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Manipulative Adult Children

Troubled adult children are often the masters of manipulation of their desperate feeling and frustrated parents. These children know how to trigger guilt by their comments to their emotionally tired and vulnerable parents. "If you don't help me, I'll just kill myself or end up on the street dead." As the parent, your guilt is not justified, but rather makes you vulnerable to be more manipulated by your troubled adult child.


As parents, it is important to set limits. The adult who is struggling needs to either sink or swim or the parents will have to be okay with nurturing the struggling adult along. I highly encourage the latter...Let go, let God.

If you, the parent, feels guilt for not helping your troubled child, then that guilt will play tricks on your mind. Guilt can convince you that your child's struggles are your fault. Rather, you ought to gain some self-compassion.

If you've actually done something you're ashamed of, apologize and move on. Avoid dwelling on the situation before your adult child recognizes this as a manipulation tool to continue to use on you.


You've noticed red flags and in this new situation, you might have looked over them due to guilt and perhaps this pressure concerning what love really looks like. Dr. Bernstein created this list and I highly suggest you read this intentionally as to avoid further manipulation and to set your limits.


If your adult child is in trouble, it is wise to let go and allow them to take responsibility for their actions and for their situation. It is wrong for your mental health and for their maturity, as a parent, to continue enabling them. As you read these five red flags, consider what is true and set your boundaries!







Following are five red flags that your adult child is manipulating you:  

1. Your adult child holds you emotionally hostage by threatening to hurt or kill herself or himself. Adult children who are truly at risk for self-harm need to be taken seriously. But repeated, guilt inducing, manipulative, toxic plays for attention or leniency to get out of facing responsibilities needs to be directly called out and addressed.


2. Your hear lying through "selective memory. You swear you had a conversation about a plan and everyone was pumped up and on the same page, But then one day, your adult child pretends to remember the conversation completely differently, if at all. 

3. Your adult child does not take life on—but you do. You are shouldering his or her debt, taking on a second job, or taking on additional responsibilities while your adult son or daughter is caught up in inertia, being seemingly endlessly non-productive. You a