As you were raising your children you emphasized the importance of treating each other with respect, making wise choices and doing the right thing. So, why do your adult children make poor decisions?
Seriously, let’s be honest. As a parent, it’s sometimes hard not to experience anger, perhaps some guilt and even resentment toward your grown children when you watch them repeatedly treat you or others disrespectfully, make poor decisions with money or their career, or make poor choices in general.
You may even question where you went wrong as a parent…“How could this child have grown up in our home and be making life-altering decisions that are affecting them AND the lives of their loved ones and friends?” you ask yourself over and over again.
☆ While you might be initially tempted to swoop in and rescue, take a deep breath and keep reading.
Before you beat yourself up and allow guilt to invade your mind, stop. It’s highly likely you did everything you could to help prepare your child for adulthood. Questioning every decision you made as a parent isn’t helpful for anyone.
Here are some ways you can still be a guide for your grown child and give yourself peace of mind – even if they’re making poor decisions.
If you have a voice at all in your child’s life, now would be a good time to ask to have a conversation with them. As the parent of an adult child, how you approach this conversation can make the difference in whether or not you’ll be afforded the opportunity to continue to speak into their life. BEFORE you have this conversation, process through your own emotions in order to be as unemotional as possible while you’re talking with them. Also, think about what really needs to be said.
This should not be a lecture or interrogation. Ask them about what they’re trying to accomplish. Express your concern for what you see them doing or how you see them behaving. You might be able to offer wisdom, suggest other people for them to talk with, or resources to assist them in getting back on track. Avoid fixing it for them.
Regardless of whether you’re able to have a conversation with your child, if you’ve not already set very clear boundaries for them, now is the time. Sometimes parents feel like they’re being unloving when they do this. In reality, the exact opposite is true. This is one of the most loving things you can do to help them move forward in a healthy way. Consider boundaries such as:
You’ll not tolerate being treated disrespectfully, so if they can’t be respectful, they can’t be in your home.
If they’re dealing with addictive behavior, you’re willing to help them get the help they need, but you won’t support their habit.1
They won’t be able to access your money, even if something were to happen to you.
Giving them money to bail them out of financial mistakes will not be possible.
Taking responsibility for their behavior in any way won’t happen.
Moving back home is not an option. OR if moving back home could be an option, it wouldn’t happen without a contract in place about what will happen while they are at home and a move-out date set. A warning: if you choose to let them move back home, even with a contract in place, it could be very difficult to get them out.
No matter how old your child is, your role as parent never stops, but it does change. When they’re adults, you’re more the coach or advisor on the sidelines, not their manager. It is incredibly painful to watch your children make poor decisions and not swoop in to fix it. Unless you want your 30, 45, 50-year-old child expecting you to continue to make everything alright for them, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT enable them by taking responsibility for their actions. Don’t confuse enabling with loving your adult child.2
This may require you to pull together a group of trusted friends to support you and help you stay strong. We love our children. Following through on our commitments to keep the boundaries that are in place and not rescue them can feel so unloving. It just goes against everything in us as parents. Yet, standing strong and following through with what you said you would do is actually the most helpful thing you can do for your child to encourage movement in a healthy direction.
Manage your emotions.
Parenting adult children who make poor decisions can be like a roller coaster ride. One minute you think you are making progress and the next day you are in the pit again. It’s tempting to let them have it, but don’t. You do need to be able to process your emotions, but don’t do it with your child. Talk with a trusted wise friend or seek out counseling. Let the tears flow, put words to the disappointment, anger and resentment you feel, grieve what you thought would be that is not, and make a plan for how you will continue to live as fully as possible even in the midst of your adult child living in turmoil. This is vital.
Don’t let their behavior put a damper on your love for them.
Sometimes it’s hard not to take your adult child’s behavior personally as though they are doing it just to get back at you. While that is possible, it isn’t necessarily true. They still need to know there is nothing they could do to make you love them more or love them less. Your love for them isn’t conditional.
Live your life.
When people ask you how you are, in your heart of hearts, you feel like you are only doing as well as your children are doing. At some point, we have to separate our adult child’s behavior from ourselves and choose not to let them rob us of all of our joy in life. I’m not saying we don’t grieve. What I am saying is, we don’t allow it to consume us.
It’s funny—as our children move from one stage to the next, we think to ourselves, “Wow, I’m glad we are past that.” believing the next stage will be easier only to find out the current stage has its own set of unique challenges. When we finally believe we’ve arrived at a place where our adult children can function on their own, we find even this season of parenting has its own set of challenges, especially because they can do so much damage that is completely out of our control, but we can be impacted immensely by it.
