Trial Independence (Ages 18–23)
Living away from home and out in the world for the first time, with a host of more grown-up responsibilities and commitments that must be met, the final stage of adolescence is the most challenging of all. Most young people do not find an independent footing right away. They break commitments, they struggle with responsibilities, they lack direction, and they usually make some choices that get them into trouble.
Now your disciplinary help is needed more than ever, but it needs to be only instructional, not correctional. Your son or daughter is too old to accept or benefit from your punishment, but is not too old to profit from what you have to teach. This openness to your instruction, however, depends on your altering your traditional role as managing parent.
You have to give up that role for another: mentoring parent. As a mentor, you are no longer in the business of trying to “make” your young person mind your discipline. You are not even in the business of telling him or her how to behave.
Instead, you are someone to whom your young person, after choosing his or her way into trouble, can come for advice about ways to choose his or her way out. You are now safe to come to because you do not express disappointment, worry, criticism, anger, or despair. You are a source of ideas, of wisdom from life experience.
What do approaches to discipline in early childhood and trial independence have in common?
At both extreme stages of growth, parents are best served relying on instructional discipline, rarely, if ever, resorting to correction.
And you are a source of empathetic and encouraging support, expressing complete confidence that your son or daughter has what it takes to cope with the unfortunate situation a poor choice has created, to find a way to responsibly resolve the situation, and to learn from mistakes. Mentoring is your disciplinary role during the final period of your child's growing up.