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Thread: When is a child an adult?

  1. #1

    Default When is a child an adult?

    When is a child an adult, and should be able to make their own decisions about curfew, activities, etc. Once a child turns 18, are they then an "adult" and should be free to make all decisions?

    But, what if they are still in high school? Should high schoolers be without a curfew if they have turned 18 while a senior (and still live at home)?

    Once a child goes to college, is that when they are autonomous is their decision making, even if the parent(s) is paying the tuition and living costs?

    I think that once a child lives on their own, and pays all of their own expenses in life, then they get to make all of the decisions about themselves. But if a child is being supported or partially supported by the parent, then the parent still has a voice in the child's lifestyle. Even if that child is 18 or older.

    What do you think? Does a child turn to an adult at 18, free from parental control, even if they are supported by the parent? (I'm not referring to "legally" being an adult - I'm talking about family dynamics).
    Now run along and play, but donít get into trouble.

  2. #2

    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    As the replies roll in on this thread, I suspect you may get a lot of "depends on the kid . . ." answers.

    At age 23 and out of college, but still unemployed, ours is "ready" for some decisions and not others, still lives under our roof.

    He's getting there, though . . .

  3. #3
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    Wink Re: When is a child an adult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amati View Post
    When is a child an adult, and should be able to make their own decisions about curfew, activities, etc. Once a child turns 18, are they then an "adult" and should be free to make all decisions?
    (...)
    What do you think? Does a child turn to an adult at 18, free from parental control, even if they are supported by the parent? (I'm not referring to "legally" being an adult - I'm talking about family dynamics).
    We need to consider a number of factors:

    In terms of family dynamics, a child is an adult when they are willing and able to take care of themselves - or, when they are compelled to, after the legal age of adulthood.

    Children will continue to 'sponge' off the parental feed trough as long as it is in their benefit. When it is no longer in their interest, they will move on.

    When I dropped out of college and got a job, my mom said, "Pay rent and live by my rules." So I left, paid rent elsewhere and lived by my rules.
    Yes, it was a mistake, but it made me grow up - quick.

    Each situation is different, but there is a common thread:

    A minor living in your house should abide by your rules.
    A legal adult living at your expense should abide by your rules - or find other housing.
    A legal adult paying rent has autonomy (i.e., setting their own curfew, etc.), but must still abide by "house rules" (no dope, no visitors, whatever).

    If a legal adult does not like your rules, they are free to find other accommodations.
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    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    If a child is still a senior in high school, even at 18, I think they should still have a curfew. It's respect for their parents as much as anything else. Now, when they come home from college on breaks, that's a stickier subject, but for high school, yes.

    Things like bedtimes, let the kid decide. At 15, 16, 17 years old, a kid can decide for themselves (within reason) when they are tired and need to go to sleep and how to structure their time, unless they need help with it. I guess that's sort of the way I'd go- you know your child, you know how much structure they need. But 15-17 year olds aren't babies. They have definitely preferences on things and should be allowed to start making decisions for themselves within reason. They have to learn somewhere. Parents who let their kids do whatever they want are asking for trouble, but so are parents who tell their kids every little thing to do or to it for them.

    The way society treats youth now, it seems as if you are not really an adult until you graduate from college, have a job, and are self-reliant...if then! Even if you have this, are married and have kids, some people still don't see you as one. I know there are times when I still don't really feel like an adult and I'm 29! People keep telling me, "Oh, you're so young! You're still just a baby!" Really? I am? This makes me uncertain about myself, but then I have to remember that at my age, my mom had 3 kids. I wish the generation before mine would quit doing that "You're still a baby" thing, because most of us in our 20's have been told that so much, we don't feel ready for adulthood, and surprise! We ARE adults. But that's been negated so much by a generation of people who are so terrified of becoming "old", they don't want to move over and make room. So we're kind of stuck in a strange position right now. They keep calling us "kids". So am I an adult yet??

