parents to the end

Parenting Adult Children for Your Peace of Mind and Their Accountability

Friday Food for Thought: When Parents Should Butt Out

Posted on August 29, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda Herman


Amy Dickinson, whose column “Ask Amy” appears in the Seattle Times, frequently hits the nail on the head when it comes to issues regarding adult children. On August  18, she focused on the parents of an adult child, particularly the mother.

The letter writer in this situation was the father, who was presumably caught between his daughter and his wife.  Here is the dilemma:  The daughter, age 24 and a college graduate, is in love with a young man. The young man is starting graduate school and plans to teach while working at fulfilling his dream of being a successful writer.  He is in love with their daughter and wants to marry her.

Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Ah, but for the mother it is. She has already labeled her potential son-in-law as “lazy, directionless, and not good enough for her only daughter.” Wow. The dad is working on both sides- trying to get the mother to be accepting, and coaching the young couple on “proving” his wife wrong.

I know parents who would give anything to have such a young man join their family: no drugs, loves and is willing to marry their daughter, motivated to work, study, and has a passion. I see nothing wrong with this picture, at least not for the young couple. Amy pointedly says that “the only one needing an attitude adjustment” is the wife. She advises the father to back out of the middle and to set his wife straight –‘If you can’t learn to tolerate him and they do get married, then you are going to be very lonely.’

Just so we don’t forget: Our children have to follow their dreams for them, not our dreams for them. Do we want to have a relationship with our adult children, or do we want to alienate them?

Let’s have and convey faith that they can make smart choices. If they don’t, we can be supportive and be a resource if they want us in that role. Our children are more likely to use good judgment if they are not sidetracked with resisting pressure from us. It is the natural way of things.

The urge to differentiate oneself from one’s parents is often stronger than common sense. If a young person has to prove her parents wrong, she may set aside her best judgment while pushing them away.  I have had both young men and young women tell me of actions taken (just to resist parental pressure,) that they knew were not in their own best interest.

Don’t put your adult children in that position. Be supportive of adult choices that clearly present no danger to anyone. They may just be right.

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