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cdwccrn's avatar

How do parents of adult children learn to mind their own business when the adult children do REALLY STUPID things?

Asked by cdwccrn (3610points) January 10th, 2009 from iPhone

It’s really hard to keep my mouth shut and not get angry. Any tips?

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9 Answers

Allie's avatar

My mom has this voice she uses to talk to me and that’s when I know she thinks I’m messing up. Then I reply with the usual “MMMoooooooooommmmmm…” and she goes “Okay okay, but, you know…”
Sometimes I change my mind about what I’m doing, sometimes I don’t…

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

It’s really hard, isn’t it? I’ve found it helpful to pretend that they’re people I work with, and not offspring. Moments of stupidity actually become great teachable moments. Asking, “Well? What are you going to do about it?” usually pushes the ownership of their decisions back on them.

cookieman's avatar

My daughter is six, but a while back we kind of re-raised my nephew (he lived with us from 17 until 25 – looong story). Anyway, I pretty much followed AlfredaPrufrock’s advice – but with a dash of sarcasm.

“So, nephew…How’s that working out for you?” He almost always would think about it and want some advice on a few days. The times he didn’t I would let it go.

Jeruba's avatar

Those are two different responses, @cdwccrn. To be sure, in many or most cases it is best to say nothing and not get angry. But there are also times when a response of some kind is appropriate. As Alfreda says, you aren’t through having something to teach them (and they aren’t through needing to learn) just because by some measure they’re grown up.

But anger does not have to have any part of it (and I don’t think sarcasm ever helps people either). People don’t learn well when they’re all wound up in being defensive. A gentle but straightforward question (“So what are your plans, then?” “And how are you thinking you’ll deal with that?”) and even possibly a direct offer (“Would you like to hear what I think?”) seem more constructive to me if the aim is to help and not to punish.

And most of the time, of course, they will learn the most from seeing the consequences of their actions. If what you want is for them to get the lesson, that’s your motivation for silence.

cherryberry's avatar

It can be really hard to bite back those knee-jerk responses, especially when you have been parenting for a long time, but it’s best to try.
My grandmother had a saying, “Let them fall off the curb, but not the cliff.” meaning that she would not interfere if we were simply doing something stupid. She would state her opinion and let it go. If we were doing something dangerous, she would scream, yell, and jump up and down for all she was worth. It worked.
Now that I have a teen, I see how much willpower that approach takes.

cdwccrn's avatar

@cherry: you have a very wise, wonderful grandmother who has given this grandmother a great gift in her wisdom, shared through you. Thanks.
To all: in about an hour, I will start an evening with the adult child who did said REALLY STUPID thing. I will let you know later this pm if I was able to keep my mouth shut. I know what this child does not need is a mother with an “attitude.” blessings to all…..

cdwccrn's avatar

With God’s help, I kept my mouth shut!

cherryberry's avatar

Good for you! I know how hard it can be.

Jeruba's avatar

Congratulations, @cdwccrn. If you are positively bursting now, you can tell us…

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