How do we know if we are making the right decision or taking the right action regarding our adult children? Should the criteria be if our kids are happy with the decision or like us? What if they are unhappy with the decision or are angry and reject us? In this latter case, did we make the wrong decision? We had no problem living with their unhappiness or rejection when they were young and told they couldn’t play in the street. Why is it hard to say “no” as they become adolescents and young adults? One explanation is that we have become overly invested in their success and happiness, and to the point, if they are not succeeding and happy, we feel like failures.
Focus On What You Can Control
In our over-investment in their success and happiness, we ignore several facts.
- First, we can’t control another adult, including our child. They are adults and are responsible for their decisions and actions.
- Second, we are not responsible for their actions or, for that matter, their happiness. This is part of the necessary letting go process. If we expect that we can control or get them to do what we want, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.
We can’t control them or be responsible for them, but we are in control and responsible for our actions. As such, our criteria for whether we are doing well as parents must be the decisions and actions under our control. If we give our kids our report cards and ask them to grade us, we give up our power and responsibility and become susceptible to manipulation and intimidation. We need to do our report card.
Parental Report Card
Recently, in working with a parent, I was asked what should be on the report card or if I have any examples. My thoughts about what could be on the report card are as follows:
- Am I trying to control my young adult and believe I am responsible for their actions?
- Do I believe I am responsible for their success and happiness?
- Am I acting in love and not driven by fear of rejection, guilt, threats, resentment, hurt, etc.?
- Am I deciding or taking an action that is consistent with my principles, such as responsibility, keeping promises, telling the truth, etc.?
- Am I deciding or taking action to increase my adult child’s independence or dependence on me?
- Do I demonstrate unconditional love for who they are as my son or daughter?
- Am I demonstrating a desire to have a better relationship with them by listening, seeking understanding, and asking for suggestions on how to be a better parent?
- Have I let go of guilt by apologizing for my shortcomings and mistakes as a parent?
- Have I forgiven myself for the past?
- Have I forgiven my son or daughter for actions that have been hurtful or offensive?
- Have I demonstrated backbone and stood behind my principles and values even if it means my adult child is unhappy with me?
- Have I acknowledged that I have to let go and have fully supported my kid’s separate identity and autonomy?
- Am I practicing good self-care: exercise, diet, sleep, and close friends for support so I have the stamina to be a strong and emotionally available parent?
My guess is that you may be overwhelmed reading this list and think you will never get a good enough report card to be a successful parent. I understand that the list is daunting. Don’t try to overachieve. Perfect is the enemy of good. Read through the list and come up with the initial 3 or 4 areas where you know you need to approve, and if you have a couple that you are currently “acing,” put those in so you sustain your efforts in these areas and can be sure you get some good grades. Remember this is your report card, so you are grading your efforts, and be kind to yourself. Parents are the guiltiest segment of our society. At the end of the day or week, look in the mirror, review your actions, and grade yourself from A to F. If you have some low grades, identify an action or two you can take the next week to bump up your grade. If you have a spouse or close parent friend, ask them to be your accountability partner, check in with them to describe how you are doing, and request feedback and suggestions.
Get Your Sample Report Card
In the last chapter of the book I have written, slated for publication in early May of this year – The Parent’s Launch Code: Loving and Letting Go of Our Adult Children – I offer an overall report card based on the practices that parents need to implement or strengthen to increase the chances of having a successful.
To get your sample report card, fill out the form below and you will receive it via email!
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