What is the role of parents once their children are over 21?

[ 8 ] Comments

by MSKeller

Do parents fall on the side of Satan’s suggestion of control, especially when they are still living in the parental home, when we fail to allow them to stumble and learn on their own? Where do parents change over from being stewards to being a support and encouragement?  Do they?

About MSKeller

Marsha Steed Keller (Th'Muse) "When I get a little money, I buy books, if there is any left, I buy food and clothes." --Desiderius Erasmus. This defines a part of Marsha's psychology and intent fairly well. When she was a child she says that people asked what super-power she would desire. She replied, "To know what is true, always." It hasn't changed much since then. Marsha cares more about intent than result; more about understanding than agreement and more about good questions than finding all the answers. She defines her best blessings as people (Family and Friends), ideas and beauty. She is highly visual, teaches voice and piano and enjoys her Life/Relationship coaching immensely. She has a BA in Psychology and an AA in Ballroom Dance. Life is an adventure to be lived in the moment and shared with the world. She considers being asked to write with this amazing group a high honor.

8 Responses to What is the role of parents once their children are over 21?

  1. Eskymama says:

    Yes, but the answer to the rest of the questions depend largely on the personality of the emerging adult. I think my maiden name was Celtic for “Know-it-all”, so I married and never lived again with my parents past the age of 20. We have three of our 20+aged kids living with us now as we are trying to help them launch in life. Soon the summer will end, one is back to college, one is off on a mission, and the third recently landed a entry level position that he hopes will lead to a career. He will have to find an apartment or room in a house as we are making a cross-country move away from the town they all graduated high school. One we are encouraging to get engaged, another we are suggesting they wait until they have lived six months in the same state as their intended. The missionary … we are stumped about them and dating at least for awhile. Some seek advice and ignore it. Others don’t, but listen and follow when given.
    Similarly with career advice. My husband and I both knew the basic directions our intended careers would be. Our kids have graduated high school with only one knowing whether or not they were going for a BA or a BS let alone a course of study.
    And we have emphasized along the way, with responsibility comes independance. When they are responsible for all of their own expenses, they can choose what cereals to buy, what parking spot they get assigned, whether it is lights out at 10pm or 1am. In the meantime, any of their choices that adversely affect any other member of the family will likely be censored. (Can you tell Mom and Dad like to turn in early on weekdays?) And of course, there are no bailouts of debt. At least yet. We had much help from both our parents along the way, and are very grateful. But we never asked for it. We were determined to make it by ourselves and make do with what we had. We likely erred on the hard-headed side from time to time … but struggle to find the balance in helping vs enabling our current children’s situations. On a sideline, of my own siblings, only about 2/3 are self supporting. So, where does that obligation begin/end?

    • MSKeller says:

      Good question. Which begs another, “Are the 21 year olds of today, different than those of 30 years ago/ 60 years ago?” If so, how, and what is our/their responsibility?

      “with responsibility comes independance. ” – Very true. Life is more complicated in many ways now. Perhaps just different complications? It is difficult to know when to nudge, when to let go. Sort of the ‘Dairyman’s Daughter’ dilemma (Michael McLean” ‘Which part is mine, and which part is yours. . . “

  2. Liz C says:

    21-year-olds today are only less capable if we train them to be that way; it’s definitely not a given. I think we’d get better early-20s folks if we are a bit better at mentoring the 2-21 crowd.

    Parents definitely still have a role… I think the specifics are going to need to vary by the household and by the individual.

    I know for us, we’ve not taken an authoritarian stance at any point, really. Our kids have been raised from infancy to behave with consideration and respect, but we rarely dictate behaviors past the age of about 8. They’re expected to use self-control and self-discipline, and we’ll let them know if they’re stepping over the boundaries we expect for the household’s peace. It worked really well with my family-of-origin; it’s working so far with our kids, the oldest of whom is 17 now.

