My Definition of an Adult

This post is a lead-in to next week’s post titled “College and the Homeschooler” but it really applies to all parents so I hope you will read it and consider sharing it.

In order to offer some basis/legitimacy for the positions I take in this post, and also to give some background to those who may be reading this blog for the first time: I am a mother to four children ages 26, 23, 17 and 9.  I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost 27 years and I’ve also homeschooled my children for over 20 years.  Two of them were homeschooled through high school and now have college degrees (one has a Master’s degree).

My 17-year old and 9-year old are still homeschooled.  The 17-year old is dual-enrolled at the community college and is entering his senior year.  My 9-year old provides the comic relief in our family.  🙂

Okay, on to the subject of my post – “My Definition of an Adult.”

My definition of an adult can be put rather succinctly: an adult is someone who pays their own bills.  That includes, but is not limited to: rent (or mortgage), utilities, phone bills, auto expenses, insurance, savings, fun money, etc.

One of the reasons I decided to write this post is that over the years it has become more and more apparent to me that too many parents actually have no clue what it actually means to be a parent.   In fact, it is not uncommon these days for parents to have the puzzling notion that their teenagers should actually be making life-changing decisions about their lives, such as whether or not to go to college, what to study, what career to pursue, what relationships to be involved in and so on.

Furthermore, it is mind-boggling to me how many parents actually let their children decide whether or not they want to be homeschooled!  What are these parents thinking?

Okay, let me stop here and say, if you get nothing out else out of this post, understand this: you are the parent for a reason.  You are the adult.  You are presumably (hopefully) the one with more wisdom, more life experience, more understanding of how the world works, etc. and therefore you are the one who is supposed to be telling your child what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and most certainly, what not to do.  Too many parents hold to the ridiculous notion that the hormone-driven creatures who share their household (otherwise known as teenagers) actually have the right to make decisions for themselves that will undoubtedly impact their lives for years, if not decades!  It’s ludicrous.

I’m quite specific what I expect from my children.  I am certainly a stickler for handing out plenty of love and hugs, but I also know that my job is to prepare my children for life.  Therefore, I do not hesitate to make demands on my children because if I don’t, then I am not doing my job.  To further enlighten you on some of the firm expectations that I have for my children, I have compiled the following list of some of the things that I expect from my children that are non-negotiable:

1) They are required to get a college degree.  This is not an option.  Several years before college comes along I discuss with my children possible college majors based on their particular talents and interests.  As a parent you should be the one person in the world who knows your child best.  If, for whatever reason, this is not the case where you and your child are concerned, I strongly suggest you work on correcting that ASAP.  As a parent who has spent considerable time with my children (to put it mildly) I am certainly aware what their interests are and what their strengths are.  

I’d like to offer you an example of how this played out in my family with my oldest son: my now 23-year old son had decided by the age of 13 or 14 that he wanted to be a professional golfer.  I absolutely supported this goal and even spent a considerable amount of time and money driving him around the southeast U.S. taking him to junior golf tournaments.  He felt that since he was going to be a professional golfer he didn’t need to get a college degree.  I made it clear that wasn’t an option.  In time we decided that he would pursue a business degree because business degrees can be the basis for many career choices – and if he decided to someday go into business for himself it would benefit him in that respect too.  After he graduated college (at the age of 20 with a degree in Business Management and a 4.0 GPA) he took a job at a golf course and spent the next couple of years working on his golf game.  Recently, he decided to put that dream on a shelf to pursue a career in politics.  Having a business degree is definitely a great advantage to him now.

2) My children are not allowed to date recreationally.  They are certainly allowed to have friends of the opposite sex and they do, but until they are finished with school, and that includes college, they are not permitted to “date.”  There are several reasons for this.  First of all, our family is a Christian family and the Bible is our standard for life.  The Bible is very clear on the standard for sexual behavior and that is that sex belongs in marriage, period.   It is not open for discussion no matter what current trends or popular opinion might be.  It is complete foolishness for parents to expect teenagers – remember those hormone-driven people I mentioned before? – to go off by themselves on “dates” and not end up at some point having sex.  Maybe not the first date or the first month of dates, but eventually they will begin to cross the line that God has set for sexual behavior.  Moreover, I would like to point out that the Bible does not say that “petting” is okay or that getting to “third base” is acceptable as long as it goes no further – the biblical standard is purity.  It is what God expects and therefore it is what I expect from my children as well.

