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15 | Relating to Your Young Adult: Do’s and Don’ts

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Asking Permission

Advice. We love to dish it out. 

We hate unsolicited advice. It feels like we are being judged. 

So often, unsolicited advice is not on point. It doesn’t take into account what we’ve tried to do already. Or our circumstances, values, perspectives, strengths, and limitations. 

Our young adult kids hate it, too. 

Thing is, they need it, right? We have lots of good advice to give our kids. 

In fact, we often actually have good advice for our kids.  

There is little point, however, in dishing out advice when it’s not asked for. It’s going to put a strain on the relationship and not accomplish much. 

Disguising advice as an “observation,” a “suggestion,” or sharing “my experience” is pretty thin camouflage. It’s not going to fool anyone. 

Here’s a huge tip. Bite your tongue often. Let them figure it out. 

When you think it’s prudent to offer some advice, then there’s something you should always do first. Maybe even literally ALWAYS, meaning every single time. 

The thing to always do is: ask permission before giving advice. 

People will usually give you permission. After all, you are giving them a choice. We like being able to make the choice. That’s human nature. God made us that way. 

Sometimes the answer will be “no.” That’s fine. It means they weren’t going to listen to your advice, anyway. 

Maybe they will say, “not now.” That means you can wait and try again when the timing seems better. 

Ask for advice every time. It shows some respect for the other person. It’s hard to get tired of people being respectful to you. 

It does not matter how good your advice is.  It’s not about whether you have good advice:  they want to choose whether they seek your advice.

Unsolicited advice is usually taken as intrusive and critical, regardless of how it is meant.

It’s almost like we have to re-earn the right to be heard. Your young adult children are extremely sensitive about choices, boundaries, and autonomy. 

There are two things that keep coming up in the literature on young adult relationships with their parents: unsolicited advice and judgment from their parents.

The J Word

Another really big landmine out there is judgment. The J word.

Something our young adults really hate is receiving, or perceiving, judgment from their parents.

We can carry a lot of judgment on them without realizing it. Or thinking it’s “no big deal.” 

For instance, your “expectations” are not theirs. Expectations for grades, dress, grooming, jobs, values, or politics.  Expectations for what “success” looks like, how “successful” they should be, what’s “lazy”, what’s “hard work”. Expectations about what courage, resilience, cowardice, temperance, and forthrightness, look like. Expectations for the shows they watch, the friends they visit, and how they spend their time. 

Seek to understand and listen to understand without an ulterior motive.

We have to accept that our vision of what the young adult should do or needs to do is not their vision. They are their own person and will certainly have different perspectives, different values, different dreams, and goals. They want us to respect who they are and their choices. 

It’s remarkable how the relationship will grow when you accept them as an adult making their own choices.

Deal with their behavior if necessary. It’s not your job to judge their character. Conflicts are much easier to navigate when you focus on behavior and actions and don’t make it about “them.” 

If you want to be an influence in their lives and have a healthy, loving relationship, stop with the judgment.

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