Right now we have 4 adult kids living at home and 1 more graduated that’s just under the wire of official adulthood.
This is a whole new level of parenting. People say toddlers and teenagers are hard….we didn’t have big struggles with those ages. But adults, that is a topic that needs some attention!
Our kids have always had responsibility and had to learn hard lessons. They pay for their own things and work from home (mostly) and earn their own money. They help around the house and are generally pleasant. But there are still some things that we are working to figure out.
1. Where does the authority of the parents end and the “child’s” begin? (I am calling them child for the sake of clarity, but I know they’re not children)
2. How much of their needs should they pay for? Rent? Food? Insurance?
3. Should we let them use our car? Our wifi? Our phone plan?
4. How do we handle discipline? Or do we?
This is just the tip of the iceberg of adult children living at home. If they were someone else just moving in with us we would have set clear boundaries from the beginning, but since we eased into this for the past 18+ years it’s not so cut and dried.
The good news is that we do all believe in the Bible being the Word of God and even though not all of those things are addressed directly, is it clear how to handle disputes and so we manage to keep the peace. That is a victory all by itself! If you are still raising your young children keep that in mind. Teach them now to love the Lord, do hard things and care for other people. It will benefit them now and forever more.
I am sympathetic to my kids’ situation. They are adults living a child’s life. They need to break out and believe me….we want our little birdies to fly from our nest. I am not anxious to be the head of an adult living center.
Even though I am still in the midst of this season and I do not have a full view from the rearview mirror, I have learned a few things that might help anyone headed this direction.
1. If it belongs to me I have authority. My house, my car, my food….I can say how it gets used and if I let you paint the room you are living in your favorite color then I am doing you a favor. And you should be grateful. But if it’s yours…..your purse, your clothes, your car then I should leave you alone about it, even if I have a great idea that would help you undoubtedly achieve great future successes. I close my mouth.
2. They should pay for themselves as much as possible. We haven’t moved to having our kids pay rent, but that is because they are responsible with their money and they voluntarily hold themselves accountable to us about how they use it (accountable, not obedient). But we do require them to pay for their phone (they are on our plan) and they buy their own special foods (so if they like a certain cereal or drink they buy their own, but they eat meals with us). I have thought about charging my son for laundry services. Free if you do it yourself, $2 per load if you convince a sister to do it for you.
3. Easing into adult responsibilities. Our two oldest kids are each saving to buy a car and when that happens it will be 100% their responsibility. For now they use our cars, but there are rules. They have to ask. Every time. They have to tell us where they are going and when they will be home and if that changes they have to let us know. And they have to pay for insurance and whatever gas they use.
4. Discipline is a harder issue. For example, if we request they get up and be dressed by 7:00 in the morning and they don’t do it….what should happen? Basically, we give them adult sized consequences for these things. A week without the use of our car has been a consequence we used in the past. That wasn’t fun. We do give them a lot of privileges that we could take away if necessary. I mean, eating here is a privilege and so is having your own room. If you want that privilege then you have to show respect for our needs as a family and joyfully do what we ask unless we discuss it and all agree to something else.
We expect our adult children to take care of more than just themselves. By age 18 you should carry your own weight and help those around you. That means they have responsibilities for kitchen, cleaning, car maintenance, helping with siblings, working for Mom or Dad in our business, etc. Their whole day can’t be just about them. That is not good for them and it certainly isn’t good for the parents. We can’t carry our adult kids around and we shouldn’t have to. Each adult in the home must be making a large contribution to the cost (financial, physical, emotional, etc.) of living in the home. We expect them to contribute a minimum of 4 hours per day on family needs, but this can include working for us in our businesses. If they have jobs that allow them to contribute financially then that time requirement would change.
But what happens when they just don’t agree? They shouldn’t have to agree with us all of the time of course! And all of our kids disagree with us on various topics. That’s when the relationship becomes so, so important. James and I work hard to spend time with our older kids and listen to them. What’s important to them? How can we support their dreams? How are their friends doing? What are they struggling with right now? How can we help without jumping in and rescuing them?
It is a delicate balance for all of us and one that we can all become more like Christ through the process.
If you only have young children now or are looking at being in this situation soon, hear me when I tell you….keep the lines of communication open. Your adult children still need you. But you have to practice self-control like you never have before. No more swooping in and saving the day. No more endless streams of motherly advice. No more being bossy (come on, it’s not just me). They need to make mistakes….sometimes big ones…..to learn and be able to fly away.
Be strong mamma……we are growing and learning too even though we’re supposed to be the more mature one. It sure ain’t easy.
And when all else fails I can remind my adult kids of what it says in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones.”