Negotiating With Adult Children

By Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP


Communicating and negotiating with adult children presents significant challenges because these children are no longer children; they are, in fact, adults.  Hopefully, the adult child will have respect for their parents but parents must also provide similar respect and consideration to their adult offspring.  Just as some parents have difficulty altering their parenting practices as the child transitions to the teen, some parents struggle with modifying their parenting as their teen transitions to the adult.

Adult children must be allowed to make their own decisions, almost regardless how foolish the parent believes those decisions are.  While it is recommended that the parent of a teen become a “consultant,” the parent of an adult child, to be successful in that relationship, must become a “discreet consultant.”  The consultant regularly offers his or her advice, but the discreet consultant thinks twice before offering that same advice.

The above-recommended information may vary somewhat depending on the situation:  For example:  If the adult child is married, living on their own or with a significant other, has an occupation, maybe even has a child, the parent in this situation should still feel entitled to provide some sage advice now and then, but should do so sparingly and tactfully.

On the other hand, if the adult child is still living in the parental home, using the parents’ car, eating the parents’ food, leaving a mess for the parents to clean, is not working or is underemployed, comes home late and disturbs the house, or perhaps uses drugs or alcohol, the parent in this case is more than entitled to make specific recommendations and set specific boundaries.  The parent should not nag but be assertive.  In this unfortunate situation, while the child is an adult chronologically, they are living as an adolescent–an immature one–and deserve to be treated as such.


Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for nearly 40 years.  He worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples.  He also provided forensic consultations in the areas of family law, personal injury, and estate planning.  He speaks professionally on marriage, parenting, private practice, and psychotherapy to laypersons, educators, corporations, attorneys, chiropractors, and fellow mental health professionals.  He teaches graduate courses for the Educational Psychology Department of Northern Arizona University.  He is the author of “Who’s Raising Whom? A Parent’s Guide to Effective Child Discipline;” “Coping with Your Adolescent;” “How Come I Love Him but Can’t Live with Him?  Making Your Marriage Work Better;”  “The Graduate Course You Never Had:  How to Develop, Manage, and Market a Flourishing Private Practice—With and Without Managed Care;” “Too Busy Earning a Living to Make Your Fortune?  Discover the Psychology of Achieving Your Life Goals;” and ‘Overcoming Your Negotiaphobia:  Negotiating Through Life.”  His contact information is:  602-418-8161; email–; website–