Today I want to talk about Adulting – what is it, how to do it, how to teach your children to do it and why it is particularly difficult for co-dependents to do.
This blog is for women who struggle with life, or aspects of it, including relationships or parenting , curbing bad habits or managing challenging behaviours – your own or others.
I want to explain how you might find yourself in circumstances that range from less than ideal to downright dangerous and possibly even out of control. Those circumstances might include finding yourself in an abusive relationship, constantly fighting with your children, struggling to manage your child’s behaviours, struggling to manage your own behaviours, getting in over your head financially, struggling with health issues, having trouble keeping a job.
I am talking about anything that gets in the way of you enjoying a consistently contented and functional life and the reason I want to do that today is so that you don’t need to find yourself in those circumstances again and again and again, wondering how you got there.
Let me start with the wise words of educator Joy Lalor, who said “when a child’s needs are being met, there’s no such thing as a behavioural issue”.
Those of you who have read my contribution to the book Domestic Detox will know that hearing those words for the first time was positively life-changing for me because this gave me the perfect direction in which to start channelling my energies as a parent, which in turn changed the way in which I and my children experienced life.
That same wisdom can also be applied to adults because there are no such things as behavioural issues when an adult’s needs are being met either. In fact, being able to meet your own needs is what adulting is all about.
Our job as parents is to teach our children how to adult. Adulting means being able to function independently of another person, with emphasis on the word function, and being able to function independently specifically means being able to adequately meet our own needs. So our job as parents is to teach our children how to adequately meet their own needs so that they can be a happy, contributing and functional member of society which in turn feeds in to higher needs for esteem and belonging.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which I mentioned in last week’s blog, we all have needs and there is an order in which those needs have to be met for us to be able to develop and progress to greater achievements in life.
It is hard to adult well, however, if our parents didn’t teach us how to do it, and especially if we grew up in a co-dependent household where we were not encouraged to identify our needs, take responsibility for them and go about filling them for ourselves nor ask for help in filling them. In these cases, we literally have to learn how to parent ourselves and teach ourselves how to adult, which is exactly what this blog is about.
What you need to know:
1 I once heard James Rohn say that “hard work is usually the accumulation of all the little things you didn’t do when you had the chance”. Know that for every effect, there is a cause, and more often than not, there is a succession of causes that add up to any extreme effects, as is the case if you should find yourself in an abusive relationship or a violent situation, or if you find you need to file for bankruptcy, or if you find out you have a chronic illness.
2 Know that extreme circumstances are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of cause and effect and they are the result of certain needs continually going unmet. If you keep driving your car without topping up the oil in it you will eventually blow the motor up and the same principal applies to us. If we continue to live with unmet needs, we will wake up one day with some serious issues to face and we might struggle to find the resources to alleviate what has become an emergency.
3 Know that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. That includes your children if you have them. That includes your partner if you have one. That includes your parents. And it includes you. We might not be disciplined or motivated to do the right things every minute of every day. There are days when it feels right to stay in PJ’s and hide from the world when we might be better off cleaning house or exercising or doing bookwork. But we certainly won’t be motivated to cause someone harm or steal, and our bodies are not going to fall apart if we are meeting our basic needs most of the time.
4 Many of us were raised with a behaviour management model that included punishment for poor choices and errors in judgment. Know that it is going to be much more helpful for you to look for the underlying unmet need in any situation, and seek to address that adequately so that there is no cause for the difficult circumstances you find yourself in to continue, rather than unconsciously looking to punish yourself or others. Blame and punishment just take us away from the solutions we need to create real change.
5 Know the difference between a need and a want. You might want to play on the PlayStation all day long but if you do it every day for a month and choose not to go to work you are not going to be able to meet your basic need for food and that might be a problem.
6 Know that it is important to be honest with yourself. You might be meeting your basic need for food but if you are only feeding yourself and your family Kentucky Fried Chicken then you are not meeting your need adequately. The food we actually need is nutritious and contains the basic building blocks our bodies and brains need to develop and grow and remain healthy.
I encourage you to study Maslow’s chart and identify areas where you might be neglecting yourself or your family with the view to correcting any imbalances before they become big issues.
If you have children it is never too early to talk to them about needs and get them to take responsibility for them as early as possible so that it is perfectly natural for them to continue that into adulthood. Neither is it too early to ask them what they think they need in a given situation. You might be surprised by their wisdom.
Until next week, take care.
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