Parents of happy, successful and well balanced ADULT kids, - give us your nuggets of wisdom!(72 Posts)
As a mother of a toddler I've wondered for a while now what is it that makes a child grow up to be a happy adult.
Loads of it will be obvious of course but I want to know what you think you did that made your kids happy now they are independent. If they are also successful and well balanced that's also a bonus and important, but happiness is the most important in my book.
For instance, I'd love to talk to James Cordens mother and see what she did. He is clearly incredibly well balanced, happy, charming, likeable, successful, a great dad, brave, intelligent etc etc and I'm convinced it must be down to some great parenting in his childhood.
Conversely I'm not a massively happy or secure adult and my mother freely admits she was a very unaffectionate and uninterested mother. Thanks for that, Mum!!
Let's not get too dark but I'm just very interested in this now I'm a mum and I want to get it right!
I am lucky, I am very happy and I think that I am well balanced. That is down to my parents. They supported me in my endeavours, they pushed me when I need it and caught me when I fell. They taught me to care, to be kind, to be honest, to be moral and ethical. They made me laugh and wiped away my tears.
My DS is 15 and I am try to follow their example. So far it seems to be working…. I hope he feels the same way about his upbringing when he is older. I have made different choices than those my Ps made. My DS is at boarding school, a huge financial and emotional struggle for DH and me. But he is very happy, he has great friendships and he is flying academically. This summer holidays we have had some great discussions and I cherish that he will tell me about his hopes, fear and aspirations, particularly when it come to girls!
The golden rule that I grew up with was that there was nothing that could ever be so so bad that I could not tell my parents. True if I had been bad, I would know it, but they would help me work through it. I try to practice that with DS, because I love him unconditionally. If it can grow into an adult assured of that, then he will pass that on.
My three DC have grown into lovely young people but it has not been easy and I have dealt with rebellion, eating disorder and most significantly their grief at their father's death. All I can say is that love is unconditional but you have to consistently insist on standards of behaviour. Consideration and respect for others are non negotiable as are decent manners and an awareness that you have to work for an achievement to feel worthwhile.
But I do believe there is a strong element of luck as well, friendships and relationships can both jettison everything.
All you can do is your best as a parent and remember it is better to say do as I do rather than do as I say.
It has taken me a long time to become a happy adult so maybe I can offer some 'don'ts'?
Don't make love and affection conditional on them fitting your idea of what your DC ought to be, do and achieve.
Don't label. I was 'the artistic one.' Actually I wanted to be an engineer.
Tell your kids you love them and are proud of them. Let them be proud of themselves when it's appropriate too.
I don't have adult children but I say this from bitter experience; let children know that you will support and help them with their decisions, I didn't study what I wanted to as my parents showed no interest in what I wanted to do and I didn't feel I would get either the emotional or financial support I needed ( that does not mean I expected them to hand me money but just help me to work how I could afford it.)
My childhood and teenage years I always felt very judged by my mother, she always expected the worst of me. When I said I was getting married her first words were "are you pregnant" because obviously no man could possibly want to marry me unless he had to. So keep the judgey pants in the drawer where they belong and have faith in your children. I am pretty screwed up thanks to my childhood.
My nugget of wisdom is that I recognised that I didn't have a clue because my upbringing wasn't exactly the best, I didn't have a good template. I therefore decided to make sure that it wasn't down to just me. I used the 'it takes a village to raise a child' mantra and made sure that the DC were exposed to all sorts of input from all sorts of people, from which they could pick the bits that worked best for them.
It seems to have worked: they are much more well-balanced than me.
I think instilling a positive outlook on life - which is probably best done by example.
There was a great example on here a few weeks ago - someone was asking about people being positive and happy in their adult lives. Apologies - I can't remember the name of the person who posted it, but I thought it illustrated it well. She said :
Example 1 You have been diagnosed with a serious illness (say a Cancer). A 'positive person' says - well, it's fab the advances they've made in understanding cancer over the last 20 yrs / I'm so grateful for the NHS - free treatment for all / I'm glad they've caught it now, it gives me a better chance of recovery. Other people say 'Why me?' / It's terrible / people die of this you know.... etc. etc.