Being the parent of adult children who make poor decisions or behave badly is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage and tenacity to do what you know is in their and your best interest. Stand strong. Love powerfully. And, in those moments when you are weak and deviate from the plan, give yourself some grace, get back up and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/kitera-dent-1xSiUiFQJvk-unsplash-scaled-e1598965473965.jpg192500Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2022-08-03 12:09:002022-08-03 12:09:457 Ways To Deal With Adult Children Who Make Poor Decisions
After Kerri Crawford’s graduation with a college degree in Child and Family Studies, she planned to earn a minimum salary of $30,000 working with adolescent girls.
“I had some pretty grand ideas about how things would go after graduation,” said Crawford. “It was much harder finding a job than I thought it would be, and the salary was not close to what I expected. My friends and I have joked that you should add a few zeros after your age and that is more likely to be your salary right after you graduate.”
Just like going from home to college was a transition, so is moving from college to the working world. Working eight hours a day, possibly moving to a new city, living alone, no more fall, winter, spring and summer breaks, and no more cafeteria food (not necessarily a bad thing) are pretty dramatic changes when you are used to going to a few classes a day, hanging out with friends, having your food prepared for you and maybe working a part-time job.
“I wish someone had told me how different it was going to be,” Crawford said. “I was so proud of my accomplishments, but I had unrealistic expectations. So I definitely have some advice for people who have just graduated from college.”
Some things would have been really good to know for after graduation, according to Kerri. She said, “I wish someone had told me…:
Not to sell back all of my textbooks and to keep some of the notes I took in class. There seems countless times when I wished I could refer back to something I read or heard in a class.
How important it is to build relationships with classmates. The world is a lot smaller than you think. I have run into so many people I never thought I would see again. These people become your co-workers and are great contacts in the community.
Have an open mind when you are looking for a job. I wanted a job working with adolescent girls. I work mostly with adolescent boys in a job that I believe will be a stepping stone.
Have good relationships with your professors. They know people in the community and can give good job leads and recommendations.
Practice your interview skills ahead of time. I thought interviewing for jobs would be a breeze. After the third or fourth rejection, I had to rethink what I was doing. You have to learn how to sell yourself and what you are capable of to the person interviewing you.
Experience in your field is an asset when you graduate. Every interviewer asked me if I had any experience. Looking back, I wish I had volunteered more so when they asked me if I had experience I could have responded with a confident yes.
The real world is a full-time job. Not only do you have to adjust to a new work situation, you must also adjust to life outside of work. Instead of pulling all-nighters and taking naps in the afternoon, try to get a decent night’s rest. Be ready for financial changes. It is a whole new ballgame when you are responsible for rent, groceries, utilities, insurance, gas, etc. You may have to say no to the “wants” until you get on your feet.”
Making it to this point is what many young people strive for from high school on. Even though the working world is challenging, it’s time to put all of your learning into practice and experience life in the world’s classroom.
Following a recent college graduation, a group of young adults lamented the fact that things were probably going to be different. They are no longer on their parents’ payroll. They are expected to find work and pay their bills. No more summers or semester breaks The big question is, are they prepared to launch into life in the real world?
Though Sykes wrote the piece more than a decade ago, many would argue that the rules still apply.
Life is not fair.
The real world won’t care as much about your self-esteem as your school does. It’ll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
You won’t make $40,000 a year right out of school.
If you think your teacher is tough, wait ’til you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he’s not going to ask you how you feel about it.
Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity.
It’s not your parents’ fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of “It’s my life,” and “You’re not the boss of me,” and other eloquent proclamations of your generation.
Before you were born your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. Before you save the rainforest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.
Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn’t. In some schools, they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
Life is not divided into semesters, and you don’t get summers off. They expect you to show up every day for eight hours. Very few jobs are interested in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself.
Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs.
Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them.
Smoking does not make you look cool.
You are not immortal.
Enjoy this while you can. Sure, parents are a pain, school’s a bother and life is depressing. But someday you’ll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.
Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!
Joanie Sompayrac has taught college students for more than two decades. She began to notice a change in her students about 10 years ago, and she has a few things to say about raising decisive adults.
“I enjoy teaching and I love my students,” says Sompayrac. “The last 10 years have been really interesting as I have watched students move away from being independent thinkers not afraid to speak their mind. I used to ask questions in class and students would be eager to answer. Today they are terrified to be wrong.
“I have students in my class who are terrible at accounting. I ask them why they are majoring in it and they say, ‘Because my parents told me to,’ not because they are passionate about the subject. They have bought into the notion that their parents know best.”
“Parents are applauding kids at every turn just for showing up versus when they accomplish something,” says Lythcott-Haims. “They are constructing play through play dates. When kids have been raised like this, it is not a surprise that, as young adults, they are still looking for their parents’ approval, direction and protection in college and the world of work.
