Dr. Wendy Walsh: Some friends of mine recently became elated when their drug-addicted son turned 18. Finally: The next time he committed a petty crime (such as stealing a neighbor's DVD player so he could get his fix), the judge could order him into court-appointed drug therapy instead of sending him back into the arms of his parents. My friends couldn't privately afford to pay for a residential drug-treatment program, nor could they make their scoundrel son stay in one. Sometimes, even good parents have children who are completely unmanageable and out-of-control -- so it takes a village to help them.
I thought about those friends this week when Paris Hilton
, 29, got arrested in Las Vegas
for cocaine possession. It's her third arrest in a short time. I can imagine her mother pulling out her hair. Parenting
adult children is a sticky situation. First of all, our society (and courts) regard them as independent people solely responsible for their own actions. That's true, but in this current recession, many adult children are moving back home -- and are behaving like ... well, like children. Even worse, some parents are treating their adult children like preschoolers!
While I have no issue with multigenerational living arrangements (which are probably more normal for humans than isolated nuclear families without community support), I think the hardest thing for parents to do is to let their children be responsible for themselves. Those lessons should come earlier than adulthood.
In the book "Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up before They Grow Old," authors Joseph Allen
and Claudia Worrell Allen
say that too many parents "disable" their teenagers. The Allens' suggestions include giving teens real feedback that contains constructive criticism as well as compliments, providing adult connections that teach teens how to relate to grownups in an adult world, and ultimately to do less for teens.
They also advise that parents require their teens to earn money and be responsible for their own spending. Wealthy parents face a unique challenge with this. However, while their teen's part-time job may spit out a paycheck that barely contributes to the lifestyle that Mommy and Daddy have set him/her up with, it will still teach the teen valuable business skills. (Question: Why wasn't Paris Hilton
taught the family
To all those parents who've coddled their "little angels" a decade too long, I remind you that it's never too late to begin tough love. Make clear rules for adult children -- rules that have logical consequences that you are prepared to follow through on. Words don't work, mama, but action sure does. I wonder when Paris' family
will tighten their purse strings as a punishment?