Resource for Parenting
Susan Borison and Stephanie Silverman, best friends and co-founders of Your Teen Media, are bringing their magazine to life. From interviews with the experts and authors to discussions of trending topics and personal stories, Your Teen with Sue and Steph is an essential guide to raising teens today.
What Does it Mean to Parent a Struggling Young Adult Child?
Your 20-something just moved back home. Dr. Mark McConville, author of "Failure to Launch," joins us again to share how to create a cooperative and positive relationship with your new young adult living in your house.
- Boundaries: what they are and how to instate them
- How to hold your adult child accountable for their behavior as a housemate
- How to step back and let them grow on their on timeline
- …And much more!
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Dr. Mark McConville is a Clinical Psychologist licensed by the State of Ohio with over 30 years of professional experience in adult, adolescent, emerging adult, and family psychology. Mark serves as a senior faculty member of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland (GIC), a world renowned post-graduate training source for consulting and counseling professionals, and currently chairs GIC’s Advanced Training Program for Working With Children and Adolescents. Mark also serves as Consulting Psychologist to Hathaway Brown School and University School, both in the Cleveland area
Speakers: Susan Borison, Stephanie Silverman & Dr. Mark McConville
Hi everybody, welcome to Your Teen with Sue and Steph. I'm Sue.
And I'm Steph. And we are the co-founders and owners of Your Teen Media, the resource for parenting tweens and teens.
And today, we're doing a first, a part two of a two-part series with Dr. Mark McConville. His book, Failure to Launch: Why Your Twentysomething Hasn’t Grown Up … and What to Do About It, is about why today's young adults are struggling to grow up and create fully independent lives.
Last episode, we talked to Dr. McConville about preparing your tweens and teens to be able to launch. And today, we're talking to him about what happens when they fail to do so.
But before we talk to him, we're going to talk about why we personally need this information. Dr. McConville will be giving advice to you and to us. We need it.
So, Steph, I've been thinking a lot about this. When I read his book, I was thinking a lot about it. And then as we spoke with him, I was thinking how surprisingly, the preparation is easier in my mind than the remedy.
So, like the things in high school to do, those are doable. Getting your kid to make a phone call to a doctor, all those things. But I have this like kind of feeling like if it's not working, I'm never letting a kid go homeless. They have a room in my house. But what does that look like?
Like what would we … first of all, in my family, it would be so bad for my kid's mental health. We got to experience that during COVID. No one wants to do that again.
So, number one, we would do whatever it took to make that not happen. But there's also this kind of like you shouldn't let your kid move back in, but I'm not leaving them homeless. Like what's the alternative? So, it's kind of a struggle.
To me, it reminds me of Wendy Mogel's Blessings of a B Minus and a Skinned Knee. It's not failure that we're saying we're going to go for. It's like it's somewhere in between like our dream of independence and then our reality and in the middle of those two things is not homelessness.
Yes, yes. The word I keep thinking about is reset. That was the word I chatted down. Because I was thinking it's not like … you and I have talked about this a million times. So, I have had the privilege of having two adults living at home and it did work. We didn't charge rent and we didn't put an expiry on it. I don't know if that was right or wrong, but it did-
Yeah, but it worked, right?
It did. And it definitely worked. I mean, lots of just kind of what you do around here, which is for the most part, I feel like all we do is clean up the kitchen, walk a dog, dishwasher. Yeah.
Yeah, so, the regular routine of life went on and they just participated like adults, which is kind of unbelievable. Like it must feel good to you that you're not falling into this other story that we're hearing so much about.
One of the other things I was thinking about is like when my kids went to college, like you get maybe a few calls a day for like a week and then you get like a call a day for a while. And I have five kids, I get to experience things many times and to see that there are patterns.
And at like for sure by four and five, I knew they were settled when they stopped calling me. When it was like we had our regular scheduled phone call and it wasn't like a daily kind of, “Hi, I am walking from class to class and I have no one to talk to on the way to class, so I'm going to call you and fill the time, so I look like I've got something to do with a phone to my ear.”
Like that disappeared and it was such a relief. Like I feel like I went from the panic of the everyday call, “Is this okay? Are they doing okay? Is this a sign of something horrible?” To like, “Just hold your breath for a little bit, hold your breath and give it a little time.” And then to exhaling. Breathing in and out and feeling okay.