Moreover, recreational dating distracts kids from what they are supposed to be doing at this stage of their life which is: getting an education, contributing to their family (through doing chores or helping out with younger siblings) and learning real-life skills.  Recreational dating is an unnecessary and dangerous distraction and completely unnecessary.  Your children will be far more prepared for marriage by having platonic relationships with members of the opposite sex where they can learn to relate to others without the complications that a physical relationship inherently brings with it.  Once they graduate college there will be plenty of time to pursue a relationship that may end in marriage – and it could well be that someone they have been friends with for years may be “the one.”  Or perhaps they will meet their future mate once they embark on a career.  Whatever may be the case, when children pair off in psuedo-marital relationships (which is what I contend today’s dating culture is like) they waste valuable time that should be invested in their education and other more worthwhile pursuits.  I realize this is a radical position to take given our sex-saturated and youth-driven culture, but I make no apologies for it.

3) In addition to these requirements I also require my children to actively pitch in as a member of our family.  As I noted before, I believe that children at this stage of life should be spending a significant amount of their time contributing to the family whether that is by doing household chores, caring for siblings, or maybe even working in a family business.  Too many parents expect too little from their children and as a result you have college graduates who don’t even know how to clean a bathroom!  I have trained my children how to clean a house and as a result – they clean my house!  My sons know how to clean bathrooms, wash windows, dust and vacuum.  My daughter moved out in the last year to be closer to her work but when she lived at home, besides helping with the housework, she also did a good bit of the cooking.  Since she moved out my 17-year old has shown an interest in cooking so I am “letting him” help me out in the kitchen.  It’s good training for him and helps me out as well.

One of the problems I see with kids today, which is something that parents are allowing and facilitating, is that teenagers (and even younger children) seem to believe they have a right to a social life!  While my children have been involved in many “extra-curricular” activities throughout the years and have had opportunities to develop many friendships, some that have lasted for well over a decade, I do not allow social activities to supersede the other responsibilities my children have.  In other words, my children are not entitled to socialize or hang out with their friends.  It is appalling, quite frankly, that parents allow their children to think that they have the right to hang out with their friends every weekend.  Why?  I certainly don’t get to spend my weekends socializing!  More often than not I am catching up on paperwork, laundry, and anything else that has fallen through the cracks during the course of a normal week.  Why is it that teenagers think they have a God-given right to spend their weekends hanging out with their friends?  Because their parents have let them think that.  It’s simply ridiculous.

To bring this post to a close, I’d like to make a couple of final points.  The first pertains to something that I doubt many parents think of today, or if they have thought of it they have arrived at erroneous assumptions that have caused them to make unwise decisions concerning their children.  In ages past it is true that people married and embarked on careers (or perhaps more appropriately “vocations”) at earlier ages than they do now.  It was not unusual for young people to marry at the age of 17 or 18, or to take on a full-time vocation at this age.  But I would like to point out something that people seem to forget: with few exceptions parents were involved in those decision processes.  When we see periods in human history where a young person would apprentice at the age of 13 or 14 (or even younger), it was the parents who arranged the apprenticeship.  Remember arranged marriages?  It wasn’t so long ago that arranged marriages were standard fare.  In other words, it was accepted that these decisions were too important to leave to young people – and I contend that they still are.

I further contend that when parents leave these decisions to their children to make, they are leaving their children rudderless.  They are failing their children.  Your teenagers are not equipped to make decisions that will certainly have a profound bearing on what their adult life will look like.  In fact, I believe that when you let your child decide these important decisions you are actually contributing to their continued immaturity and adolescence.  You are making it that much harder for them to get on the road to adulthood by not giving them direction and moreover, by not making demands on their behavior.  You not only have the right to make those demands, you have an obligation to.

My definition of an adult is someone who is paying their own bills.  As long as your children are depending on you to put a roof over their head and to have groceries in the pantry, they should not be unilaterally making decisions about their future.  They should not be spending inordinate amounts of time “hanging out” and “chilling.”  They need to be learning what real life is and that means work.  They need to be focused on their studies and contributing to the family through chores, caring for their siblings, etc.  If you tell them to jump, they should be asking “how high?”  The more you expect from them the more they will be prepared to function as full-fledged adults – and in this day and age that is truly a novel idea, don’t you think?

