Adult son disrespectful to mother: what can be done?

Reading time 6 minutes
Adult son disrespectful to mother: what can be done?

In adulthood, the parent-child relationship changes automatically. The former power-grabbing fades away, so that in the ideal case a trusting relationship develops at eye level. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in reality.

At the same time, mothers and sons have a very special relationship in childhood, so Moritz Dauma psychology professor at the University of Zurich. Mothers usually give boys more closeness than daughters and even breastfeed them longer on average. But where does this change come from, so that adult sons sometimes behave very disrespectfully toward their mothers? The following article provides some information.

Why is respect so important in parent-child relationships?

An Parent-child relationship should always be characterized by mutual respect - right from the start. Children who are brought up with respect for their individual personalities and feelings are not only more self-confident, but also more empathetic in their dealings with those around them.

This is exactly where the circle closes: If an adult son behaves disrespectfully toward his mother, it is quite possible that childhood wounds are hidden behind this behavior. Only if parents act as role models in terms of respectful behavior can a child implement this in adulthood.

However, this does not mean that parents have fundamentally failed in parenting if an adult son behaves disrespectfully toward his mother. Sometimes current conflicts or disagreements can also trigger disrespectful behavior.

Parent-Child Relationships

Adult son disrespectful to mother: Is it normal for adult children to be disrespectful sometimes?

Disrespect cannot be accepted as normality in any way and is not something that mothers of adult sons simply have to live with. No one has the right to violate another's personal boundaries with words or actions. If an adult son behaves disrespectfully toward Mother, there is usually a conflict that has preceded it. The focus can be on a current or old issue.

As children develop into adults, they naturally distance themselves from their parents. In the advancing autonomy process, disrespectful behavior may occur more often. In teenage years, therefore, one could speak of normality to a certain extent, which in no way means that the misbehavior should not be corrected.

However, adults - this applies to both mother and son - should know other ways to resolve conflicts. Among the most common topics of dispute between mother and son in adulthood are the following scenarios:

  • The adult son feels controlled.
  • The mother interferes in various areas of life without being asked (e.g. the education of the grandchildren).
  • Failure to cut the son's cord, e.g., regularly asking for financial support or housekeeping, which is then eventually refused.
  • One of the two does not keep to agreements made.

Adult son disrespectful to mother: how does this disrespect manifest itself?

First, it makes sense to take a closer look at the definition of disrespect. This refers to actions or statements that attack the dignity of another person. When this is the case generally depends on the feelings of the respective person. Synonyms according to the dictionary are rudeness, rudeness, contemptuousness and lack of dignity.

But by what specific behaviors can you tell that an adult son is behaving disrespectfully toward mom? Below is an overview:

  • The adult son becomes physical, e.g., shoving in an argument.
  • The adult son knowingly insults his mother, "You've never been good for anything!"
  • The adult son ignores his mother. For example, he does not answer messages or phone calls.
  • The adult son does not take his mother's expressed needs seriously. He laughs about it or deliberately acts in the opposite way.

What are the most common reasons for disrespect?

As discussed at the outset, disrespectful behavior is usually based on a core conflict, e.g., unprocessed childhood situations in which the son felt unfairly treated by his mother. Repressed frustration can manifest itself years later through disrespectful behavior.

However, it also often happens that a formerly harmonious mother-son relationship is strained by conflicts in adulthood. This can be the case when the mother and daughter-in-law do not get along and the son sides with his partner. A common reason that provokes disrespectful behavior is the mother's perceived interference in the adult son's life.

Misunderstandings that are never clarified can also provoke disrespectful behavior. Let's say the mother makes the following comment in the presence of her son, "You are so much like XY (any family member)." The son dislikes this family member and is terribly annoyed by the comparison, even though it did not refer to character but only to an external characteristic.

Adult son disrespectful to mother: how can a mother deal with this?

First of all, no one has to tolerate disrespectful behavior, including mothers of adult sons. Sometimes, however, a son does not even know that his behavior is perceived as disrespectful. Therefore, a mother should communicate her personal boundaries clearly and openly: "You are hurting me with this statement/behavior. Please refrain."

Only when the mother stands up for her personal boundaries can you work together to find a constructive solution. In the case of disrespectful behavior, it is also perfectly legitimate to leave the situation for the time being so that both parties can calm down: "I need to process this first and will get back to you later."

Furthermore, it is important to know that disrespectful behavior of an adult son does not necessarily mean that the mother has failed or that her own son does not love her. Even if it is very difficult, as a mother you should try not to take the disrespect too personally and instead go in search of the core conflict.

Adult son disrespectful to mother: can improving communication help?

An Communication improvement is indispensable when an adult son behaves disrespectfully toward mother. Not infrequently, disrespectful behavior results from mutual misunderstandings.

An example of an effective communication strategy is sending out I-messages. This will prevent your son from taking your remarks as accusations.

Instead of, "You shouldn't let your boss walk all over you."
Rather, "I'd give Mr. X a piece of my mind."

Communication improvement

Adult son disrespectful to mother: what can a son do to improve his relationship with his mother?

Even sons do not have to remain idle in order to improve their relationship with their mother. Often the disrespectful behavior is an expression of helplessness and suppressed anger. In other words, the son is not doing well. The following steps can help.

Step 1: Go inside yourself

What makes you so angry that you become abusive to your mother? Only when you identify the patterns that usually recur can you work specifically on your behavior.

Step 2: Seek the conversation with your mother

Communication is the key to respectful interaction. So take the first step and ask your mother to talk to you. Explain how you feel and which of her behaviors make you angry.

Step 3: Alternative behaviors

Is anger boiling up inside you, so that you would like to behave disrespectfully again? If you feel that you no longer have your impulses under control, then leave the situation. Let out your anger during sports or talk to a neutral person. Once you have calmed down, you can resume the conversation.

Step 4: Sustainable improvement

After you have communicated your needs and boundaries to each other, it is now a matter of both of you sticking to them. Agree that you will make each other aware when a boundary is in danger of being crossed.

Step 5: Commonality

Include your mother in your life. Of course, only as far as it's okay with you! Tell her what is happening at work and integrate her into the care of the grandchildren, birthdays and family outings.

Adult son disrespectful to mother: is there professional support for this type of conflict?

If an adult son behaves disrespectfully toward mother and there is insight in this regard, family therapy is useful. As a neutral third party, a therapist can mirror the interpersonal interaction between the two parties and uncover communication difficulties. The reappraisal of childhood situations may also play a role.

Let's assume that the son felt oppressed by his mother in childhood. The therapist can steer the reappraisal so that mental processing occurs. The mother also learns to deal with her (former) emotions and actions.

In the course of therapy, both parties also learn to get closer again. Misunderstandings are clarified and worked through together. You can find addresses of family therapists online or by asking your health insurance company.


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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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