Do Big Kids Need Their Mother, Too? Review of “Doing Life with Your Adult Children”

Parenting Books

My kids do grownup things. They have jobs. They have husbands. One already has a child.

Why would they need their mama now?

My parents have been gone for nine years. I still wish they were here. We would always like to have good parents with us, yes?

Yet as adults, we don’t need our parents in the same way that we needed them when we were children. That’s where it gets sticky.

I read lots of books on child-rearing when my girls were small. I wanted to do things the best way, the right way, God’s way.

As they grew older, the books I read changed. No longer about parenting babies, but about parenting elementary kids. Then about teenagers.

But now that the last one has graduated from high school and college and married, do I still need a parenting book?

Parenting Adult Children

Actually, the years of parenting adult children will likely surpass the number of years we parented small children. It’s just very different. It has to be from a distance. And loose. And non-judgmental.

Jim Burns new book, Doing Life with Your Adult Children, is a helpful resource for these years. (His subtitle is profound: Keep Your Mouth Shut and the Welcome Mat Out.)

Doing Life with Adult Children

Here are the nine principles Burns shares in the book. Is there one you need the most?

  1. Your role as the parent must change.
  2. Unsolicited advice is usually taken as criticism.
  3. You can’t ignore your child’s culture.
  4. They will never know how far the town is if you carry them on your back.
  5. Your job is to move them from dependence to independence.
  6. You can’t want it more than they want it.
  7. Financial independence and responsibility is the goal.
  8. Wear beige and keep your mouth shut.
  9. Being a grandparent may be your greatest legacy.

This book is full of wisdom, some of which I’ve already learned (often the hard way, such as, don’t argue about holidays), and some of which I’ve yet to experience.

My daughters don’t need me like they did when they were younger, but I can still play an important role in their lives, and they in mine.

I want to do this stage of parenting well, too.

Quotes from Doing Life with Your Adult Children

“Most parents I’ve talked with have told me they lost sleep worrying about their kids when the kids were younger, but I’ve been surprised to discover how many parents of adult children tell me the same thing.”

“It’s important to acknowledge your old job description as a parent so that you can set it aside. That’s the only way to make room for your new job description.”

“This transition of moving from daily involvement and hands-on parenting to a more intermittent involvement will likely be an easier move for your kids than it is for you.”

“There is absolutely nothing more important in life than a right relationship with God and a right relationship with family. Ultimately, that’s what defines the legacy you leave your children.”

“Many parents of adult children tell me that the most difficult part of their new job description is abstaining from giving advice when they know they’re correct.”

“Trust that experience is a better teacher than advice….If we keep our mouths shut and keep the welcome mat out, we increase the odds that our children will come to us for guidance on their own.”

“Parents who continue to take care of their adult sons and daughters out of their own need to be needed do so at the expense of their adult children’s maturity.”

“Your child’s choices don’t have to break you. Your child’s regrettable decisions do not make you a bad parent. Even good parents have children who make poor choices.”

I highly recommend this book to parents of adult children. This line from it makes me laugh the most: “The first forty years of parenting are always the hardest.”

My adult children are worth it all.

* * *

Are you parenting an adult child? Has anything been difficult? Surprising? Do you have a favorite parenting book? Please share in the comments.

My thanks to BookLook Bloggers
for the review copy of this book
(and to Beth for the real thing!)


17 thoughts on “Do Big Kids Need Their Mother, Too? Review of “Doing Life with Your Adult Children”

  1. Etta

    Oh Lisa, thanks for sharing this book, I certainly need to read it. Two sons, I raised as pretty much as a single mom, are now married with children. My hardest change has been the new job description. Where do I fit in?
    I’m learning boundaries, keeping my mouth shut and giving my worries over to God instead of sleepless nights.
    Thanks for choosing this book to share!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, that new job description can get us all tangled up, can’t it? I know what you’re saying, Etta. I imagine it’s even tougher coming from your vantage of being a single mom.

      Praying for all us moms of adult children that we’ll give our worries over to God. Thanks for this encouragement, Etta.

