Advice Rejected

April 22 2024 | by

Dear Mr. Pfister: My son and daughter-in-law have been married for three years. They have what would be considered by most a good marriage, and have a deep faith life together. However, I’ve noticed recently that my son tends to put down my daughter-in-law with his words and criticizes her quite frequently. I’ve tried bringing my concern to my son on two different occasions, but both times he became upset, and most recently he told me to stop bringing it up or I wouldn’t be welcome in their home. I’m finding myself upset and uncertain about what to do. How do I handle this situation when he doesn’t want to hear my concerns and has asked me to stop sharing them? Should I listen to him or continue to voice my concerns because I worry about their relationship?


Many parents can share in the pain you’re experiencing of trying to bring something important to the attention of their adult children and feeling as if they were completely ignored or blown off to bad effect. It can be a very painful experience as a parent. However, despite his response, bringing your concerns to your son’s attention was a good, loving act on your part, and good acts can often be met with resistance. 

When we are in a position in which we may need to correct or admonish another, Holy Mother Church in Her wisdom encourages us to look at the circumstances of the situation. One of the relevant circumstances in situations such as this is determining whether or not the person is open to the correction. This is because correcting someone when they are not open to the correction runs the risk of moving the person being corrected to more firmly planting themselves in the negative behavior as a result. Therefore, prudence would dictate that we then hold off on the correction until such a time that they are open to it.

This appears to be exactly what you’re experiencing: your son, for any multitude of reasons, is not open to the correction and is therefore unwilling to listen to you and is rejecting your counsel.

So, what can I do if he is not open to the correction?

We know from our own experience that the deeper a relationship we have with someone the more we’re open to their feedback and willing to take their advice. This is related to the trust that exists in the relationship. I have trust in the person and subsequently in their opinion, and therefore I am open to their counsel as a result. A person is better able to offer correction to another if they have a good relationship. A parent’s relationship with their adult child works the same way.

This means that the deeper you can make your relationship with your son the more open he will become to hearing and taking to heart your advice. Eventually, the relationship will become deeper than his resistance to your concerns and the seed of change you are trying to plant will have the best possibility of being able to take root. The seed is then watered with the grace that comes from a parent’s loving prayer for their child.

Pray also for God to enlighten his mind to see the error of his ways. Your prayer is more powerful than your words because from prayer springs God’s grace, and that grace is what will allow him to hear your words to greater effect. A parent’s prayer for their child is powerful because they were given charge of that soul when God blessed them with fatherhood or motherhood.

Updated on April 23 2024