Parents are sometimes guilty of controlling their adult children without knowing how to stop. The tendency to want to control the outcome of adult children’s lives can be damaging to all concerned.
“I should have spent more time with him; I should have motivated him more, been a better role model and should have been more firm with him.” On and on this father went, judging himself for how he had been as a parent.
This was a recent conversation with a parent; who was feeling very sad about his son, Larry. Larry, 29 years old, was not doing much with his life, in his fathers’ opinion and as a result, he was judging himself for how he had parented Larry. He basically thought his parenting had been a failure since his son was not doing much with his life.
The question is at what point does your parenting end and when is your child responsible for their own decisions? Having some guidelines around this reduces parents controlling adult children.
The truth is each child is on their own soul’s journey. Sometimes even if you had been a perfect parent – and none of us really knows what that means; a child can still have challenges in different areas.
For some parent’s it is a relief to know that they cannot be held responsible forever for their adult child’s decisions.
Of course, the goal is to be the best parent you can be to your child and offer them the nurturing and enabling environment they need to become all they are meant to be.
However, because each soul comes to the world with its own unique destiny and journey; it is not something parents can predict or fully orchestrate the outcome.
In reality, regardless of how good or bad your parenting was, your child is on his own journey, making his own choices. While you can take responsibility for your parenting; you cannot take full responsibility for the choices he is making now as an adult.
Could you have been a better parent?
In the case of Larry’s father who felt that his son was not doing much with his life, he keeps feeling that if he had been a better parent, then his son, Larry would not be struggling the way he is.
The answer is Maybe and maybe not. There is no way of knowing this. An adult parents’ self-judgment is an attempt to have control over something he has no control over. In this case, Larry’s choices which in the father’s opinion are not ideal. However, once a child evolves into an adult, you cannot as a parent make him do anything or force different choices.
Each child is different and each child will respond differently to our parenting. We do the best we can for our children. Most parents want the very best for their children and feel deep pain when their children go through pain. Yet we cannot prevent them from their own soul’s journey.
How can Parents Help vs Controlling Adult Children?
The question then becomes, so what can I do to help?”
“The very best thing you can do is to continue doing your own inner work while praying for him. Even though your child at 29 is an adult, you are still a role model for him. Certainly judging yourself is not good role modelling. Your adult child needs to see you doing all you can to take loving care of yourself. When your child sees you feeling really good about yourself and happy with your life, this is a form of positive reinforcement of living fully.
Aside from becoming a loving role model, praying for your adult and being there when they consult you for advice; there is really nothing you can do about your adult child’s choices. You need to accept this instead of trying to have control. Any attempts to control your child will likely result in resistance. And the more you try to control the choices the more judgmental you are likely to be and this will push your child away even more.
Letting Go as a Parent of an Adult Child
As a parent of an adult, the key is to let go, live your life, stay open and ensure the lines of communication are there. You need to lovingly let your child know that you love him unconditionally and are there for him. You can love your child without running around trying to make everything right.
Most parents want to think that they have more control over their children than they do. We want to think that if we “do it right” we can control the outcome we want for our children.
However, the reality is that it is important to let go and accept that once your child is an adult, their choices are their own to make. Therefore controlling adult children only leads to strained parent-child relationships.
You can be there as a consultant, but this means that you need to wait for your child to consult you. Avoid always giving your opinion and being judgmental.