My daughter recently made a decision to do something. To be clear, the thing she did was not dangerous, immoral, illegal or even a grey area of anything. It was an intellectual choice that really has no ill effects except that she had a few days of playing the teeny tiny violin and saying woe is me.

Let me repeat, the worst outcome of her choice was to feel a little sorry for herself.

When my daughter was in the “Woe is me” phase, my husband and I had a conversation:

Husband: We should have told her what to do.

ME: This is why you don’t make the parenting decisions

Husband: We should have guided her

ME: There comes a point where you have to let your kids own their choices/decisions. She has to learn how to make a decision, and how to own that decision and live with its consequences

Husband: But she shouldn’t have done this. We could have saved her the anguish

Me: If this, not even a mistake, is the worst decision that she ever makes in her life, she will be the most fortunate person in the universe. We can’t guide her 24/7. She has to learn how to navigate life. She will never learn to navigate it if we constantly tell her what to do and how to do it. Being an adult is a skill acquired through life experience. You only get life experience by trial and error. We don’t even know if we’d saved her anguish- she might have regret instead. You don’t parent by trying to spare your child of negative feelings and emotions and such. You parent by being there if and when they need you.

I’m pretty sure my husband tuned me out halfway through my monologue, but hopefully you all get the point I was trying to make…

You have to let your kids fail. You have to let them have feelings. You have to let them experience things. You have to let them make mistakes. You also have to let them make their own choices, for good and/or bad. Allowing them the latitude to do what they see fit is the ultimate form of respect. And the number one thing needed in any relationship is respect. If your kid is not doing anything illegal or life threatening, you have to respect what they do and don’t do. Without respect you will never have a true relationship- especially with adult children.

And really…

Are you confident that you have the right answers about everything?

69 thoughts on “Guide or Tell or Not

  1. Yes! You win Mother of the year award! It took me a lot of heartache to get to where I could step back and let mine make decisions that I didn’t think were best . But that’s how they learn .

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Good post. This should be in a parenting manual. My parents often liked to tell/command me what to do as a young adult. My mom tried to continue to do this with my sister as she divorced then later became an alcoholic. I feel like she invested so much emotional energy in worrying about others, she couldn’t enjoy life.
    There is a term “natural consequences” that I have heard. As in I will let my kid experience the natural consequences of a situation if it doesn’t go well.
    My college aged son recently went on a trip with some friends to see a concert. I had opinions about the situation in general–but I didn’t share them. He is safely back in one piece-none of my unshared fears came true.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Yes, I agree as a step parent. It is hard sometimes when I hear of bad choices being made but we both can recognize them (husband and I) and also the good decisions stepchildren and grandchildren are making.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. You are so right! It! Yes, it hurts inside any time our children feel anguish. Their pain is certainly our pain. BUT, you are exactly right when you say they need to make their own decisions, take responsibility, deal with consequences etc. By the time your child is an adult, you must let your children make decisions and handle things on their own. When parents don’t do this the consequences for enabling them is a disservice to your children, to you, and to the world.

    I have friends who continually tell me how lucky I am because I have “good” kids. And they complain about how their adult children are helpless without them. I think to myself it’s because they never prepared their children to take responsibility for anything. They enabled them.

    So many of my friends complain ALL the time about how they are still doing everything for their kids. My sister and my two BFF’s Do this to the extreme. They gripe about How helpless their kids are, how they lend them too much money, how their kids can’t even raise their own children without their help, they can’t even clean their homes, can’t make any decision without asking for help. Can’t even buy groceries without their input! And that, in my opinion, is because they didn’t encourage their children to make their own decisions..
    I’m sure because I was a teacher it helped me learn that if I wanted to make my Sons’ independent, I’d have to start teaching that from the get go. That’s how I taught in school. So I figured if it helped students become independent and responsible in the classroom it would help my own children in life too. It proved the right way to parent my kids.. That’s likely why my sons rarely ask for help. They are thinkers. They both have jobs where they have to make decisions on the spot. So, they were prepared early on .
    I stopped trying to get my friends or my sister to stop doing everything for their children. They don’t want to listen.. They complain but still continue to enable them. I think in order to feel needed they want to be in charge. Otherwise they feel obsolete. They complain constantly . But they keep doing everything for them. So how does that help anyone?
    I feel they are hurting their children by not making them become self sufficient adults. My sister runs over to her youngest daughter almost nightly to help her daughter put the kids to bed. ( they are two and five already!). I mean, seriously?? But then again she helped her daughter with her homework when she was in college! How weird is that. But then she told me she helps her daughter grade papers now! I told her her daughter could get fired for that. Not even substitutes are allowed to grade papers. I mean her daughter can’t do anything on her own!