Yes, that worked in our household, but I don't want anyone to think I wasn't holding my breath a lot, like any other stage of parenting. I think like that would just be false to assume that like just because something's working … I guess I have that feeling in awe of parenting, like waiting for the other shoe to drop.
That's funny. I say that, not so much because I am like thinking 305, the world is going to crash. But because I've had too many experiences when I said they're good and then I got a phone call and they weren't good.
So, I just want to protect the public truth of like, you know what, for the moment, they seem good. But as we all know, life changes on a dime. And so, at the moment, they're fine. That's my line, at the moment, they're fine. More likely as far as I know.
Yeah, right. Maybe mine's a combination of those, Sue. Todd and I were walking around the block and one of our kids had been really unsettled. And I looked at Todd and I said, “Oh my God, so great. Like can you believe it? Like everybody's just like in a really good spot right now.”
We get home and one of them calls and they've just had a breakup. I'm like, “Can we just make it around the block? Like was that nine minutes around the block?” Like that was clearly too much to ask for. So, maybe it’s just that.
But maybe it's just life.
It’s just life, like crap happens. It doesn't matter how you're living your life, it's going to happen.
Okay, here's my next question for you. Like I think financial independence is such an interesting concept because like one of my kids when they graduated college and we were visiting, said like, “Do I pay for my own coffee?” And I just thought that was so naively sweet, like adorable. Like, “We're going to buy your coffee.”
But then where is that line? Like we say our kids are launched and financially independent, but they're still on our family plan for the phone. What is financially independence?
I think that is a great question. And to try and compare that to our generation growing up — well, first of all, obviously, there were no phones. But I'm saying like pick something. I don't even know what that would be.
But it's like we just had a conversation here the other night about auto insurance and I'm like, “Okay. Well, now, like one's off on their own, the second one's about to go.” And I'm like, “I don't want to pay their auto insurance anymore.” I'm like if they try and do that themselves, like it's going to be crazy expensive. I'm like, “Wait, are we changing the titles of the …” I was like, “Oh my god, my head is going to explode.”
And it's like what you said, I'm like, “Okay, well, maybe the …” And I haven't been in this space before. It's like everything with parenting. Do you remember switching (this is such a funny reference, it's so long ago) to baby food from either breast or formula. And it's like whenever you do that new thing, you're like, “Oh my God, how am I ever going to get this down? Like this is totally new.” I feel like if that just keeps happening.
So, this one is, I'm like, “Okay. Well, wait, maybe we leave them on our insurance and they just reimburse us because that's a better plan. We don't have to switch the cars over. And okay, go shop the insurance.”
That's what I was thinking. Go shop it and if you get a better rate, you can come off. If you don't get a better rate, I'm okay being the pass through for now. Is that stupid? I have no idea.
I mean, I think every family makes their own decision. But the funny thing in my house, we were having a conversation about the family plan. And so-
The phone plan, the phone plan, right?
The phone plan, right?
So, for some of the kids, they are old and independent financially and they're still on our phone plan. And they're like, “We'll do our own plan.” I mean, they really don't care. They're happy to take themselves off of our phone plan.
And I look over at Dan and he is tearing up. It's like he wants them on the family pan. He needs them on the family plan.
And so, the other part of the story of like, “Hey, are they financially independent?” He's just joking. He's just thinking he's being funny, but he wants them … like to him, that's his family. And if he has anything called a family plan, it requires all family members.
Yeah, I'll see that and give you my spouse would be the exact same way. And in fact, just the other day, as the worm was getting ready to leave, he said, “Oh, kind of sad.” And I said, “You know he is been here 15 months, right?”
Oh, I mean, we're both so bad at those transitions in our house. It's not good at all. Like you have one and one, we have two.
Yes, it's true.
It's not good.
It is true. It is true.
Alright. Up next, is our conversation with Dr. Mark McConville.
We can't wait for you to join us.
Our guest today, is Dr. Mark McConville, a clinical psychologist specializing in adult, adolescent, emerging adults and family psychology. His latest book entitled Failure to Launch, investigates the root causes of why modern kids are struggling to transition from childhood to adulthood.
Mark, thanks so much for being here with us again. You're our first time doing a two-part series, but we had so much to talk about and it was clear for our audience that we could divide this into like when they're legitimately under your roof because they are still in middle school and high school.
And then when we kind of want them to be not in our house, but maybe circumstances brought them back to our house and maybe we even a little bit like having them in our house.
