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Push-Pull, Parenting Perils of Raising Young Adults and a Shamrock Shake

Even though today is St. Patrick’s Day, the day of good luck, I am not feeling it. My adult child recently uttered the phase that made me question every parenting decision I have made over the past two decades -- “Why did (or didn’t) you make me…when I was younger.”

In the case of our kids, the dot-dot-dot of that phase ranges from continue to play soccer or take ballet, to read more or work harder at “x.” It is the old parenting conundrum of when to push your children in the direction you think is best or when to let them pull their own strings and set their own course. We are not talking about helicopter parenting here, with a need to intervene in every decision, but maybe something like signing them up for a class to help them in the long run, even after the child said he didn’t want to do it. (Who loves extra homework, even if there is a benefit?)

At each push, we parents have a 50-50 shot at the joy of helping our children truly find their God-given talents or the never-ending guilt and reminders of how we made their lives miserable for a moment in time.

MIKE: My wife is fresh off a visit with a college child who is at the point of navigating her own pull while her mother is still working the push. No doubt my wife is coming from a place of positive intent. I, however, see the magnetic forces at work, and in this case it is like trying to force two magnets facing the same direction, as they are repelling each other instead of sticking like glue. They are not connecting.

I have explained to our children, a number of times, it is a scientific fact that their brains don’t fully develop until their mid-twenties, and for some young men, it might not even be until their early thirties. Before this time, they are still young in their ability to process consequences and think two steps ahead; therefore, it is our jobs as parents to help them. Combined, our parent brain has matured at least three times, and we are willing to share our challenges to help them avoid the same ones.

MIKE: And, you can imagine how this goes over with the kids. My wife reads a lot; combined with her journalism background, she tries to clearly communicate the facts in a logical way that makes sense in her world, but even she does not remember that she is speaking with teens and young adults who roll their eyes at her wisdom.

We want our kids to be independent thinkers who make their own decisions…eventually. Who am I kidding? They have been making their own decisions for some time. Research also shows that by the time kids head off to school – Kindergarten – a lot of the individual personality is already set, including the fact that a child's self-esteem may already be fully developed. Am I too late? I think I have learned from experiences with children Number 1 and 2, but I am still not sure if I should make Number 3 do things he doesn’t want to even though these things will help him in the future.

MIKE: Glad my mind does not work like hers – way to complex, over processed and exhausting, for me!

There is always child Number 4, right? He will benefit from our wisdom. With any luck, we have made some progress. I am going to kiss the Blarney Stone that is said to give a person the gifts of eloquence and persuasiveness. One slight problem though, I am not in or near Ireland. Do you think a Shamrock shake from McDonald’s will do?

To hear more parenting stories from Kori and Mike, pre-order ZagZig Parenting: (Mis) Adventures of a Career-Driven Mom and a Stay-At-Home. The book officially releases April 25, 2017.

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