No adulthood without consequences

Posted by Samantha on July 29, 2011 in Consequences |

Adulthood is the ever-shrinking period between childhood and old age. It is the apparent aim of modern industrial societies to reduce this period to a minimum.

Thomas S. Szasz, Hungarian psychiatrist and academic (b. 1920)


One of my friend’s boyfriends used take a packed lunch to college each day.  As he opened it he would wonder out loud what it might be today.  He wondered because he hadn’t made it himself.  His mother had.  He was twenty-one years old.

His mother probably thought she was being loving.  Or maybe she thought he was a useless ne’er do well who was so lazy he “let her” make his lunch for him.  Whatever was going on between this mother and son, I remember my reaction when I first saw this little ritual.  My eyes popped out of my head.  And I remember thinking I was glad he wasn’t my boyfriend.

It is not helpful to do for our children what they are capable of doing for themselves.  It makes them helpless and ineffectual at best; ungrateful and entitled at worst.

I’m not saying it’s a mistake to carry a tired or grumpy child who would nevertheless be quite capable of walking himself.  Or even to carry a child who simply wants the connection and care of being carried for a bit.

And while I believe always refusing to drop your teenager’s forgotten kit / lunch / homework to school is a high-risk parenting strategy, I also believe that always rescuing them is just as risky a strategy.

For our children to reach healthy adulthood (at a reasonable age!) we need to let them experience the consequences of their actions.

Starting today, try to notice what the consequences of your child’s actions are.  Then swallow your discomfort, perhaps brace yourself for the onslaught (more next time on what to say when this begins!!), and let your child begin to grow up by learning to deal with the consequences of their own actions.

Tip: the natural consequence of not making your own lunch at age 21 is hunger.


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