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My Parents Won't Let Me Grow Up - A Test for Maturity

(This is an update of a 2002 article already posted on this site.)

 It’s a variant of a question I have heard from adolescent clients over many years – even from my children at that age of dawning adulthood:  “My parents won’t let me grow up.  I can’t believe how many restrictions my parents put on my activities, even though I am now going to be a high school senior.  I should be able to have what I want and be able to go where I want to go. How can I convince them to lighten up and let me have more control over my life?” 

Of course, without our being able to discuss the actual dynamics of your relationship with your parents, I can only address your question in general terms. Remember, taking on more adult responsibilities is an important part of your development. You are at a stage where your parents should be allowing increased responsibility – but only in proportion to your demonstrated ability to maturely handle that responsibility.  

I know, from your standpoint, it seems like an endless hassle. But chill! I have developed a self-test which is so cool that it will help you solve two problems. First, it will help you understand the motivations of concerned parents.  Second, it will help you realize whether you are really ready to handle the increased responsibilities you are seeking.

How will you know that you passed the test? Watch your emotional reactions as you read. An adult will be able to read this through completely, consider it thoughtfully, and accept its guidelines as a basis for accepting the responsibilities of maturity. Any points at which you buck up and object will be the areas where you are not ready to assume more personal control.           

1)   Your parents have every right to be concerned about how you are handling your life.  Adults are recognized not by their age, but by their behavior - including the decisions they make.  We understand you will not begin to understand how much your parents have put their hearts and souls into loving and raising you until you have a child of your own - but as long as THEY have to share in the consequences of your decisions, they have the right to have input to your life. Rebellion against this obvious fact is childish.

2)   Until you are completely independent, requiring no resources from your parents in terms of their finances, time, housing, food, or support in response to the consequences of your decisions, they reserve the right as to how they delegate THEIR resources for your benefit - even if it means withholding them.  Rebellion against this obvious fact is childish.

 3)   As you emerge into adulthood in the expected process of acquiring true independence, you have less and less right to your parents’ resources - particularly if you don’t handle them responsibly.  Being long-term adults, they - not you - get to decide on what defines “responsible” handling of resources.  Rebellion against this obvious fact is childish.

 4)   Adults manage resources responsibly. Responsible handling of resources includes: appropriate conservation, in keeping with financial limitations and resource limitations; use of delayed gratification, as required, to increase resources for times of increased need; protection of resources, so they will be there in the future; respectful behavior for the source of the resources to increase the likelihood of resource availability.  In terms of some examples, this translates as: Don’t run up the phone bill to where you can’t pay for it; don’t party-out your job-money, then ask your parents to pay for textbooks; don’t trash the car, if you expect to drive it again; don’t trash your parents’ efforts on your behalf and expect wallet and purse to open upon demand. Rebellion against this obvious fact is childish.

5)   Adults actively work toward acquiring increased independence, as well as increased interdependence.  They become less and less reliant on others to meet their needs while striving to become increasingly of service to the human community and the world-at-large.  They also appreciate and accept their present limitations and needs, gracefully accepting and appreciating the services of others.  Any community - whether it be family or nation - can only endure if managed by adults.  True community building can only come by adults partnering with adults.  Rebellion against this obvious fact is childish.

6)   Adults accept responsibility for their behavior - and the consequences of that behavior.  Only the immature expect others to take on the responsibility and consequences for their immature behavior.  Like everybody else, adults sometimes are victims: they have to face the consequences of other’s behaviors - but they do not give up on their responsibility to recover from their victim experience, as they recognize they have no other responsible choice than recovery - whatever it takes. To that end, adults are honest and up-front, rather than lying and manipulative; are trustworthy in their intentions; and exhibit responsible risk-taking behavior in their expression of the vulnerability that builds true intimacy and community. Rebellion against this obvious fact is childish.

7)   Adults recognize that experience generally comes with age, and - with effort and learning - wisdom comes with experience.  Adults, not the immature, can be expected to recognize wisdom.  Teachers generally have more experience than their students; parents than their children.  The experienced, whether by instruction or example, have more to share. Rebellion against this obvious fact is childish.

8)   Adults can discern themselves from others and the world around them, including the rights inherent in existence.  Thus, being able to recognize boundaries, they only cross them appropriately - and they protect their boundaries from violation by others.  This is the basis of all politeness and courtesy - and it breaks the immature illusion of self-entitlement, whether expressed through stealing the right-of-way or through over-charging for services. As such, adults value themselves enough not to give themselves up in order to fit in with less-mature others.  They recognize that self-sacrifice for mere acceptance by others is immature - especially when it brings harm.  Rebellion against this obvious fact is childish.

9)   Adults are open-minded and openhearted to learning from any source.  As such, they do not close themselves off from the obvious.  Considering all of the above, it is clear that adulthood holds true minority status in present-day society, where the youth are venerated and the elderly rarely attain adulthood.  Adults can see the joys of life in “the little things” - the value of simplicity and having enough - in contrast to the fashion-driven, bigger-is-better, mine-is-better-than-yours mentality of immature culture. (Did you think that impatient, over-stuffed, chain-smoking, SUV-driving tailgater behind you was an adult?) Adults value embracing serenity and surrender to the true Higher Powers of the Universe over hiding in security, sensation (including drugs and sex) and power illusions as a way of dealing with their life situations. Thus appreciating that the purpose of Life is “getting high” through surrender to growth through the Natural Order of the Universe, adults recognize themselves as a minority in our material world.  Accepting the inevitable loneliness that comes with knowing true intimacy is limited to true adults, the adult draws most of his or her strength from Inner Resources.  Rebellion against this obvious fact is childish.

10) Attaining true adulthood is the most challenging accomplishment of human existence.  Age does not grant adulthood.  Regardless of rights conferred, laws cannot grant it. Neither becoming a parent, nor accomplishing formal education or career goals attains it.  It is a total body-mind-spirit thing.  Probably, the most reliable indication of one’s approaching the attainment of adulthood is the thoughtful hesitation of making any such proclamation.  Rebellion against this obvious fact is childish.

Please consider these things the next time you are overwhelmed with the impulse to remind your parents of your attainment of adulthood.  Otherwise, you risk the possibility of riling those of us who recognize that we are still working on it.

Granville Angell   © 7/2006

Granville Angell, EdS, LPC, NCC, is a licensed professional counselor who invites readers to submit questions for his column to his web site: www.transitions-counseling.com .  He may be reached at his private practice, TRANSITIONS Personal & Family Counseling Services by emailing angell(AT)Transitions-counseling.com. or calling 704-276-1164.

©2006 by Granville Angell (Unedited, non-commercial distribution, with credit, authorized)

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