Example 2 Bit more graphic You come down in the morning to find the new puppy has done what animals do, on your kitchen floor. You have the choice, to think "Oh no this is all I need to start the day. It's going to stink in here" or you can think "I'm glad it was on the easily cleanable kitchen floor and not the living room carpet / I'm glad I spotted it before I trod in it / etc.
2 people approach the same situation with a different outlook. I think we all know which will go through life being the happier person.
always tell the truth. that applies to parents as well as kids. when asked a question we always gave a truthful answer. means that however awful things are they always tell us what has happened and don't lie about things. also pick your battles. I just don't waste time nagging about the things that aren't particularly important like a tidy room. some parents say "no don't do that " all the time to their kids and I just didn't want to be like that. now they are teens I let them make their own decisions. they come and ask me for advice and know I am not judgey about anything. I have actually found they value my point of view but it always ends with ".. that's my view but you need to decide and I will support you" and I have.
Many people told me how well my three have done since they were all about twenty years old. They all failed their last year of high school by the way for various reasons. The two oldest went on to university in their early twenties and achieved high scores throughtout and both enjoy their time there. The youngest is just starting Uni next year in her early thirties, she is doing very well in her chosen career and I am thrilled she is now studying too. She never did homework if she could get away with it, actually none of them did.
I was a single parent from when the youngest was eight years old. I struggled financially throughtout all this time though I was working paying my mortgage etc on a low wage. I enjoyed their teenage years, they were nice teenagers, we had a lot of fun and cared about each other. They all had after school jobs from the age of 14/15.
I never had favourites, they all knew they were special and said when they were older how much they appreciated this. My eldest said she always behaved when out because she knew she would tell me what went on. They were all able to tell me what was happening and ask advice, they knew I wouldn't punish them if they made a mistake. I was never strict but expected them to be respectful. I expected them to be home before it was dark until they were fifteen, we lived too far from transport for them to just get off a bus. If they were going out to a party I would drop them off and pick them up until they were older. I didn't date until my youngest turned 17. That was very hard and I was asked out every now and again but didn't want some man telling my children what to do. I had enough of that from my dysfunctional family.
DD2 does suffer from depression and had OCD when she was around 13/14, she was also bullied at school and I had to change her school. One thing I liked about my DDs was they had interests, such as ballet, dance and drama and enjoyed their friends, boys came second. I didn't want them to drop their interests nor their friends for boys. I encouraged all of them to aim high, telling them to go for every opportunity. My children had a lot more confidence than I had, it's not easy for everyone to push themselves forward. My son was a quiet introvert, it was easier for my DDs.
They are now all happily married, all have two children each and their own homes. They have all done well in their careers. None of their careers really took off until they reached thirty but they were all very lucky to meet decent spouses, that doesn't happen for everyone either.
We are still a close family and all get together as often as possible. I love how they care about each other and enjoy each other's company, their children who are similar ages are very close.
I believe some of it is luck, lucky you are clever enough, lucky you have a decent home, lucky you marry a decent spouse if that is what you want. Most of all lucky your parents care enough to do their best so you don't have too many hang ups to get through before you even start out in life.
As a parent of well balanced, happy adult children, I would say;
Encouragement and praise for them as individuals.
Pick your battles in the adolescent years.
Unconditional love and respect.
Mine are 18, 21, 22 and 23 now.. One doctor, one nurse, one support worker for the disabled and one, well IS disabled (and about to start a Mencap Traineeship yay!)
All well adjusted kind, loving nice people.. whether successful depends on what you mean by that.. I consider DS1 who works in the community with adults who have severe disabilities just as successful as his new doctor sister.. she'll earn more, but he does a job that makes me just as proud.
I'd say what worked is that we were consistent. We made sure the kids knew we would support them in any way we could, but that they would have to work hard too. We aren't rich so no danger of them being materially spoiled (only DS1 drives and he paid for his own lessons). We told them they were fab, but we also were clear about what we would and couldn't tolerate. We parent as a TEAM.. and check with each other if in doubt! Sometimes we have had to compromise on differing views but we do that!
