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If you think I am a competent young adult, stop treating me like an immature child


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Featured on
16 April, 2014

Growing into competent young adultsSitting in the doctor’s office last week, I overheard a mother and her sixteen-year-old daughter chatting. How do I know she was sixteen-years-old? Because she was talking about the rules that go along with being a new driver, mainly, that she is not allowed to drive anyone under 22-years-old for 6 months. Totally lame in her words.

The topic of their conversation suddenly shifted and before I knew what was happening, their exchange went from casual disdain, to blatant hostility, to full on, clenched teeth verbal warfare about whether or not mom would be going into the exam room with the same sixteen-year-old young woman who was just moments before talking about driving a vehicle.

Question: What might this mom believe about the relationship she has with her daughter that makes it possible for her to see her as a competent adult ready to get behind the wheel of a car, but not mature enough to go into the exam room on her own?

Question: Is this a common phenomenon? Accepting our kids are growing up and becoming competent young adults in some ways – dating, cars, college – and yet refusing to accept that they are growing up in other ways – exam rooms, using manners, choosing friends.

Question: Is needing to be needed as a parent making it difficult to identify these “markers” in our teens’ lives and if so, does that explain the “pushback” we feel as they become more competent young adults?

Question: Does a sixteen-year-old who is old enough to drive and probably date, have the right to decide whether her mother joins her in the exam room?

Question: Do we, as parents who changed diapers, wiped tears away, giggled under covers get confused because our kids will always remain MY child, but not always be A child?

This is just one example of how as parents, in our desire to stay connected to our kids, inadvertently enter into power struggles that push our children further from us. Take a moment and consider all the ways your pre-teen may be showing you that she is ready to be treated more like a competent young adult, than a school-aged-child.

Consider that by letting go just a bit more each day, you are sending the message to your child that you trust her and have faith in her ability to handle her life. Kids who know their parents have faith in their ability to handle the ups and downs of life along with making the daily decisions that go along with being an adult, feel more connected to them. While kids who have hovering parents who continue to hound them with questions, offering opinions and advice, want to run as far away from their parents as possible.

Let’s keep our kids close, by giving them space and supporting their march towards independence.

  1. maryruetten says:

    Cheers! Clapping Hands! Arms Raised Overhead! It scares me that we have kids in our society, ready to leave for college in a year, and they are not allowed to choose their own food, hold their own plane ticket, or shop on their own.

  2. Shannon says:

    Thank You! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! Being 20 years old and still living at home, I can relate so well to this post. I love my mother, she does the best she can for my sister and I. But the way she acts with us makes her so incredibly difficult to live with. Taking on big responsibilities such as getting a car, leaving home for the first time, even getting engaged were no problem. But when it comes to everyday tasks like choosing what to eat, how my room is kept, when I go out and where to, I am suddenly not capable of making the right choices without constant opinions and advice. It’s gotten to the point where I have been staying over my fiancee’s house as much as possible just to get a break, which has caused even more chaos to ensue. So before this turns into a full blown rant, I just wanted to say thanks for writing this. I hope for a lot more parents like you, and I hope to still have this advice in mind by the time I have my first little one.

  3. tulip says:

    This was a kind observation of teenagers, thanks for that.

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Stop Lecturing and Start Living

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Less yelling, nagging, punishing and more connection & cooperation!