One of the saddest things for parents is to do their best and pour their hearts into training their children, only to have those very children push away from them as they become teens or young adults. Parenting adult children without pushing them away IS possible, but it’s not always easy.
Looking back on raising our eight children I would say that one of the hardest parts of parenting was making the transition between how we parented them when they were young to how we treated them as they became teens and young adults.
This transition is often hard because when our kids our real young we place a lot of control on them, then find it hard to loosen up as they get older, and let them have the chance to make decisions and even mistakes. In our desire to help our kids do what is right and the fear of them becoming a prodigal, we often tend to over-control our older children.
For example, we:
- Don’t give them choices about things
- Don’t give them any freedom as they get older, and mature
- Treat them as a child still, rather than as an adult
- Don’t let them make any decisions on their own
- Speak to them in a condescending tone
As adults, we would NOT appreciate being treated that way, and would not only feel a bit insulted, but would probably also feel some resentment. It shouldn’t surprise us when our young people push away as we try to rein them in so tightly.
When parenting adult children if you get stuck in the control mode and don’t let go, it often results in:
- Raising teens/young adults that haven’t learned self-control
- Young people who are resentful that their opinions and ideas aren’t given respect
- Losing their hearts, and the opportunity to influence them during the teen and young adult years.
As our kids begin to become young adults, we should slowly start coming along beside them to encourage and guide, rather than telling them what to do or not do.
Solomon sets this example for us of winning our children’s hearts as we influence them through love and respect, rather than intimidation or control. With love we warn them of natural consequences of their wrong choices. (See the book of Proverbs for examples of this.)
Some things to do when parenting adult children
- Teach them how to make wise decisions. When making important decisions teach them to make a list of the pros and cons, seek wise counsel, and pray about it.
- Teach them that they are responsible for their actions. They need to know that their actions and their choices bring consequences.
- Teach them self-control. When they are young we should start teaching them the importance of controlling their emotions, attitudes, and actions. As they continue to grow up they need to learn to practice self-control, and not constantly do things on impulse.
- Teach them to have wise counselors. The Bible says that there is safety in a multitude of counselors.
- Listen when they talk to you. Be careful not to be so busy planning your answer that you fail to truly hear what they are trying to say. Listen not to just the words, but to their heart.
- Don’t stress out when you fear they are making wrong choices, and over-react. Often we can see where they are headed with a choice, and want to protect them from what we know is coming. However, that is how the learn – they learn from their mistakes. Some have to learn the hard way, and make those mistakes.
- Encourage and love them when they do mess up. They already know they have messed up, and the last thing they need is for us to say things like, “I told you so,” or ‘I tried to warn you.” Instead they need our encouragement.
- Keep the relationship strong so they are open to your thoughts and willing to talk to you, knowing you have their best interest at heart.
Ask God to give you wisdom to know when to begin to gradually let go, and prepare your young people to make right choices, while keeping the relationship with them strong.