Domination by Children

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk

Adult Children and Role Reversal


Role reversal occurs in all of our western culture, be it in Jewish or other families.  It is even more painful when children who were taught from birth to honor their parents and be rewarded with a long life for carrying out this commandment ignore it.  The majority of  parents demand very little if anything from their grown offspring.  Many children move away from their putative parents for better jobs, better climates, or to avoid any responsibilities that might be expected when needed.  They have forgotten the love, the caring, the uncountable sacrifices that parents have made to make life enjoyable for their progeny.  These “children”  readily find flaws and disparage the two people who have done everything in their limited power to afford all and more to give their children a worthwhile existence. 

There are a number of ways that the adult child exhibits his or her superiority over their parents grown old.  They will be domineering, behave toward their kin with disdain, will not ride with them in a car if they cannot be the driver, pretending the oldster is incompetent, regardless of the facts.  They have forgotten that  their parent,  now “persona non grata,” taught them and their offspring the skills of driving.  They will also refuse to accept dinner invitations from their parents because the old folks and their friends are not modern and have nothing joyful or interesting to contribute to any conversation.  They may even go as far as on rare occasion to bend so low as to join one of  the parental dinner invitations.  If they do this, they will leave almost immediately after inhaling the meal and gather up the guests dishes before their plates or their tea cups are empty.  They let it be known that they have no regard for their parents or their guests. 

Another method which exhibits the grown offspring and his actions is to be extremely “liberal”, interpreted by them as the outlook of modernity, of accepting humanity regardless of what religion, race or ethnic background they have.  They will go so far as marrying the person, no matter how different their culture, their values or their upbringing.  For the orthodox or sincerely conservadox Jewish parents, this is a deep pain, since their origins, their learning, their teachings, are thrown away for all eternity.  Such adult children will ignore the mores, the biblical values of their ancestors, the learning from the Torah, and all that has had meaning to the values and convictions of the parent generation.  The child thus possessed may believe his “independence” is essential, even if it is contrary to all that he is and all that he was.  He takes every opportunity to exhibit himself as unique, intelligent, and special.  He revels in minimizing his roots!

There is one consolation for the older adult:  The emotionally abusive/ domineering adult child in the not too far distant future, like his parents before him, will experience the passage of time and cannot escape his fate.  He or she too will grow old and will then be able to experience a similar fate that his parents have had to endure!


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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