A mother and daughter sitting on a couch together, talking

Understanding When It’s Appropriate to Give Your Adult Children Advice

Giving Your Adult Children Parenting Tips

There are an endless number of situations that come up when I’m talking to my kids that make me want to give them parenting tips. It’s then that I have to remember that they’re adults and if they want my advice, they’ll ask for it.

We’ve come up with what I think is a good solution. When they call to vent about something that’s bothering them, whether it’s spouse, child, friend, parent or work related, I’ll generally ask if the conversation is one where they want me to just listen or offer advice.

If it’s the former, I do just that: listen. I will generally make mental notes so that when they’re ready to hear my perspective, then or at a later time, I can recall what we were talking about and what my thoughts were. If they want advice at that time, then I wait until they’re finished venting and ask if they’re ready to hear some suggestions.

Advice Regarding Spouses

One time, when my younger daughter was not happy her husband was thinking about going to the beach with some friends, she called and asked me what she should do.

I asked her how she felt about it. She told me that when they had first started dating and he had not thought the relationship was going to become serious, he told her all about the exploits he and his friends got up to at the beach. When they became serious, she thought she had made it perfectly clear to him that if that’s what he wanted to do, then he wasn’t the person for her. She said he obviously hadn’t gotten it, and she wasn’t sure how to handle the situation.

I suggested she talk to him and ask him how he would feel if the proverbial shoe were on the other foot and she went somewhere with her girlfriends and got up to the sorts of things he and his friends did. Because the discussion was non-confrontational, he was able to see – and more importantly, understand – her point of view. Situation solved.

While it’s not always possible to take a deep breath and be non-confrontational, it is the best strategy for getting another person to see your point of view.

Advice on Being a Parent

I remember the day my daughter told me she was pregnant. I was visiting her and my son-in-law in North Carolina. For quite a while, I had thought I was never going to be a grandparent. My daughter was in her late 30s and my son-in-law was in his 40s. I arrived in Charlotte around mid-day. The kids had both taken the day off from work, so we headed out to lunch.

Once we had ordered, my daughter handed me a wrapped package and card. Needless to say, I was very curious. It wasn’t my birthday or any holiday. I opened the card, which read: “Happy Grandparents Day!” I lost it all together in the restaurant and started crying.

After we got through the standard questions — when are you due, do you know what you’re having, have you thought about name? — my daughter asked the million dollar question: “What advice can you give us about being parents?”

My first response was, “Enjoy every minute. It all goes by way too fast. Just look at you, before I turned around, you went from a baby to a magnificent 37 year old.”

And then I asked her, “Do you remember what I used to say to you and your sister?” She thought for a bit, and then a smile came across her face and she said, “What did you hear me say?”

It was one of the things that my Mom had handed down to me that I handed down to my daughters. I would find that quite often what I wanted them to hear was not actually what they did hear.

So, after we had discussed something I considered important, I would say to them: “What did you hear me say?” That way, when they told me what they heard, if it was not what I had wanted to impart to them, we could correct it right there and then. I told her that far and away that was the best advice I could give her when it came to parenting tips.

Their son in now 4 years old and sometimes when I’m over their house, I will hear her ask, “What did you hear Mommy say?”

Giving Unsolicited Advice

As for giving advice when not solicited, I would advise any parent to first and foremost find out if your kids want your advice. We all have different parenting methods and what worked for you and your kids may not work for your kids in whatever situation they find themselves.

The most important piece of advice I would give to any parent, young or not-so-young, is to tell your children you love them. My girls, my sons-in-law and I ever end a conversation or visit without saying, “I love you.”

Those may be the three most important words in the English language, as long as they are meant when they’re said.

We had one adage in our home when the girls were growing up: “Don’t lie. Everything else can be dealt with.” I never lied to them and they didn’t lie to me. And we still follow that adage today. As a result, even though my kids are now in their 30s and 40s, I love them as much as I did, and probably more than I did when they were young. They are people I would choose to have as friends.

I ask for their parenting tips and they ask for mine. And it all stems from the mutual respect we showed to each other as they were growing up.