How to Raise Kids Who Aren't Afraid of 'Adulting'

Back in May my family and I attended our friend’s 30th birthday party. “What’s that she’s wearing?” her mother asked me as we sang Happy Birthday.

I squinted to make out the font on her t-shirt and replied, “I can’t adult today. Please don’t make me adult today.”

“What does that mean?” her befuddled mother asked.

“I have no idea. I guess ‘adult’ is a verb now?” I replied, shrugging, before turning to my son and nonchalantly wiping food from his mouth.

“Sounds like a term used in court for people who should be put away,” my husband replied while pulling out diapering supplies.

I didn’t think much of her shirt until I came across the same logo imprinted on a coffee mug yesterday. It reminded me of a recent study that revealed college kids would rather binge drink than have sex, coupled with another study revealing that the birth rate in America is declining into crisis. While our friends have long surpassed college age, a strong majority of them are sincerely in love with late night weekend parties and a habit of buying dogs instead of having babies of their own. Perhaps there is something to this fear of “adulting” thing after all.

What parenting choices produced kids who think being an adult is a performance routine they can skip out on? It was a tough question to ask myself by virtue of my own experience growing up. My parents were born at the tail end of the Silent Generation, prior to the Boomers. My husband’s parents are Boomer anomalies who chose aliyah and the IDF over pot and Woodstock. As a result, my husband and I have often observed keen differences between ourselves and our friends. But, until we became parents we never associated parenting trends with behavioral outcomes. Now it’s time.

Millennials were raised with privilege. I hate to say they were spoiled brats, but in the ’90s the majority of kids grew up in dual income households. Suburbia was all about big houses, big furniture and even bigger televisions. And stuff! So much stuff!

Soccer Moms were the original helicopter parents. Ever wonder where the overscheduling trend came from? Well, these kids had to do something all day, lest they take after their depressed latch-key Gen X role models. Soccer Moms were hot in the ’90s for a reason: They kept their kids busy all the time. If you grew up with a micromanaged existence, you wouldn’t want to “adult” either.

’90s kids were Disney dreamers. Ever notice the strange obsession with pop culture, especially Disney World among ’90s kids? I’m guessing it has to do with the fact that these kids were told they could do anything and be anything they wanted to be. It’s not a bad thing to get your kids to start thinking big, but combine that with micromanaging, wish-generating parenting and you get an 18-year-old who’s never heard the word “No.”

There was more peer bonding than parent bonding. How can you conceive of being an adult when your role models have always been your own age? Two parents who both work full time have a tough enough job trying to find a few hours to spend with their kids on a consistent basis. Factor in divorce and/or single parenting and you realize why the day care generation bonded more closely with each other than with the nameless slew of adults who supervised their existence.

When parents bonded, they tried to do so as “friends.” There’s a reason the “cool mom” is mocked in Mean Girls. Being the “cool parent” was obnoxiously hot in the ’90s until the “cool parents” realized that their kids were the ones doing drugs and dropping out of life altogether.

Want a kid who loves being an adult in due course? Take a lesson from the parents of the millennial generation: Don’t try to be cool and don’t try to be a friend. Set boundaries, teach pragmatism and enable your kids to rise above, not win all the time. Because that’s what “adulting” is all about.

Image credit: Etsy.

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