20-Something Questions Why 'Resenting Your Children' Is So Common Among Gen X & Boomer Parents

You can't treat your children like a burden and then be surprised when they distance themselves in adulthood.

resentful mother and daughter Motortion Films / Shutterstock; Canva Pro

"You're so ungrateful." "I worked my fingers to the bone, and for what?" "I let you live in my house and eat my food, and this is how you repay me?"

For many of us with Baby Boomer and Gen X parents, these will be instantly recognizable refrains from our relationships with our parents.

On TikTok, one man called out how damaging this all too common feature of American parenting culture really is, and sure enough, the responses he got in return just proved his point.


The TikToker called out Boomer and Gen X parents for seemingly 'resenting their children'.

What got Jordan, a TikToker known as @felyxvance, thinking about this issue was a viral sketch by TikToker Derek Lipp, in which his mom berated him for stopping by unannounced and refusing to let him into her house until he called and asked permission to visit.



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To be clear, the video was a joke. But what makes the joke work is that it is based in reality for many adult children of Boomer and Gen X parents — it speaks to an undercurrent that many of them seem to share.

Jordan called out Boomer and Gen X parents who consider their children ungrateful and indebted to them for having raised them.

"There's this unspoken notion that even though you live here, this is not your house," Jordan said. "Basically, it's not your home. You live here. You're a guest here, even though you're a child with no say in the matter… This is my house, not your house."



I was raised by parents like this, who expected gratitude for keeping me alive and who held it over my head every time I misbehaved that they "let" me live in "their" house and eat "their" food. As if I was a fully grown 35-year-old freeloader instead of, you know, a second grader.


As such, I couldn't agree more with Jordan's theory that this "culture" of resenting your kids is multi-layered and intricately related to, for instance, expectations that kids should move out at 18 — a uniquely American concept, for starters — at which point their entitlement to a supportive parental relationship should come to a screeching halt. 

It's also related and underpinned by the expectation that adult children somehow owe their parents something for having raised them — at the very least, a level of respect that includes not ever criticizing their parenting and never asking them to take accountability for the difficulties their children may have had in their childhoods.

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This has been my own experience with my own mother, in fact, who considered it such an egregious breach of the gratitude she was owed for raising me that she severed ties when I attempted to have a discussion with her about the difficult and at times abusive parts of my upbringing.

Mine is certainly not a unique situation. While Jordan initially couched this as a phenomenon unique to white parents, he got responses from scores of people of all backgrounds who have had these experiences with their parents, and who agreed with him that these attitudes are one of the key reasons of today's massive wave of parent-child estrangements.

As Jordan put it, moms like the character in Lipp's video are why we now "have whole generations of white parents who are of a certain age who are like, why don't my adult children talk to me? I just don't understand why they don't want anything to do with me."

Jordan was immediately hit with blowback from resentful parents whose responses proved his point.

Most notably, a Gen X mom named Liz vigorously defended the dynamics depicted by the mom character in Lipp's video, saying that "it's not [the kid's] house, it's [the parents'] house, they pay for everything," and telling Jordan to "grow up" for thinking otherwise. And, of course, she reflexively called Jordan "entitled" too.




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In comments, Liz went on to ask Jordan if he "actually [believed]" as a teen that he had any claim to the home he was raised in. "I'm sorry, Liz, do you know how crazy that sounds?" Jordan said in response. "Why would a teenager not think that the house they lived in was theirs? A teenager is still a child."

Liz countered that children are "dependents" who need to "understand that everything costs money and nothing in life is free." Which is fair enough. But the expectation that a child have that understanding is bizarre and entirely inappropriate developmentally — and making them feel like a guest in their own home is a bizarre and cruel way to teach that lesson.


Speaking from experience, I can tell you that I found this attitude not only hurtful as a child, but often frightening, because the notion your parents are doing you a favor by housing and taking care of you carries with it a subtextual threat: keep it up, kid, and I'll put you out on the curb with the trash to fend for yourself. 

And it is galling to be told as an adult that you owe your parents something simply because they kept you alive for 18 years. None of us asks to be born. Becoming a parent, until very recently anyway, is usually a choice. 

This more than anything is what seemed to most stick in Jordan's craw. He theorized that if you asked the average parent with Liz's attitude why they had kids, "they really wouldn't have an answer for you… It was just something you did. Thinking about the gravity of what it means to create a person and be almost entirely responsible for shaping their psyche is just not something that ever crossed their mind."

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And when the reality sets in, he theorizes, the children automatically start to feel like a burden, both financial and otherwise, that these types of parents can't wait to offload the minute they turn 18. Jokes about parents finally being rid of their annoying, ungrateful, leech-like kids have been a trope for decades for a reason. 

This is further complicated, of course, by the realities of today's economy, in which most young adults can barely gain a foothold on a life of any stability at 35, let alone 18. To then be constantly made to feel like a failure, a burden and an ingrate, creates an impossible situation, one that often leads to estrangement.

As Jordan put it, "Are you shocked? Don't be shocked. You treated your children like nothing more than parasites, leeches, drains. You got what you asked for. They're leaving you alone." That may sound harsh, and there's no denying that the pain of being estranged from your child must be devastating. 


Severing ties with a parent is traumatic, and it is not a decision anyone takes lightly, no matter how 'entitled' you may think they are.

And no relationship, whether parent-child or just a simple friendship, can survive these kinds of dynamics and standards.

The job of a parent is to love and support their child and to develop their brain and psyche, and kids don't owe their parents anything for doing the job they chose to take on by having them. Nor do they owe it to their parents to simply turn the other cheek to the toxic ways they treat them like a burden instead of something they chose and asked for, or to simply swallow the pain caused when their parents refuse to take accountability.

Insisting that they do backs both the parent and the child into a corner and gives the relationship nowhere to go. It remains to be seen how many estrangements will have to happen before the older generations of parents begin to finally realize this simple concept.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.