A friend of mine sent me a text this week –“She is crazy in love with the baby, but slow on the ‘adulting’.”
A 20-something shows up at my house with no socks for the weekend, “Oh, I haven’t done laundry for over a month.”
And a high school junior looks at mom and says, “I’m hungry. Will you fix me a snack?”
So how do we get our kids to start thinking like adults?
Our natural tendency is to jump right in and do whatever our kids ask or need. In fact, sometimes we offer what we think they need before they even ask.
Don’t get me wrong, we do it for all the right reasons. We want our kids to know that we love them. We don’t want our kids to suffer in any way. We think it is just a little thing that we do out of the goodness of our heart to help make life better.
But are we handicapping our kids? Are we keeping them from becoming adults?
Do we think for them so they don’t have to think? Do we do for them so they don’t have to do?
I’ll admit that many times I’ve looked at my kids as they were walking out the door and said, “Did you remember the ______?”
And under some circumstances that might be okay. But we are hampering their maturity if we are constantly reminding them of the basics of life. In other words, are we doing the thinking so they don’t learn to?
I remember a time when my son was 16 and I was one of those moms. Maybe you can relate.
“Honey, don’t you need to get to work soon? There will be a lot of traffic.” Going through my mind is–I want him to do well at his job and I don’t want him to lose it by being late.
“I’m getting ready now. You haven’t seen my keys have you? I can’t find them.”
Going through my mind is–He’s going to be late. I don’t want him to lose this job. I’d better help him find the keys.
And I drop what I’m doing frantically going through the house in search of his keys.
Ten minutes later, I find the keys in a sweaty pair of shorts he left on the floor in his room. And off he goes as I wonder — Will he ever grow up?
Truth be told, he won’t grow up if I don’t let him.
What did I teach my son?
1) Mom is always there to remind you. 2) Mom will drop anything to help you out of a jam. 3) There is no need to care about your job because Mom will do that for you as well.
Let’s replay the scenario as if we are coaching toward adulthood. What might it look like? In other words, what do I wish I had done differently based on what I know now?
Let’s start where I left off. Let’s assume it played out exactly as I stated, but now I want to think differently about parenting and the coaching process.
- That evening, when my son came home from work, I should have had this conversation. “Son, I’ve been thinking about what happened with me looking for your keys before you went to work this afternoon. I realized that I’ve been doing you a disservice. I want to help you think like an adult. I can’t believe you are going to be 18 in a year! I think I’ve been taking emotional responsibility for things that I know you are capable of handling on your own. Starting now, I am passing the baton to you so that you will learn to own the things for which you are responsible.” I would have then laid out a plan with him by asking questions. What do you think would insure you get to work on time? How could you make sure you had your keys and wallet? And then I might make suggestions to tweak his plan.
- The next time he goes to work I would not say anything unless he is already running a little late (And I’d coach him to hurry up.) “Honey, did you tell me you had to be at work at 4:00?” I would then leave the room. Making it a question rather than a statement allows him to pause for the answer and not feel indicted for messing up.
- If he asks about the keys, I would respond with something like, “I don’t know, honey. When did you last see them?” And then I would continue to do whatever I was doing.
- If needed, I would have another ‘how can you help yourself be successful here’ conversation after he gets home from work.
Helping our kids mature is about us not taking ownership for the things they should own themselves. Better to lose a $10/hour job and learn something about punctuality than to have a six digit career that goes up in flames because they can’t be counted on.
Our kids need to learn the skills necessary to be a successful adult under our roof. That means we teach “adulting” by not always stepping into their opportunities to respond in a mature way. May I suggest that each time we are asked to do something for them we need to pause and ask ourselves a few questions before we respond.
- Is this an adult skill my teen needs to learn?
- Am I making the decision to get involved so my child won’t suffer or be viewed negatively?
- Do I care more about the outcome of this situation than my teen does? If so, why?
If the answer to any of the questions is yes, it might be wise to step back and let our teen potentially fail. After all, that’s what becoming an adult is all about. Our teens need to learn the boundaries of acceptable behavior and also the consequences when they don’t meet life’s demands.
- I take care of myself.
- I will ask for assistance or guidance when I don’t understand.
- I will get myself out of bed and get to school/work on time.
- I will not engage in so many activities that I can’t do for myself what needs to be done — laundry, fix my own snack, homework, job, and other things that impact me.
- I will sacrifice other things to get the rest that I need.
- And whatever you as a parent require.
For each will have to bear his own load.
Dare you to ask yourself if you are handicapping your teens and holding them back from becoming adults.
Double Dare you to make changes that help your teens become adults.
“Let go…and Let God”,