So, there's this kind of talk about your kid coming back into your basement. Is that still the narrative? Like is it just that they've come home and they're part of your family for longer than it used to be?
Dr. Mark McConville:
Well, that is certainly the case. I mean, that's demonstrated just in terms of the economics of independent living. So, to be, say 20, 21, 22 or 3 and to be able to afford independent housing is a very different economic manner than it was 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago.
So, often, mom and dad's, your old bedroom is sometimes the only really affordable place. Well, that's part of it.
The other thing, and you kind of alluded to it, some parents welcome their kids coming home. It's lovely to have them around. Some parents are drumming their fingers, waiting for them to pack their bags and move out.
And so much of it, in my experience, seems to depend on, is this kid doing the work of growing up, of moving toward eventual independent living?
A perfect example is being in school. If you have a child at home who is taking a full course load, is diligently attending to their studies, but their dorm room happens to be in your basement, as long as you're comfortable having them there, I see that as wholly appropriate because the housing you're giving them is in full support of a kind of growth process.
Now, that's very different from if your kid has dropped those classes, is spending the better time of the day playing video games and sleeping in until two o'clock, then you look at that housing arrangement in a very different way. Not as helpful, but maybe even as part of the problem.
Wow, that is so well said. So, what if you've got an out-of-control situation, and maybe it's exactly what you described. Maybe it's this kid has dropped out they're gaming, who knows? But we'll call it out-of-control situation with a twenty-something year old, they're not on the right trajectory or what you think is the right trajectory.
What's the most effective way to turn that around? What does that look like?
Dr. Mark McConville:
Well, first of all, the scenario you described has a number of different profiles. One of them is the perpetual 15-year-old, meaning even though their child is in their 20s, they are a really poor citizen of the household.
They're disrespectful, they pay no honor to very reasonable house rules. Put your dishes in the sink, that sort of thing, help out a little bit.
So, when that profile comes into my office, it's a different matter because I think the parents are essentially in a situation where they are enduring a variation of abuse. With a 15-year-old, we call it parenting, but with a 23-year-old, we call it abuse. I mean, it is a very important distinction.
And I have a much more kind of draw the line and be intolerant kind of mentality for the parent of a 20-something who is abusive.
Now, the more common profile that I encounter is quite different from that. It's not so active, it's more passive. He or she isn't abusive, they're just not doing much of anything that's constructive.
And they may be doing a lot of things that are passively destructive, like sleeping well past noon, staying up incredibly late, maybe drinking too much or using too much weed, just not engaged in any kind of activity that you could point to and say, “That activity is helping them to grow up.”
So, I think your question is, well, what can parents do? And it's very interesting. To me, the first, I'll call it the stage of my involvement with those parents, is getting them to establish a kind of arm’s length perspective on their relationship with that child. Which they don't typically have. They're too immersed in that relationship.
And what I want them to be able to see clearly, is what of their intended support has actually rolled over and become enabling. It's actually part of the problem. So, if just to take a very common profile, let's say my 22, 3, 4-year-old is sleeping till 2:00 in the afternoon, playing video games or something, I may not even be sure, but they're on the internet for hours and hours and hours.
They may or may not be engaged with their friends. At the family dinner table whenever they arrive, they're on their phone much of the time. It's a pretty deadly situation.
But my first question is, how am I part of that? Who's paying for that phone? Chances are it's me. Who's paying for that WiFi? Chances are it's me. Who's putting that roof over their head? Well, pretty darn certain, that that's me.
So, getting the parent to see how so many of the things that are well-intended traditions of support have actually become part of the problem. And then the real work begins, which is looking at how do we begin to turn that around? How do we begin to take some of that enabling and withdrawing that from the equation?
I'm going to ask a follow up on that one because for some of us, we've parented for so long and we may even still have kids in the house who require that parenting.
And then there's this other thing going on here where those kids who come back, they do not want you to parent that way. And maybe it's not even appropriate. I don't know what it looks like to still be the parent in a house where there's a kid who maybe is too old to be, or for a series of circumstances ends up back in the house.
Where's that fine line of like, “I'm not parenting that kid, but I'm also setting serious rules in the house because it is our house.”
Dr. Mark McConville:
Well, so much of that is driven by the kid. What most parents do, the kid maybe has been gone and comes back and the parents will casually set loose house rules. They'll say, “Oh, just remember we like clear the table after dinner, put your dishes in the sink.” They'll spell out some things that are very rudimentary.
