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