What to do when your grown child makes bad decisions?

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In this blog we will discuss what you can do when your grown child makes bad decisions.

We will also briefly explore how one can parent an adult child effectively and what one can do as a parent of an adult child. 

What to do when your grown child makes bad decisions?

If you have been watching your adult child make decisions that are bad or harmful for them, you are probably dealing with a lot of difficult emotions at this point.

You might be feeling exasperated, angry, confused even, or maybe even disappointed and along with these feelings, you might also be struggling with the question of, what should i do?

Any parent, who has watched their child grow into an adult who seems to be struggling with making sense of their own life, often feel at a loss of what can be done. In fact, some even question if you as a parent should do anything considering that they are adults now. 

Let us consider a few things that you can do as a parent of a child who has been making some bad decisions.

Check in with your feelings

The first that you can do is to get in touch with what you are feeling- be it anger, disappointment, exasperation- whatever difficult feelings come your way, take notice of it and acknowledge it. 

Why is this important? It is important because of what you are going to do next- communicate or talk to them- but before that we need to understand that your feelings are yours and they should not be directed to other people. 

Your child might have made those decisions that hurt you or anger you, but you have to remember that these choices they have made were not against you and these feelings that you feel are yours and yours alone. 

So take notice of how you feel, ask yourself what makes you feel this way, and notice the thoughts you have along with these feelings and instead of reacting to these feelings, choose to calm down.

Listen to them

The next thing you can do is to communicate with them and one of the most important ways of communication is listening. While you might be wanting to chew their heads off with a lecture, the first thing you can do is try to understand why they might have made these decisions. 

Since you are the parent, you can choose to understand your child because as an adult this child of yours must also have their own reasons behind their choices and their behaviours. 

It is possible that your child might blame you, they might blame other people as well but through this entire conversation, remain calm and simply listen to what they are trying to say.

Express your concern

Once you have listened to them, and if you have done it effectively it is possible that your child will now listen to you as well.

Express your concerns and use statements that start with “I” instead of “you” since the latter might come off more accusatory. So start your conversations with something like: “I am worried about the choices you are making.” or “I feel sad to see you struggling like this, it must be very difficult for you.”

Let your concerns be expressed with empathy because no matter how different your child must have grown up to be from who you were or who you thought they would be, remember that they are their own individual and like all individuals they are also struggling to make sense of their own lives. 

Offer support

The next thing you can do is to offer support to help them solve their problems. This does not mean that you solve their problems for them but rather tell them that you can help them come up with a plan to resolve their challenges. 

Let them know that you can assist them in helping them overcome their own challenges and that you will be there for them whenever they need someone to talk to, some guidance, and also some help.

Remember, you are not going to be the one who will solve the issue, they are but you will be with them as they try their best- this is the point to put across. 

Set boundaries

As parents, the tendency to go right ahead and solve your child’s problems is very natural and in some cases your child might expect you to do so- especially if that has been the pattern earlier on. 

So as you talk to them, put it across very clearly that you are not going to save them, you are not going to solve the problem but that you will be with them as they get through this. 

Sometimes your child might be angry and lash out or be rude in the way they behave, as parents it is important that you step up to your role as a parent and let them know that you will not tolerate indecent behaviour towards you. 

Make sure that you clearly tell them what can and cannot go on- for example- expecting you to pay bail. Let them know what is an option for them and what is not- for example- taking a loan from you with a contract can be an option but borrowing money without payback is not. 

These boundaries protect you and it protects them as it pushes you to stop enabling your child’s behaviours. Though it might seem harsh in some cases, tough love might just be what they need. 

Setting boundaries also comes with setting new rules that replace older ones that no longer fit the context of an adult child. For example, new rules related to financial dependence-if they are able to get a job or they are working, clearly let them know that you will longer finance their lives.

Remember that they are their own individuals

Don’t let their poor choices be something that causes a rift between you and your child- they are individuals who are allowed to make mistakes and their own choices. 

So view this as a way to understand your child as someone who is only figuring out themselves out and their lives and offer support instead of cutting them off or shutting them out.

However if cutting off is necessary, make sure that you clearly let them know that you love them but you do not love nor will you tolerate what they are doing to themselves or the choices they are making. 

Stick to your core values

Because of the differences in generational trends and cultures, it is possible that you and your child will clash when it comes to values and attitudes towards life and the world in general.

If the issues related to values are what is causing distress, the best thing that you can do for this situation is to respect your own values and stand by it while also respecting theirs. 

Since They are adults in their own right, they do have the choice to live life according their own beliefs even if you think that their values are leading them to make poor decisions. 

As difficult it is to swallow this pill, you will have to respect their boundaries when it comes to their values and their beliefs as much as you would like yours to be respected.

Do not nag

Once you have set across your boundaries and you have communicated everything that you needed to, do not nag. 

Don;’;t hover around them to change their life around or nag them to do certain things that you think will help them. This goes against boundary setting. You can encourage them by giving them words of affirmation but nothing beyond this, don’t nag.

Nagging not only causes them to become more withdrawn and shut you out more but it costs you your own peace of mind and also the peace within the family. You have done your part as a parent by communicating with them, and it is their choice as an adult on whether they take up the baton. 

Live your life.

Another thing that you can do for yourself if you have a child that appears to be causing a lot of tension by the choice they make, is to take care of yourself. 

It can be an emotionally distressing situation and stressful as well, so when you are challenged with a particular parenting dilemma- don’t be too hard on yourself instead take time to seek out support if needed or give yourself time to rest. 

Engage with things that you like doing and people that are supportive and give you joy. While your child lives their life- albeit with poor decisions- you have to live yours or else you will end up being caught up with their problems and that can seriously affect your health.

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed what you can do when your grown child makes bad decisions.

We have also briefly explored how one can parent an adult child effectively and what one can do as a parent of an adult child. 

How do I protect my child from bad influences?

As a parent a few things you can do to protect your child from bad influence include:

  • Let them know that communication lines are open, nonjudgmental, and safe. 
  • Educated them about assertiveness
  • Do not criticise your friends but you can discuss their behaviour as healthy and not healthy. 
  • Set boundaries and limits for them to follow- let these be reasonable and let it be something that is set after an open discussion between the two of you.

Why is my grown daughter so mean to me?

The most probable reason why your daughter is being mean to you is because she does not have a healthy way to deal with her difficult feelings. More than her being mean and angry, she must be hurt and struggling with whatever issues she has in her life- you included. 

The best thing you can do for her and for your relationship, is to empathise with her and let her know that you are listening and that you do want to understand her even if it might be difficult and you might have some difficult truths to swallow. 

References

Baumgardner.J.7 WAYS TO DEAL WITH ADULT CHILDREN WHO MAKE POOR DECISIONS. Firstthings. Retrieved on 13th Feb 2022. https://firstthings.org/adult-children-poor-decisions/#:~:text=Manage%20your%20emotions.&text=One%20 minute%20you%20think%20you,friend%20or%20 seek%20out%20counseling.

5 Principles for Parenting Problem Adult Children. iMom. Retrieved on 13th Feb 2022. https://www.imom.com/5-principles-for-parenting-problem-adult-children/

Seitzer. M. Adult Children: The Guide to Parenting Your Grown Kids. ExtraMile. Retrieved on 13th Feb 2022. https://extramile.thehartford.com/family/parenting/parenting-adult-children/

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