    Can't think of anything creative this time


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    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amati View Post
    When is a child an adult, and should be able to make their own decisions about curfew, activities, etc. Once a child turns 18, are they then an "adult" and should be free to make all decisions?
    But, what if they are still in high school? Should high schoolers be without a curfew if they have turned 18 while a senior (and still live at home)?
    Two problems: teenagers generally lack the cerebral cortex necessary for critical thinking and future planning. They're also subject to having that thinking hijacked by a surge of hormones & emotions released by their brain's amygdala. In other words, when you ask them "What were you thinking?!?" the factual response is "I wasn't, but I sure was feeling!"

    A possible solution: there's scant fMRI research to indicate that the sooner/more often teens are placed in the position of having to actually practice critical thinking and planning, then the sooner they develop those neurons and learn how to overcome their amygdalas.

    In other words, nature loaded their gun but environment can improve their trigger control. This may explain why some teens are mature at the age of 15 while others are still groping for a clue in their 20s.

    As a parent, it's never fun to be the "bad guy" authority figure. When a kid becomes a teen, it's probably essential for a parent to stop being the authority figure-- because that's just a convenient target for teen rebellion. Instead it helps if the parent can make someone/something else the authority figure while the parent reverts to the role of mentor/coach. Then the parent can give the teen more decision-making opportunities and see how they do. The more "correct" decisions, then the more opportunities. With not-so-good results, the parent sadly shakes their head in disappointment and suggests that they'll try again in a few months.

    The state law claims that teens are adults when they're 18, although sexual "adulthood" apparently occurs earlier (go figure) while alcohol adulthood is later (whew!). Whether the parents like it or not, the 18-year-old has the law on their side and is going to start making decisions. Sure hope they've had some decision-making practice before then.

    Some of it is easy-- a 16-year-old driver generally has an 11 PM curfew. You're not the bad guy, it's the state law. As a parental coach/mentor, you remind them that they need to plan far enough ahead that they're done socializing (and giving their friend a ride home) with enough time left over to get home by 11 PM. You can also remind them that if they get pulled over or even ticketed then it's "game over" and they're going to have to wait a few more months before the state trusts them-- not the parent's fault! When they get their full driver's license then you have to revert to concerns over drunks/racers who are more frequently on the road after midnight. As a coach/mentor you could suggest that the teen be off the road (either home or at a friend's house) by midnight. The idea of "sleeping out" will be far more intriguing than the curfew, and they'll generally go along with the curfew. Eventually.

    When our kid would roll in past curfew (whether it was 11 PM or midnight) we tried to keep the lecture short. Just a disappointed head shake with a comment like "We worry about you when you can't follow the rules, and the risk just doesn't seem worth the extra few minutes." Some parents have been known to put an alarm clock by the front door with the alarm set to the curfew time. If the kid gets home before curfew then they shut the alarm off. If not... anyway that threat was enough for our kid, and as far as I know she's never sneaked out after curfew. AFAIK.

    A lot of the decision-making practice has been "what-if" seminars. Oprah, Suze Orman, and reruns of "The Cosby Show" have been very helpful for inspiring family discussions about uncomfortable subjects. We also get a lot done during car trips. (No eye contact, plenty of other visual distractions if necessary.) I spend most of our car time on the subjects of "What teen guys are thinking" (hint: they're not), "Does his behavior make him a chick magnet?" (usually not), and "What teen guys want" (if you don't guess "sex", then guess again).

