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How Much Parenting of Adult Children Is Too Much?

By Debra Englander September 12, 2022 Family

“How’s everything?” I innocently asked someone whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. She immediately said everything was fine. She added that one child was entering high school and the other starting his senior year in high school so things were stressful.

I responded that my 28-year-old daughter is job-hunting, and I’m more stressed than she is.

Then, a friend mentioned that her married niece (about age 30 with two kids) is on her father’s cellphone plan, which is probably common given the complexity and cost of phone service these days.

Is It Time to Let Your Adult Children Grow Up?

These conversations got me thinking about parenting and why it seems more difficult today to “let go.” Obviously, the bond between parents and children exists forever. But prior generations seemed to become “adults” without as much handholding and pushing than today’s younger generations.

My daughter is a solid citizen – she’s polite, helpful to others, and lives with a roommate whom she found. Yet no matter how much instruction we provide, she is clueless about financial matters. Somehow, she hasn’t absorbed the concept of not spending every paycheck or saving for emergencies.

Are You a Helicopter Parent?

I absolutely recognize that I may be to blame. While I wasn’t a full-blown helicopter parent, I certainly have stepped in over the years to do more than my share of suggestions for school projects, networking for her job-searches or handling errands. Am I at fault or is there something else going on?

When I went away to college, I had to navigate everything on my own – from finding a campus job to paying bills for the first time, in addition to everything else that goes along with campus life.

Phone calls home were a luxury and reserved for emergencies. Compare that to today’s texting and social media where you can communicate everything earth-shattering and mundane with a few words, emojis, or other symbols.

Helping Our Children to Be More Responsible

When I hear that rain is forecast for the evening, I will text my daughter and remind her to take an umbrella. Why? I know she doesn’t pay attention to the weather forecast.

She will look outside and see that it isn’t raining right when she is leaving for work. Maybe I’m being overly protective. I’ve stopped alerting her to subway delays because she has the NYMTA app which provides notice of delays and cancellations!

I may well be an annoying parent who does too much. But I also know other parents who will drive eight hours or so round-trip when their adult children want to come home for a weekend.

And certainly, here in New York, countless parents allow their kids to “store” their possessions in their old rooms because they live in small apartments without enough college space for all their stuff.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you think that parenting stops when our kids become adults? Are we at fault by doing too much for them so they become accustomed to letting us manage their responsibilities? Should we go cold-turkey and let our grown up children sink or swim on their own? Are there any half-way measures that work? Please share your thoughts and experiences below!

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Catherine

My son who is 22 recently said its good I didn’t do “all those things” because he learned how to himself. Not sure if it’s a compliment or an insult?

Carol

I’d take it as a compliment!

Nancy Parsloe

Yes the parents are the ones to blame for their children not growing up! The one example of the parent reminding her daughter to take an umbrella because it was going to rain. Well if the daughter got caught in a couple of rain storms and got drenched, within time she would check the weather and make sure she had an umbrella with her.
When parents do too much for their adult children, what they are saying to their kids is that “I don’t really trust you to do “X” the right way so I will do it for you. What does that teach the child? Mistakes, poor decisions, and having to work things out for yourself is part of the maturing process. If the parent is always stepping in, then these children will never mature and become fully functional adults!

Beth

i think we each have our own parenting style. since our children -at any age- are individuals, the tactics we use to get them to the next phase vary. i’ve had other mothers remark that they should do things the way i do them. but they’re not me, and if they aren’t consistently upholding the underlying theories behind my parenting, they may get negative results and their offspring may not respond as mind have. when i’ve found something that wasn’t working, i go to my adult friends with children – which this site offers an alternative, for which i thank you. but i think we each need to find what level works for each individual family. find what’s right for you. if you’re not feeling comfortable with where you are, by all means, network and research, but -even then- choose what’s right for you; you know your family best!

Deb

I am a Mom of 3 adult children in their 30’s who are all completely self sufficient. I don’t think there’s any “one way fits all,” kids are different, as are circumstances. However, human beings learn by making mistakes and “natural consequences” can be the best teacher. I also have had to learn a lot about codependency along the way.

Not surprised

Yes, you are not respecting this persons boundaries and are affecting their right to individuate.

I am not surprised at this in the least. Fellow contributor Judy Barber’s book “Good Question” featured a “chapter” written by Babu Shah. Shah imported the EDUCO messianic Cult into the UK in 1996. Whilst the EDUCO Cul was widely reported on in it’s native Ireland for it’s Sexual and Financial abuse and it’s documented Human Trafficking Practices, the UK operations have got away with it.

When I highlighted this to Barber, and that her “book” was used as an indoctrination device for this cult, she disabled her website promoting this book and scuttled off to wherever she went.

So to hear other contributors are displaying high narcissistic-traits does not surptise me in the least. Judy… get back to me!

Judy Barber’s Book full of terrible advice

The Author

Debra W. Englander is a writer, editor and book coach based in New York. She has written for numerous publications and managed a business book program for John Wiley. She writes “The Savvy Self-Publisher” column for Poets & Writers. Follower her on Twitter @DebraEnglander.

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