lengths to tell me I was abondoning her & I felt so guilty I developed anorexia. My tutor & friends & my focus on developeing my own skills helped me over that & I developed a great relationship with a friend & we became engaged. I achieved a first class degree, travelled abroad with my fiancee & continued my training with a post-graduate course .

    However, when my fiancee met my father & formally asked for my hand he was met with a tirade of abuse. My fiancees father (but not his mother)was supportive. We were young (23) & I think we both wanted things to be easy & pleasant. Finally we had a massive argument about money & split. I have missed the relationship with him ever since – too late now he’s married (to someone his mother likes).

    I recall dreading our wedding – due to the huge potential for my parents to cause an ugly scene on the day – & years later, whenever I have a glimmer of hope that I might meet someone else I immediately dread that my parents will wreck the relationship & wedding or that a boyfriend or his family will judge me on awful things that happened when my siblings & I were kids. I am a little past considering having more children now (I have a son from a previous relationship) & marriage would only be for companionship.

    Due to my parents’ constant ridicule, mental cruelty & criticism of me – particularly since I have been a mother & about me being a mother & about me being a professional (& then failing) has taken a toll. But I am determined to move forward. Maybe I had the illusion that I was free of them when I was in my twenties – as since I suffered injuries, redundancies, relationship break-up & looked to them for support – only to be beaten down. I have felt so degraded by their critism & ridicule of me – especially about my career & single parent status & their sneering at me ex beating me that I dread any contact with them & have to be careful to push thoughts about having to meet them away.

    Simultaneoulsy I am enjoying re-building (I have bought some clothes for myself for the first time in a few years) – & feel a strong need to rebuild my identity & feeling more space & having more time for my son. Planning how to rebuild my career; focusing on getting my son into a good school for A’Levels & planning how to get myself into shape & find a man – & some friends. I have got back in touch with as many college friends as I can find & made some new ones on Facebook.

    Somehow I feel I am tinkering around the edges though – is this because I have not effectively stood up to them – which would require contact with them? Moving forward feels good & frankly I would rather not see them & just continue to get over them & the pressure I face from relatives to see them more. I want to move into the light.

    Am I stepping out in the right way?

  22. Ben Says:
    October 24th, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Hi Shirley,

    Be proud that you can get away, not guilty.

    In order to deal with the details of your situation and what you’re capable of, we’d have to talk.

    A lot of people have been helped by phone or Skype coaching.

    I charge $100 (US)/hour and accept major credit cards.

    Please email or call me at 1- 877-8BULLIES (877-828-5543).

    Take charge of your present and your future before it’s too late.

    Best wishes,

  23. Amy Says:
    October 26th, 2011 at 5:16 am

    My forty year old brother just took his own life because he was bullied by our dad. My heart is broken and it is very difficult to be in the same room with my dad. The hardest part is that my dad never admits any of his wrong doings. PARENTS SHOULD NEVER BULLY THEIR CHILDREN. IT CAN BE FATAL!

  24. Ben Says:
    October 26th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Hi Amy,

    I’m so sorry about your brother.

    I wish he’d gotten free and made lots of distance. Free and distance physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

    Yes, parents shouldn’t bully kids. But I’m more oriented to the future because toxic parents don’t change and I figure it’s a waste of time to keep sticking your head in a dragon’s mouth. So what can we do, knowing they’re toxic?

    Why are you in the same room with murderers?

