Are You Raising Competent Young Adults or Just Big Kids?

Are You Raising Competent Young Adults or Just Big Kids?

Excerpted from Raising Mentally Strong Kids, by Daniel Amen, MD, and Charles Fay, PhD

Eighteen—that magic number we see as “adulthood.” Way before that age most of us hope that our kids are growing in independence, resourcefulness, responsibility, and resilience. As most seasoned parents know, however, it takes well into our children’s mid-twenties, or later, for most of us to feel they no longer need our guidance.

It takes well into our children’s mid-twenties, or later, for most of us parents to feel they no longer need our guidance. Click To Tweet


Basically, a young person’s brain is still developing until their mid-twenties, so they still need parental guidance. “Guidance” doesn’t mean that we need to be overly involved in their adult lives, trying to control their decisions. Nor does it mean that we are rescuing them from their poor decisions or even typical challenges.

Guidance means we are showing that we care and believe in them, continuing to model what we hope they will become, and sharing our wisdom when they want it. That’s why most of the parenting skills of practical neuroscience also apply to young adult children.

When you face relationship challenges or hear about their struggles, don’t hesitate to respond with love and firmness.


To raise mentally strong kids and young adults, you need to know the Five Principles of Love and Logic. Like a delicious meal, the first four principles are the ingredients. The fifth represents the wonderful results of combining them: Mutual Dignity + Shared Thinking + Shared Control + Empathy = Healthy Relationships.

  1. Develop mutual dignity with adult children.

The principle of mutual dignity means that both parties in a relationship treat each other with great respect and worth.

Putting someone on a pedestal and lavishing them with praise and gifts meant for royalty creates great confusion, a sense of entitlement, and anger toward the ones bearing gifts. It also plays a sad role in stunting their ability to handle adversity.

Mental strength is always lacking in people who’ve been idolized and expected to do very little. They express more anxiety, lower academic achievement, substance abuse, and other negative outcomes.

When someone tries to do everything for us and give us all that we need and want, it interferes with the hard work required to grow up and develop the hallmarks of maturity. Like wildlife consistently fed by a well-meaning yet unwise animal lover, we become dependent.

This dependency leads to resentment, which often promotes aggression. Mental health professionals often call this outcome hostile dependency.

Developing mutual dignity requires:

  • Asking nicely
  • Maintaining healthy boundaries
  • Setting limits that place responsibility and accountability where it belongs 

2 (and 3). Strengthen shared thinking and shared control.

Boundaries help transition responsibility and accountability to where it belongs. When you embrace them, you give up trying to control your child. You allow them to take control and learn to use their brains. That’s the only way your children will grow up and you’ll transition out of the parent role.

  1. Use empathy.

Empathy in parenting is a lifelong skill that will keep your relationship with your children healthy, even if they get off track as adults. It’s essential that empathy accompanies listening, requests, and boundaries at any age.

  1. Create healthy relationships.

When you raise kids with a practical neuropsychological approach, you give them the foundation they need to become mentally strong adults who are confident, competent, and resilient. Other factors may come into play that make young adulthood challenging for them to navigate.

In any case, remember that your grown children are the only ones responsible for their choices. Your job is to love them with firmness, kindness, and empathy. Your consistency will strengthen your relationship, emphasize that they are in control of their own lives, and assure them that they know where to turn for support.


You will find a Quick Boundary Test and more parenting strategies for young adults in the book Raising Mentally Strong Kids.

In the book, Raising Mentally Strong Kids, brain and mental health expert Dr. Daniel Amen and child psychologist Dr. Charles Fay have teamed up to reveal what’s missing from most parenting books. It’s the fact that you need to address both the brain and the mind of your child (and yourself) in order to be an effective parent and raise competent humans.

In this groundbreaking, science-backed book where neuroscience meets practical psychology, parents are given proven tools to help children of all ages go from defiance, meltdowns, and power struggles to being responsible, resilient, and confident. Order your copy now and put your child on the path to a brighter future.

If you want to join the tens of thousands of parents and children who have already learned how to be mentally stronger at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.  

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Contact Us