And the kid who is well on his or her way to growing up, they comply with those rules. The same way they would've, for example, they were coming and spending a month at my home and I said to them, “Oh, by the way, here's how we do things here.” There wouldn't be any arguing, there wouldn't be any disciplining or any consequencing. They would sort of honor that it's my home and I'm entitled to set those stipulations.
It's different when you have a years long relationship where your child has learned, as children do, to take you for granted and to take your support for granted. And it's not because they're bad people, it's because it's always been there.
Dr. Mark McConville:
Well, the first thing is to become aware of it. Because it tends to be just, “Well, we've always done things this way.” Parents will often express some minor outrage. “I can't believe she takes things so much for granted.”
And I have this, it’s like a quirky trick question that I put to parents when they say that. I will say to them, “When's the last time you stopped to appreciate our wonderful interstate highway system here in the United States?” And they look at me like I'm nuts. Like, “What? What's that have to do with him?” I said, “No. When did you last appreciate it?”
Well, unless they were just on a backpacking trip in Peru, they haven't given it a moment's thought, other than they complain about the orange cones in the summer. Well, that's how your kids look at your support. It's always [inaudible 00:18:49] and they notice when it develops mild imperfections. But other than that, it's just the way life is.
So, yeah, parents, it's hard, but parents have to think about this relationship. I use the term paradigm, which I borrowed from my scientific training. That means a whole frame of reference for understanding something.
And I think the parent-child relationship, the paradigm that we're used to by the time they hit 18, is the paradigm of a parent and an adolescent. And a paradigm means there are some unspoken, but just taken for granted ground rules.
For example, let's imagine that you have the misfortune of having the 17-year-old from hell. He skips school, he steals your Great Lakes beer from the basement refrigerator. He sneaks his girlfriend into the house up to the bedroom whenever you're not looking. He occasionally borrows the family car. God bless you, we're all going to say prayers for you.
But the fact of the matter is, you're stuck with this kid. You signed up for it. This is what parenting is. Yes, maybe you could send them away to a wilderness therapy program in Montana, but for the most part, you are bound to do your best to turn that kid around and teach him or her the basic lessons of functioning.
That's the paradigm of adolescents. You are stuck with them and they're stuck with you and they know it and you know it.
What most of us do is we carry that paradigm into the 20s. It never occurs to us that this relationship has actually become voluntary on both sides. That child could get up and walk away any day she chooses. And you could, if you chose say, “You know what, time for you to leave, we're not doing this anymore.”
And families do that. Not, I will say, most of the families that I end up working with, but a lot of families still do that. But that's a whole different paradigm. That's a paradigm that says, “You are here in my home as an adult.”
I'll give you — this is how I learned this phenomenon. The year after my daughter went to college, and I think my wife and I were both a little bit brokenhearted. We were now empty nesters. There's a private school in Shaker Heights where I consult and it's a girl school.
And they had a student who had left after 10th grade. She and her mom had moved to another city and apparently she hated it there. And she wanted to move back and finish her high school at this Shaker Heights school.
Her grandparents lived in maybe Medina, that was too long to commute. The schools asked me if we would put her up, if we would board her for the year. And I remember thinking, “I'm nuts.” Because I'd actually seen this kid in school when she was a ninth grader and she was not the typical hardworking, she was a bit of a hell raiser, a bit of a rule pusher. And I can only think I must have been empty nesting more than I realized.
We said okay. My kids were easy to raise. This was easier still, this relationship for eight months was as smooth as could be. And I look back on it and it's because we had an adult to adult relationship here. Case in point, this was some years ago, he was a cigarette smoker. And I remember thinking to myself, “You know what, that's not my business.”
It was odd because she went on to become a professional dancer. But I thought her lungs, they're her business, they're not mine. The boundaries of whose business was what were very, very clear.
On the other hand, the bedroom where she stayed, that was our business. No cigarette smoking in the house under any circumstances, no cigarette butts in the garden underneath the window. Those kinds of things, there was no parenting going on. It was just, “Happy to have you here, here are our ground rules. Anything you need.” She had a couple of foods that she hoped we would stock, we were happy to do so.
And so, that's of course, when your own 23-year-old comes home to live, it's not a border. But that's really the kind of paradigm we're looking for, the paradigm where they look at you and think, “I owe you respect because you are giving me this space.”