We weathered the teen years with as much humour as we could muster.. including eating disorder and some pretty vile behaviour from DS1. We weren't scared to ground them , and take away technology on rare occasions.
We told them we love them EVERY DAY. We also made it clear that we loved them just how they are (don't care about job status, sexuality ..one is gay.. etc)
We have always made it clear that they could tell us anything (used to joke that we would always have done worse!) and that worked well. I was also their excuse in the teens when friends wanted them to do things they weren't comfortable with..be it sex, drink, drugs.. (yes they are there even in nice homes and nice schools) I told my kids that they could always use me as the excus..' Mum is a cow , she won't let me come to the party/ I have to go out with family' etc. DD2 said she used me as an excuse a fair few times over the years and will do the same herself one day.
But ..I also think we were lucky! I think I'm a decent ordinary parent but nothing spectacular.
And I've had some bad teen moments (remembering frizbee-ing a wooden plate at DS1's head in a moment of sheer rage... it missed...)
What a great idea for a thread OP. Thank you.
My aunt and uncle have two kids, my cousins, who are 18 and 21. They are both in careers that they love, even if it pays shit, because my aunt and uncle have always supported their choices. They also let them make their own mistakes, in life, love or work so they know how to do things differently the second time. My cousins are lovely, polite, kind, funny, hard working young people and the whole family fail to see any major defects in their personalities.
My parents discouraged me from pursuing an English degree and I went to nursing school, only for that to go belly up as I lost interest. I wanted to write! Now I work on the Tube. Ha!
LOVE and security
mine has been through a mass of stuff, but he knows we have his back and he is loved. he has turned out so well((surprised))
I'm a happy adult and I had supportive parents who bought us up to believe we could achieve whatever we wanted but never really expressed any expectations . DH and I have had a similar approach with our dc and it seems to have worked for us ( dc are 22 &16)
Always make sure they know you love them and are proud of them. Never send them to bed being angry with them without having talked the issue through. Be angry by all means but make sure they know that you still love them. A difficult but important one.
Teach them to do chores and to cook as early as possible. It really helps with building personal responsibility and independence. And if you have a DS, don't do what my MIL did and do everything for him. You're just creating a problem for whoever he ends up with and it really won't help him to have a happy relationship. DP had a very steep learning curve when he moved in with me!
Don't make academic achievement the be all and end all. Not everyone is cut out for A levels and University. There are other routes to success.
If they're not happy with the studies they are doing at A level or Uni and want to change, don't panic. My DS hated his A levels but stuck it out without telling us how he felt and didn't get great results. He then decided he wanted to study something completely different and did an entry level course, loved it and then went on to do a degree in that subject. He's now working succesfully as a freelancer in that area but I wish he had talked to us and switched earlier.
And just enjoy them, make memories, have fun, have in jokes, have favourite places. Childhood goes so fast.
I don't know, I don't think I was a brilliant mum but they didn't seem to notice. I love them but didn't tell them and they have turned out fantastic. Just trying to give hope to those who worry!
Instilling of values creating mutual respect
Picking your battles ie only trying to control areas of life that affected more than one party
Treating as equals
Explanations about expectations (within reason)
Try and keep a connection between you and your child and for them to know they are important.
I have 2 DCs in their 20s, both fantastic young people, intelligent and emotionally aware, building good careers and relationships. DH and I have always loved them to bits, advised them and supported them whether they followed our advice or not. Samcro is right, love and security will get you through almost everything
DS was not very confident when younger and had some "teenage moments" but is now very confident and successful
DD had more challenges with eating issues, etc but coming through it has made her more thoughtful, considerate and stronger in some ways.
I think the biggest difference between our parenting and that of some younger posters I see on MN is that we were far stricter and our children were not allowed to rule the roost. We expected them to behave well and do well and I do think children and young people need firm boundaries. Ours are both now happy, well-balanced adults and tell us they appreciate their upbringing and education
Give them money,they go away the more you give them the longer they go for
Take the time to find out what makes them tick. Not as an extension of you and your partner and without any preconceived ideas.
