Adult Children, When to Help When to Let Them Learn
We have a standing joke in our home; because I am working toward a doctoral degree my sons occasionally start spending money in their heads. The standing joke is that I tell them that they have to make their own way in the world, because I am leaving my money to the dolphins. On some level, like all jokes, there is some truth to what I say. I expect them to make their own money, work hard, and find their own way in life. This hub is about handling your adult children. Immediately the words tough love comes to mind. I have counseled tons of parents who have given away their retirement and life savings to bail their children out of every manner of predicament.
“MOM I AM IN JAIL”
We are starting pretty extreme. You get the call at 1 am that your adult child is in jail. After hearing their sob story about drunken driving, drug possession, or even involvement in illegal activity many parents rush to bail their child out of jail. I have maintained that if one of my children does something illegal they better not call me(they know I will not bail them out). I have actually done loans for parents who have stated that they are using the money to get an adult child out of jail. Why?
Your child is an adult, they should be responsible for their actions, when you bail them out of jail and put yourself in financial dire straits, you are teaching that child that you will fix their mistakes. A friend of mine had repeatedly hocked his vehicles and spent his own money to keep his son out of jail. Even though he knows he is enabling this child he refuses to stop and let his son feel the consequences of his actions.
There is another very good reason to NOT hock the farm to bail an adult child out of jail; chances are that adult child is going to contuinue the behavior that put him/her there to begin with. Sure when you talk to the child on the phone they will swear it will never happen again, and you want to believe them. Every parent wants to believe the best about their child. There is what you believe, and then there is reality. If your child is headed down a dark path you can be a light and an example, but do not save them. Saving the child from their own mistakes means that you do not trust them to handle the situation on their own. If that is what you believe then you did not raise your child properly.
“PLEASE SEND ME MONEY”
Young adults today seem to have an unyielding idea that mom and dad are made of money. If your child has a job and is responsible with their money then chances are they will not come to you for money. There are adult children who constantly spend their money carelessly and then call you to pay for things like rent. You will know these children by the comments preceding the part where they ask for money. This is the child who gets a new tattoo, new phone, buys a fancy part for a vehicle, buys new clothes, purchases friviolous items for their apartment, or worse gets a brand new vehicle they can not afford.
Learning to handle money never killed anyone. If your child’s vehicle gets reposessed because, that child can not pay, it will only hurt their credit. These types of lessons are important. If you rob your children of these lessons they will never learn what is important when it comes to money. They will continue to lean on you for help.
Case in point; My oldest son earned his first vehicle. He learned to fix the old bronco himself and he took care of it (you could have eaten of the floors in that thing). I was very proud of him in this respect. Finally the bronco needed work that would be too costly and my son decided to trade the vehicle in for another car. He called me after the dealer informed him that he would need a cosigner. My deal with him was that I would cosign but, if he couldn’t make the payments on the vehicle I was going to take it. I am sure that he never imagined that he would not be able to make the payments. Eventually he lost his job and he called me to tell me he could no longer make the payments on the vehicle, so I came and got it. It doesn’t matter that I don’t drive a stick shift or that I did not like the vehicle, I took it on principle. He was not mad because I made it clear from the beginning that I was not going to buy him a car.
As your children grow up they drift away for short spells. This is a natural process of them becoming adults. Too many parents use money as a basis for their relationship out of FEAR that their child will not have anything to do with them. That’s right, your actions are not out of love, and they are driven by fear. This is a trap for everyone involved. If you have been a good and loving parent you need not worry about your adult children never calling. They will call, and you can have great conversations about their kids and life.
WHAT IF WE HAVE THE MONEY?
Every parent wants their children to become a happy adult. We strive to teach our children important lessons that will forward their character. What happens when you have money and your children never have to work for anything? Well I will tell you what happens; they become useless conceited brats who have no concept of real work. I have never met a spoiled child who was not a brat and I have never met a spoiled adult that had any concept of the real world. Make your children work for something let them help the homeless and do charity work even if you have money.
As adults your children should earn their own money. Most children of wealthy people do not want to take over the family business. Chances are they have their own dreams. Let your children have their own dreams and let them work for those dreams. When you rob your child of life experience, then they never learn to make it on their own. Eventually you will die and I am going to be honest about what happens when a wealthy person dies; the kids waste the money on stupid things until its gone then they have no idea how to function.
Case in point: A forty-four year old woman came into my office one day. She was beside herself in tears. Her father had been a famous heart surgeon. He had so much money that even until the day he died he was sending her checks. When he died all the money went to his twenty-eight year old trophy wife. That was the end of the money tree. His daughter admitted during her session that her father ruined her. She said “Michelle he never made me do anything, so I never learned to live”. Even she realized that she would have been better off without the help of her father.
When a person works hard for something they appreciate it. When a person is given something they do not feel a sense of responsibility for it. This is even true with college. Most of the students who worked hard in part-time jobs and worked for scholarships will appreciate their education whereas students whose parents pay for their school are twice as likely to drop out. Let them work for it.
Some parents function under the idea that they want their children to have better things than they had, well why would you want that when you turned out so well? Children need to have hardships, they need to know the world is not fair, and sometimes life sucks. Why? Until you know pain you do not appreciate health, until you know poverty you can not appreciate wealth, until you know failure you can not appreciate an accomplishment, and until you work for something you can not take pride in owning it. Do not rob other people of these experiences. Be there for your children with love and moral support, not to fix their mistakes and or hand them your checkbook.
WHEN TO HELP
I would never let my child starve. Short of that ,all life experience is for their good. Once again I am sure that I present a harsh point of view, harsh but true. Let your adult child live their own life. Do not try to save them. Let them save themselves. I guarantee when your children are older they will appreciate the values you taught them and be better people if you teach them to handle things themselves.
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