When someone says that they are sick of being treated like a child, what comes to your mind? Recent events have caused me to think a lot about the meaning behind that statement. Such a familiar expression. What is being treated like a child like? What do we adults mean when we say that? Is it how a parent wipes your chin when you are eating a soft ice cream cone? Is it holding your hand when you cross the street? Is it being told to brush your teeth and get ready for bed? It would be pretty weird if our parents did that stuff when we were adults let alone anyone else. So when an adult says that they are sick of being treated like a child, I get a whole different idea about what this statement means.
In my experience, when adults use this expression it means that a parent, relatives, spouse, partner, or friends are treating an adult using voice infliction and innuendo, parents, relatives, a spouse, a partner, or even friends can make adult children feel like we are not capable or too stupid to make our own decisions.
Basically still having the mind of a child.
Consider some of the following statements; these are meant to make you wonder about your thoughts and decisions. They are meant to make you question yourself.
- You are not really going to do that, are you?
- You don’t really believe that, do you?
- You aren’t really thinking that are you?
- You are not really going to wear that, are you?
- What were you thinking when you bought that?
- What were you thinking when you said that?
- What were you thinking when you did that?
- What were you thinking when you agreed to that?
The unspoken message is “are you nuts” or “you must be stupid”.
These questions are not designed to get you to think about what you did or said, they are meant to degrade and make you feel stupid. They are intended to make you question yourself. When we were children, we depended on our parents, relatives, and even friends to help us decide, to make good choices. This is what I think some of us mean when we say they are sick of being treated like a child.
Other questions are designed to control but even these still indicate a suggestion that you couldn’t possibly know what is best. Here are a few:
- You aren’t going to go there, are you?
- You aren’t really interested in them, are you?
- You aren’t really reading that are you?
- You aren’t really watching that are you?
- Why would you want to do that?
- Why would you want to go there?
- Why would you want to wear that?
- You aren’t going to eat that are you?”
I am talking about when someone thinks they are helping you with your diet or insinuating that you need to lose weight.
If our adult/child relationships were conducted like this when we were children, we become accustomed to this kind of innuendo and control. It becomes part of how we do relationships. It is so familiar that we don’t really think about it. We don’t realize how devaluing, toxic, and abusive that it is. It has become part of our belief system, our false definition of relationship, respect, and love.When we fight this without really understanding what we are fighting, is it any wonder why we end up struggling with depression and other mental health issues?
Infantilizing is another form of control. Talking down to you, interacting with others in a way that is noticeably different from how they interact with you, treating you like you are incapable of doing anything right, not trusting your decisions, not trying to understand those harmful decisions they make also affect your life, etc.
To add one more…talking about you in a negative way to other relatives, friends, or people in general, and those people believing what is said.
Once, when I had moved back home after a failed marriage my Father told my sister that I wasn’t helping out with chores at home, which was a lie because I often did things without being asked. At this time I was around between 23-years-old and 25-years-old and my Mother’s health was declining, which is the only reason that I even moved back, to begin with. After that, my sister would call me on the phone and say things like: “are you making your bed every day? Are you doing the dishes? Are you sweeping the floor?”
It hurt and made me so angry because I was doing all of these things and more, yet I was being talked about and talked to like I was a naughty child who needed discipline.
The mass majority of my family and old friends tend to treat me like this, and then they wonder why I don’t visit or call them anymore. It took me a long time, a handful of psychologists, attending a few workshops about recognizing the abuse of power and control in relationships as well as taking several psychology classes for myself that I began to recognize all the above as abusive tactics to control me. Abusers will point at minor issues going down trails leading nowhere designed to confuse the situation in order to discredit you along the way enabling them to be right and to defend their actions and position of power and entitlement.
During one of those workshops, something clicked. In that one moment, my entire life flashed in front of my eyes; I saw how my role in my family, marriage, and even some friendships was to be a servant; how I had been called a liar and the perpetrators had been protected and therefore proven to be more important than I was. I saw how I had been consistently disregarded and I felt the pain of continuously being unheard and discounted.
I was done with the ways that I had been regarded and disregarded. It was an accumulation of events that communicated to me that I was the last person “they” were concerned about and my courage to stop making excuses for them that eventually allowed me to have the moment that became “the final straw that broke the camels back.”
Remember that the final straw can often be what others would regard as a “little thing” and they will use that to discredit you by pointing out your sensitivities or calling your reaction ‘ridiculous’ or exaggerated; something that really helped me to sort all of that out was looking at the whole picture through the actual truth instead of looking at everything the way that they directed me to look at it. I became very aware that the way they wanted me to see things worked for them. They had no motivation to change because they had the relationship exactly the way they wanted it. I was the one that was struggling.
I finally decided that I was NOT going to be the “last person” in my own life.