    Thinking back to myself at that age, I’d have been insulted and appalled if my parents thought they needed to dictate my hours… because why would I be choosing to be inconsiderate in the first place?

    When I did need to live at home (at age 19, having been out and away for two years) to recover from a car accident, I had my own phone line installed (and paid for it on my own), was considerate about comings and goings, let them know where I planned to be… but it was mutual respect and consideration, not parental dictate.

    I *wanted* to keep doing independent things, and they had raised me to launch fully capable at 17, so it just wasn’t a big deal. I took a turn with meal prep and clean-up, contributed to groceries, did extra household work if I was shy of cash, pitched in with family laundry, etc…

    I think, if a parent is feeling forced to be dictatorial with an adult child, then perhaps there were issues that weren’t addressed in younger years, and that relationship will need reform and restoration pretty quickly if everyone is going to still like one another in healthy ways when the offspring are 30.

    There are loads of ways to help a flailing offspring without bailing them out, for instance. And it’s healthy to decide on a short list of “this is what we do in this household” and expect anyone living there to abide by it. I just think that if a parent is having to work so hard to launch a mid-20s adult, there were some things that could have used change 15 years earlier, and it’s going to be a lot harder on everyone if the parent really does think *THEY* are responsible for the launch. That’s the adult child’s job.

    • MSKeller says:

      “… but it was mutual respect and consideration, not parental dictate. ”

      That may be the key. How did your parents specifically teach this? How do you now?

      Are children in this society harder to teach this to because they don’t have the ‘socital norm’ of respect it seems? They certainly don’t get it through any media. . .

      • Liz C says:

        Good question… My parents were really good about communicating the “why” of requests, and if my Mom’s life philosophy expressions were more refined than Dad’s, his simple “these are things we do/don’t do so that we’re not classed as a jerk” really did hit the spot with teenagers. Still does. 🙂 I didn’t come home late, because I knew my Mom would be worried about me. I didn’t want her to be worried, so I got home on time, or called with an updated plan well before I was expected.

        My parents were very consistent and reliable with natural consequences to our choices, so we didn’t have any surprises.

        I had friends who might be grounded for something one day, and ignored for it the next. They operated with a lot of anxiety. I have friends who never could meet the unspoken and arbitrary “standard” that their parents never communicated, so they learned to act irresponsibly, because they were probably going to get busted for *something* and they might as well have fun while they could.

        Mine were so, so consistent. Disrespectful behavior meant we needed more parental mentoring time, so we were going to be restricted to home and close association for awhile to upgrade our training. We might also have some quiet alone time to get ourselves back in control. Not being where we said we’d be was “jerk” behavior that led to parental anguish, so we’d have some travel/freedom restrictions while we re-learned how to not be a jerk that way. Being dreadful to family members meant we needed more opportunities to learn to love them, so we’d have additional service opportunities within the home, etc… It was all very simple and reliable, and without anger.

        (I remember getting really annoyed with my Mom once, because I realized she’d never forbidden me to do things like go out and drink. I asked her why she hadn’t, and she said, “I figured you had better sense than to want to do it. So why insult you with forbidding something you didn’t show any inclination to? Do you need me to forbid you? I suppose I could…” My ungrateful 15yo self responded with something like, “How am I supposed to work up a good case of teenage rebellion when you’re always so stinking REASONABLE?” I still have no idea how she didn’t fall over breathless laughing at me… she held it in until I left the room, at least.)

        I don’t think my kids are any harder to teach or communicate with, even though they’re just as full of temperament as myself or my husband happen to be. We expect that they’re trying to be reasonable human beings, still need training and experience, and want to be treated decently.

        We’re pretty choosy about the societal influences we let have sway in our home, certainly, and that helps a lot. One of our prime family culture values is that we don’t watch things that denigrate any gender or role, which kind of aces most “children’s” entertainment, and we’re fine with that–we work as a family to train individuals to evaluate entertainment and other recreation and work in terms of our dominant values and ethics, and to really name the themes (rebellion, revenge, immorality, unethical acts, vulgarity, etc) present in things around them. We try to teach them how to think critically, and expect them to actually do it.

