"WHAAATTT?!!!" "You should..." "You can't..."...and other things parents should not say to their adult children

I burst out laughing at the laundromat last week after reading a post on Facebook by a mom describing things she had said to her kids that day. Kids say and do the darnedest things sometimes. A good parent rolls with it and explains things calmly, even when it's something like, "no, sweetie, you can't lick that spoon that fell on the floor because the dog just peed on it."

My frame of reference these days isn't the daily teaching and talk between parents and their small children. Instead, I think constantly about what I should or shouldn't say to my adult kids. It's something I work on all the time now. It's amazing how hard it is to hold my tongue sometimes, even though I'm several years down the road on this journey of building, strengthening and enjoying an adult friendship with my kids.

That post kept running around my head as I folded clothes and I couldn't help but chuckle, and then, like I said, I burst out laughing. I'm sure anyone watching me fold clothes must have thought I was a crazy lady. I couldn't help myself, the laughter just kept bubbling out. I imagined what would happen if I blurted out everything I want to say sometimes during conversations with my adult children. It used to be the right and best thing for me to say most of what I thought to teach and correct my children. It was part of loving them and training them in the way they should go...

What should it look like now though? Is anyone else out there a little bit like me? Is anyone else tempted to just keep on saying everything that pops into your head when you talk to your adult children? I will always be 29 and 31 years ahead of my kids in experience and (hopefully) wisdom. I will always be their mom and my "mom instinct" often kicks in to keep teaching, correcting and training...but what is appropriate now?

During my interviews, I loved learning from parents who were ahead of me on this journey. Here are some of the responses that work for them and ones I'm trying to remember for myself...

"Reeaaalllly? How interesting!"

"I'm sure you will figure it out."


"Huh! What did you do then?"

"Did that work well for you?"

"What are you thinking about doing now?"

"Would you like some advice?"

"I'll be praying about that for you."

Now let me be really honest and tell you what I think (and, yes...say) sometimes...


"Are you kidding?"

"You know you should......"

"Be careful you don't...."

"Remember you should...."

"You should say....."

"You don't have money for that!"

"You can't..."

"You're going to do WHAT??!!"

"Be careful you do...." or Be careful you don't..."

"Are you going to..."

"That won't work..."

Here's the irony in it. I'm the mom. I love them, and they love me. We have a good relationship. I could get away with saying a lot of things to them, and I know they would still love me. If I said something that really bugged them, they would tell me. (This has happened). I would apologize, they would forgive me, and we would move on. (This, too, has happened.)

But I don't want that to be the norm of my relationship with my adult kids. I want to enjoy the fact that I will always be their mom and they will always be my kids, but at the same time build a friendship where they feel respected and believed in. I want our relationship to be a treasure and a haven.

I listened to adult kids during my interviews who described that kind of friendship with their parents. I heard the respect they held in their hearts for their parents. I listened to the reverence they had for them. I also heard the relief they felt as they described the ways their parents respected them, believed in them AND treated them like every other adult when it came to communicating with them.

I don't want to take advantage of the fact that I'm the mom. My kids, probably like yours, are proving to be responsible, honorable adults. I don't want to play the mom card to excuse me from growing and changing in my relationship with them.

I did love those early years and will treasure the sweet, silly and instructional conversations with my kids. But now that they are grown, it's time to leave old ways behind and enjoy being adults together.

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