Adult Son Is Verbally Abusive

by Marilyn

I have a 31 year old son who is married with a 3 month old baby. He was always a difficult child who had many temper tantrums as a child with anger issues as a teenager. He would punch holes in walls and go into extreme rages.

We have been to family counseling when he was a teenager, and I as his mother have had my own counseling and he as a young adult had some counseling as well as anger management classes. Things settled down for a while but since he has had the baby his anger has resurfaced. He actually threw something when he had the baby in his arms.

He got into an argument with me and the language and name calling was horrible. He has crossed a line that I think a child should never do with a parent. I don't deserve this. I asked him to leave the house and told him he needed to go back into counseling. He told me he wasn't going to and if I thought by not talking to him would accomplish that it wouldn't work.

I take responsibility for my part in all of this but I do not want him around anymore. I would like to have a relationship with my grandson but he has used that against me as well, telling me I won't be a part of life, so I'm afraid to get attached to the baby for fear that he will do that someday.

Am I doing the right thing by not talking to him and telling him he is not welcome in my home anymore? What should I do if he won't go for help?

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Marilyn, and thanks for telling your story here. I think you're definitely doing the right thing. You can add, when you talk to him, that he is allowed into your home after (you set the period of time), when he has gotten some help and decided that he can treat you with respect.

Your message, spoken and unspoken, needs to be that he will either treat you with respect or he will not see you. While that may seem harsh, it is actually the most loving thing you can do. To allow him to be abusive to you is not love, and it hurts him as well as you.

Unfortunately, this will probably mean loss of contact with your grandson, for a short or long while. This is still better than allowing him to be abusive. You can't control his behavior. Just set boundaries around his relationship with you. That is the best you can do.

Meanwhile, every time you think of your son, picture him in your mind's eye healing and waking up to the good person he is inside. If you are oriented to prayer, pray for him. Believe in the goodness within him to rise to the surface, and let go. Find the distance from which you can love him, and let the rest go.

This page will help: letting go of a relationship.

Focus on creating a healthy, loving, joyful life for yourself.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

P.S. If you found this to be helpful, please consider making a donation to this site to support our mission.

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Aug 12, 2015
Afraid For His Safety
by: Anonymous

I am 54 yrs old, I have a son who is 34 yrs old, he is verbally and sometimes physically abusive. He has choked me and bit me in the past. He has put holes in the walls, damaged my appliance and my car. I see no way out. I have thrown him out, but allowed him back. Now I can't get rid of him. On the streets alone I'm afraid someone may kill him. I want him to go to Rehab.

Aug 05, 2015
My Son is Bipolar and Abusive
by: Lynn

Our son is 37 and bipolar. Right now we're going through one of his melt downs since July 2, 2015. He's not on any meds.

We're retired and on a fixed income. Also my husband is a 100% disabled Vietnam vet due to Agent Orange. His ex-wife left him because of his abuse but I think she has forgotten that. She believes everything he tells her.

All he does is lie. He's told her we are not to be trusted with our 8 year old grandson. That we are out of control and crazy. We're very close to our grandson and I'm sure he's asking for us. The pain is incredible.

He yells at us and swears at us and calls us awful names. He's been like this since he was around 13. He needs us to survive and this is killing us to cut him off.

He has no car so we were driving him to work. Handling his money and taking him food shopping. We don't know what to do to help him anymore. Unless he decides he needs help there is nothing we can do. In the meantime we are cut off from our grandson.

May 12, 2015
by: Anonymous

No matter what his Father and I do he seems to be irritated by our very existence. When my son was in hospital with viral meningitis his wife called us on my husband's birthday to inform us he was in hospital.

He has done this and other similar things before. Very spiteful with his words. I have chosen not to challenge him, hoping he would 'grow up' but at 32 this seems unlikely.

I asked how he was a week ago and why he hadn't replied to me. He hasn't called his father either. Again, I just get verbal abuse saying this is why he never tells me anything. I do not see him often, which is his choice. I never phone, his choice.

We try to keep the peace as we have a lovely grandson who is totally controlled in every way. His other grandma does babysit one day a week and says it is very difficult as they phone up and tell her off most weeks.

What to do? Please help.

Mar 01, 2015
A Similar Story
by: Anonymous

Your story and so many of the other comments directly reflect what I have been going through. My only son began to express resentment and hatred towards everything in life when he became a teenager. He is now 33, wirh 2 children. I have struggled with the "What did I do wrong" question and always felt if I was only more understanding, he would change.

Embarrassment is huge, as he is a totally different person when around others. I feel as if people would judge me as the crazy one if I were to cut him out of my life.

I have bailed him out financially over the years, even most recently co-signing for his apartment lease.

I feel that by letting him go, I will be left paying the remainder of his lease (6 mo). I am retired now and on a fixed income. This would be extremely difficult to do.

I know that I can't take the stress of this toxic relationship any longer, however the financial and potential loss of access to my grandchildren consumes me and causes great sorrow.