    Best wishes,

  25. Ashley Says:
    November 22nd, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Hey Ben,
    I have a situation at home where I’m 23 and I barely received a GED because of my Parents hold on me.. I still have a hold on me. I wanted to ask you if, Moving away even without their permission or notification is alright? Because I have been Mentally abused nothing like hitting though. My life is my Computer, and I don’t have a job. I’m not “Allowed” One. I don’t have friends they aren’t allowed to come to the house because I get told the house is dirty because I don’t revolve my life around cleaning. I do help with chores but I get criticized on how I do them. Like how I fold clothes saying I don’t “fold them properally” Then I’m not “Allowed” A License. I usually ask to drive but they never let me. My Dad sits back and is catered to.. having food brought to him, having everything he needs bought for him. But then when she yells at me he just sits there.. letting her or even joining in. I’m beginning to hate them and I’m fed up. I have run away before but I did it the wrong way. I’ve been suicidal since I was 15. Everything is about money in my house. Everything revolves around “Other peoples opinions” She constantly tells me that she doesn’t like how I dress, act, talk, or think. That others will judge me and then judge her parenting skills. I have an older brother that is the pride and joy of my Mom since he was from her first marriage. He belittles me and I don’t hate him, Just know he doesn’t love me. I have enough money to get on a plane and get an apartment. But they would stop me before I could get on the plane. She constantly tells me “I will call the cops” I’m 23 I don’t think they will arrest me. I need help and advice Ben. This has been going on for years. I was never allowed to go to parties or sleepovers, for fear other people would make fun of me or the parents would judge them. Am I doing the correct thing by removing myself without telling them or should I give them a heads up? I don’t have Money to have counseling but I wouldnt mind a reply :) Ive put in for jobs but noone has hired me at all. I have my GED, And SSCard so in case I do leave I have what I need.

  26. Ben Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Ashley,

    I’ll believe everything you’ve written and be straightforward in response.

    I don’t understand the hold they have on you. If you’re 23 and you can get away, why would the cops stop you? Is there more information you haven’t given us or is that just what your rotten parents say.

    I’d say, unless there really is something wrong with you, get at least 2,000 miles away from the whole bunch of them. Get a job far away and then leave. Plan in secret and leave in the middle of the night or during the day when they don’t know. Change your phone number, your email, your Facebook, your name, your SSN and anything else you need. Don’t talk to them again.

    Don’t look back.

    Be invulnerable! Make a great life for yourself.

    Vote Selfish, Narcissistic, Insensitive People off Your Isle of Song

    Stop Bullying: Support Good Behavior Instead of Bad Blood

    Stop Family Bullying Over a Favorite Child

    Make a ton of money so you can get the expert coaching you need.

    Best wishes,

  27. Heather Says:
    December 3rd, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Hi Ben,

    I am an adult child of an alcoholic mother. I am 34 years old and must admit that, despite her constant criticism and negatively, I still desperately strive to gain her approval. I am now finally at the point where I feel that enough is enough. I am married now, have a great career, and wonderful friends…yet nothing I ever do seems to be good enough for her. Despite the fact that she stopped drinking over ten years ago, she continues the cycle of blaming everyone else in her life for everything, yet never admitting to her own mistakes. I have accepted that she will never change, but I still carry the guilt of “how will I feel if she dies tomorrow and we were estranged”? I simply can’t keep trying with her anymore because no matter what I say or do, I always fall short, and it’s starting to really become debilitating for me. I know that I need to cut ties, but it is very difficult to do with my own mother. Any advice?

  28. Ben Says:
    December 10th, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Hi Heather,

    Sorry this took so long.

    I’m glad “enough is enough.” See:
    Stop Bullying, Abuse: Say, “That’s Enough!”

    Stop arguing, debating, trying to prove yourself and move away. A few thousand miles with no phone calls, email, Facebook, etc is probably good.

    Vote Selfish, Narcissistic, Insensitive People off Your Isle of Song

    What You Owe Toxic Parents

    I’ll be straightforward: What you say is good but only counts as a small first step of recognition, clarity and acceptance of the way things are. Only effective actions count.

    Your future is calling to you!

    For expert coaching both to get you moving forward and also to create an effective plan, call me at 1-877-8BULLIES (877-828-5543) so we can set up an appointment.

    Best wishes,

  29. orihime Says:
    April 11th, 2012 at 10:53 pm


    Thank you so much for writing this article. I was browsing for articles on toxic parents and I came to this article.

    I was born and raised in Asia where most children are taught severely to respect their parents no matter what they do. I didn’t receive any physical abuse. What I received was verbal abuse and the wound remained unhealed until now.

    My father left his former spouse and children to live with my mom, but they weren’t married. My father loved to yell at me and whenever he did that my mom just didn’t say any word because my father did the same whenever my mother yelled at me.

    My parents (mostly my mother ‘coz my father died when I was 14) often said that I’m ugly, stupid and I will not be able to live a happy live until I die. Not only that, my mother often took the money I got from doing part time job and when I told her to stop she would say, “Do have any idea how much does it cost to feed you and give you education?”. She was the one who told me that to take someone’s property without permission is a heavy sin but in fact, she didn’t feel guilty at all when she took my money.

