What About Young Adult Children?

It is not uncommon for questions to be posed to Steve and me concerning parenting young-adult children. Should they live with their parents? Should the parents have rules in the home and discipline their adult children if they disobey? While this may appear to be a topic relating to only a few, in reality, parents of children of any age will someday be facing these situations. We would love to give parents of young children a vision of what it can be like when their children grow up and still live in their home.

All three of our older children have chosen to live at home until marriage. One is twenty-five and has been married since January of this year. Our other two are twenty-three and twenty, and they both live at home. It is our desire that by sharing our thoughts and experiences with adult children living in our home, you might be challenged and motivated in your own thinking.

We have personally seen the benefit to children remaining at home until marriage. Scripture says that a man leaves his father and mother to be joined to his wife (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7, Ephesians 5:31). This is why we believe it is biblical and beneficial for adult children to live in their family’s home, under parental counsel, until marriage or until the Lord calls them to something else such as mission work.

Here are some other advantages we have personally seen as our children live at home:

  • There are fewer temptations with the accountability of living at home in a family. We see this as very positive. For example, many godly men and women who travel to conferences go with their spouse, an adult child, or a friend. Why? Because they know the temptations that even spiritually mature adults face. How much greater would such temptations be for younger, less mature men and women?
  • The children remain under the spiritual protection and counsel of their parents.
  • Their living expenses are less so they can save for future family needs, as our boys have saved to purchase homes debt-free.
  • Family ties and relationships are maintained.

Proverbs speaks over and over about the differences between a wise son and a foolish son. One characteristic of a wise son is that he heeds the counsel and rebuke of his parents. It is likely the problems that generate the questions such as are in the first paragraph of this article wouldn’t even be brought up if the adult children in the family were spiritually mature. Spiritually mature adult children respect the counsel and boundaries of their parents. We can testify to this from experience.

We haven’t had to require our adult children to obey us. When issues come up, they will ask our counsel. We then discuss the situation, pray about it, discuss it some more, and almost always come to a decision in agreement. If a child has asked to do something we believe to be unwise, through our talking and praying time, they have come to an understanding of why we think that to be so, and also an agreement with it. Occasionally they don’t agree, but they have respected our judgments and accepted them simply because they respect their parents—again a sign of spiritual maturity. The children have been receptive to our counsel.

With adult children, our roles as parents have changed from disciplinarians to friends and counselors—roles that were developing and growing throughout their childhood. We are all still learning how our new roles work. For us, as parents, this has meant we have needed to let go of being in authority in our adult children’s lives.

We have found these years to involve daily opportunities for us to interact with each other in mutual respect. We realize our adult children are to be treated as the adults they are. We are desirous that our relationships with them be characterized by love and deference. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17).

We do not discipline our adult children. The adult child is responsible to the Lord for his decisions. Having our older children’s hearts makes it possible to influence their decisions, but we no longer give consequences for bad choices. Consequences at this point, if there are any, come from the Lord.

The peer activities our adult children choose to participate in would not be an evening of hanging out with friends. Rather, it would be Sarah having a friend over for an afternoon to make cookies and scrapbook. It would be Christopher taking one of his friends out for dinner and fellowship.

Steve and I are far from perfect parents! However, we have had hearts to, as fully as we could, love Jesus and apply His Word in every aspect of our lives, including raising our children. This often led us to make different decisions with the children than other parents were making with their children. Despite those who told us it would never work, we have experienced the joy of watching our three oldest children grow through the teen years and into the young-adult years without rebellion. The Lord has clearly been working in their lives, and He gets all the glory for where they are today.

Steve and I both write extensively on the choices and decisions we have made in child raising. If you have younger children and are interested in the background steps to our young-adult children living at home, then we would suggest you read our book, Keeping Our Children’s Hearts (see Additional Resources, page 385).

If you have a teen or young adult with whom you are having trouble, we suggest Dr. S. M. Davis’ resources, particularly his audio Changing the Heart of a Rebel. We personally do not have the time or the answers to specific questions concerning individual situations but highly recommend Dr. Davis’ materials.

We have had such joy in our adult children living in our home. Certainly, there are times of disagreement, but with the Lord’s help, we work through them. We have seen the benefits of the added accountability and protection of living in the family home for the purity of our adult children. We have personally observed the help parental counsel has been in these children’s lives.

We have loved moving from the role of disciplinarian to the role of counselor. We enjoy conversations and time with our older children. We see them growing in spiritual maturity and often seek input from them on our personal and family decisions. We desire that they feel loved, sheltered, valued, and wanted in our home until the Lord calls them to be married. We would be delighted to see your homes blessed, as ours has been, if your children are living at home as young adults.