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Why We Hate Our Parents

Western parents feel it is their job to make their children into who they should be rather than relate to who they already are.

By Mark Epstein, M.D.

His perceptions were astute. Parents sometimes feel that their only job is to help their children separate and individuate. Once that is accomplished, they feel useless or obsolete. Compounding the problem is the inevitable estrangement of adolescence, when the first stirrings of grown-up anger make themselves known. Many parents never recover from these upheavals. Their emotional connections with their offspring are so tenuous that when the first expressions of disdain are hurled at them, they retreat forever. Hurt by their children's anger, they feel ignored and unappreciated, wishing for a miracle to restore their importance in their children's lives.

We have come to expect this estrangement in our culture and see it as the beginning of the end. One of my friends, for instance, a child therapist, startled my wife the other day by inquiring whether our 13-year-old daughter hated her yet. "She will!" he pronounced with great fervor. But, as the lama correctly intuited, children (even angry, adult ones) never stop needing their parents' love. My friend's gleeful anticipation of my daughter's anger is symbolic of where we are in this culture. There are few models of evolved relationships between parents and their growing children, only models of failure. Yet family life demands the same balance of devotion and surrender that we bring to yoga and meditation when practice gets difficult. Just as we cannot let the inevitable frustrations of spiritual practice dissuade us from our path, so we cannot let the angers and irritations of family life turn into hatred. The special challenge of childrearing is to relate to children as the individuals they already are, not to try to make them into people they could never be. This turns out to be the key to relating with parents, as well.

Mark Epstein, M.D., is a psychiatrist in New York and author of Going on Being, (Broadway, 2001). He has been a student of Buddhist meditation for 25 years.

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I find my self here among other "Why Kids Hate Their Parents" pages I googled. I found my daughter loving, always did the right thing, no real trouble the 17 years she at home. But when she went to college she developed anger at her Mum and I. Her Mum did decide to leave the marriage that summer, no real reason. She cam from a very broken home, dad in jail, Mum choose to leave her with Grand Parents and run around partying so the shrink said that she feels comfortable in a broken situation, our marriage was to stable for her. At breakfast I mentioned we should go to a marriage counselor now that it will be just us and she moved out the next weekend. So I could understand some anger due to that but at 28 now she just a had child and still punishes me through withholding. I can count on just about 1 hand how many times she has come to see me. Has not offered to allow me to see my grand daughter. She has been the well of so much joy and hurt. I just do not understand. Good upper middle class home, I went to just about anything she ever did, I encouraged her to do many activities. We were in YMCA Indian princess program from 5 yo to 12 yo camping 4 times a year, father & daughter activities twice a month, Baseball, Football and Hockey games here in S Fla often. Car races together, classic car events together. I thought I did it all right and here I am without a daughter at 62. I just do not understand.

Mimi - the reason kids put their parents in a rest home and forget about them is because their parents abused them as children. The way I see it, this is perfectly fair and just. When the children were young and helpless, the parents beat, belittled, and abused the child every chance they got. They didn't think about the day that they would be old and helpless and need their children to take care of them. Now when the parents are helpless, the children want nothing to do with them. It's our only chance at revenge - find the cheapest, lousiest nursing home available, put the bad parents in there, and leave them to rot. Perfectly fair.


i have a 4 year old son with a very strong personality. he is a true leader...extremely charming and knows how to get what he wants. unfotunately, he is also very grumpy. the more i try to show him how to focus on the positive, the more he fights it. this article has inspired me to truly embrace him for who he is, and i suspect he will ease up on the negativity.

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