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Friends & Family Experiment #1: Earning “Adult Respect”

We will always be our parents’ children. That is not something we can outgrow. Even when you are 60 years old, have built a legacy, and a family, you will STILL be your parents’ child. You can’t change being their child, but you CAN stop acting like one! Want “adult respect”? Let’s experiment with how to EARN IT.



The feeling of deep admiration for a twentysomething by an elder, elicited by the twentysomething’s actions, attitude, and ability to keep their shit together.

Synonyms: Pending. This is a very real thing that I coined five minutes ago.

Story Time…

The other day I was talking to a friend who was venting about the stress that her parents put on her. I sympathized because, well, we have ALL been there. Even our parents have been there. It’s a cycle! Then, I heard her mom in the background calling her for dinner. She kindly asked me, “Can you hang on one sec, Jess?” Then promptly flipped her tone and screamed down what I imagine had to be a long hallway or three flights of stairs, judging by the volume of her exclamation,


It was like I had been transported back to high school. I couldn’t BELIEVE how childish she sounded. I knew this girl to be a sweet and responsible 27-year-old woman with a full-time career, a stable relationship and a seemingly very adult life. BUT she recently moved back in with her parents. This part I do not judge. In fact, my husband and I lived with both sets of parents for a period of months over the past 5 years, while we transitioned from college to adulthood, and then again from New York to Florida. Due to the burden of student loans and ludicrous cost of rent in New York, it is difficult to stay afloat without at least one roommate, so my friend was temporarily saving herself some money. Smart! I get it!

Here is where I have a bone to pick. As twentysomethings our status as “adults” in the eyes of our elders is not much determined by our circumstances, but by our attitude and actions. It’s that simple. If you want to be treated like an adult you need to ACT LIKE ONE.

Whether you are 20 or 29 (or even 59, honestly) there is a chance that both or one of your parents still treat you like a kid. But here is the tough pill to swallow, YOU ARE PART OF THE REASON!

Here is the 6 Step Experiment I propose we try in order to FULLY evolve into adults in our parents’ eyes. Let’s become the Charizard to our childhood Charmander:

1. Stop making Pokemon references.

2. Take 100% Accountability. It is your job to establish a new ADULT relationship with your parents, boss, teachers, etc. Admit that if your parents are still treating you like a child it is for 1 of 2 reasons:

  • You are acting like a child.

  • You are no longer acting like a child, but when they start to treat you like a child you do not explain candidly that you are no longer 15, but revert back to sounding like you are 15.

3. Acknowledge that YOU are the one who is changing, not them. Kelly Williams Brown, a fellow twentysomething and the hilarious author of “Adulting”, points out that “the burden of proving that growth is on you.” Kelly hit the nail on the head when she said, “If you’ve been off at college, you’ve continued growing but [your parents] haven’t been there to witness it. They were there when you started walking, but they weren’t there on the first day of your real, grown-up job.”

4. Don’t use your parents as an ATM. Up until very recently, my Dad (whose itinials are STM) used to joke about changing his name to Alan or Adam, making it more official for my brother and I who borrowed (and sometimes didn’t pay back) money so frequently that he might as well have been an ATM. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that you will not earn total “adult respect” until your parents are no longer paying for your rent, cell phone bill, car insurance, health insurance, and DEFINITELY not until they stop giving you an allowance. (I heard a 22 year old guy say this the other day and I nearly had a heart attack. Get a part-time job.) In fact, if you are financially capable, and still lacking “adult respect”, you might consider picking up the bill! This indicates that you recognize that the burden and obligation of your relationship is now mutual. Boom! Success!

5. Don’t use your parents as an Indefinite Landlord. If you need to move back in with your parents for financial or logistical reasons, it’s OK, it can happen to the best of us. Just make sure you SET A DEADLINE! If you do not have a “move-out date” established, you will be surprised at how easily you can slip back into your teenage habits. Aside from prolonging the highly coveted “adult respect” status I know you desire, you are likely neglecting the skills required to take care of yourself, like: cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, hosting guests, etc.

6. Set some boundaries. Let them know if they are overstepping. You are now the only person who can decide the details of your future and their opinion, while probably very WISE is now just an opinion and not a deciding factor. While this is an essential part of establishing your independence, be considerate of the fact that they may still be mourning your adolescence and you should remind them that you still love them and value their input.

There are endless differences between kid you and adult you – not just in your eyes, but in the eyes of the people who raised you. “Adult Respect” is a MAGICAL state where you and your parents can discuss BOTH of your lives, because part of this new stage is recognizing that your parents are people outside of “mom” and “dad”. They probably even have first names!

Uphold your end of the bargain. You must grow into an adult, in both attitude and action before earning a place as an adult in their eyes. Be respectful and thoughtful yet stern with your parents when in disagreement about your life choices. Let me know how this experiment worked for you! Do you have any additional steps that helped you make this awkward transition? Share in the comments!

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