  2. bill (cycleguy)

    When our oldest went on her own we told her we loved her and would be here for her if needed. She lives in the same town as us now (after 15 years away) and it is still that way. We don’t meddle and will give advice when asked. I told my daughter and son-in-law 15 years ago yesterday that they were on their own. We/i would be there if needed but it is their life. When they separated we were there if Janna needed us (which she did) but tried hard not to impose ourselves on either of them. We are happy where we are at in both of our girls’ lives at this juncture. I think one of the keys is releasing them to their new life and then having one of my own.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That sounds like the way to do it, Bill. Janna is blessed to have parents who are available but not pushy. That’s what Jeff and I are trying to do for our kids, too. I definitely want to keep our relationships as healthy as possible so we can all continue to do life together. And yes, even as we continue living the life of our own. 🙂

  3. Trudy

    I love the subtitle of the book, Lisa. So true. I’m one of those who keep worrying, even though they’re adults. While it may pain us when we see some of the choices our children make, we just have to keep supporting them and showing our love and acceptance. Sometimes there are tensions between them, but even though we want to jump in and “fix” it, we have to keep quiet and let them iron it out between themselves. And keep praying and giving each of them over to God! This book sounds like it’s full of wise advice. Love and blessings to you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yep, it is hard to not jump in, especially when we think we know the answers. 🙂 My parents were very good at not jumping in with unsolicited advice, which I appreciated, so I’m trying to return the favor to my own kids. Yes, keep praying and give them over to God–that’s the most important thing we can do. Thanks for your wisdom here, Trudy!

  4. Barbara Harper

    I’ve been looking forward to your thoughts on this one. I read bunches of parenting books, too, when my kids were younger. I’ve read a few articles, I think, but no books about mothering adult children yet. I guess part of it comes from being able to remember how I felt as a young adult. I knew not to give unasked-for advice – and to be careful in wording even asked-for advice. (Which is too bad – after a lifetime of learning the hard way and accumulating wisdom, nobody wants it! Ha!) But I like this a lot: “Trust that experience is a better teacher than advice….If we keep our mouths shut and keep the welcome mat out, we increase the odds that our children will come to us for guidance on their own.” Looks like a great resource!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree–we finally know a few things now, but we can’t just spew it out there until asked! ha. And now that I’ve entered the grandparenting season, I see that it’s even harder to just be quiet. I try my best not to cross too many lines (usually by running it by Jeff first who almost always reminds me to keep my advice to myself until asked). 🙂 This book was a great reminder to continue on with this approach.

  5. Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours

    Oh, how this resonates, Lisa! For starters, your post (and the comments above) are great reminders that we are not alone in our frustrations, concerns, etc. about our adult children. What’s the saying? “Misery loves company.” ? Seriously, though, I often have to remind myself that it is God’s place to CONVICT my children. It’s mine to LOVE them. Life and relationships are much easier when I remember that. When a grandchild came on the scene (and now two), I was reminded all over again how important it is to not meddle in my children’s lives. I want to have relationships with my grandsons, and the best way to ensure that is to support and encourage their parents — sometimes by keeping my mouth shut!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s excellent advice, Susan: we don’t have to do the convicting; that’s God’s job. Yes, I’m learning anew too that as a grandmother I have to double-down on keeping my advice to myself unless asked. 🙂 I see so much wisdom in your words; thanks for sharing here!

  6. Natalie Ogbourne

    What a challenge this time of life is! I was so much better at bringing babies into the home than sending kids out. This book is on my list. You’ve motivated me to get it in my hands. Thanks, Lisa.

  7. Martha J Orlando

    I’m in that boat big time, Lisa. As I read your review, I was relieved to discover I’ve pretty much done those things as my children have grown into adulthood, but it certainly hasn’t been easy, and there are times I have to force myself to keep my mouth shut. I think what has helped me do this is that my own mother interfered constantly in my life when I was a young adult, and I certainly didn’t like it one bit, and vowed not to be that way with my own children.

  8. Jean Wise

    going to read this book, I too have been so surprised at the changes and my lack of preparation for this stage of parenthood. Love that line you laughed at too. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. On my list!!

  9. floyd samons

    This new territory we finds ourselves in is challenging. Keeping my mouth shut is the hardest thing, but I do it.

    The most interesting part of this stage of life is the kids themselves and their actions; the ones I thought would be a certain way are not and vice versa. Very odd. But it’s all good, stressful sometimes but good.

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