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Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that can be particularly distressing when it occurs within the parent-adult child relationship. It involves the deliberate distortion of reality, leading the victim to doubt their own thoughts, feelings, and memories. Recognizing gaslighting tactics is essential for adult children to protect their emotional well-being and maintain healthy boundaries. In this article, we’ll explore eight common gaslighting tactics parents may use on their grown-up offspring.

  1. Denying Past Behavior

One of the primary gaslighting tactics involves parents denying they ever engaged in harmful behavior or made hurtful remarks in the past. They might say things like, “I never said that,” or “I would never do such a thing,” causing the adult child to question their own recollections.

  1. Invalidating Emotions

Gaslighting parents often invalidate their adult children’s emotions by dismissing their feelings as overreactions or exaggerations. They might say, “You’re too sensitive” or “You’re making a big deal out of nothing,” effectively belittling the child’s emotional experiences.

  1. Shifting Blame

Gaslighters deflect accountability by shifting blame onto their adult children. They may say, “You made me do this,” or “If you hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have reacted this way,” placing responsibility on the child for the parent’s actions.

  1. Selective Memory

Gaslighters conveniently forget events or details that don’t align with their desired narrative. They might insist that certain incidents never occurred, leaving their adult child questioning whether they imagined those events.

  1. Using Silence as a Weapon

Silent treatment is a powerful tool for gaslighters. They may withdraw affection, communication, or acknowledgment as a means of punishment or control, leaving their child feeling isolated and anxious.

  1. Creating Doubt About Reality

Gaslighters excel at making their adult children doubt their own reality. They may present false information with conviction, insist that their version of events is accurate, and label the child’s perspective as delusional or irrational.

  1. Comparison to Others

Gaslighting parents may frequently compare their adult children to others, emphasizing their supposed inadequacies or shortcomings. These comparisons can erode self-esteem and create a constant sense of never being good enough.

  1. Conditional Love and Approval

Gaslighters may use love and approval as bargaining chips. They offer affection, attention, or validation conditionally, based on the adult child’s compliance with their demands or expectations. This tactic keeps the child seeking validation and approval, even at the cost of their own needs and boundaries.

Recognizing gaslighting tactics used by parents on their adult children is the first step toward reclaiming one’s emotional well-being and personal agency. It’s crucial to remember that healthy relationships are built on mutual respect, open communication, and validation of each other’s feelings and experiences. If you suspect you are being subjected to gaslighting, seeking support from trusted friends, family, or a therapist can provide valuable guidance and help you regain your sense of self-worth and clarity.