In this blog we will answer the question “what to do when your grown child makes bad decisions” and summarize what decisions are and their impact on self and parenting.
When your grown child makes bad decisions
When your grown child makes bad decisions you start thinking where you went wrong. Parents blame themselves for the mistakes of their kids, they blame their parenting and personal decisions. But it is not the case every time.
If your grown child makes bad decisions it is their choice, their circumstances, their idiosyncrasies that lead to bad decisions, and not the parents every time. Even the best of parents have children who make bad or poor decisions.
Parenting has no manual
Parenting is one skill that comes without a manual or a guide. It is learnt by parents as they pass each day with their child, understanding him/her, being with them and providing them with the amenities that are required.
But the most important thing that parents can do for their children is give them time. Time is of essence. If your child has turned 18, it does not mean that your job is finally over and done with. No. this is the time that he or she might need you and your presence the most in life.
If the child has become an adult, it does not mean that they can make rational decisions, it means yes, they can be independent but subtly they still require the guidance of their parents.
Leaving the child all on his own to take stock of his life leads to the grown child making bad decisions.
Do not forget that Dr. Seuss was right when he said that, ‘adults are just obsolete children.’
There is no such thing as a perfect parent and no such thing as a perfect child. Accept imperfections of one another and build around them, so that the uniqueness of each person stays intact.
- Do not demean your child
When you are speaking to a young child or an adult, speak to them like you want to be spoken to. If we respect our children then only will they learn to respect us. If we speak to them in an authoritative tone always, expecting them to be perfect beings, while we are trying not to be so perfect ourselves.
When we use insulting or demeaning words with our children, they create a hurt memory. This hurt memory is so powerful that it etches on the mind for a long time and has its repercussions later on.
- No Guilt Tripping
Do not send your child on a guilt trip. This trip has a very heavy baggage to carry and the only gift they will get for you from this trip is resentment. Parents are not to be resented, but to be respected.
Therefore, make sure that you’re not reminding them of their misdemeanors every now and then. What was in the past should stay in the past. Let your grown up child grow up and that can only happen when you stop sending them on a guilt trip.
- Decide With & Not Without
Your grown up child needs your guidance, but they might not ask directly. As parents we should look for cues that indicate they’re trying to reach out. This might happen subtly and it might also be that they resist any kind of advice.
The right approach will be to go around the problem rather than hitting on it directly. The environment in which you communicate with them should be positive and encourage discussions rather than arguments.
- No Constant Advice Please
If parents keep on giving advice to their grown ups they think that criticism is on the way and poor parents will take us naggers who are nagging all the time.
It is better to keep the doors of your hearts open and let them come in themselves, listen to them and advice in a way that is just a suggestion and they would not consider it an imposition.
- Love them for who they are
Parents have a tendency of telling their kids to be in one way or another. You need to show them that they are loved just the way they are. They do not need to alter themselves just to get your approval.
This hard times they are in would already make them feel incompetent, therefore, it is best just to be there and do not say, “I told you so” at all.
Love has a way for reaching hearts when coupled with compassion.
- Set up Boundaries
Where you are providing for them, you need to set up boundaries too. Yes, being there and showing compassion is one thing, but if they expect that you will bail them out each time they cause trouble, then set your boundaries and make sure they know that they cannot manipulate you each time trouble is called upon.
Halting pocket money, grounding as if not to use privileges that you have provided, should be communicated clearly.
If they get in trouble they should know they cannot come crying to you each time. They can come for comfort, but should stand up to their wrong decisions.
- Values and decisions at war
If their decisions are against the values that you had ingrained in them throughout their upbringing, then step back and make them question their own belief system. These can be religious, sexual or political as well.
Do not agree or disagree with their altered values. Let them take stock and make them think and rethink. Do not pass judgements on the new values, as they might not last a lifetime. They may even change again, once their circumstances change.
- Let them learn the money way
Do not keep giving them financial help all the time, you can assist in times of crisis, but they need to work for their financial assistance. They firstly should get a part time job to meet their exceeding financial expenditures, secondly, they need to respect the decisions of parents if they will ask for any financial help.
Parents should not go running with money or other items of need to their adult child, they should hold back and let the child mature in a way that he or she should take responsibility for any financial crux they get.
If money that was given for rent or fuel has been spent on an expensive dress or treating friends for some reason, then step back and make them realize. Let them put 2 and 2 together to see where they went wrong.
If they claim to be adults, then they should very nicely be told that they need to act like adults do and make a weekly or a monthly budget. You can assist them in making this and make sure that it is adhered to.
‘Being a good parent requires knowing when to push and when to back off, when to help and when to let them make mistakes, and then being strong enough to watch them let go.’
There will be a time when your adult child brings his or her significant other at home, finally having fallen in love. What if you do not like that person? What if you are aghast at the choice of your child? What if you think this significant other is incompetent for my child?
What if and what if? This will happen, you will not be able to answer your what ifs and when you cannot answer do not expect the adult child to answer those for you too.
Do not try to control the situation, just observe and keep your findings to yourself. Accept their decision about who they have chosen to fall for. Maybe there are reasons significant to your child and not to you for falling in love with that particular person. Respect that. When you give respect to their choice, you will get respect in return.
Just be polite to their partner and show interest in his or her life, you might be amazed at what you find there to like or even love that person. Be a friend and not a foe especially in matters of the heart.
Kahlil Gibran, the Persian poet wrote the following about your children
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
In this blog we have answered the question when your grown child makes bad decisions and summarized what decisions are and their impact on self and parenting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should children make their own decisions?
Children should make their own choices because this is how they learn to stand uo for what they want and also stand up with the decision going wrong.
At what age is a child able to make decisions?
At 18 years the child should be able to make decisions. This is time he or she has become an adult and can make decisions. These decisions should be facilitated by parents as well, so that he /she may not feel isolated.
Should children be able to make their own choices?
Yes, children should be able to make their own choices, starting as a child what to wear or what to eat. When they mature your guidance would have made them able to make their choices.
Should parents allow teenagers to make their own choices?
Parents should allow teenagers to make some of their choices, but not all. If they are given to hane to decide all that they have to do, this might give them a liberty to do things that might be against values and standards you raised them with.
Should parents interfere in their children’s lives after 18?
Parents should not interfere in their children’s lives after 18 years, but yes, they should keep a watch on their activities and the 18 plus child should know that the parents’ approval or disapproval matters.
Titles To Read
- When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us: Letting Go of Their Problems, Loving Them Anyway, and Getting on with Our Lives by Jane Adams
- Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children by Sheri McGregor M.A.
- When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along by Joshua Coleman PhD
- Blessing Your Grown Children: Affirming, Helping, and Establishing Boundaries by Debra Evans
- Twelve Steps of Adult Children Steps Workbook by Adult Children of Alcoholics World Servi