Parenting Rule #1: Raise an Adult
By Jason Temple, LMFT
I remember getting home from family camping trips back when I was a child. I would always run inside to use the bathroom and attempt to kill as much time as I could to avoid having to unload the car of all the heavy camping items. As an adult, I now see that no one enjoys doing the hard work after a long trip but if we do it together, it gets done a lot easier and the whole tired family can come inside to recuperate. I even catch myself saying to my kids, “no one wants to do this, but if we do it together, we will all get to go inside and lay on the couch.”
The idea of parenting is best summed up by “raise adults.” If you raise an adult, your job of parenting was successful. If you raise a grown child, parenting was a failure. The story about coming home from camping demonstrated the differences between a child and an adult. The child thinks for their own comfort and lacks awareness about the collective impact on making it through life. They are more focused on consuming resources than collecting or sharing resources. Simply put, children take what they want and are focused on pleasure and avoiding pain. Adults, on the other hand, flip that script. An adult is able to work through the difficulties of life so that they and the people in their circle can find success. The lion brings home the kill and the cubs are focused on taking their share.
In my work as a therapist, I see so many people who were like myself, running and hiding when their turn doing the unpleasant work of life comes up. I find myself in the parental role attempting to guide them into adulthood, just as I do for my own small children. Lessons like “nobody likes to do the hard work when fun or relaxation is available” allow my children to see that their desires are normal and they need to help anyways.
I started this blog with the thought of “just tell every parent that their job is to raise an adult.” The problem that I immediately realized is that some parents aren’t adults and some adults don’t even know what it means to be an adult (even if they are successfully managing).
If you find yourself in a parenting pickle and don’t know what direction to head, ask yourself “what would an adult do” and use that to guide your parenting decisions. The world would appreciate your efforts!
Silly examples of adult children:
If you are cutting through traffic almost causing collisions because you didn’t manage your time well enough before a meeting, you might be a child.
If you have walked out of every job that said you can’t come and go as you please, you might be a child.
If you have your Mom call your college professor because you are failing for not showing up, you might be a child.
If you scream at your anyone for saying “no” to you, you may be a child. (Yeah parents, adults hear no a lot. You may want little Johnny to understand that “no” represents boundary setting throughout the world.)
Disclaimer: Some adults may struggle with things mentioned above. An adult works hard to get through the struggle. A child gets mad at me for writing this blog.