    I'm not sure how we're going to handle house rules when she turns 18 later this year. We'll have to ask her for ideas, tell her what worries us, and point out that if she can't live with the rules then she should probably live somewhere else. I think the midnight curfew is still a good idea. I think we'd want to get to know any potential houseguests before we agree to "sleepovers", and in exchange we'd probably quietly ignore who's sleeping where. But most of all I'm hoping that all this decision-making practice will pay off.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amati View Post
    Once a child goes to college, is that when they are autonomous is their decision making, even if the parent(s) is paying the tuition and living costs?
    I think that once a child lives on their own, and pays all of their own expenses in life, then they get to make all of the decisions about themselves. But if a child is being supported or partially supported by the parent, then the parent still has a voice in the child's lifestyle. Even if that child is 18 or older.
    What do you think? Does a child turn to an adult at 18, free from parental control, even if they are supported by the parent? (I'm not referring to "legally" being an adult - I'm talking about family dynamics).
    I think 18 is a great time to start impressing upon them that they're almost free of parental control, and to give them an encouraging kick out of the nest. I see college as the ultimate decision-making laboratory where a teen can experiment with hardly any parental supervision, let alone interference. I'd be willing to subsidize that as long as their GPA indicates that they're handling it. Otherwise they'll be departing the subsidized decision lab to pay their own tuition at the School of Life Experience and Hard Knocks!

    Spouse has pointed out that "experience" is what you fall back on when you're learning how to make decisions. Unfortunately the only way to learn from that experience is by making bad decisions-- hopefully of the non-fatal and non-pregnant variety.

    In my experience, I've learned that parenting is a life sentence with no parole, let alone time off for good behavior...
    Last edited by Nords; February 1st, 2010 at 08:46 AM.
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    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    When is my child an adult? When I can't write em off as a dependent anymore.
    Life is what you make of it...so please read the instructions carefully.

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    Red face Re: When is a child an adult?

    Let's see...
    There are responsible children and childish adults so I'm not really sure.
    Hmmm...
    Life is either an adventure... or you're not doing it right!!!

  8. #8

    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    My dad would argue that even at 43 1/2, I am still a child. LOL

    I read that a persons brain doesn't fully develop until they reach 25. I would believe that. How many people, including yourselves, didn't fulling mature until that age? I know plenty of people who didn't settle down to be who they are until around 25. Maybe we should have another category between 18 & 25? Tweild? Tweult? Adueen?

    Serious crimes, committed by teens/children should be treated as adults, as they have been taught the difference of right and wrong early on in life (at least 99% have).

    Or maybe it should be 18 for everything (except serious crime). Taxes, military service, alcohol, smoking, voting, etc. The smart children (ahem, adults) will continue to look toward parents, mentors, etc., to learn about life experiences to make themselves a better adult. So I guess it depends on the child.

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    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    Actually I never fully matured until I had kids. Then I saw the immaturity in them and I figured I had to do better if I was going to be their role model.
    Life is what you make of it...so please read the instructions carefully.

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    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    Nords, I really enjoyed reading your post. I definitely see every pattern you discuss in the family members in our life. My current responsibility is 11, and he is more cooperative and clear thinking that DSS who is 20 with no brain, calling for money and questionable decision skills. I think it depends on the child as well as the parent, too, because DH has two grown offspring that have not required the heavy hand of the 20yrold.

    DH keeps telling me that I will have the same problems with our little one. I pray every day it doesn't happen like that, and keep reading stories of those with experience.

  11. #11

    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    Such interesting responses have been posted. Thanks. But I'd like to toss out there a specific question one more time:

    "When a child turns 18, are they to be considered an adult? Or, if they still are supported by their parents (ie living at home, or college tuition, etc), should they still be answerable to their parents?"
    Now run along and play, but donít get into trouble.

  12. #12

    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    I would say about 86 percent: "My house, my rules."

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    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amati View Post
    Such interesting responses have been posted. Thanks. But I'd like to toss out there a specific question one more time:

    "When a child turns 18, are they to be considered an adult? Or, if they still are supported by their parents (ie living at home, or college tuition, etc), should they still be answerable to their parents?"
    In society, they are adult at 18 with all the rights and responsibilities, and held to that standard by healthcare, police, financial institutions, etc.

