THE Talk

David Writes!

We have always tried to treat our kids like people. Individuals. They were allowed to have their own ideas and thoughts.

I think this might be due to our Boomer Generation backlash from the “children should be seen and not heard” theory of raising offspring.

For instance, I would watch my mom bristle when we asked our kids what they wanted for dinner.

I’m not talking short order cook here, just a couple of choices that we put to a casual vote. Chicken or spaghetti guys? Winner take all.

Back when I was a kid, we all sat down together and got what was served and liked it. Period. We were card carrying members of The Clean Plate Club. There were starving children in China, after all.

One of my first big revelations as a parent came after a two hour battle with our first born, The Piglet.

“Try a carrot, honey.”

“No, I don’t like them.”

“How do you know? You’ve never tried them.”

“No, I don’t like them.”

After a stubborn eternity in her high chair, we took the obstinate routine on the road. I chased her diapered little butt all over the house. The rhubarb reached its ultimate conclusion with me trying to push a cooked carrot cube past her clinched teeth. Maybe the “eat what you’re served” mentality can go too far.

Our Spawn did not receive equal standing when it came to the important decisions. Some things were not open to debate. There were rules that were unbending and our word was final.

We did, however, encourage them to voice their opinions. An effort was made to see things from their point of view. This allowed us to have actual discussions with our kids — not just telling them what to do. These conversations are some of my best memories as a parent.

Here at we have talked about having an adult-to-adult relationship with grown offspring quite a bit. The ability to have real conversations with them is an enormous part of that. But getting there can have its trials and tribulations.

Just when we thought that The Great Puberty War was the worst of it, we were bombarded with something new.

“I’m eighteen now, I can do what I want.”

The dreaded time when the spawn are technically adults but still in high school. At that age, it would seem that “adult” means the freedom to head out and start being stupid at top speed.

The standard “Not in my house” or “As long as you live under my roof, you’ll abide by my rules” replies didn’t seem to sink in with our young ‘uns. In fact, I could almost see the heels digging in to the floor.

One day while driving The Piglet to school, I got fed up and burst out with what became known in our family as “THE Talk.” No, not THAT “the talk”, this one:

“Yup, you’re right, you are an adult, which means we are through with our job of raising you. Anything we do from here on out is a favor to you — out of the goodness of our hearts — because we love you. Get this straight, we don’t owe you anything from now on.

We don’t owe you a college education. We would like to help you with one because we love you, but we don’t have to. We don’t owe you a place to live. We will be glad to provide one for you until you graduate from high school, but we don’t owe it to you.

Don’t like our rules? Fine, leave. Legally, we can even kick you out of OUR house right now, today, because — oh yeah — you are an adult. There would be no repercussions for us because we’re done, we did our job.”

Harsh but very effective.

The results were remarkable. Almost immediately the uppity teen attitudes changed. The yelling morphed into silent treatment as reality set in. Then, they started seeing themselves as adults, not just using the word as an excuse to stay out all night. The understanding that real life has real consequences began to dawn on them.

A bridge was crossed. Though not as fun, this transition is as beautiful as a toddler’s first steps.

THE Talk became less harsh with each chick as they readied for flight from the nest. The younger ones had the benefit of seeing their siblings go over the bridge before them. By the time The Boy was making his transition I barely had to mention it. He knew the drill.

It’s beautiful — “I can do what I want” became “I can’t wait until I have my own place.”

Mission accomplished.


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31 thoughts on “THE Talk”

  1. My son just discovered that, at 18, he is now able to sign himself out of school. He turned 18 in September and just figured this out mid-March. His older sister said, “what took you so long?” LOL.

    Ahhhh, youth.

  2. Oh, how I love the “don’t treat me like a kid, I’m adult now” routine. I received it not too long ago. My response was: “you are right, I treat you like a child, so you need to be an adult and pay for your cell phone, car insurance, and give me back my credit card”. I think they are sorry they told me to treat them like adults. 🙂

  3. We have a 20 year old boomerang daughter who feels she can do whatever she likes in our house – underage drinking, not doing chores we ask, lighting candles and incense in her room, you name it. She says we treat her like she’s 10 but then again that is how she acts. she has a part time job now and pays us nothing. I am so over it! The interesting part will my husband and I coming to the same understanding that she needs to go. (he’s rescues her and tends to make excuses for her) The hard part is that he travels for work Sun night through Thursday nights and is out of town when she does most of her crap. I get the pleasure of dealing with her during the week and I just want her out now. How to go about this… how?

    1. Well, like we said, she needs to be told in no uncertain terms that you have finished your responsibility to her. She is an adult. No one wants to throw their kid out on the street but she needs to at least believe that you will. Time for some tuff love. Good luck and hang in there.

