How to Recognize Seeds of Resentment in Your Children

How to Recognize Seeds of Resentment in Your Children

How to Recognize Seeds of Resentment in Your Children

The cure then for resentment is not to try and fix other people. The cure is not to tell someone what they did wrong, how they did it, and how badly they failed.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

With all honesty, I know far too many people today with strained relationships with their parents. And in the spirit of honesty, I’ve been that child holding contempt toward his parents.

This sad reality does not solely rest on the shoulders of the children however. There are parents who exist who have chosen to neglect, excommunicate, or abuse their children for a variety of reasons. Sometimes their children go on to do the same.

When disconnect occurs within a relationship, no matter who’s at fault, neglecting to resolve differences causes both parties further suffering. If the suffering becomes so great, the relationship could end completely.

This however is not God’s design for our relationships. God does not desire for parents to be at war with their children or for children to hold resentment against their parents. This why forgiveness is so important (Luke 6:37).

Without expressed forgiveness for the bad decisions we make, sometimes as mistakes, any relationship is bound to crumble. Without forgiveness, seeds of resentment can take root.

What Causes Resentment to Grow in Children?

The word vulnerability denotes a willingness to be hurt by someone. We don’t desire to be hurt, but understand that by making a certain choice there is that possibility.

Imagine a person starting a new dating relationship. Ideally, the relationship would progress from dating to marriage without any significant issues. However, as two become one, there are differences that the couple will have to solve on their journey toward marriage.

Their willingness to commit and communicate through their differences reflects a level of vulnerability that both parties share.

Now, imagine vulnerability between a parent and child. How many parents are willing to take critique from their children about how they parent? Not many.

How many adult children are willing to listen to their parents’ instructions with the same level of trust they held as kids? Not many.

Parents and children, though alike, are not the same. Differences in personality, politics, and faith naturally occur.

Vulnerability is easy to speak into, but difficult to put into practice. Still, much like the trouble we are bound to face in life, all of our relationships are bound to find trouble at one time or another (John 16:33). Without a willingness to be vulnerable, to be wrong, to be corrected, we naturally end up harboring resentment.

What Does Resentment Look Like?

Resentment is not simply feeling hurt by someone, but includes a prolonged dislike toward the offender.

Resentment appears in a variety of ways:

- Anger

- Less Quality Time

- Less (or no) Communication

- Sadness

- Less Physical Touch

When children resent their parents, they don’t just spend less time together, talk less, and experience negative emotions. The resentment makes them unable to love their parents with their whole heart. And without loving others as ourselves we are not fulfilling the second greatest commandment (Mathew 22:39).

Though we as sinful humans are limited in our logic and our emotions, God has prescribed us with instructions to foster healthy relationships with the people in our lives, especially our families.

There are verses in the Bible a parent can use to improve their relationship with their child, and verses a child can use to better love their parent. When both parties accomplish this, what results is a loving, godly family.

How Does a Godly Family Handle Resentment?

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

A godly family is not defined by their resentment, but by their ability to love. Parents can recognize the seeds of resentment in their children or even themselves when they are unable to love someone as Scripture has commanded.

1 Corinthians 13 presents believers with a wide-encompassing definition of love. If ever a parent sees their child not loving in this fashion consistently, or even doing just the opposite, having a vulnerable conversation where the parent discusses what they have observed is appropriate.

Whenever a parent and child has a problem, the next step is to investigate. Investigating is different than blaming. Investigating involves asking questions, which lead to answers, which then lead to solutions. Blaming is coming to conclusions without evidence.

Telling someone blatantly what they are doing wrong is never a healthy way to enter a conversation. Instead, parents would benefit by asking their children about potentially resentful behavior before assuming.

Chances are, if approached well, and if the child is willing to be vulnerable, they will explain their perspective. Their mistreatment of the parent may not relate to resentment at all. When a parent and child can discuss and resolve problems, there is no longer need for hostile feelings. Wounds can be healed, forgiveness expressed, and the relationship continues.

The cure then for resentment is not to try and fix other people. The cure is not to tell someone what they did wrong, how they did it, and how badly they failed. We all fail at one time or another (Romans 3:23).

The cure for resentment is love, finding healthy ways to communicate, and being vulnerable.

What to Do When You Recognize Resentment in Your Children

For those who have children, the next step is uncomfortable, but very worthwhile. Talking to your children whether you know or suspect they hold resentment is vital for repairing the relationship. No matter who is in the wrong, avoiding the conversation does not solve the problem.

And without a solution, the resentment and strained relationship continues. This is not how God wants us to manage our relationships. He desires for us to love one another.

Without doing that, are we living up to our fullest potential? Are our relationships as great as they could be?

For those without children, we can prepare ourselves to avoid making those mistakes that lead to resentment. We can learn from those before us who have experienced this problem. And we can do the best we can right now to build healthy communication and vulnerability.

For those who are children, we can learn to cope with the trauma of the past and become better people in spite of the mistakes made by our parents. They are not perfect, we all come to learn. Instead, they are quite the sinners as we are ourselves. With this knowledge we know that the only answer to dealing with the past is to forgive, just as we want God to forgive us.


Photo Credit: © Getty/Maskot

headshot of author Aaron BrownAaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.