In Part 1 of this post, “Boomerang Adult Children: The Challenge,” I described the scenario of well-functioning older parents housing apparently healthy yet lower functioning middle age children. I suggested that the parents can improve their skills for influencing these adult children to live up to their potential. Here are the skills.
1. The first is recognizing that a parent’s job includes preparing children to survive on their own in the real world. This is a profound task, the outcome of which will affect generations to come. This requires learning to tolerate the unavoidable distress in their children and themselves.
2. Second is realizing that they have the tools for changing their children's behavior right at hand. Heretofore, the parents used only their own words (demands and reasoning), not their actions (consequences behind their words). As a result, the child was free to disregard the parents' words completely. .
3. Parents then create two lists. The first is the behaviors that the parents want the child to exhibit (such as looking for employment, keeping appropriate sleep and waking hours, paying rent, helping with housework, and eliminating disrespectful speech), and the second is the various comforts and pleasures the parent has been providing to the child (such as shelter, food, a car, money, phone, internet, computer, etc.).
4. The next step is making the continued provision of their various forms of support and comfort to the child CONTINGENT UPON the child behaving as requested. In this way, the parents' words acquire true meaning. The parent learns to cooperate with the child only to the extent that the child cooperates with the parent!
5. Parents learn to maintain a very calm manner and loving tone. The linkage of child behavior and parental assistance does away with any need for argument or unpleasantness. The new structure puts the child's fortunes in his own hands; he will have only himself to blame or credit for the outcome.
With these new skills, many “reluctant landlord” parents have helped their boomerang children re-launch into independent adulthood. This is a pleasure to behold.
“My passion is ensuring that every adult is mentally ready to succeed in all transitions that comprise the adult years. The meaning in my life comes from helping my patients see themselves, their situation, their future, and the entire world with new eyes and a newly courageous attitude.