I love that example. I think that really, that's something … I mean, I've heard it from other therapists in different ways, but I love that idea of someone living in your house who isn't your kid and you're not their parents. So, thank you. Great example.
Dr. Mark McConville:
Yeah. Well, it happened and I ever would've quite figured it out if it hadn't happened. I remember thinking, “Am I crazy? What am I thinking?”
Yes. The answer is yes.
Well, and I think, you know what, it's a good segue to our next question because in that situation, there was this absence for you of emotion or that emotional tie to that kid. And one of the things you mentioned in your book is about the guilt that all parents feel and that it doesn't do anybody any good to hold onto that guilt.
But how do we just say to parents, “Okay, let go of the guilt.” And poof, that it's gone. Like how do you do that?
Dr. Mark McConville:
Yeah, it's letting go of guilt is work. Anyone who's spent time in therapy, I certainly did my share of time on the couch, as they say. And learning to minimize the guilt that you inherit from childhood isn't something you do with the snap of the fingers. You work on it.
It's a whole reorganizing of your perspective about what's right, what's wrong, what's good. Where do I deserve to feel bad about my behavior? Where do I not? That's achievable, but it takes time.
With parenting, I have yet to meet a thoughtful, caring parent who didn't have some form of guilt about their parenting. I do. There are things I did with my kids that I just think, “I wish I could go back and undo that.”
But what happens is, we look at the kid and if the kid is doing well, our guilt just recedes to the background. It becomes a footnote in our parenting. But if your kid stumbles and falls out of bed, if your kid fails out of college, if your kid gets into some kind of trouble, then what those same good and thoughtful parents do, is now, they go through the whole litany of, “Maybe I shouldn't have helped them so much with their homework. No, no, no. Wait, wait, wait. Maybe I should have helped them more with their homework. Maybe I should have allowed more independence. No, no, no. Maybe we should have required them to sit at the family dinner table.”
It doesn't matter what you did, you will find fault in what you did. Because you're looking to explain your kid's behavior.
Now, my issue when that parent of the 22-year-old comes in my office is, you're wasting time because guilt … now, newsflash folks, guilt is actually a very narcissistic emotion.
When I'm guilty about Mark McConville, I'm feeling bad for Mark McConville. I feel bad that I didn't live up to some standard of mine. That involves me and me, doesn't involve you, doesn't involve even my kid. So, it's a very self-involved emotion.
And if you're a parent coming into my office saying, “Yikes, I want to find a way to be helpful to my 22-year-old,” my point is, your guilt is just draining energy. If there's some useful analysis, maybe you're one of those parents that I don't know you, you really tried to stay on top of your kid and manage their schoolwork right through 12th grade.
Well, let's take a look at that. That might not be the best policy for someone that's claiming to be an adult.
So, yeah, we might look at things that you're perpetuating that aren't helpful, but beyond that, it's of no use to beat your chest. It just doesn't help because we got work to do. We got today's parenting, let's not waste time thinking about yesterday's parenting.
I like the idea of it just being inefficient.
I want to quote my favorite quote in your book, maybe my favorite quote in general, “Parenting is among the class of human endeavors, positively doomed to generate the experience of failure.” And I just love that so much.
Now, the reason I bring it up here, aside from it's my favorite quote, is we live in a world right now, where we're being told that failure is causing our kids to suffer. But we also know that parenting is just riddled with failures along the way. It's really kind of challenging to be a parent right now.
Dr. Mark McConville:
Right. We are so quick to spot perfectionism in our kids, particularly around academics. The kid who has to recopy her history notes twice and spending time just not productive. What we miss is the perfectionism in our parenting, as if it were possible to parent perfectly.
It's like every other meaningful endeavor in life, the best way to do it is with imperfect grace. I remember my dear mother who I think was a genius and I was slamming my fist (or maybe, I wasn't a fist slammer), but saying to her at age 17, “I will never do that to my children.”
And she said, “Mark, you're probably right. You probably won't. You won’t make my mistakes. You'll make your mistakes.” And, “Ah, we'll see about that.” Well, of course, we did see about that.
And it's so true, parenting is flawed because you evaluate everything in retrospect. So much of it is judgment call. Do we apply more pressure or less pressure? Do we become instructive or do we let him or her add up the pieces and infer the lesson on their own?
Well, you always know after the fact what was the right thing to do, but in real time you're making educated guesses. So, it's the nature of any human endeavor and certainly of parenting.
