Parenting Adult Children (From the child’s perspective)

Mar 24, 2014 by

parents and adults children


This post is written by our second child and only son, Shay. We hope it can give you some insight into how to parent your adult children. We so appreciate him contributing his thoughts to our blog. ~ Jim and Jerolyn

You don’t. Let me be clear, you will always be a parent, but once your child has reached the adult age, left the house, and is on his or her own, you become a coach, a counselor, and their number one fan. You may be thinking, “Those are all a part of parenting” and you would be right, but they are just A PART. The verb parenting implies a lot more than just those three roles. Implications like instructing, disciplining, etc. You are no longer your child’s boss, and “Because I said so” no longer works.

Let me discuss each one of these roles individually. First, coaching your child essentially means helping them figure out how to solve, fix, avoid, etc. issues that they will be faced with, not just giving them the answers. Like a professional coach would, you ask key questions to make sure that they are thinking through the whole situation or tackling it from the right angle. Clarification is another piece of coaching them. Repeat what your child is saying out loud to them so they can hear it and clarify what they mean. Another aspect of coaching can be to help them form goals or visions for their future. Now I am not saying you have to do all of these things, but these would be involved in coaching. This role needs to be initiated by the child. For example, your child brings up a problem they are facing and asks for your help, and then you can coach them through it.

Second, counseling is very different than coaching. This is when you give the advice. You truly listen to what your child is saying, and if they ask for it then you offer your advice/opinion. With an adult child, you don’t get to just tell them your advice because you think it is right anymore. They are adults and, hopefully, you raised them in a way that they can figure it out, but sometimes they just need to know what you think. When your advice is asked for, feel free to give it and give it honestly, after all they asked for it.  Now determining between if you need to be a coach or counselor usually depends on you. If your adult child calls and explains a situation they are up against to ask for help, then in that moment you need to decide if it is better to coach them so they can figure it out or simply give them the answer. There will be times where your child will say, “Don’t coach me, I just need the answer.” In this situation they are asking very specifically for something, but since they are coming to you for help, you do have the right to choose to give the answer or not. If you choose to not give the answer, your child could be frustrated with you. Just be aware that they may choose to not bring their next problem back to you when they are looking for answers again. Hopefully you made the right judgment call, and it will be better for your child in the end.

parental adviceThird, being your child’s number one fan is not a request that is made. To be honest, from a loving parent, we expect it. We expect our parents to support us, within reason, and hope that they will cheer us on in life. We tell you things because we want you to be excited, or sad, alongside of us. We don’t need your advice, and we don’t want you to help us find an answer.  We just know you will love us through the situation, so we tell you. This is also a role that no one else, except your child’s spouse, can fill. Your child can choose to go to someone else for advice or coaching help, but they don’t expect that person to support them through thick and thin; they expect you to be that person.

There is a fourth role that I want to discuss because my parents are in it right now, and that is the role of landlord. While Haley (my wife) and I are fundraising to go to the mission field, my parents have graciously allowed us to live in their house. Now even though they do not have the role of “Parenting”, they can fully embrace the role of “Landlord”. This is their house and therefore they can set the expectations for us. Once the expectations are clearly communicated and understood, then the parent has every right to enforce them. This is no longer instructing them with, “Because I said so,” but rather this is an aspect of being an adult and sticking to a lease contract that your child could have with anyone. Expectations could include mowing the lawn every other time, making dinner twice a week, or anything else you choose. Remember, these expectations need to be clearly communicated to your child, and then they can choose to “sign the lease” or not.

Even though the role of parenting is no longer there, I understand, in your eyes your adult child is still that baby you fell in love with when the nurse placed them in your arms in the hospital. Please, I beg you, always love them this way. You will never stop being a parent, so support them and be their number one fan, but treat them as the adult they are.

What can you do better in “parenting” your adult children?

~ Shay Bogear

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