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  • But do we have to question the homeschooling competence of a parent who would have such a standard – *asking the child if they want to be homeschooled*?

    I see and hear parents, within the homeschooling community, wield this criteria often.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think it’s as much a question of homeschooling competence as it is a parenting issue.  I just don’t understand why any parent would let their child choose how they are to be educated.  It’s the parent’s job to make those decisions, not the child’s. 

      • I think it depends on the teen in question. I know a family who homeschooled their 4 children from kindergarten through highschool. Their youngest daughter wanted to be a doctor though, and felt that she would have better access to the courses she wanted at the public high school. They allowed their daughter to make the decision not to homeschool because she was extremely resposible. She has since paid her way through her first 3 years of university and has numerous scholarships.

        • Anonymous

          My problem with the public school system is a moral one not an academic one.  I was a good student and pushed myself and therefore was able to pursue advanced courses and did well.

          However, there are few parents, including Christian parents, who realize what is going on in the public schools and what is really being taught there, in and out of the classroom.  Even though I am a homeschooling parent, and have been for over 20 years, I keep my pulse on what is going on in the schools (mostly through the website) and frankly, I know more than I would like to about what actually goes on in the schools.

          From a moral perspective, I don’t want my children constantly subjected to a humanistic, politically liberal/socialist philosophy which I guarantee you is present in every school in this country.  In addition, I can guarantee you that every young woman in high school or even middle school today is subjected to sexual harassment if not outright sexual abuse that they never report to anyone.  The expectation is you simply put up with it if you want to be accepted.  This was going on when I was in school 30 years ago (I could tell you stories about what I was subjected to but I won’t go there right now) – and it’s even worse today.  In addition, young men are being systematically taught that: women are objects, porn is cool, sex is recreation.  In the CLASSROOM they are taught this.  I am not making this up.  So no matter how responsible my son or daughter is, I am not going to expose them to this.  Protecting my kids is one of my most important jobs as a parent and it’s just as important when they are teens as when they are little…it’s just that the issues are different.

          In any case, I’m glad you took the time to read this and comment.  I put a lot of time and a lot of “myself” into this post so it’s nice to know someone actually read it!  

          • Anne, I agree to what you are saying and really appreciate your post. I know that there is a lot that I can learn from you, and am looking forward to future posts!
            I feel very strongly about protecting my children as did the family that I wrote about. And though I feel that 99% of teens should not be allowed the choice to homeschool, I also feel that there are rare teens whose maturity and strength of character allows them to be a light in the darkness of the public high school system.
            I really appreciated point #2 in your post. Recreational dating is incredibly dangerous, and we will not be allowing our children to date (or court) until the are ready to marry. I know it sounds terribly old fashioned, but I feel strongly that the first kiss should be at the altar.

  • Cathy

    Thank-you for such an unapologetic post about your parenting philosophy.  I really needed a strong post such as this to encourage me on my parenting journey.  I feel the same about all of your points, but am surrounded by parents who do not.  It is so hard to second guess myself – especially when I am going through the teen years for the first time (well second if you count my own,lol) and my teen is really questioning my authority. 

    • Anonymous


      Thank you for your kind words and I want to encourage you to stand firm!  One thing to remember is that parenting is not a popularity contest.  If you hold to the principles I delineate in this post you will definitely be out of the mainstream and that can often be a difficult place to be, but I can tell you it is worth it. 

      Because I have two grown children already that I have applied these principles to, I can tell you they work.  In fact, I wish I could have recorded all the times I have been told by my kids’ coaches or other adults how amazing my kids are.  They often say it with a note of awe as if to have polite, well-mannered, articulate children is a rare thing these days.  Apparently it is but it shouldn’t be – it does mean taking a tough stand not only against societal influences but also against your children at times.

      I don’t know about your specific situation but I would encourage you, if possible, to get your child around other families that have the same values you do.  If that is not possible, or even if it is, I also recommend you pull out a number of Scriptures that explain that you ARE the absolute authority over your child and post them in the house.  Tell him/her that your authority and decisions for their life are not optional.  If your child is bucking your authority they are also, by extension, bucking God’s authority over their life.  If you want to discuss anything in particular you can always e-mail me at:

      In any case, keep up the good work!  God will give you the strength you need!

      • Cathy

        Thank-you for a great response 🙂  I will have to come back and read over all of this often. 

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