That phrase came from the fact that when my son was an infant, I remember thinking, “I am going to get this right.” Now, I was a psychology grad student, so I was immediately more enlightened than my parents. I was just going to do it the way it should be done.
And I was quite young when I had my kids, I was in my early 20s. And I look back and blush because it's so naive. But it is the intention of most parents. “I'm going to do this right.” I'm so aware, most of us are, of where our parents missed the target. And we're not going to do that.
That's easy. By the way, that exercise is very easy.
Dr. Mark McConville:
You master it by about age 14.
So, you mentioned your kids. Can you share the story about your daughter borrowing the car?
Dr. Mark McConville:
Oh, my goodness. Yes, I will. I hope she'll forgive me. But being the enlightened post, the watershed of the ‘60s and ‘70s, I was sort of in that spirit. My kids were always going to be known that they were treated equally and fairly and listened to. I worked hard at being a listener.
And so, my daughter is a 12th grader and they've got a day off. Maybe it's Martin Luther King Day. I don't know, it's a day when she doesn't have to go into school, and yet I'm still working. And she says, “Dad, can I have the car? Can I borrow the car?” I said, “Sure, not a problem. I have to be at the office at noon so you can just drive me by and I'll get mom to pick me up when I'm done. You can have the car all day.”
She goes off to make plans with her friends and she comes back and says, “Look, could I drop you off at the office at 11:00 AM?” I think about it for a minute. I look at my schedule, I say, “That won't work. I've got stuff to do. Drop me off at noon.” She says, “No, but really, I need to drop you off at 11:00 because …” “I'm sorry. If you want the car drop me off …”
It ratchets up. And the next thing I know, she's huffing and puffing and she's saying, “Honest to God, you and mom act like you own the cars.”
And I remember my words. Talk about guilt, I have residual guilt about this. I looked at her and I said, “Either you're putting me on or you're a lunatic.” She stomped out of the room and she dropped me off at noon.
But if I bring any vice, that has become a virtue. It's obsession. And so, I obsess about things with clients, with my … I just want to learn what makes people tick. I couldn't get that out of my mind. How could this bright girl, bright, thoughtful, kind, just lovable in every way, make such an insanely psychotic remark.
And it came to me. It took a week. But what came to me was in my, I want to say enlightened or misguided (use either term) parenting, I had in fact treated the cars as if they were community property.
I had been that sort of thoughtful to a fault parent. Even in saying, “Sure, drop me off and I'll take the inconvenience of having to arrange a ride home.” And all she was doing was taking my lunacy and putting it into words.
So, you were both lunatics?
Dr. Mark McConville:
No, no, no. There was only one lunatic in that interaction, and it was me.
I don't know if everyone goes through this experience, but I've had it many times with different kids, which is a period of time where I am walking on eggshells all the time. Like I say hello. And they go, “Why do you say that?” I breathe and they go, “You're breathing too loudly.”
And some of that is like maybe more pronounced in high school, but I got it in the early 20s from some of my kids.
Dr. Mark McConville:
Oh, oh, that response means not common.
Dr. Mark McConville:
Different paradigm, different ground rules. And it's so interesting. I have grandkids going through the phase again and it's like, “Oh yeah, teenagers.”
And I think the mentality of that for the parent of a teenager, it's … let me draw a strange analogy. I read an article by a pediatrician who had his first child and his first child was 18 months or two and had begun to have temper tantrums.
And so, being a young pediatrician, he decided, “I'm going to be the person that solves temper tantrums.”
Well, so what he did is he said, “Well, the first thing you do as a scientist is you record them.” Not audio recording, but he kept a notebook. When do they begin? When do they end? What's the intensity on a scale of 1 to 10? So, he charted his child's temper tantrums.
And what he discovered pretty early on was they were very standard. They always ended within a certain predictable number of minutes. And once he realized that, he in fact, mastered them, he just timed them. That's all he did.
Temper tantrum started, he was like, “Okay, we got about 18 to 19 minutes to go.” And it made it entirely bearable.
So, that's what I advise parents of teenagers, when your son or daughter goes through that, I love the, “Oh, you're breathing too loud.” Know that it's a phase. Know it's not going to be 18 or 19 minutes, it may be 18 or 19 months. But knowing that it's a phase really helps you to distance from it and to see, you know what, this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them.
And that's probably when I think of the therapeutics of working with that parent, it's helping them to not feel that somehow it's personal. That if only they were a better parent, if only they breathed more gracefully, their child would not be issuing that complaint. Which is absurd.
