Q: We tried our best to be good parents, but our adult son has developed a talent for making poor decisions and behaving irresponsibly. He's deep in debt and may lose his job for lack of transportation because his expensive car was repossessed. We've tried to support and help him in similar situations, but things just keep getting worse. What do you suggest?
Jim: Even good parents often see adult children make poor choices. Our role as parents changes as our kids enter adulthood, but our purpose should not: To encourage them to become mature, responsible and self-regulating independent adults.
In this instance, I think that means allowing your son to come face-to-face with the real-life consequences of his choices. Here are three principles to keep in mind:
Don't make your child's problem your problem. Maintain appropriate boundaries by respecting his right to be his own man and make his own decisions. Taking "co-ownership" of his problems deprives him of adult autonomy, which is almost always counterproductive.
Don't make yourself the solution to your child's problem. It's not your job or responsibility to fix everything that's broken in your son's life, or right every wrong. Experience is the best teacher, so you need to allow your son the opportunity to learn from the consequences of his decisions.
Maintain the relationship. Avoid undermining the connection with your son by jumping in where you aren't wanted or needed. Uninvited interference and "I told you so's" can inspire resentment, which can then destroy the all-important heart-connection between parent and child. The best way to maintain a strong and positive influence is to keep the lines of communication open, be available and pray.
If you need help navigating this process, don't hesitate to call our counseling team at 855-771-4537 for a free consultation.
Q: I had never noticed this before I recently got married, but I've discovered that my husband is a "messie." I'm the one who likes everything clean and orderly, so I'm the one who picks up after him and does all the housework. I'm already getting tired of it; what should I do?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: This is actually a fairly common scenario, and you already identified the problem. You weren't thinking about housework when the two of you fell in love, so you didn't talk about it. But now that you're married, it's a whole different ball game.
To some extent, this can be a question of conflicting personalities. For example, creative types are often less concerned about neatness than those who take a more "left-brain" approach to life. But ultimately, no one can change another person -- we can only change ourselves.
The key is to approach the problem with patience, understanding and lots of love. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
Be upfront and honest. Assume ownership of your feelings, then voice them candidly and respectfully.
It's a team effort. Approach the situation as equal partners working to find a "win-win" arrangement that's acceptable to both of you.
Don't attack your mate. Confront the problem; don't belittle the person.
Encourage growth. Commend your mate's efforts when you see positive progress.
Remember: Change takes time. Be patient, and let your spouse know that you're in this together for the long haul.
As you go through this process, try to view it as an opportunity for cooperation rather than conflict. A key to having a healthy marriage is striving to understand each other and seeking to meet each other's needs. This is a great area to practice these principles.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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