Parenting Adult Children: When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up

Parenting Adult Children: When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up

So, your children aren’t children anymore. When did they grow up and become adults anyway? Often, that depends on us as parents. Do we allow them to grow up, or do we hold them back by rescuing and enabling? It’s a hard realization, but if they are to become adults, we must see them as adults, and accept that we are parenting grown kids.

When they were toddlers, if we had picked them up every time they fell, they would never learn to walk alone. Likewise, as adult children, they would never learn life’s crucial lessons if we were to save them from every fall—nor would they engage in the reflective process required to grow from their mistakes.

That doesn’t mean we are even capable or should fix their problems. Yet, it seems to be our responsibility as wise women to be honest and bold when we see them going down a path of destruction. So how can one be a responsible parent while sitting still and saying nothing? It is a delicate balance.

My children are now raising toddlers and adult children of their own—my precious grandchildren. Acknowledging my fears and the depth of my devotion is at the surface of my feelings, but I must not let those feelings overrule what I know to be true about where I should stand.

It saddens me to hear stories of adult children blocking well-meaning parents out of their lives, though I am not supportive of parents who choose to meddle where they should not. All that to say, a parent’s job of learning and growing never stops, even when your children are grown up. When parenting grown kids, it is vital to discern when to speak up and when to shut up.

Parenting For Parenting Grown Kids

When to Speak Up and Encourage Your Child

I am that positive mom who raised strong daughters. I told them, “Go out there and follow your dreams, you can do anything you put your heart and mind to!” What happens when they fail, when their dreams are shattered, and they are a mess?

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Many times, I feared that my positivity got in the way of reality. My adult kids call that, “Mom Logic.” Inside my heart of hearts, I wanted all their dreams to come true. And the reality is…they must fall in order to grow. So, I felt that my support and encouragement to “go for it” was for their good—no matter the outcome.

Whether they tried and succeeded or tried and failed, I knew they would gain something from either result. If they tried and it worked out, then their mom believed they could do it all along. A mom’s confidence can instill great strength in the heart of her child. But, if they tried and fell on their face, then their mom loved them anyway.

Sometimes the greatest gift you can give your children is to show them that they don’t have to succeed or be the best at anything to receive love. In our family, our love is unconditional. I hope that my speaking up taught them that.

When to Shut Up and Let Your Child Figure It Out

While it is so important to leave the doors of communication wide-open, my children need to know they can come to me without being judged or criticized. Instead, I want them to feel heard and understood. We need to be slow to speak and quick to listen. It is hard not to react when they are being stupid. You want to say, “I taught you better! How can you go down that road to destruction? Respect yourself! What are you thinking?” At such times, I often have to force myself to recall my own stupidity (sometimes even yesterday) and remember that I was stupid too.

In the journey of life, a person can choose to learn from mistakes. A person can also blame the problems on others and deny personal responsibility. Others may choose to repeat the same mistakes, hoping for different results. Perhaps the best thing a parent can do to help an adult child learn is to ask open-ended questions to encourage reflection. I feel abundantly blessed when our daughters share their ups and downs with me. Sometimes I can listen and shut up, but other times, I know I must speak up. I must remember to ask God to be my voice and my heart to show love. My continuous prayer is they seek God’s advice before mine.

Model Grit and Grace for Your Children

Over the years, we have celebrated many dreams coming true as well as some broken hearts. I have watched my daughters be broken as I held them in my arms while we both cried. They have seen and heard my constant prayers. Many times I wanted to tell them what to do; I wanted to save them from pain and heartache. I often learned the hard way: God has a better plan. He is walking with them in this messy journey called life on earth.

The messes are hard to watch and our faith gets even stronger in the hard times. I had to learn to let them individually fall so they could learn to run with endurance the race set before them. Only God can guide them in the way they should go. I trust my children to be open to His leading.

Acknowledging my fears and the depth of my devotion is at the surface of my feelings, but I must not let those feelings overrule what I know to be true about where I should stand.

Our daughters have seen us struggle with jobs, decisions, finances, and losses. They have seen us disappoint one another as husband and wife, but they have always seen us love unconditionally and support one another, even in our failures. We have modeled getting on our knees and praying through tough times. We have also modeled bad behavior. We’ve had to say, “I’m sorry.” We have fallen and learned the hard way. Life happens, and it’s not always pretty.

God didn’t promise us a rose garden, but He did promise to help us navigate through the thorns and storms along the way. We will get pricked and pruned in the process. God is still molding us to do the things He created us to do all the way to heaven’s door.

We all fall down. I have fallen too many times to count, I have disappointed God, parents, kids, friends, and even strangers. My daughters have made wrong turns. My constant prayer is they turn to God, get on their knees, repent, ask for forgiveness and receive guidance from the Holy Spirit. I pray they get back up and run toward the One who can show them the right way.

We all fall short, but the Bible says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Thank you, Lord, for that promise. It’s a daily battle. We have a guide, a best friend, an advocate. His name is Jesus. So, pray!

Is your daughter growing up fast and nearing adulthood? Here’s how to work toward a strong relationship, even after she leaves home: Afraid Your Relationship with Your Daughter Can’t Thrive? with Marlys Johnson Lawry – 211

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