Jul 022013 124 Responses

Parenting Adult Children Who Make Bad Choices

Parenting adult children differs from parenting small children.

As the father of a 5 year-old and 8 year-old, my job is not easy, but it is simple. I am always involved in their lives.

  • Many times I must prevent bad decisions before they take action.
  • Other times I allow the child to make a bad decision but them make sure they experience the negative consequences of those decisions.
  • On occasion, I have to invent negative consequences to clearly communicate the decision they made was not wise.

Rarely do I have to wonder:

With small children, it is always my business.

This is not true with adult children.

As children grow into adulthood, the role of a parent changes. This leads to one of the great joys of parenting—being the friend of an adult child.

Yet it leads to one of the great frustrations of parenting—having to mind your own business.

When it comes to parenting an adult child, a parent no longer has the authority or responsibility to make decisions for a child, ensure they experience the negative consequences of their bad choices, or to prevent them from making bad choices.

A parent of an adult child does not even have the guaranteed right of giving their opinion without being asked.

As children grow, responsibilities change. Embracing the new responsibilities as a parent of an adult child is vital for the child’s development, the well-being of the parent/child relationship, and the mental health and satisfaction of the parent. (See: What Every Mother-in-Law Should Know)

When a parent fails to understand their new role and continues to parent as they always have:

  • the child may fail to mature
  • the child can be enabled to continue bad behavior
  • the child will often grow resentful of their parent
  • the child’s marriage/relationships will suffer
  • the parent/child relationship will fail to grow as it is should
  • the parent can become too enmeshed with the child
  • the parent can lose their own identity
  • the parent can miss a fulfilling season of life

So what can a parent of an adult child do?

Parents of adult children can:

Model correct behavior. The most powerful tool for any parent is often overlooked. Modeling look behavior is the best thing a parent can do whether their child is 2 years-old or 62 years-old. Nothing is more influential than a good example. Make good choices. Exhibit good behavior. Do the things which you hope your child will do. (See: How Parents Influence Their Children)

Give your opinion when asked. If a healthy relationship has been established with the child and trust is proven, children will often ask their parents for advice. Many parents are never asked, because they rush to give their opinions. In so doing, they miss the chance to influence their children. An opinion given without invitation is often wasted. Wait until they ask and then gently share what you think. (See: Everyone Has a Right to Ignore Your Opinion)

Ensure they aren’t enabling bad behavior. The worst thing a parent can do for an adult child is to enable their bad behavior. By always removing the consequences of their choices or continually bailing them out of trouble, well-intended could be doing great harm to their kids. While a parent never has to add negative consequences to their adult children, they should allow their children to experience the natural outcomes of their choices. Part of being an adult is taking care of yourself. Parents of adult children must allow their children to take care of themselves. (See: A Parent’s Most Effective Tool in Discipline)

Love them. No matter what choice a child makes, they are always your child. Clearly communicate to your child that you will always love them. Work harder to communicate your love than your opinion about a particular issue. Most of the time, a child knows when they have disappointed their parent. What they often question is not your opinion, but your love. Make sure they never have a reason to question whether or not you love them. It is important to make sure love is not confused with enabling. Remember: Love Doesn’t Always Feel Loving.

Parents often fall for the deception that parenting gets easier with time. Rarely is that the case. Parenting is difficult at every age, yet is also rewarding. In each season of life, a parent needs to discover what their responsibilities are and do their best to do what they are supposed to do.



124 Responses to Parenting Adult Children Who Make Bad Choices
  1. […] Few things are more difficult than assisting a loved one through an addiction. It is so difficult th... https://www.kevinathompson.com/siblings-addiction
  2. […] When a child makes a significant mistake, it can crush a parent. We feel like failures. We write the... https://www.kevinathompson.com/childs-mistake
  3. […] 13 of them are on the topic of marriage. The only non-marriage posts which break the top 15 are How ... https://www.kevinathompson.com/top-5-marriage-posts-of-2015
  4. […] He honored the right of Judas to make his own decisions. Jesus allowed Judas to betray him. He did... https://www.kevinathompson.com/how-to-respond-to-others-when-they-make-bad-choices
  5. […] https://medium.com/daily-connect/keeping-your-mouth-shut-when-adult-children-fail-a50ab1c9b302 ... https://www.halffullnotempty.com/when-your-grown-child-makes-bad-decisions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.