Whether Parenting Adult Children Living At Home Again Or Living On Their Own, How Can Parents And Adult Children Work Out Problems Respectfully?

Your children have entered adulthood.

You thought they were old enough to make decisions for themselves.

But when you see poor decisions being made, you feel like stepping in
to give advice and help them make better choices.

When you try to tell them what they need to do or give suggestions on
how to solve a problem responsibly, you wind up arguing, yelling and
getting into power struggles.

Eventually you get so tired of pleading and arguing that you either give
up or give in.

Why does parenting adult children seem so difficult?

Follow These Easy Steps To Work Out Problems Between Parents and Adult Children Respectfully:

First,  assess the situation by asking yourself the three key questions found in the article, “Are You Parenting Adult Children Living At Home Getting Ready To Leave The Nest Or Finding Yourself Parenting Adult Children Living At Home Again.”  Next, address the parents and adult children conflicts by following the “PASRR Effective Response Formula”.  PASRR is a five-letter acronym which stands for the following:

  • Prevent the problem
  • Acknowledge feelings
  • Set limits or express concerns
  • Redirect misbehavior 
  • Reveal discipline

Step 1: Prevent the problem from starting or worsening.

Consider that many problems between parents and adult children are a long-term consequence of an imbalanced parenting style, and push yourself to strive for a “balanced approach.”

If your parenting style is too permissive, over-indulgent, or uninvolved, the result may be your children lacking the ability to become independent or manage their own problems. These problems can include children expecting parents to continue supporting them, “running wild” like teens that never grew up, or having no motivation to become adults.

If your style has been too harsh and punitive, adult children may be rebelling against this control, “going wild” after leaving home, because they finally can, and therefore get into trouble. They might also be so disempowered by having someone else controlling their lives that they grow up neglecting development of their own crucial decision-making skills. On the other hand, they might be fearful of their parents, therefore resulting in their ability to confide in them unless faced with serious trouble.

Making sure to take a balanced approach at all times is crucial; however it’s important to remember that even parents who have been very “balanced” and have seemingly done “everything right” can have adult children who make poor decisions, simply because they have free will and can make mistakes.

Step 2: Acknowledge the child’s feelings or perspective about the problem before you say anything about your own.

Really listen to children, and ask questions that help them figure out – on their own – a solution they can try.
Consider first the consequences of an imbalanced parenting style. Allowing children to express themselves prior to making comments or judgment can help them build trust in your relationship. Not knowing how to listen and be supportive without taking over, giving advice, or trying to fix the adult child’s problem is likely one of the most common reasons there is lack of trust or openness in relationships between parents and adult children.

Step 3: Set limits or express concerns.

If you identify the conflict as “your problem,” calmly and respectfully describe what you see, feel, or the possible negative outcome of the behavior. It is important to control your tone when doing this. You want to be firm and assertive, meaning you need to speak up, but do so respectfully. To ultimately be taken seriously without damaging the relationship, you want to avoid being passive (hinting), aggressive (blaming, shaming, condescending, or hostile), or being passive-aggressive (sarcastic, unnecessary digs).

Step 4: Redirect misbehavior.

For unintentional misbehavior, have realistic expectations and understand it may take time for the behavior to improve. Don’t excuse this misbehavior, just understand it is unintentional and be sure your response teaches and reinforces skills.
For on purpose behavior, use effective problem solving strategies to brainstorm acceptable or more effective ways for them to meet these goals.

Step 5: Reveal discipline.

It is essential to remember that when parenting adult children, discipline is extremely different, because they are adults. You can tell them what you are going to do, but not what they have to do, or what you will make them do. You can also allow natural consequences to occur, assuming they are safe and immediate. You can withhold privileges such as cars, allowances, rent-free living, meals, etc.   As younger children, these are rights, and as adults they are privileges if they are capable and have mastered the skills to do/provide these on their own.

Overall, the most effective tool for this is to return to step two and use problem-solving exercises to help adult children figure out what they are going to do about it. The parents simply state what they are and are not willing to do as part of the solution.

Here is an example of using the Universal Blueprint® to effectively respond if adult children lack respect for safety and property by leaving a laptop recharging with the wire spread across the room.  This is your problem because you, another family member or someone visiting can easily trip over it and get hurt or the computer may become damaged.  It is a problem you may face with teens, adult children living on their own, or adult children living at home again.

Prevent the problem from happening by including your children in setting rules about where the laptop and wires to recharge it can be placed to avoid safety hazards.

Acknowledge feelings “I know it’s convenient to plug the charger into the outlet by the couch and put your computer on the coffee table.”

Set limits or express concerns by saying, “I’m concerned, though, that someone can trip over the wire or the laptop can get broken.”

Redirect – Ask helpful questions, such as, “Where do you think is a safer place for you to recharge your laptop?”

Reveal discipline – “Next time the laptop is being charged with the wires strung out where someone can trip over it, the charger will be unplugged and put up.  When you need to use the charger again, you will need to ask for it and have the laptop in a safe area.”

Learning and applying the Universal Blueprint® you will know within seconds how to respond to the most difficult or the most common problems of parents regarding adult children.

To get additional insights, information and practical tools and tips on how to build strong relationships between parents and adult children (whether they are teens, adult children living at home, adult children living on their own or adult children living at home again) listen to the Parents Tool Talk® on demand radio show episode, “Parenting Your Teen and Adult Children.”   Jody discusses such topics as: – skills parents need to help their children transition from childhood to adulthood; – Adult children with mental health or drug issues; – What children need from their parents at any age, especially as teens and adults; – How to preserve relationships when adult children move back in with their parents.

Check out the “Parenting Your Teen and Adult Children” episode now!



Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is President of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. For 30+ years, Jody has trained tens thousands of parents and family professionals worldwide through her dynamic workshops and hundreds of interviews with the media worldwide, including Parents and Working Mother magazines. She is the author of the award-winning book The Parent’s Toolshop®, and countless multimedia resources that support and educate parents from diverse backgrounds, plus other adults who live or work with children. You can find them at her award-winning website, www.ParentsToolshop.com.


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1 thought on “Whether Parenting Adult Children Living At Home Again Or Living On Their Own, How Can Parents And Adult Children Work Out Problems Respectfully?”

  1. Pingback: Effective Problem Solving Strategies: How Do You Teach Children To Responsibly Solve Their Own Problems? : Parents Toolshop

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