"Mom, can I go Sam's party on Saturday night?"
"Well, where is it? Will his parents be home?" "Sam rented an Air B&B out in the country. No adults will be there."
"Will there be drinking? "Yes."
"Well, I have to be honest and say I'm not wild about the idea. But you're old enough to make these kinds of decisions for yourself. You know you can call me any time day or night if you need me to come and get you and any of your friends?"
"Thanks, Mom. I'm going to go and I know I can call you if anything doesn't feel right."
So now, your 16-year old son goes to the party and comes home the next day. When you ask him how the party went, he tells you there was no cell service so he couldn't call you. The music was so loud the cops got called. He ends up in the backseat of a car all night, holding the head of a friend who puked on his feet and passed out.
What do you say when your son tells you that's how the party went???
P A U S E ~ Breathe Mama.
IF you say any version of this: "I told you I didn't want you to go! Next time, you're staying home. Think of all the bad things that could have happened!! You're grounded and you're never allowed to see Sam again!!"
IF that's how you react, do you think your son will tell you about the next party?
My tip for parents of emerging adults (aka "teens"):
Whenever your emerging adult tells you something that brings up fear, take a big deep breath and say, "I'm glad you told me." Those are your power words. Have them ready!
It gives you time to get your UNDERSTANDABLE fear in check.
It addresses the bigger arc of your relationship: Keep your kid coming to you. Keep him telling you what's really going on.
It gives you a moment to formulate a response that will help BUILD UP your emerging adult's autonomy and keep your relationship close.
Here's a possible response:
"I'm glad you told me. (pause) That sounds rough. How was that for you?"
Listen intently to your son's response. If you are truly open & accepting of his real reaction, he may be willing to admit he didn't actually like the way the party turned out,
If he does, you might respond:
"What do you think you'll do next time there's a party?"
Listen to what he learned. What he internalized.
"Next time, I'll make sure there's cell service."
"Next time, I'll make sure the music isn't loud enough to make the neighbors call the cops."
Eventually, after a few more parties that turn out not to be that much fun, your son (like mine) may decide he's had enough of high school drinking parties.
Or maybe he won't.
The point is - even when you are RIGHT and even when not-so-great-things happen, always resist the urge to say "I told you so."
Those 4 words are incredibly divisive and demeaning for emerging adults to hear. They KNOW you were right. The point is, THEY need to internalize what THEY learned from THEIR experiences on their own AND with your GUIDANCE and support.
Every time you feel yourself about to say "I told you so," find something more relational to say. If your emerging adult senses you internally saying, "I told you so," they will FEEL its effect no matter what you say out loud. So you truly need to align your inner and outer voices.
Instead of giving in to your understandable fears, DECIDE to feel inside and out that this is a learning moment; a chance for your emerging adult to internalize his own sense of what's best for him, and a chance for you to show you care about him and you trust him to learn and grow from this experience.
Instead of "I told you so" try:
"That sounds hard."
"How did you feel when that happened?"
"What do you think you might do differently next time?"
"Is there a way I can help or support?"
"Let go of being right, in order to be relational." ~ Elisabeth Harrod, Purpose Parenting
Try it with your emerging adult and see how it goes. I'd love to hear your experiences.