Thank you for reading this.

Nov 30, 2014
No diagnosis that fits all situations
by: Dr. DeFoore


In response to your question, there is no one diagnosis that would fit each individual, because many different types of problems can lead to young adults not leaving home, becoming independent, and becoming abusive to their parents.

The closest you can come to a diagnosis is by understanding the whole scenario of young adults "failing to launch." This book does a good job of explaining the problem and guiding parents on how to take steps toward resolution:

I strongly encourage you and other parents reading this to read this book. You don't have to be frustrated and helpless about this problem.

My best,

Dr. DeFoore

Nov 29, 2014
Add me to the list!
by: Anonymous

Is there a diagnosis for these abusive adult children who display this unacceptable behavior? I have a 28 yr old who fits right in with all of yours. Is there an end to this insanity that isn't jail or hospitalization?

Nov 07, 2014
Thank you for this
by: Anonymous

I too have a son (one of four children) who is quite unlike the others. He has always been quick to anger and sees others' actions as a direct attack. I have tried counselling and behavior therapy, all of which have left me frustrated. He and I are living in the same house with his 2 year old daughter.

His girlfriend got tired of the abuse and left him. And he isn't capable of caring for the child on his own. The sad part is that when he is not angry he is a very caring loving person, but the anger comes so quickly and the language is very upsetting.

Recently my son in law and daughter moved in during renovations to their home. This has caused even more anger and obviously my son is feeling inadequate but regardless of what I try to say he attacks me verbally.

I would like to have him leave, however my granddaughter would go with him and that would be a real problem so I am trying to figure out how to work with this situation.

Sep 01, 2014
Everyone has the right to be respected and valued
by: Anonymous

I am so saddened to hear these stories. My husband and I are 60 years of age and found it the norm to be verbally abused by our younger adult son 22. This anger was not only towards us, but often he became very animated with anger, pacing, venting about his friends' deficiencies as well. When his elderly grandparents came to visit he was and is conversational and shows great respect, but when we were alone as a family he would incite an argument, or just be contrary.

I am a believer that if you show love and kindness, it will work itself out. But it doesn't, and I know just beneath the surface an angry demeanour is simmering. We went to a family counsellor once, it was expensive. The counsellor asked why we were there. We explained that we wanted to get together and talk with my sons to find out how we can find our way back to having a peaceful life again.

He turned to each son and asked what they wanted. The younger one shrugged mostly, but offered that he felt bullied by the older son, which later he admitted to us was not true. The counsellor, mostly guided my sons' responses by asking do they have enough privacy? Why don't they move out of the home?

They both study full time with only 1 working part time. I said to the counsellor I am concerned about the level of threat that the one son asserts to the other - that at times he says to him that he wants to kill him. The counsellor then looked at my son and said - then why don't you? (another shrug).

Then he launched into anecdotes about his own sons and he raised them alone etc. We came away thinking we had made a big mistake going there. Even my son laughs about the experience at our expense. Then one day after my husband fell ill, and without any consideration of my worry, my son's behaviour continued.

When I went to leave the room, he said, don't play the victim, now you want me to feel bad. Always the victim, mom! God must have had his hand on my shoulder, because I can be quite intimidated by him. I said - Leave! Pack a bag and go. Don't phone me, don't speak to me, just go. Today I don't care if you're a student or not, get a job and go back to your studies in a few years time - just go.

He was so shocked he did! When he returned 2 days later he was subdued and since the tantrums have become less. So for now, while my husband is recovering I have found strength to stand up to him I will keep doing what I need to do. The above person's advice is right. Set some ground rules and stick to them. Everyone deserves to be respected and valued.

Jul 02, 2014
Thank you
by: CAS

I wish there was more research and resources for parents of abusive adult children. I can say from experience it's embarrassing, humiliating and shameful to have a son who can be so filled with rage. If I didn't have three other adult children who are not like this son, I would seriously question our parenting.

And still, we wrack our brains trying to figure out where we went wrong. It was so bad we considered a protection order but didn't follow through so as not to ruin his career.

Rightfully so, there is much info on child abuse, but it would be helpful if there was something professional about parent abuse. At a time we should be enjoying our retirement, It's become a nightmare. And more so when people look at us as if we are the perpetrators and not the victims.

I've had counselors say to me, "so, where do you think you went wrong?" And "what could you have done to make this turn out different?" I leave feeling beat up all over again.

So, thank you for shedding some light on this growing problem.

Kind regards to each of you.

Jul 02, 2014
broken heart
by: Anonymous

I am an 81 year old woman who has just lost my youngest son age 49 to suicide. He was a beautiful person and a great son. My grief is beyond words. Because of his death, my oldest son has become not only verbally abusive toward me and his step-father, but physically abusive as well. Recently he wrote to me in the most hurtful words that I never expected to read. He has always been a person with a trigger temper and has been in many skirmishes because of it. Not only am I in such deep despair over the loss of my son, but I am so sad for my anger stricken son. It feels as if I have lost two sons. In my heart I feel that it is best to distance myself from him. This has made me so terribly, terribly sad. I'm not sure what is the right thing to do.
Thank you.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

I'm so sorry for your loss. And for the difficulty you're having with your other son. As sad as it is, you are correct about the need for distance. You do him no favors by allowing him to abuse you. And you do yourself and him a service by making sure it does not continue.

