Resentment is nothing but lingering anger, frustration, and disappointment. It’s an emotion that’s likely to breed in close relationships because people have high expectations in close relationships.
When those expectations aren’t met, they’re likely to feel resentful.
A resentful person has the mentality of:
“You hurt me by not meeting my needs.”
‘Needs’ is a broad term that encapsulates many things, from physical to emotional.
While physical needs include things like food, clothing, and shelter, emotional needs include a need to be seen, heard, validated, loved, and accepted.
What makes a child resentful?
In short, not meeting their needs. Put differently: trauma.
Childhood trauma is not just caused by abuse but also by things that should’ve happened but didn’t. Many parents are able to meet the physical needs of their children for food, clothing, and safety but neglect the child’s emotional needs.
As a result, childhood emotional neglect is a common cause of childhood trauma and resentment in children.
When children become teens, they also develop identity needs. Meaning they want to decide who they want to be. If a parent interferes in that process and limits the child’s potential somehow, that also causes resentment.
Common things that parents do that breed resentment in children include:
- Unfair and inconsistent punishments
- Making all the important decisions for them
- Not giving them enough autonomy and freedom
- Not teaching them essential life skills
- Demanding respect while being disrespectful
- Constantly comparing them to peers
- Not letting them be their own person
Signs your child resents you
Fight-or-flight is our primary response to a threatening or traumatic situation. Since children can’t fight their parents and are overly dependent on them, they tend to adopt the ‘flight’ or ‘avoidance’ response.
Avoidance can be physical as well as emotional.
The child avoids spending time with you. They refuse to partake in activities involving you. They don’t even want to be in the same room as you. They walk on eggshells around you.
They avoid you emotionally by not engaging in conversations or sharing their emotions.
2. Poor communication
Emotional avoidance leads to a lack of, or poor, communication.
If they can’t avoid talking to you, they’ll talk to you in short sentences. They’ll share minimal information about their life with you. Oversharing with you has caused them pain in the past.
They’ll withhold their authentic thoughts, ideas, and feelings. You probably ridiculed these in the past.
Any communication between you is awkward at best and negative at worst.
3. Poor body language
Avoidance manifests itself in body language as well. They’ll:
- Avoid making eye contact with you
- Turn away from you
- Sit at a distance from you
- Cross their arms and look down
- Display a facial expression of anger and sadness
Occasionally, when the child is forced to confront you, they might adopt the ‘fight’ response. They’ll keep switching between the ‘fight’ and ‘flight’ responses because they see you as a threat.
Ways in which the ‘fight’ response manifests in the child:
- A hostile and dismissive attitude towards you
- Blaming you for your past mistakes
- Constantly criticizing you
- Overreacting to small things
- Sarcasm and passive-aggression
5. Lack of affection
Behaviors betraying a lack of affection include a significant decrease in affectionate behaviors such as hugs and kisses. They’ll also struggle to verbally express affection, even in situations that usually call for it.
For example, they’ll find it hard to be affectionate with you when they have good news to share, like landing a job or having a baby.
6. Lack of trust
When a child feels that you’ve not met their needs, they find it difficult to trust you. Lack of trust and lack of emotional connection go hand in hand. Don’t expect them to share their secrets with you.
7. Comparing you to others
If you’ve damaged your child’s self-esteem by constantly comparing them to others, they might get their revenge by doing the same to you. They might tell you how good other parents are or that you’ve failed as a parent.
When your child believes you’ve failed to meet their essential needs, they tend to over-rely on themselves to meet their needs. This hyper-independence can drive them to become over-achievers who try to do everything on their own.
While hyper-independence may sound like a good thing, it has its costs. Hyper-independent people struggle with trust, affection, vulnerability, and healthy interdependence in relationships.