Continuing the theme of parenting adult children, another of my readers wrote to me about a young adult son. “One of my problems has to do with communication and respect, expressing gratitude instead of just taking things for granted and being entitled. I don’t get much of these from my 19 year old. He’s still maturing. Another challenge is that he’s decided to take a leave of absence from his college because he wants to get a job. This means he will be probably be living with me part of the time. I’m somewhat anxious about it. Don’t want it to be a negative for him and me, at least. Hoping it can turn into a positive.”
Communication can be a challenge, especially with teenagers! There were a lot of years when I felt that way about my sons too, especially my older son. His adolescent and teen years were very challenging. When he decided not to go to college, he was told he’d have to pay rent and we stuck to that. That meant he had to work. He bought himself a car but didn’t have the money for insurance. We wouldn’t let him drive it and he had to return it. What I’m getting at is that we tried to teach him responsibility and especially that he had to be responsible for his own actions.
I was always careful about picking my battles. I gave up on making him clean his room or do his homework. When he “lost” (I think he ate it all!) the candy for a fundraiser for high school, he had to come up with the money to pay for it. I’m not sure how he did it but I was (not happily) prepared to not let him graduate. The thing is, at 17 or 19, they are only so mature, no more. They haven’t lived long enough or had enough experience to be more mature. I had to let him make his own mistakes and learn from whatever the consequences were.
It’s your house. If he chooses to live with you, even part time, you get to set the rules and requirements. He gets to live with them or not live with you. It sounds harsh and it doesn’t have to be. I gave both my sons a lot of leeway. But I had to know where they were, how to reach them and when they’d be home. That was teaching them respect for me as their mother.
I believe respect needs to be mutual. I need to respect them or I can’t expect them to respect me. At 19, there is room for negotiation. And it can be as effective with a 19 year old as a 9 year old to say quietly, “Don’t talk to me that way. It is disrespectful.”
I wish I had an easy answer for the question on gratitude and feeling entitled. I’m still learning on that topic! My children are in their 40’s and my grandsons are 15 and 12. I know they appreciate what I give them but it would sure be nice if they would call and say thank you! Sometimes they do and sometimes they do not. What I’m working on is remembering why I gave them whatever gift it was. Was it for a thank you? No. I’m trying to learn to give freely without expectations. It’s not easy. I didn’t raise them to be ungrateful and it’s hard for me when they aren’t outwardly appreciative. I do know they appreciate what I give and they express thanks in different ways than I do. Posting a picture on Facebook of something I gave them lets me know they do appreciate it and aren’t feeling entitled. It’s their way of communicating! Since they live far away, if I don’t hear about something I sent, I can ask them if they received it.
I’m not sure if I addressed this readers concerns. What I know for sure is that things change. The grow emotionally as they get older. I remember my mom telling me when I was young, “You’ll appreciate me when you have your own children.” She was right. I didn’t understand until I experienced it myself.