We Aren’t Preparing Our Kids To Fly
More and more of our children are deciding to stay in their parent’s nest longer, and parents are struggling with the ramifications of their extended stays.
As parents, we want the best for our kids. Sometimes we don’t pour into them in how we should. Sometimes it’s our faults. Kids don’t come with manuals and often we didn’t get the best parenting ourselves. We are just fumbling through life trying to do what we believe is right. Other times our little angels are just hard-headed and stubborn. Some parents don’t have the willpower or strength to deal with hard-headed, know-it-all, disrespectful teens. Those parents usually have trouble getting their kids out of their nests and out of their wallets/purses.
Adult children are relying on their parents far past the formative and college years to sustain them. We need to look to nature for guidance on how to deal with kids who just won’t leave. Birds must learn to become self-sufficient in a very short time. Surely we’ve gotta be smarter than birds.
If a wild bird can mature in a few short months to become self-sufficient and leave the nest, why does it take humans 24 to 30 years or more sometimes to do the same? A bird leaves home before a kid. Let that sink in.
Birds Don’t Allow Their Babies To Stay in the Nest Forever
Baby birds (also called fledglings) learn how to fly by trial and error with encouragement from mama birds. While the age of the fledglings taking flight may vary by species. Usually young birds fledge within a matter of weeks. Western bluebirds attempt flying within 21 days. While trying to fly, the fledgling will stay nearby for another two weeks before becoming fully independent. During this time, the mother will continue to feed them. Eastern bluebirds will leave their mother’s nest after only 15 to 20 days. Sometimes they hang around to help parents raise another brood that same year. Kestrels take a little longer to leave their parent’s nest, usually beginning taking short flights 30 to 36 days after hatching. The Common Raven takes up to 48 days to fledge.
Mothers will continue to feed their fledgling for a few days after they have learned to fly to ensure they receive enough food. Fledglings will become baby birds, flying off into the world freely to do whatever young baby birds do until they mature. The one thing they don’t do is continue to live with their parents.
If birds know their babies should leave the nest, why don’t humans.
Plenty of Wild Animals Make Their Kids Leave Home
When young male lions are two or three years old, they leave their pride and attempt to take over another male’s pride. Sea lion mothers and pups stay together for up to two years before the pups head out on its own.
Not all animals kick their kids out of the nest quickly. Some animals never leave their families, but they help take care of their families. Orangutans, African elephants, orca whales, and lots of female animals like the African lions become the matriarchs of their families. Animals who live in their families for extended periods of time contribute to their families, they don’t look for their parents to sustain them.
Mostly, animals have different time frames for their children to leave. Animal parents help ween their children to independence while teaching them to survive on their own. Unless human parents have children with special needs which prevents self-sufficiency, they too should teach their children to leave their nests and to care for themselves.
Why Aren’t Your Baby Birds Flying
Some of us have old rusty baby birds that are 23, 28, 37, and even 40 years old who have never flown from their parent’s nest. When I ask some parents why their kids are still home, I get many ridiculous excuses. I had one mother told me she would allow her son to live in her basement rent free after graduating from college. This woman has already paid for her to attain a four-year degree undergraduate degree in journalism. He decided once he completed his four-year degree he wanted to pursue a master’s degree in journalism. I looked at her as if she was crazy for several reasons.
First, anyone with eyes to see understands journalism careers are going down the tubes the same way manufacturing did in the 90s. Newsrooms are laying off, downsizing, and changing daily. Why would she pay for her child to take a degree program that’s not in demand by the federal government? That made no sense to me. So, I asked this mom would the Masters’ degree improve her son’s career outlook. She answered, “No,” which left me more dumbfounded. The final straw of non-sensory was when she told me her son had a job (not in his field), but had no responsibilities or obligations for his money. He lived free in her basement and she just wanted him to be okay financially. He’s a 22-year-old college graduate, with a job, no bills, no wife, no kid, who is getting ready to return to school to get a degree that won’t make him more employable but it will cost his mother more money.
His mother works 2 jobs so he can live free. Does this make any sense?
When my children were in middle school, I began preaching to them they couldn’t live with me unconditionally forever the way they did when they were young children. I created plans for them which included college or trade school and I offered them any and everything I had when they were kids so they understood the seriousness of flying the coup. My plans included not having kids before they could feed and house them, and they couldn’t have a wife and bring her to my house to “save money” as they started their new lives either.
I told my sons they could have my bed, my pots, whatever they needed in our house to help them start out in life, but they had to go. I promised to help with job hunts, first months rents and utilities, got them a piece of a car, and paid their rent up for two-three months so they could have a cushion. All of it was more than either of my parents of foster care did for me. By the time they each finished college, they were ready to live on their own.
Nothing would have adult children living with me forever, and I mean nothing. I told them they could come back home only after they’ve tried life on their own and failed at it. It’s been nine years and counting.
They all left, they all tried, and they all succeeded. If not successful, they’ve made it. One tried to come back for an idiotic and childish reason and the parental delegation of our household declined his request. My oldest son decided he wanted to move back home to have money to be with his friends and go to college football games on the weekend, after we had helped him find a job, get an apartment, get a piece of a car. Our answer was no. We didn’t care if he didn’t have any money after he paid his bills. We had other kids to get into and out of college, and sometimes in life we’re broke! So what, deal with it. He didn’t want to do anything to change his circumstances such as get another job or find a part-time job. The first thing that came to his mind was to be less responsible by making his problems and wants ours. I opted out of his shenanigans and I felt no guilt about it.