    LA, YOU are preparing your daughter to be an independent thinker who will be able to handle life! (She will be fine so pat yourself on the back)! You are equipping your daughter with necessary life skills. She will be able to take on challenges and make decisions, accept consequences and be a true force in creating her own path in life.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I completely agree. I used to be the helicopter (ish) parent. But now I have to let them make their own choices. NOW, if they ask for my advice or opinion, I gladly help them, but they usually know what to do. I believe our generation also knew what to do. We were not always given the option of figuring things out on our own. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Giving advice was difficult to stop doing. I’ve learned to ask, “Would you like my input?” If they want it they will say yes. I’m good now about doing that. But it took time for me at first.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. This…this right here has been the hardest thing I have done as a parent and yet the most rewarding. I was never allowed to make any decisions as a child. Of course, when I started to make “adult” decisions I had no clue what I was doing and made some VERY, VERY, bad choices. As a result, when I became a parent I forced my child to make decisions starting at a very, very early age AND to pay every consequence for those decisions. I may have started too early with her and I may have gone a little overboard in an attempt to insure she had decision making skills prior to adulthood, chalk that up to my trauma. But, now she tackles every major decision she has to make with a plan…she thinks about the pros, cons and consequences. She reaches out to bounce her plan off of another person (sometimes me, sometimes her dad) primarily to make sure she hasn’t missed a possible consequence. Then she just makes the decision. I am in awe of her sometimes. She is so much better at it than I am and I have 21 years on her, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes!! I was told what to do and not given room to make errors for myself. My mothers standard advice was that she was older and knew better…fyi…she didn’t…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Chemrat, I can relate to much of what you just said.. I wrote above about using skills i learned teaching to help my children learn to make decisions. But I agree with you about your parents. My own parents, especially my mother, smothered me and wouldn’t allow me to make any of my own decisions, so I rebelled in a million ways. I got married young to have personal freedom, but soon learned I was unaware or clueless in so many areas. Especially getting married at 20 and having a child at 24. I was ridiculously unaware of what that entailed. But it did influence me to make sure both my sons were responsible human beings because I wanted them better prepared than I was . It did help my sons . But I do think with my oldest I was tougher on him. However, his dad and I split up in the mid 1970’s when he was ten months old .my first husband was babied by his parents. I will never forget flying back to regroup at my parents’ home after our separation and that emotional plane ride home. I looked at my baby and felt obligated to teach him to be his own person. I Remember whispering aloud to him as the plane took off, “How in the world do I make you a responsible man? How do I accomplish that without your father around? I was terrified.. His father was supported by his parents until his 30’s and so I wanted my child to be responsible for his actions. To make good decisions. He did. He was creating check lists in kindergarten. Lol However, I might have started too early with him. His brother I had at 40 with my 2nd husband. I started later with him which probably was better. Then again, my oldest child has always made lists and taken charge, so who knows. Maybe it was just his style!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh bless his heart, he wants to save her from feeling any negative emotion, and hasn’t yet understood that isn’t possible. Good thing she has you. Learning how to make decisions and choices while you are young enough to bounce back and with the added security of knowing you have the safety net of parental love and acceptance is all part of the growing up process.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Are you confident that you have the right answers about everything?” There’s the answer. Not to say I haven’t struggled with this at times. But you are right, they have to learn how to make their own decisions. And we have to support and love them. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree with your philosophy and add that if we as parents try to intervene in every situation to save pain and distress, it could cause the “child” to resent any advice from us and do the opposite just to exert control regardless of the consequences.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. This here is the most difficult aspect of parenting adult children. Watching them make mistakes or suffer consequences is very hard. But alas, it’s part of growing up, learning and becoming wiser/stronger, etc. Although, in some cases I do feel it’s appropriate to interject my thoughts. Nine times out of ten they’ll still do what they want, but at least I can say that I did my part.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I don’t really have parents that I can ask advise from since I my early 20’s. I would love to still hear my Dad’s advice if he was alive and I married someone like my Dad. That said, if I had a safety net, I wouldn’t have my life’s accomplishments. Something to think about: is your advice better than your daughter’s BFF advice?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My daughter always writes a birthday post as my gift…she did say some advice is best from mom. However…the only thing I do know is that I know nothing…so, I don’t always have the best answers…especially as some things are unanswerable

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I like your philosophy about letting go and letting them make their own decisions. I grew up with a father who liked to tell me what to do. I vowed I’d let my kids make their own choices, and I try hard to adhere to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ME: This is why you don’t make the parenting decisions. LOLOLOLOL
    Best part and I can relate to this statement!
    When I give my kids advice, I pray about it and then hope for the best. Half the time I’m not quite sure what the best thing may be.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Our #1 job as parents is to raise resilient, independent children. That doesn’t happen if parents hover over and “save” their kids from every disappointment and consequence of stupid actions. That said, I do think it is good to try and steer them in a direction that will help them make those good decisions. As one who teaches college seniors, I’ve seen, firsthand, the results of parents who do everything for their children….they simply cannot/are not able to think for themselves and be resourceful. It’s hard to watch your children struggle or fail. The lessons learned are invaluable when we fail. Failure is necessary! I’ve adopted the line, do you want my opinion or do you want me just to agree with what you’ve already decided to do? It saves a lot of time and energy. 💜

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I absolutely agree! If I had one thing I could change about how I raised my children, it would be that I simply supported them more, without also trying to protect them. But sometimes that’s a wisdom that is only acquired in the rear-view mirror of life. And no, I’m not sure I’m always right…and I don’t trust people who are!

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I’m with you all the way (though not always easy!). Your last comment really hit me because the world is a different place now compared to 20 years ago and even if we think we know best, sometimes we don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I think you are quite right. Its about respect – for an adult childs choice and resilience.

    And also acknowledging that you the parent have done your best to teach your child balance and resilience.

    Liked by 1 person

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