Gina’s adult son was narcissistic, bullying and abusive to her.  He was callous, demanding and arrogant.  He never appreciated what she did for him.  He was 37 but couldn’t support himself in the style he wanted.  Even worse, when Gina wouldn’t solve his problems or give him all the money he wanted, his anger and rage toward her were overwhelming.

He asked for her advice but when she tried to help him avoid another disastrous decision, he’d yell that she wasn’t respecting him as an adult.  When he ignored her advice and failed, he’d curse her and say it was all her fault; he was entitled, she owed him everything he wanted.

Gina was afraid.
She was afraid if she didn’t give him what he wanted every moment, he’d fail and become depressed and maybe even suicidal.  On the other hand, she was also afraid if she didn’t keep bailing him out, he’d hate her forever.  The twin fears kept her participating in a sorrow-filled dance that always left her sobbing with frustration, pain and guilt.

Gina decided to wean him.
She accepted that by remaining in the game, she was hurting him; she was being a bad mother.  By thinking of him as weak and frail, she was reinforcing his own fears.  By treating him like a child she was preventing his rough and painful passage to becoming an adult.  In order for him to grow up, he needed to face the challenge and risk of possibly failing.

The next time he demanded respect for him as an adult, Gina had cue cards prepared.  They carried the following messages:

  • You’re not an adult, no matter how old you are, until you’re self-sufficient.  So I’m weaning you off any advice and money and we’ll see if you can take care of yourself.
  • You’re not an adult, no matter how old you are, until you can control your emotions toward me.  Adults can have polite, civil conversations even about touchy subjects.  As long as you’re throwing hissy-fits, I’ll think of you as a child needing a time out and I’ll give you appropriate consequences.
  • Since you’re still at the stage when you’re learning the magic words – please and thank you and you’re welcome – I won’t give you any milk until you use the good manners I know you have.  The problem between us is that you don’t respect me.
  • I always love you but I don’t like your personality.  You’re bullying and abusive to me so you don’t get near me.  I can’t save you from yourself.  I know you’re strong enough to make it on your own.  But if you fall apart, I’ll gladly institutionalize you.
  • Our relationship will never be about money.  We’ll bring each other wonderful, interesting things to talk about or we’ll talk about the weather.  If you can’t do any better than surface, small talk then I know what our relationship is about.

She even read the cue cards to him.  That shocked him because he realized his game was so predictable.

Of course, he threw a huge temper-tantrum.
But Gina ignored him.  Then she laughingly said to let her know when he was ready to come out of the time out she was putting him in, and apologize and do better.  Meanwhile, she was going to have a good time the rest of her life.

Of course she was afraid.  But she saw this as the only and necessary approach.  She’d see if he needed institutional help.  And she knew she couldn’t be the one to rescue him.

In this situation, Gina's son needed her.  So, after trying to beat her into submission and failing, after trying to manipulate her into backing down, he capitulated and began treating her respectfully.

Of course, there are many complications depending on your situation.  The best way to learn how to take power in your life and to be the person you want to be is to hire Dr. Ben for personalized coaching and counseling so you can:

  1. Develop the strength, courage, will and determination to be and to act your best resolutely, diligently and effectively.
  2. Develop a plan and master the skills necessary to create the life your spirit has always hungered for.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, call me at 1-877-8Bullies for expert counseling and coaching by phone or Skype.

AuthorBen Leichtling