    But unless they are totally providing for themselves, I consider them to be children still, and required to answer to those who provide for them.

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    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amati View Post
    Such interesting responses have been posted. Thanks. But I'd like to toss out there a specific question one more time:

    "When a child turns 18, are they to be considered an adult? Or, if they still are supported by their parents (ie living at home, or college tuition, etc), should they still be answerable to their parents?"
    Some 18 year olds can be very mature and ready to lead a group of men into battle, while others are OMGing on the phone and squeeing about nail polish. You know your kids the best. What exact situation are you referring to here?

    Curfews? I believe it's reasonable to set one and to expect them to follow it. When someone comes home at a very late time, they wake up other people in the house. Chores? Absolutely. They live there too. Charge rent? Maybe not at 18. Even if they chose not to go to college and that is a disappointment, isn't it better to allow them a year or so to get on their feet first? But they should contribute to other things, such as doing their own laundry, helping to cook, cleaning, etc. If they want special food items, they should be expected to buy them if they have a job. Basic clothing again, is something parents provide, but designer or above and beyond what's needed should be paid for themselves. Cell phone- that's their responsibility. Also pitch in for gas.

    Are these more of the answers you're looking for?

    Can't think of anything creative this time


  15. #15

    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amati View Post
    "When a child turns 18, are they to be considered an adult? Or, if they still are supported by their parents (ie living at home, or college tuition, etc), should they still be answerable to their parents?"
    Quote Originally Posted by surlygirly View Post
    Are these more of the answers you're looking for?
    Thanks for your input. I'm asking about it in the broad sense. When someone turns 18, are they considered to be an adult, or not, and what if they are still supported (fully or in part) by their parent's money?

    This is not to be confused with obeying "house rules", which all the household members agree to and abide by. Such as no passing out in the living room, no girlfriend/boyfriend "sleep overs" due to other younger children in the home, no hitchhikers allowed to camp out in the yard, keep the toilet seat down, dah dah dah.

    I'm talking decision making. Adults can stay out all night, come home as late as they want (quietly), choose whatever friends they want (even if they are punks or vamps), buy whatever car they want (even if unsafe for a teenage driver to handle or an invitation to a ticket). Adults get to make those decisions and live with the consequences.

    But an 18 year old who still lives at home (supported by parents), or is in college (paid by parents), should they still be under the scrutiny of the parents?

    Personally, I think that if a kid wants to be an adult, then they should take on all the adult responsibilites, including financial. On the other hand, if they want to continue to benefit from money out of the parents' checkbook, then they can expect that the parent will continue to voice their opinions about the youth's choices. ["Yes, I'll pay your college tuition, but I won't pay for you to major in Cinderella's Biography, and to shack-up with your boyfriend/girlfriend while I'm paying the dorm fee!").
    Now run along and play, but donít get into trouble.

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    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    Amati, you hit the nail on the head.

  17. #17

    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    Quote Originally Posted by cyleet99 View Post
    Amati, you hit the nail on the head.
    Well, that is what all my kids have heard when they turned 18.
    Now run along and play, but donít get into trouble.

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    Default Re: When is a child an adult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amati View Post
    But an 18 year old who still lives at home (supported by parents), or is in college (paid by parents), should they still be under the scrutiny of the parents?
    Earlier this decade, spouse's parents lived with us for a couple months and then moved into our rental home. For the next six years they were living in "our home" and were "supported by us".

    Despite this role reversal, every aspect of our life was still subject to their parental scrutiny, even though they'd hypothetically been out of the parenting business for over 20 years. So in the eyes of some parents, a child is never an adult.

    But I'd agree with your definition that an adult is self-supporting. I think it happens a lot sooner with teens when the parents have given them the tools and the training to be able to make those self-supporting decisions. If the parent just slams shut the checkbook then those tools & training end up coming from somewhere (or someone) else...
    Youth may be wasted on the young, but retirement is wasted on the old.
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