Today we have a guest blogger, my friend, Shawnda Myers. During our small group she shared the following thoughts about dealing differently with adult children that are still at home. I liked what she said so well, I asked her permission to put her ideas into a blog.
From Shawnda Myers
When our children become adults, when they enter that maturity level around the age of 13, it’s time to begin looking at them differently so we can move towards relating differently to them when they reach 18. By that age it’s time to stop parenting and trust what we’ve built into them growing up.
This may sound strange and even controversial, but this is how I have applied it: nagging ceased and the means of relating became more like that of a friend, as I changed how I speak to and how I approach my adult son. As I think of him more as a “friend,” I realize if a friend comes to visit, I don’t nag them about the dishes. If a friend tells me, “No,” about something, I can take their no.
You might think I’m saying that adult children can just live in the house and do nothing, but that isn’t what I’m saying. It’s all about relationships being more important than problems that arise over things such as “dirty dishes.” It’s an attitude toward the adult child that says, “We are more equal now. I’ve parented your for 18 years, but now it’s up to you to do and be who you are, and it’s up to me to move toward what it will be like when our nest is empty and I don’t have you to help me with chores. You will have your own dishes someday. It’s important to me to keep our relationship free of nagging and resentment over who does not take care of life’s necessities.”
It seems to me that many of our battles over “emptying the dishwasher or filling it up” are based on someone’s preference. That preference is neutral–neither right or wrong. But many times those preferences become rules that then become laws. And laws will only bring ‘death’ to relationships. Someone has to enforce a law and that often brings conflict and trying to control others when laws are not kept–another killer of relationships. The law arouses sin.
Regardless of how we look at chores, it’s clear to all of us that there’s a balance in helping around the house, but I encourage you to consider a new way of approaching how you deal with an adult child still at home. If we as parents keep pushing our preferences, the young adults won’t know theirs. I want mine to know themselves and their identity before they leave home. As I have practiced this different way of dealing with my young adult son, I have seen him open up to me more often because I am not nagging him or trying to control him.
Here are two examples: Trey is a minimalist in his bedroom. He keeps it clean and neat so if I see that his room is not in its usual shape, I might say something like this: “Hey, I notice your room doesn’t look like you prefer it. Life’s busy. What’s going on?” Trey will often take time to catch up about what’s going on in his life that we haven’t had time to talk about.
On another occasion I asked him if he would mow the yard before we left on a trip, but he said that he couldn’t. I left it at that and took his no. Later that month he washed and detailed his dad’s car without being asked. Sometimes he does the dishes and sometimes he doesn’t. He does his own laundry. Sometimes he asks for advice about his budget and sometimes he doesn’t. We leave as much to him as we can, always available if he chooses.
I would say that looking at and treating my young adult as an adult is working well. He is learning about real life consequences as he exercises his own choices, how to work for what he wants, and he honors us as parents.