Are you too critical of your adult children?

mature other and adult daughter having argument on couch

Columnist and counsellor Fiona Caine asks a grandmother whether she’s being overly critical of her single-mum daughter.

The problem
“Because my divorced 24-year-old daughter has to work, I get to look after my two grandsons quite a lot. I’m happy to do this, but I wish she would get her act together and take better care of them.

“They often wear dirty clothes when they come to see me and they’re also always hungry, which makes me think that she’s not feeding them properly either. That said, they seem happy enough and are doing well at primary school.

Read: Are you failing your ‘children’ on this front?

“She never seems to have any money, even though she works, and now she’s seeing another layabout who is out of work. Why can’t she see that these men are no good for her? She needs to find a man with a good job and a house, so that her children can grow up normally. Her flat is always untidy and grubby too.

“She’s always been a bit lazy, so I suppose that might explain her inability to sort out her life. What should I do to make her see sense? I’ve tried to talk to her but she’s always got other things on her mind.”

Fiona says
“I find it very sad that your feelings towards your daughter are so negative. Are you expecting me to condemn her as well? What I read here is that a single mum is working hard to bring up two young boys, who are growing up happy, healthy, and doing well. Good for her – it’s really hard to hold down a job and raise a happy family at the same time, especially without the support of a partner.

“Of course the boys are always hungry – having had two sons myself, I can vouch for the fact that their appetites sometimes seem bottomless and most mothers will endorse this too. Does it really matter that their clothes aren’t spotlessly clean when they come to visit you? Two young boys could have their clothes grubby within five minutes of getting dressed – is she really expected to change their clothes again?

“Surely, it’s more important that they’re comfortable in what they’re wearing, and as long as they’re not actually smelling, their clothes surely don’t matter that much. If it really bothers you, why not ask for a few changes of clothes to be kept at your house? That way, you can change them and wash the clothes yourself.

Read: The high cost of tapping the bank of mum and dad

“As for your daughter’s choice of partner, are you judging him to be a layabout just because he’s out of work? So many people are these days; we’ve lived (are living through) a pandemic and many people have lost their jobs and are struggling to find new ones. This new partner might be thoughtful, caring, brilliant with your grandsons, loving and supportive with your daughter – he might not be of course, but please don’t condemn him just for being jobless.

“Your daughter needs your love and support, not your criticism and rejection of the way she is living. It might not be the way you were brought up – or the way you brought her up – but I’m certainly not going to criticise a single woman who is trying to work and at the same time raise two children.

“I cannot help but wonder if you really understand the pressures faced by single parents – it’s tough and in recent times, even harder with home schooling and everything else we’ve had to deal with. Could you not just accept your daughter as an adult, who is able to make her own decisions about her lifestyle?

Read: How can I get my marriage back on track?

“There may be things wrong in her life, but at the moment, you are so worried about these that you are failing to see all the good things that exist too. I hope you still feel able to offer her the support she clearly needs.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

What do you think? Are parents sometimes too critical of their adult children? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

– With PA

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Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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