        In addition, we’ve been giving our kids opportunities to exercise positive agency from tiny toddlerhood, so by the time they’re 8+, they have a long track record of figuring out their choices.

        We also talk about our experiences a lot, and put names on actions. If the 3yo makes an attempt at smoothing the covers on my bed, we call attention to it, and name it as “helpful and considerate.” When a child remembers to check in during an afternoon of play, we express thanks and name it as “responsible, considerate” behavior. When an older child calls home to update us on a changed plan or location, we name it as considerate, and approve or make alternate suggestions based on the needs of the family, etc.

        We try to focus on just the positives, but sometimes we have to name negative behaviors, too, and we don’t shy away from that. I think it helps with emotional learning. We don’t hit people, not because it’s “bad”… but because it can hurt them, it’s unkind, and it doesn’t solve our problem, so it’s not useful.

        We don’t allow the uncontrolled expression of negative feelings, in particular. That sounds harsh, but instead of allowing tantrums, we try very, very hard to re-channel, and name emotions, and guide them toward more appropriate expressions. And we have an Eye-Rolling Amnesty Zone (the bathroom, with the door shut) for when a young person REALLY needs to roll their eyes in anguish over the stupidity of everyone around them… because doing it company (even if that’s just the family) would be inconsiderate and rude.

        Our kids have a lot of freedom–in many cases, more than their peers, because ours have a long history of demonstrating responsibility and consideration for others (in my Dad’s words: “not being a jerk.”) Starting at about 13/14, they start switching from “asking permission” to do XYZ, to presenting their plans to us; we’ll then approve or suggest alternate options.

        They also expect (and get) reverse consideration from us. I don’t volunteer my children for *anything*–not even prayers in Primary–without talking to them first, and getting assurance that they do want to participate. We try very hard to respect their boundaries. My parents did this with me–I was actually *asked* to babysit for my siblings; it was never assumed that I must. I do it with mine, and it works. 99% of the time, they’re happy to help out, and 1% of the time, we make other arrangements. No one gets resentful, or feels like they need to lie to “get out of it.”

        We are NOT perfect parents. We’re pretty darn good at shepherding the kids in our own home, but it’s an on-going effort. I do see where our early efforts to do things like naming emotions, naming behaviors, and trying to be consistent with natural consequences are paying off, though. Our kids have their own agency, but they’re pretty realistic in evaluating the potential outcomes, and so far, make pretty good choices.

        And of course, my experience does not presume any sort of superiority to other family’s experiences… when we’re dealing with so many individual personalities and challenges, there’s just no ONE experience that’s “best” for everyone, and even in my family, we have not had “perfect” outcomes, by any stretch of the imagination. But we’re all fairly considerate and don’t give our parents grief in shared living situations, at least. 🙂

      • Liz C says:

        Oh–and I had a final thought on the media impact: we make a really deliberate choice to not view a whole lot of modern media. In short: we’re raising our kids without TV. We avoid a huge host of issues, and can selectively use media to teach critical thinking skills, without allowing the inundation that most families seem to find “necessary” to have in the home. It’s a choice with great results for us.

  3. ji says:

    Adult children still living at home owe the greatest consideration and respect to their parents, and their parents’s values. If they can’t give that respect, they need to move out. If they choose not to move out, they need to give that respect.

    When an adult child is acting like an adult, his or her parents should treat him or her like an equal — the parent is older and wiser, and wants to be helpful, but in an important way the child is an equal. I imagine a council in a teepee — the men of the tribe are gathered together, and the old man and his adult son are both in the council — they both have a voice — they both speak with respect to the other.

    if a parent is feeling forced to be dictatorial with an adult child” — the adult child needs to move out.

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