“The students were becoming less independent as parents increased control over their children’s lives,” she says. “I noticed that too many students weren’t trying to get their parents off their back; they were relieved to have their parents do the hard work.”
While both believe that parents mean well in their attempts to help, neither Lythcott-Haims or Sompayrac believes this kind of parental engagement ultimately helps the students.
“When college students have no idea how to think for themselves, problem-solve and be critical thinkers, that is not a good thing,” Sompayrac contends. “When parents choose their child’s major, intervene in resolving roommate issues or contact a professor about a grade, they are depriving their child of the opportunity to figure it out for themselves. Yet these are the very experiences that help young people build confidence, make mistakes, experience consequences, pick themselves back up and keep going.”
So, how can you be helpful without being overbearing? Lythcott-Haims offers these tips:
Accept that it’s not about you, it’s about your kid.
Notice who your kid actually is, what they’re good at and what they love.
Explore diagnostic tools such as StrengthsFinder to help your kid discover what energizes them.
Express interest and be helpful.
Know when to push forward; know when to pull back.
Help them find mentors outside the home.
Prepare them for the hard work to come.
Don’t do too much for them.
Have your own purpose.
Perhaps the greatest way you can start raising decisive adults is to stop hovering, encourage independent thinking and help them fulfill their calling in life.
Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!
When state police called science writer David Dobbs to say that his teenage son had been driving 113 mph, he somehow kept from yelling, “What in the heck were you thinking?” Probably just like any other parent, he considered his son’s actions to be reckless. His son, however, refused to take ownership of that title. He said he chose a long, empty, dry stretch of highway on a beautiful day to drive his car that fast.
After hearing many parents complain about not being able to get into their teen’s head to understand what makes them tick, Harvard-educated researcher Shaunti Feldhahn and her co-author Lisa Rice took on that challenge. With input from more than 1200 teens, Feldhahn and Rice discovered some interesting insights into teens’ lives. The results of their work are in the book, For Parents Only, Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid.
In general, the culture believes peer pressure pushes kids to rebel and behave in reckless ways without thinking of the consequences, teens don’t care what their parents think, they don’t want rules or discipline, parents don’t listen, and teens give in easily to negative attitudes. Feldhahn and Rice say those beliefs aren’t necessarily accurate, based on their findings.
What’s really happening is this: Our teens are experiencing the intoxicating nature of freedom and the fear of losing that freedom, and they want to figure out who they are as an individual. When they test their parents’ authority, they really want them to stand firm instead of giving in. Teens want to know their parents are making an effort to understand them even when they make mistakes. They tend to stop talking because they think their parents are poor listeners, and what seems like an attitude problem might actually be a sign of insecurity.
While the authors do not endorse bad behavior or make excuses for poor choices, they do believe that their newfound knowledge could help parent-child relationships.
Although many parents believe they lose a lot of influence and that peers become more influential in the teen years, Feldhahn and Rice found that freedom is most influential. One psychotherapist said, “Freedom is like cocaine to a teenager. It’s intoxicating. It’s addictive. And it’s often their biggest motivator”. Nearly 3 of 4 teens surveyed said they felt strongly motivated by freedom. Many said they couldn’t get enough of it. However, even though they want their freedom, teens said they understood that too much, too soon wasn’t good for them.
When asked which they preferred, a parent who acted more like a friend or a parent who acted like a parent, 77 percent wanted the parent, not the friend. While teens may want their freedom, deep down they realize they need their parents to provide structure and security for them while they figure out the whole freedom thing. Additionally, knowing what freedoms are most important to your teen is essential.
Rice recalls when one of her teenage daughters called to say she had been involved in a really small accident and that everything was okay. She said her mom didn’t need to come and that she was going on to her friend’s house. Of course, Rice headed to the scene. Her daughter had been on her cell phone while driving, which was against the rules. The first thought was to take away the cell phone as a consequence, but the cell phone was a big part of her daughter’s freedom.
After discussing what happened, the daughter asked to pay off the repair costs instead of her phone taken away.
This meant turning over almost all of her paycheck for four months. As a result, she learned a very important lesson and did not resent her parents for taking her cell phone or grounding her.
If you want to get inside your kid’s head, this insightful book offers very practical ways to engage your teen during their struggle to separate themselves from you as a parent, and ultimately become a productive, healthy adult.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/HowToKnowWhatYourKidIsThinking-nordwood-themes-474559.jpg9001400Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2018-02-05 06:30:002020-12-04 13:41:19How to Know What Your Kids Are Thinking
Many families will experience a new normal when college students arrive home for their first extended college break for the holidays. The thought of sleeping in their own beds, eating good food and resting for about a month sounds amazing. But parents and college students alike will wonder about a few things For example:
Should I spend time with family or catch up with old friends?
