What Does It Mean To Be An Adult?

This post is sponsored by As always, all opinions are my own.

What Does It Mean To Be An Adult

I have a parenting philosophy that looks like this. It’s my job as a parent to teach my kids how to thrive in a world without me. I know this may sound harsh to some but how can I expect my kids to fly before teaching them how to fly? This includes learning the basic skills like cooking, cleaning and taking care of oneself as well as making sound decisions, taking accountability and planning for their future.

Often parents don’t realize the impact of helicopter parenting or doing too much for their children. While their intention is out of love and care, such parenting style is actually taking away their children’s opportunity to learn important life skills that I believe, is the real precursor of future success.

Teaching kids how to be an adult

What Does It Mean To Be An Adult?

I recently had a chance to sit down with author Julie Lythcott-Haims in an intimate conversation via zoom where I gathered with other parents to discuss what it means to be an adult. 

This is what Julie Lythcott-Haims says about being an adult.

“Being an adult, it turns out, is not about any particular checklist; it is, instead, a process, one you can get progressively better at over time―becoming more comfortable with uncertainty and gaining the knowhow to keep going. Once you begin to practice it, being an adult becomes the most complicated yet also the most abundantly rewarding and natural thing.”

Fast entry into adulthood: my story

Looking back, I became an adult faster than my peers. This is partly because of my independent nature (my mom says I wanted to bathe myself at the age of three), but partly it’s due to upbringing. Like many children of immigrants, I remember returning home to an empty house as young as 4th grade and heating up food for myself and my young siblings while my parents are at work. I also had to play the role of the translator and advocate from a young age as my mother’s English was limited.

Like many children of immigrants, I often had to learn to figure things out on my own whether it was related to school, homework or personal life. While becoming an adult faster than my peers were challenging in some ways, there were pros too as I became more independent, decisive and courageous as a person. 

How I’m parenting today

Now that I’m a parent myself, I see how differently I raise my kids compared to my parents. In some ways, I’m less controlling and allow more room for freedom. While Gen-Z is an entirely different generation, I remember how it feels to be a teenager and how hard it was to feel disconnected from my own parents.

Therefore, I try my best to listen, to empathize, to negotiate, to understand.

On the other hand, there are moments when I feel like my teenagers have too much freedom and too much say. For example, I always allowed my daughter to dress herself ever since she was old enough to make her own decision. Now that she’s a teenager the same rule applies, except her choices of clothing are no longer glittery princess dresses.

Sometimes the crop top looks too short and I have to remind myself that 1) crop tops are on trend and 2) she’s simply expressing herself through clothing the way I did as a teenager. While it’s much easier for me to understand her perspective than it was for my immigrant parents, I still feel like my mom in that I wish she would make different choices. But that would mean I want her to be a different type of person and that’ll be sending her the wrong message. 

I want her to understand and feel that no matter what, I love and accept her wholeheartedly.

basics of fending

So what does it mean to be an adult?

9 basics of fending

According to Julie Lythcott-Haims, there are nine basics of fending, which is basically how to take care of yourself without others’ help. Fending means being responsible and accountable, and it’s our job as parents to make sure our children enter adulthood knowing these nine basics for survival.

1. Attend to the care and maintenance of your body

Everything from personal hygiene, to buying and cooking food, to making appointments, renting or buying a home, etc.

2. Find work that pays your bills

3. Try hard

Real world requires hard and your effort is the critical variable.

4. Make your own decisions

Expect that you can handle everyday questions. Get advice and guidance when mulling over the bigger stuff.

5. Get along with others

Interact with others in a manner that is courteous and respectful while advocating for what you need

6. Keep track of your stuff

From coats to bags and phones, to deadlines and obligations- keep track of them all.

7. Reply and show up

If you’re unable to make it to meeting or appointment, let them know in advance

8. Find your people and care for them

Set aside time and energy to provide what they need in order to feel safe and whole

9. Plan for your future

Save for your future through 401k, insurance, or investments

Beyond the basics 

In addition to teaching them the basics, I want to encourage my children to thrive, to fly with their dreams and passions, whatever that looks like to them. Sometimes this requires more patience and understanding from us parents and it’s hard to know when to let go and when to tighten the reins.

What Does It Mean To Be An Adult

Honoring kids vs. societal expectations

We place great pressure on our kids to excel in all areas of life- academic, extracurricular and social. We expect them to get straight A’s at school, complete their extra credit hours, excel in sports and arts, and get into a top tier college. When we place their self-worth on these outside things, we are not honoring them for who they really are.

Scholars like Julie Lythcott-Haims continues to remind us that its important for parents to honor their kids where they are and show pride, even if they aren’t achieving Straight A’s or don’t get into their list of top colleges. Let our kids know that they are unconditionally loved and rooted for, no matter who they marry, what kind of work they do, and what schools they get into- and this will become their “shield and sword” in the outside world.

What do you think being an adult means? How are you raising your kids to be responsible? Please leave your thoughts and comments below!


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