My very best to you in your time of grief.

Dr. DeFoore

Dec 06, 2013
Abusive son
by: Anonymous

I also have a grown son with problems. He is blaming everyone else including me for his problems. He blows up and most recently physically hurt me and threatened to kill me. He called me names I would never repeat and he did it all to hurt me because he is unhappy with himself. I finally told him not to come back. To get help. I don't want to see him and don't want him to be around me or my grandchildren. I am afraid. I need to change the locks on my doors. I am going to find out how much it costs. Thanks for your website. God Bless all of us.

Jul 08, 2013
only God is there to help
by: Anonymous

I'm mother of a 17 year old son. Recently we moved to Canada and he is an only child. He had a very calm and peaceful childhood. After 15, he started behaving very aggressive and violent. He doesn't listen to us. If you say something he starts making funny faces and uses abusive language. Most of the time he threatens to break walls and things. What to do with this boy. All day and night he is on Facebook and messaging on the phone. If I say something he won't listen.

Jun 12, 2013
by: linda

I have had abuse from my son for years he is now 28 with 2 young children,his temper is explosive at the smallest things, he swears and screams at me at the top of his voice in front of my friends family neighbours and strangers, and has me believing im the one at fault, I find myself questioning myself and thinking yes it is me, he thinks the world owes him, terrified of him. today I made the diction to totally put him out of my life and that alone is heart breaking to add to that I am told I cant see the grand children, but told him I wont allow him to use them to control me. to remove my pain I have inflicted even more pain upon myself. just wish I was stronger and not hurting so bad, my husband has passed away so hard doing this alone but my 2 other sons have also backed me up by taking him out of there life too [is this too much for him] guess this is a cry for help than a comment.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Linda

It sounds like you have definitely done the right thing. Your sons that are backing you up would not be doing that if you were not on track. Your son that you can cut yourself off from needs to feel the natural consequences of his actions, and he needs to get the clear message from you that he either treats you with respect or he does not get to be with you or communicate with you. The pain you're going through is understandable. It is grief, and it's deep, because of what has happened. But it will pass over time, and the pain of continuing to allow him to abuse and manipulate you with his children would be ongoing, and it would get worse. Hang in there. You're on track, and it will get better.

My best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

Apr 08, 2013
Abusive Adult Children
by: Anonymous

When I was a child, the abuse I went through was most definitely at the high end of the spectrum.

Now I am in a situation where my bf's adult son is calling the shots. I am not allowed in the house, or in the same room as him. He has threatened me, and I have threatened to call the police. I am actively looking for work; he smokes everything and plays online games all day.

You have heard it all before.

His father and I have talked it over and he is at his wit's end. He doesn't know what to do.

But I do. The key is to get out - at any cost, irrespective of the ties I might break. I don't care if the son "wins" or loses. I care about my own peace of mind. When you are doing your "business" in a bucket because you can't go in the house to use the toilet, you will know what I mean. Anything is an improvement.

I feel badly that I have let myself down after all these years, but at least I can do something about it now.

Feb 16, 2013
Abusive Son
by: Anonymous

My problem is similar to many of the others I have read. I have a 30yo son who verbally abuses me. He is married with 4 kids. I have helped with the care of the 2 oldest for 11yrs. I used to have them every weekend. They were horribly abused by his ex and he has custody. I have put a distance b/w us before for a few months and he changed for a year. He has started the abuse again and I have cut off from him again. He is now more angry that ever and says he will see me at my funeral. I have ignored all his threats and to tell you the truth I'm really not caring to much if I see him at all. I do however feel sad about my 2 Grandies who have been abandoned by their mother and her family. I have told his wife she and kids r always welcome but I know he wont allow this. He is angry that I wont do weekend respite anymore. He always brings up the past and tells me I was a bad mum. This is his excuse to abuse me. What do u all think?

Apr 21, 2012
Family Heartache
by: Anonymous

I have a abusive relationship with a grow granddaughter. My daughter never says a word when she is doing it. And when I do speak up, then her father and I are not included in get togethers. I stand my ground until my husband tries to make me the bad guy because he says he will not lose his girls (my 2 daughters). My son agrees on how I feel it is abuse. Lost. Help

Jul 02, 2011
Abusive Son
by: Anonymous

This is a similar situation to mine. Trying to be kind and compassionate with the new baby only made the verbal and emotion abuse worse. I have set boundaries and am moving on with my life. My son wants nothing more to do with me or my husband, that's his choice. It's a wonder how peaceful life has become. The heartbreak is still there, but heals more with time. Good advice, if you don't speak up the abuse will most likely just accelerate.

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