What rules do we play by now?
And, are curfew and other details really necessary?
While parents and students both look forward to this time, “It’s complicated” could definitely describe how things will go without conversations ahead of time. If you want to lay the foundation for a great visit, don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. Here are some helpful suggestions for both parents and students during the holiday college break.
Tips for Parents:
Re-think the rules. It is hard to be treated like an adult at school and like a kid at home.
Be interested in their new friends and their happenings at school.
Remember that it is an adjustment for everybody, not just you.
Recognize that college students feel a lot of pressure when they come home. They want to spend time with their family and their friends.
Be creative. Instead of complaining about the time they spend visiting friends, throw a party and invite everybody to your house. That way you can catch up on the latest, too!
Anticipate that your student will need some rest. They have just completed exams. Try to be understanding if they are a little grouchy the first couple of days.
Warn younger siblings that things will probably be different and be aware of their feelings, as they too are dealing with change.
Even though you have had your freedom, be respectful to your parents. If they ask you where you are going and when you will be back, tell them because it is the right thing to do. If you want to be treated like an adult, act like one.
Ask your parents if they are open to rethinking some of the house rules. If they are, offer constructive suggestions and don’t push the edge of the envelope.
Remember, your parents have been away from you. Be open to spending time with them. Answer their questions about school and your new friends.
Make the most of your visit with your parents. Don’t take them for granted. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
Many parents will still have to get up early and go to work. Consider how your actions could impact their ability to get good rest and do their job.
Try to balance your time at home and with your friends. (Sleeping in your own bed doesn’t count as time spent with your family).
Be encouraged. Although it can happen, heading home from college during the holidays doesn’t have to cause tension. A few conversations, along with some compromise on both sides, could set the stage for some great memories this holiday season.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/jericho-cervantes-M8skQh2DUdA-unsplash-e1584214869665.jpg13491250Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2017-11-14 00:00:002020-12-04 13:44:45How to Prepare for College Break and the Holidays
Still pay their car insurance because your name is on the car title.
Have paid for a new tire because they don’t have any money to pay for it. Besides, it’s their only way to get back and forth to work.
Have argued with them about how much they eat out and they do not understand your concern.
Still pay their cell phone bill because they are part of the “family plan.”
Saw them really struggling with something and, although you wanted to step in and help, you didn’t.
The parents who tell their adult children once they have a job, “Congratulations, you are officially off the payroll! Good luck!” are probably in the minority. Many of today’s parents seem to struggle with letting their kids experience the ups and downs of self-sufficiency.
Are parents too quick to come to the rescue? Are we too accessible today?
“I looked at what was happening around me and came to the conclusion this really isn’t about my son, it’s about me,” says Bottke. “Instead of focusing on what I thought he needed to do, I really needed to focus on changes I needed to make. The steps I came up with led to the acronym – SANITY, which I had a lot more of when I implemented the steps.”
Here’s what SANITY means:
Stop: We need to change how we respond to our kids. Don’t try to change them. Stop the money flow. End our own negative behavior. “For so long we were in the midst of drama, chaos and crisis,” Bottke says. “I had to stop letting my son push my buttons and I needed to stop accepting the consequences for his behavior.”
Assemble supportive people: Find other people who are experiencing this or who have adult children and have already been down this road. Enlist their support. It is powerful to know you are not the only one.
Nip excuses in the bud: It is easy to let excuses coax you into doing things you would not typically do.
Implement rules and boundaries: Make a plan, implement it and stick to it. Meet with your young adult and share the plan. Explain to them that, as of this date, you are no longer going to support them financially. Clearly, if you have been participating in this behavior for a while, giving them a timeline with specific dates to work off of is helpful and is an excellent teaching tool.
Trust your instincts: If your gut or your intuition is telling you something isn’t right or you shouldn’t be doing this – trust your gut. “For me this meant getting in touch with my own life and fixing the messy person in my life – me,” Bottke says.
Yield everything: There is a plan for your child’s life and you do not control it. Swooping in and trying to fix it hinders their ability to learn and grow. Love them and support them, but don’t enable them.
According to Bottke, this is easier said than done.
Although it took some time, Bottke says that letting go was very freeing and the right thing to do. Her son has had to face some difficult circumstances, and she is the first to admit it is sometimes hard to sit on the sidelines. But since she has gotten out of the way her son is doing better. Their relationship has improved and she feels better about who she is as a person – and as a parent.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Boundaries-with-Adult-Children-e1597322722262.jpg226450Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2017-08-23 00:00:002022-06-24 13:09:36Setting Boundaries With Adult Children