Seek to Understand Your Parents

In Defense of Passive/Aggressiveness & Guilt Trips

A common TV Trope is to have an overbearing mother character that makes passive/aggressive comments and lays on guilt trips. I’m thinking of Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond, but it is common to show a parent (almost always the mom) as the reason a character is emotionally stunted.

 In fact, in my Shattered, MIkey, the troubled main character, has a disconnect with his mom. He feels like she forced him on his stepdad. However, what I am showing in Mikey is that his low self-esteem made him internalize events in his childhood. So I don’t dip into a trope.  

However, I do believe this is a common trope because that is how people often interpret the things their mothers say as manipulation. I’ve heard some of these exchanges and labeled them as passive/aggressive as well.

 Then, lately, I have been trying to approach my adult child. We are not exactly estranged, but I can’t label it as a good relationship either. At 21 years old, this child has not contacted me or my wife in several weeks.  Often (very often) I try to compose an email to our adult child (who is a person with autism). I never end up sending this email.  Everything I want to say sounds like manipulation.

Things like:  Are you getting closer to wanting to spend time with me?

Your mother and I spent a lot of time loving you and worrying about you.  Don’t you think we deserve a little of your time?

Things such as that. Straightforward will not work. Even straightforward sounds like manipulation.  Which parents can lay guilt trips.  However, I wonder how often the parent is just trying to be earnest.   We just don’t know what to say.

Then there is the fact that people without kids may not understand how deep our feelings are and misinterpret what is being said to them as a guilt trip. How who we are is very strongly connected to our children. It may not be healthy, but it is unavoidable.

I am trying to remember how busy I was as a young person. But not having a good relationship with the most important people in my life makes me a little desperate.

So, I say nothing and wait.  Other parents, though, can’t do that.  They, desperate like me, say the wrong thing because they need their family.

It makes me truly understand number 5 habit of the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”


“Seek first to understand, then to be understood”


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