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The 20 year responsibility project

God’s design for the parenting process is that we should take our children and turn them into responsible adults.  We do this by allowing them more and more autonomy as they get older. 5% a year A good rule of thumb is that each year, you as a parent should release another 5% of the decisio…
By Seth Barnes

God’s design for the parenting process is that we should take our children and turn them into responsible adults.  We do this by allowing them more and more autonomy as they get older.

5% a year
A good rule of thumb is that each year, you as a parent should release another 5% of the decisions you make for your child to your child.  So at two years old, you may make 90% of your child’s decisions and at three, you release another 5% and now your child self-governs 15% of the time.

Using this rough calculus, by the time your child is 18, you should have released responsibility for 90% of your child’s life to them.  And if you are making decisions for your kid in their 20’s you are probably enabling them.  In their 20’s, people should be thinking for themselves and running their own lives.  You as a parent are given a 20 year project of turning your children into responsible adults.

Does this mean that your child shouldn’t consult with you about decisions when they are 21?  Of course not, but realize that there is a big difference between a consultant who points out issues or asks clarifying questions and a parent who fails to see that the time for their child to take control of their life has come and gone.

Children should have everything they need at age 20 to self-govern, setting appropriate boundaries and goals.

Problems in letting go

Why is it that so many modern parents continue to hover and second guess their children’s decisions well into their 20’s?  My hypothesis is that has to do with the way a pendulum swings between one generation and another.  The parents of baby boomers focused on their work and may have missed their children’s sporting events.  
 

Feeling this gap, not wanting to make the same mistake, baby boomers crowd the sidelines of their kids’ little league soccer games.  And they continue to hover in their children’s lives as they get older.  They live with the remote control in their hands and don’t know how to set it down.  They organize their lives around their children and use technology to perpetuate their dysfunction.

What parents need to realize is, they should not organize their parenting as a way of addressing gaps in their own upbringing.  Giving their child too many trophies and too much attention does not make him a better adult, it just spoils him.  Children need to feel the consequences of their decisions if they are ever to grow in wisdom.  There is no substitute for pain – life is full of it and parents can’t ultimately protect their adult children from it.

RX for broken parenting

•    Adapt your parenting style to address what your child needs to become an autonomous adult, not around your needs.
•    Ask yourself, “What do I need to let go of?”  Each new year, your child should be making more of their own decisions.

•    Look at your life and assess if you’ve organized it around your children.  If you have, then find something else to do with your time.
 You could use your need to protect to help care for orphans in Africa, for example.
•    Invite someone you respect to look over your shoulder and assess your parenting as relates to this issue. If you feel defensive about it, it’s probably a problem. Far too many moms especially have grown blind to the way their identity has become intertwined with their role as mom. This is normal, but it can’t end well – your child has to grow up.

•    Talk to your child about how they can show themselves responsible and begin to exercise more control over their life.

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