  4. I love your site, thank you*
    I have been a single mom of 3 sons. I have put them in all the constuctive active things to do in life. I am learning now. I did not set boundries, well when I did I was to tirerd to cary them through. I did the best I knew at the time I was parenting. My first born is in jail. My twins are fathers, one is married and one is trying to grow up. They have all lived with me and their girl friends and babies . Family meant looking out for each other. Grandparents lived with the family. Where do you set boundries ?
    I would love for all of us to live together. I love my sons very much and mexican familys live all together and work together. And it is a beautiful thing~!~ Perception

  5. Before my kids turned 18 we had the talk about while you may be 18 you’re still in high school, still on my insurance, still eating my food, still driving my car, etc. We also talked about how being 18 meant the law saw you as an adult and mommy/daddy couldn’t save you if you decided to become stupid all of a sudden. Seemed to work. 🙂

  6. My kids – I love them, but I want them to keep moving on. My daughter once asked me how I paid for things in college. I had grants, but I also had a job where I made 3.35/hr working 20 hours per week. My daughter tried to do the math and couldn’t reconcile it. I said – you know I ate hot dogs a lot, and I didn’t go out. Your dad and I went on hikes for dates because they were free. I paid my bills but I didn’t have cable and only a 17 inch black and white tv. No internet because we didn’t have computers and no car, I walked everywhere on campus and off. That even meant waiting for you dad to visit to take me to the store or walking the mile there and back.

    I think my kids generation received way too much and maybe it wasn’t a good thing.

    1. We agree. We tend to want to help too much – and helping too much can take the pride of accomplishment from our children. We’re willing to bet you are proud of your hard work through your college years – why would we want to take those character building opportunities away from our offspring?

  7. It’s a great balance all right: either live at home and respect the home-owners, or move out and hold your own tail up. Either way, the bottom line is, act like an adult.

  8. Ah yes. My dear little daughter got this backwards. She moved out at 17. This was a bomb she dropped on me suddenly. No big fight, no warning. Just stated calmly one day that she didn’t like our rules and had no intention of going with us when we moved in to help care for my mom after congestive heart failure last summer. Within 48 hours, she was at my ex’s mother’s house. Less than 24 hours after that, she was moving in with a boyfriend we hadn’t known she had.

    Of course, real life is harder than a teen can imagine and the relationship was horrible but she turned me down flat the one time I offered for her to come back because I made it clear there would still be rules if she did.

    A few months later, the boyfriend threw her out & she wanted a place to stay, but by HER idea of rules. This time I was the one that said no. I told her she’s an adult now and adults figure out their own messes. Tough love, but necessary.

  9. My Dad always said, “Being an adult means paying for your own stuff.” And he’s right! By that meter, I know some 35 yos living on their parent’s couches who don’t qualify… and I’ve met some 17 yos traveling the world alone who DO. That’s my personal standard for our kids and others… “Are you paying for your own stuff? ALL of it?!” Okay then.

  10. I just told my kids I didn’t care how old they were. If they were living under our roof they had to follow our rules. The reverse will be true if in our old age they ever have to take us in. I’m finding that when we go to visit them we already follow their lifestyle rather than making them revert back to ours while in their own houses. How rude would that be??!!!!

  11. Well, I read the above-posted blog just as my last one was turning 18, and pretty much stole it verbatim. And held to it. Luckily she’s a fine person anyway, and there’s not a whole lot to put my foot down about!

  12. I have been way more laid back with my boys than my daughter (13 year difference) they know they can do anything they want as long as they get good grades and answer the phones I pay for. They are independent human beings and are treated as such…but screw up and the wrath of Momma will take you down. To sum this up they have pretty much gotten to do what they wanted as teenagers as long as they act responsibly.

  13. This is one of my favorite stories. My son turned 18 December of his senior year. About a month before, we got into a terrible screaming match because I wouldn’t let him do something. Finally, he played his trump card: “Do you know what “18…” means?” To which I immediately answered, “Yes. It means I don’t have to support your a** anymore!” The look on his face was priceless. The argument ended and so did any further references to his pending adulthood.

    One last note: That same son has been way more strict with his currently 18YO senior than I was with him. Funny how that works.

  14. I’ve had “the talk” with people who aren’t even my kids but coworkers 10 years my younger.

    You don’t like how things are going? Move out.

    I did. I worked my buns off to go to college (parents didn’t pay) and to keep a roof over my head, and as much as it sucked at the time and I do still love my parents, they don’t have any sway over what I did/do.

    So many people do things to intentionally piss off their parents while in their house – why? If you don’t like it, there is a door.

    Kudos to you!

  15. Problem solving at it’s best. Our son moved out at age 17, between Jr and Sr years of HS, to share an apartment with 3 other boys. They all worked to pay rent and utilities, and claimed to be “Jesus Freaks.” They carried Good News FOR Modern Man to school (wow! what a concept! This was in the early 70’s) He never moved back home.

  16. The best part is when they finally get it, and tell you sorry for being such pain in the asses during those years.
    Corey told me he know understands everything I was trying to convey to his logic blocked brain back then…

  17. Oh wow. Do I ever remember, when I was 17 to 18, combing over the apartment ads and calculating the math. How much would I have to earn to earn to pay rent and keep a car – all the while chanting, “I can’t wait until I have a plcae of my own.”
    Raised my youg-uns the same way. Heartily recommend it. I figure, if they are not chanting the mantra by age 16 or so, then a parent isn’t doing their job.

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