How to Raise an Adult

How to Raise an Adult

I’ve been a parent for nearly two years, a wife for nearly ten, and a legal adult for over fourteen years. Yet sometimes I still look around for the adult to take charge of the situation.

We recently re-financed our mortgage. Which sounds so terrifyingly grown up. I remember hearing that phrase as a tween and thinking: what in the world does that even mean, and how will I learn how to do it?

There are classes on “adulting” now, that I think are intended to teach you things like how to refinance a mortgage. I’ve never taken a class on this. My parents didn’t sit me down and teach me what a mortgage was or how to go about refinancing it. My high school teachers (who were also my parents) didn’t give me a class on mortgages and finance.

To be honest I still don’t know much about mortgages. Or interest rates. Or a whole host of other things that seem like they should be KNOWN by adults.

I think we should let young adults and teens in on this secret: we don’t really know what we’re doing. We’re just parading about as adults and doing our best to figure it out.

And that’s why I am dismayed by adulting classes. Human beings don’t actually need to be taught exactly how to do every task related to adult life. It couldn’t actually be accomplished–there are so many unknown experiences that arise in adult life. No schooling could prepare us for every situation.

But what I do believe parenting is supposed to teach our kids are the real skills for being an adult:

Being competent.

Asking for help.



Willingness to try and fail.

These are much harder things to teach than how to balance a checkbook. I could easily sit a middle-schooler down and by the end of the day they could be proficient in balancing a checkbook and in writing checks. But that’s not truly what I want my child to know.

If my child is twenty-something and has never learning anything about balancing a checkbook I want her to be resourceful. I want her to go onto ye olde google and figure it out. Or call up a friend or family member for help. I want her to be willing to bring the rent check to her landlord who has to tell her “honey, you’ve got to write the amount out on your check”. Or if she really can’t figure out the whole check thing, being creative and problem-solving by going to the bank to withdraw the cash to hand deliver to whoever she needs to pay.

The figuring out of how to teach these essential life skills is why I read so many parenting books. If it was easy to teach our children to be competent, confident adults we would not now by offering classes on “adulting”. Companies would not be struggling with the training and retaining of millennials.

I don’t think it is hard to teach our children to be fabulous, creative, engaged adults. It’s simple. But simple and easy are two different things.

Teaching our kids competence means giving them time and space to try things over and over and over again when they are little rather than rushing them out the door. Allowing them to learn to be creative and problem-solve means that they need a lot of independent free play–preferably outdoors!–in their daily schedules instead of jam-packed with adult-led activities. Growing the ability to try and fail or researching solutions means that when they ask for help we say “what can we do about this?” rather than just solving the issue.

All of these things take a lot more time. A lot more adjusting of our family schedule. Did I mention patience? These things take so much more patience!

But remember, we are in the business of parenting for the long haul! We can do these things for our children, and they can be as simple as giving them free play: “When children are left to their own devices, they experiment with their surroundings, take risks, make mistakes, and then learn from the mistakes. They problem solve, negotiate, imagine, and investigate. Our children will be well served if we offer them the freedom to play on their own, to learn through making mistakes…this process will help prepare them for life….” (from this fabulous book!)

When we stumble upon our own adult struggles, we can ask ourselves “how would I want my child to handle this situation?” And then we go about cultivating those skills in our young ones, so that hopefully one day they can bypass the line for “adulting class” and with confidence find the solutions for their struggles!

How to Raise an Adult