    I grew up with poor self-esteem and whenever someone asked me to have a relationship I often refused since I was scared that the person might abuse me in the end just like what my parents did.

    Everything changed when I left my hometown at the age of 18 to study abroad. My mother was screaming like a lunatic and told me that I’m such an ungrateful child to leave her alone since I’m an only child. But I didn’t change my mind.

    I’m now 28 and married but to be honest I’m not totally cured from the wound I received. Still now my mom loves to blackmail me and she even reported to her relatives that I’m such a cruel demon for not sending her money every month (she was asking to send more than a half of my income). So, I told her that if I comply with her request there’s no doubt that I would end up being homeless and living on the streets since both me and my husband are only contract workers.

    I’ve seek for advice from many friends and relatives but all of them told me that it’s all my fault. They said that I’m fully responsible to take care of my mom because she is the one who brought me to earth. To be honest, I didn’t ask to be born as my parents doormat and I believe that I have the right to live a happy life which is by cutting the family bond with my mother.

    Unfortunately, most counselors suggested that I should keep the relationship with my mother. Therefore, I’m glad that I’ve found this article. I was thinking to end my life a week ago since my mom has started to blackmail me again. But when I read the article and all the comments I feel relieved since I wasn’t the only one who’s suffering from toxic parents.

  30. Ben Says:
    April 23rd, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Hi Orihime,

    Sorry this took so long.

    You’re experiencing the passage through that second stage: deciding the rules for yourself.

    What You Owe Toxic Parents

    Stop Bullies: Especially Toxic Parents

    I understand about the culture, and you still have to decide. If there’s a plant that’s poisoning your life you have a decision to make. Leave it in to continue poisoning or dig it out and replace it with a plant that bears good fruit for your life.

    If you keep the old plant the end will be inevitable – no hope. If you replace it with a new plant, new rules for your life and your children, you have hope for a great future despite the unknowns.

    Your choice.

    “What will happen to a man with a noble and loving heart who knowingly places his head in the dragon’s mouth? Surely poison will destroy him, since this is the dragon’s nature?” Abolqasem Ferdowsi

    Stay alive and stay away. 5,000 miles might be far enough.

    Best wishes,

  31. RJ Says:
    July 16th, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I have excluded myself from my parent’ lives for twelve years because of mean abusive behavior. Now I have been dealing from bullying from both of my child. They have been taught to disrepect me by both their father, my ex-husband and my parents. During my divorce, my ex-husband formed an alliance with my parents. When our son reached 18, my ex worked on my son to get him to reject me. My son quickly became very bitter. This resulted in me having to ask him to leave my home. Within hours I received a letter from my husband’s attorney to stop child support. My son was totally manipulated so that my husband would not have to contribute to his support and his college education. At this point, the bullying from my parents increased one thousand fold. My parents informed me that I no longer would be in their will and my inheritance would go to their grand-children. I stepped out of my parent’s life at that moment and have no regrets. Now they try to reach me through my adult chidren. I live abroad but visit my children during the summer. My visits, however end in disaster because my children are still so bitter toward me. My daughter now has 2 children and she uses them to punish me. It now appears that I will have to step away from her and my son as well. It is heartbreaking because of my granchildren.

  32. Ben Says:
    July 17th, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Hi RJ,

    What a terrible situation — yet all too common. People do form self-reinforcing cliques and mobs, designate a scapegoat and persecute that person.

    It’s sad, but there it is. Now think of it as your excluding toxic polluters from your life and your space. Just like you would protect yourself from people who wanted to pour trash in your home.

    They have failed your test for behavior you’ll allow near you. Exclude them and turn your face toward a better future. Maybe someday at least one of your grandchildren will see the truth and try to connect with you. Don’t argue, don’t debate and don’t try to justify or prove your side of things.

    In the mean time, you simply have to create the most wonderful life you can right now, right were you are.

    Vote Selfish, Narcissistic, Insensitive People off Your Isle of Song

    Stop Bullies: Ignore Their Excuses, Justifications

    To Increase Confidence and Self-Esteem: Test the World, Not Yourself

    I know it’s hard, but I think there’s nothing else to do.

    Best wishes,