Listen to them. Take them seriously. Laugh with them.
Always let them know that whatever happens, you have their back.
Believe in them, but know their weak spots.
Don't lie to them.
Let them see that you're human as well-within reason!
Make sure the praise outweighs the criticism/punishments.
OMG. An amazing thread, and fantastic posts. All of them brilliant, esp JaceLancs.
My DD is only 13, so I'm not qualified to comment, but my DDad's mum always used to say "well, you just cross your finger's and hope" and my mum used to RANT about how "smug" she was, but I now I'm a mum, I kind-of get what my grandmother meant, because it's the "unbearable lightness of being" (if you know that book) - you do your best, and you don't know until the finished product whether you were right or not.
But I do think there are some do's and don'ts.
My DH always says "you can't love them enough, and you can't give them enough confidence".
The people in my life as an adult who ARE the most confident and sorted are those who were ADORED as children.
So I think that is right. I think you have to love them beyond all reason, and for them to have to know that.
I also think that children want and need to feel safe, so you have to give them boundaries. And these are up to you. Whether it's how you cross a road or a tidy bedroom, I think children need to know where they can feel safe. It's up to us as adults to make the safe spaces appropriate. And for them to know they can not/should not cross that boundary.
The people who've said upthread "pick your battles" I also think have got it spot-on. Don't criticize your child every 30 seconds... decide what is important and go for that.
Don't do "punishments" (they don't work!) but do "consequences" and make them appropriate (in terms of time and to fit the "crime"). And make them 'time-limited" (I know parents who boast "he's grounded for the next 6 months" - that is ridiculous and impractical: Make it something you're prepared to carry out)
Praise them. You can never do it enough.
DON'T go to bed on an argument - let them know that you love them, even if you hate a behaviour or choice they have made.
Be honest. Including saying things like "I hate that, but it's ok if you like it: I hate it, but it's your choice".
Let them make mistakes and learn from them.
Be consistent - don't threaten if you aren't prepared to follow through and DO follow through - make yourself reliable (that's part of the boundaries mentioned earlier)
I started to type a long reply, but deleted it because it felt too personal and identifiable.
The one thing I think I can pass on though is that I always stressed that we speak to and treat each other with at least the same respect you would afford other people: if you wouldn't bite your friend's head off for asking if you want a cup of tea just because you are in the middle of something, you certainly don't do it to the people who love you most in the world. I know there's a school of thought on MN that being rude, stroppy or dismissive is just a sign of being secure that they know they're loved, but the rest of the world won't see it that way, and ultimately you are raising them to be happy and successful in that world. So I've always been big on kindness and patience, and trying to see each other's point of view.
Sorry this is a bit disjointed.
Love, security, fun
I also think it's very beneficial if they have good role models - my DH and I have a happy respectful relationship and we laugh a lot. I think that's been great for the kids. I have a friend who speaks to her DH like he is dirt and who is surprised when her teens do the same.
I had 'unusual' parents, they didn't do much parenting to be honest. We were fed (mostly) but there was no discipline or expectations ever. We were truly quite wild. However, my parents always loved us and enjoyed our company. I grew up hard working and easy going. I'm a naturally calm and content person. However my three siblings are the complete opposite. I've no idea how that happened. I don't think parenting is always the key.
I don't think it's a good idea to try and manipulate their personalities to suit your own preferences. My four adult DC are all lovely but they all have their foibles. They are who they are.
I had them within 5 years so it was quite hectic but I put a lot of work into the early years - I really worked at being consistent with them. There were consistent rules and punishments. I think if you work on the discipline when they are little then you don't have to when they are older.
I also gave them responsibility for their own decisions from a young age. They still say that they appreciated that. Its their lives it should be up to them If they work hard at school etc. A lot of people seem to think their children's success is a reflection of them. My kids all do well and while I may have helped with the logistics it's not my success it's theirs.
I agree with the comment about not labelling kids.
I look back at my kids when they were really little and it's apparent that their personality was already in place from an early age. My super cheery toddler DS1 is still super cheery at 23 and my ferociously independent toddler DD is still as determined as ever to do everything for herself at 18.
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