5 Things A Child Never, Ever Owes Their Parents, According To Experts

These debts lead to resentment and a skewed sense of obligation.

A child never owes their parent staticnak1983 | Canva

Owe is only one letter from own and evolved directly from the word own. Let that sink in. To owe someone implies an obligation. Children don't owe their parents anything, parents owe their children safety, growth, nurturing, and support. If you already think your child owes you, you are off to a tumultuous journey.

Here are 5 things a child never, ever owes their parents, according to YourTango experts:

1. Unquestioning obedience

A child never owes a parent an apology for their existence. While respect and care are important in a parent-child relationship, children are not indebted to give unquestioning obedience or loyalty at the expense of their well-being, autonomy, values, or happiness.


Eva Van Prooyen, Marriage and Family Therapist and Relationship Specialist

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2. Obliged loyalty

An adult does not owe parents loyalty and devotion if/when their parents did not show it to them as children. You may still be loyal and devoted to them, but it isn't something you owe them — it's more of a gift you choose to give them for your reasons. As long as you are aware it's your gift — not your obligation —it makes it a little easier on your spirit.


Dr. Gloria Brame, Therapist and Author

3. Unconditional love

A child never owes their parents unconditional love. Love inherently has conditions; it does not grant the right to abuse or neglect someone simply due to familial ties. While a child may need to obey household rules for safety and to maintain certain privileges, they are not obligated to sustain love in the face of abuse or neglect. Accepting such conditions sets a harmful precedent that equates love with enduring mistreatment, which is not the essence of genuine love.

Erika Jordan, Dating Coach, NLP Practitioner

Child scoots away and doesn't owe their parent Nicoleta Ionescu via Shutterstock


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4. Their future

I gave my daughter life, and I’m raising her the best way I know how, but I have no expectations as to how our relationship should be when she is old enough to make her own choices, and I think it would be cruel of me to start.

I wouldn’t dare attempt to place an agenda on her life, even by planting seeds that one day I should become her responsibility. (I shouldn’t, by the way. I’m an adult. I’m my responsibility. Frankly, the best gift I could give my daughter is to never burden her with trying to manage my care when I have plenty of forewarning that time in my life is approaching.)

Similarly, she does not owe me companionship, emotional support, grandchildren, or a marriage under that antiquated lie that settling down means she’s taken care of for the rest of her life.


My daughter doesn’t owe me any of those things. She deserves a life of freedom and choice, and while that's sometimes a challenge, I owe it to her to do my part to facilitate that.

Elizabeth Z Pardue, Author

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5. The right to their autonomy and life choices

Just because parents provide for their children's basic needs doesn't mean they should be able to control their children's decisions or make them feel obligated to follow a certain path and express gratitude to them.


Nia Tipton, Writer of pop culture, modern-day issues, and experiences

Kids don't owe debts to parents. Let me say that again. Kids don't owe debts to parents. Debt is from the world of finance and business. Debt ignores the collective and compassion. Though we live in an age of capitalism, your children are not property, clients, or in your employ. 

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Will Curtis is a writer and editor for YourTango. He's been featured on the Good Men Project and taught English abroad for ten years.