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Adult Son is Argumentative

I could use a bit of help. My son is 35. He is spending Christmas with his wife's family which is only right, we take turn. He is demanding that I hand over the Christmas gifts for the children as they are not allowed to open them before. We wanted to have a small Christmas party for them so they can open the presents with us, and then give them something small to open of Christmas day. He is a very argumentative person and can become very abusive mentally, towards me.

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December 15, 20140 found this helpful

I think it's up to you - you need to pick your battles. It's reasonable to want to be there when the kids open the Christmas presents you give them, and sending a small present for them to open on Christmas day is a good compromise. Assuming you live nearby, you could suggest a dinner and celebration a couple days after Christmas so you can all spend time together and open presents. That's what we do with my parents and my kids love having a "second Christmas". If it's important to you, stand firm. Explain that you'd love to see them all during the holiday to celebrate, and suggest your compromise of sending a small gift with them, but saving the bigger gift to open together.

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December 20, 20140 found this helpful

I fully agree with Stephanie's excellent response, however, there is clearly a second issue that you noted at the end of your explanation. You said your son is an "argumentative person and can become very abusive mentally, towards me".

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From your statement, it is clear that your son has a problem and abuses you, and probably others. While he may continue his behavior, you do not have to be controlled by his anger. If you continue to accept his abuse, you can be sure he will continue his behavior.

However, you can find help to avoid his abuse and not give in to his unreasonable demands. I strongly suggest that you seek counseling to help you deal with your son's anger in ways that will enable you to develop the strength and the ability to not fall back into his controlling and anger trap. You will find that you can rise above his attempts to manipulate and control you, and your life is so much better without the constant fear of his abuse.

It is sad that he uses his children, your grandchildren, as threats. If he is abusive to you, he may also abuse his family.

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October 18, 20150 found this helpful

I told my son that until he is supporting me, he has no say in my home so don't even try. You need to tell your son that.

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November 21, 20170 found this helpful

It sounds like many things are a negotiation in your extended family, with a lot of strong personalities and opinions.

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Here's what jumps out at me:

Alternating Christmases is fine, if everyone agrees that makes sense. If you live nearby, how about suggesting each family drop by the other house each year on Christmas with some cookies, or maybe a group walk? Presents could even be given then. Most of the time if there's a problem with this, it's because people are unsure of boundaries. You can ease everyone's mind by mentioning exactly what you have in mind, say, you'll be dropping off gifts and cookies and can only stay for 30 minutes, because you are going to be going to (fill in the blank).

If you don't live close by, or there are logistics issues that would make that impractical, how about a Skype or FaceTime call with the children? You could watch them open their presents from you then. A phone call works too.

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Suggesting that you have a "small Christmas party" at your house, and an additional small gift for the children on Christmas, does not actually sound like you are okay with alternating Christmases though. It sounds like you want Christmas at your house every year, and you're okay with doing it before Christmas Day on alternate years. Otherwise, it doesn't seem that you would have an issue with the children opening their gifts on Christmas with their mom's family.

I should leave it at that, but your question was phrased in a really troubling way, so I won't just answer with easy work arounds to the question of how you can watch a child open a present. By the words you've used, this situation sounds pretty hostile. You can't really "demand" that somebody hand over presents, anymore than you can demand giving them to children, while keeping things remotely in the spirit of the holidays.

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It doesn't really sound abusive if your son tries to head you off at the pass for having your Christmas presents opened before the other grandparents get theirs opened. If you don't like it, or the way he asks it, I'd need more details to understand how he is abusive. I'd tread extraordinarily carefully before I conflated not allowing you to give them gifts in the way you want, with being abusive to you or your grandchildren.

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