Now, with a 20-year-old, I think it's something different, With 20-year-old-
It is personal. At 20, it is personal.
Dr. Mark McConville:
… I impose a different template, which is, it's rude. It's simply rude. You do not have the same hormonal, biological, physiological changes that render you more irritable against your will and will for the next 12 months. We don't have that going on. You're just being rude.
And I ask parents to approach it in much more of a bilateral, like of equals. Like, “If you are going to spend time in this house, if you're going to come down in the morning for breakfast in the kitchen, I expect civility. I expect, ‘Good morning’. I don't expect huffing and puffing. If that's too much to ask for you, then let's put our heads together and find another place for you to live.”
Which by the way, in a place like Cleveland, is not rocket science. If you live in Los Angeles, it can be a challenge. But if you live in Cleveland, finding a modest apartment for your 20-something is doable.
But I do think that civility should be a non-negotiable with a 20-something. Now, easy for me to say, because I'm not in the throes of it with a 22-year-old. But that's what I try to persuade parents of. When the parent gets convinced that it's a non-negotiable, that's when the kid usually picks up on it.
So, what if you've got a young adult that's not financially responsible?
Dr. Mark McConville:
Well, most aren't because money management is an acquired skill. And so, when you want them to stumble, you don't want them to stumble from 50 feet.
I'll give you an example that's fairly garden-variety. And I had one family in particular, kids go off to college. I remember when my kids went off to college, the local banks had payables set up, or you at age 18 applied and got your first credit card.
I'm sure they do it a little differently now, but the same thing. They want to get these kids on the credit wheel. And a lot of those kids just don't know how to manage credit. And so, within a matter of months, they've hit their max, maybe they're out $250 or $500, and parents are often inclined to bail them out.
So, I had such a family years ago, the daughter's well in her 30s now. But they bailed her out at $500. They bailed her out at a $1,000, they bailed her out at $5,000. Now, post-college, they bailed her out at $12,000 and eventually they bailed her out at $18,000. That's not the way to do it.
The way to do it is to let them fall and fail very early in that sequence and to suffer the disappointment of not managing. If you've got a kid who has like there's a viable income stream. Maybe it's working over the holidays home from college, maybe it's working over summer.
I have a great example of a parent whose daughter is very averse to any kind of labor and works here and there doing DoorDash, that sort of thing. Gathers a little bit of money and decided with friends to go to a music festival in another city.
And so, she and her friends went. And as the parents pointed out it … and it's a big city, I won't name the city. But they said she has no idea what a hotel room in that city cost. None whatsoever. And it took the second night before they got the text or the phone call that said, “Would you mind lending me $400?”
Okay. And they just praised the Lord they had the good sense to say … actually what they did that was even more — they simply didn't respond to the text.
I love that response.
Dr. Mark McConville:
Which I was … so the point is to allow your kid to have that disappointment, that falling on their face at a time when really no one gets hurt. So, this kid borrowed from her friends, who borrowed from their parents. Now, she's out to her friends and now, she gets home and she's got to find ways of earning some money to pay back her friends. I think that's a useful experience.
So, now, it's different if your kid is stranded on a road 300 miles from home and the only way home is to hitchhike. I might step in there. But I think allowing them to have those failure experiences, that's how you learn.
Alright. So, we're going to wrap this up the way we wrap up all of our podcasts. What is the biggest myth about parenting young adults?
Dr. Mark McConville:
Well, probably it's something we touched on earlier. It's that you, the parent, are responsible for their success or failure. But that admission that they gain to Harvard, you get the credit for that. That's a myth. That the fact that they failed out after their second semester, that somehow you're responsible for that. That's a myth.
I think that's probably the thing that I work hardest with as an embedded belief with parents. And I've consulted now, with hundreds of parents who have encountered my book and then we've gotten together.
And it's this, they just at an unreflective autopilot level see themself as responsible for whatever their kid is going through. And I think it's based on a kind of myth, a sort of deeply swallowed myth.
Dr. Mark McConville, first of all, thank you for doing part two with us. It was as greatest part one.
And I also, think that that ending was so perfect because we do want to own their successes, but we don't really want to own their failures, so they have to both go together. So, that was a great way to end.
Thank you so much for being here with us.
Dr. Mark McConville:
Well, thank you so much. It's been a real pleasure.
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