Our adult kids will do what we allow them to do. Our adult kids will use us as crutches for as long as we allow them to use us. Our adult children will be irresponsible and make poor choices as long as we are their safety nets.
Even my problem child knows he can’t ever come back to my home. He decided he was grown at the ripe old age of 18 with the least amount of advice and support thanks to his poor attitude and unteachable spirit. When things got bad, he wanted to come back home, but I refused. He made his bed hard; he needed to lie in it. I missed no sleep, and I didn’t care about his hardships. Some kids learn better when real life kicks them in their asses. The lesson works well for both boys and girls, especially disrespectful ones.
Parents should get their ungrateful and disrespectful birds out of their homes and extend their lives! Kids today will suck the life out of you. Entitled little monsters grow up to become entitled big monsters.
My kids learned early they couldn’t live with me all their lives. I made sure they knew I eventually wanted to sit around in my pajamas or watch TV in my nightshirt, have my own friends over for adult time, or enjoy my spouse where ever and whenever I wanted to. Can’t do any of those things with your adult kids lurking around your house. I also wanted to spend my money, eat my own foods, have privacy, not see my kid’s friends, and not hear them coming in and out living their best lives on my dime. None of these things can ever happen if I didn’t teach my kids to fly and push them out of the nest.
We need to take lessons from the animal kingdom. Kids aren’t meant to stay around forever.
Preparing Baby Birds To Fly Solo
There are a few things parents can do to get those baby birds to fly. It’s never too late to start. If you have adult birds that haven’t flown the coup yet, allow me to share some personal tips and attitude. Please keep in mind being self-sufficient has nothing to do with your feelings or your children’s feelings. Becoming self-sufficient has everything to do with not needing your help as a parent to provide an adult child’s basic needs, especially for securing food and water.
- Start having conversations early about independence and self-sufficiency. You are the parent, so you need to set self-sufficiency tone early. Kids won’t know they should leave the nest if you never plant those seeds. Unhealthy co-dependent adults drain us. Self-sufficiency teaching can prevent leeching.
- Teach kids all the skills they need to grow, thrive, and survive. Kids need to: know how to cook, how to shop for food, how to compare prices, how to spend and save money, how to live on a budget, how to clean a house/apartment/room, how to find a job, how to prepare resumes, how to use community resources, how to use phone books, how to dress for job interviews, how to eat in formal settings, how to avoid debt, they need basic etiquette training, how to cohabitate with others (in case they have roommates or spouses), how to open bank accounts, understand how credit works, and understand the law. Those are just some basics, you can add what’s culturally and regionally appropriate.
- Make sure your children are pursuing careers aligned with the government’s Department of Labor’s Employment forecasts. Letting your child pursue career choices and degree tracks that makes them unemployable means they’ll be living in your house for a long time, possibly. Read my essay on Our Human Family on the government’s employment forecasting.
- Show your kids how to do basic things adults will need to do and start in middle and high school. It’s easy to tell a kid to get a job, but did you take them to the unemployment office or help them with online job searches? Help your children fill out job applications and role play interviewing. How will they know what happens if you don’t tell them?
- Teach your kids about poverty. Your property and money isn’t your kids’ property and money until you die and pass it on to them, and unless they have an inheritance or trust your kid will probably be a working poor person when they first start out (unless you’re a one percenter). They may have to live paycheck to paycheck in the beginning. Prepare them for that reality. Poverty looks different for many people. Allowing your kids to call your stuff theirs sends the wrong message. Teach your children that starting out with a degree or certification could mean they struggle a bit, and that’s just fine.
- Teach your young children how to work and be responsible. Pay kids to do chores or work around your house. Teach them the value of money. Help them understand paychecks, taxes, and billing for services. Letting your kids live free is a fantasy.
- Let your kids fail and fall sometimes. Nothing builds a character like falling and failing. Some times kids will come up with their own plans and ideas. Allow them to carry them those plans and ideas out, even if you know they’ll fail. Kids who fear failure will try nothing. On the flip side, know-it-all kids need to do not understand they don’t know everything and they will need the wisdom of adults to make it in the world.
- Be honest. We don’t discuss our finances enough with our children. Do you own or rent, if so why? Did you marry for security? Do you believe in staying home with parents until marriage? All these belief systems we hold true may conflict with our children. Discuss life isn’t so scary and confusing.
- Set deadlines. I gave my kids a firm 90-day deadline after graduating college to get their shit together. They had been hearing about my deadline since high school so it was no surprise when they got back to their rooms and I asked what their plans were to meet that deadline. I didn’t spend all those years sending them off to college just to have them come back home to live off me. Plan, support, move on, and grow up. If they need a little more time because the job market is crappy in your area, that’s fine, but make sure you keep a close eye on all efforts. They may still need nudging like a kid.
- Don’t be afraid to formally and informally evict your child. Some kids will try not to believe. Remember, your child knows how to push your buttons and make you feel bad. They learned how to do this around the age of 1 to 2-years-old. Your child also knows what you mean and don’t mean, when you mean it and when you don’t mean it. So if they know you cry wolf frequently, give in easily, and they can grovel their way back into your good graces, they’ll do it. Stand your ground. If your kids won’t respect your requests for them to become self-sufficient in whatever ways you need/want them to, evict them.
Parent, Are You The Problem?
Some kids don’t fly because the parents are their problem. Are you an enabler? Do you allow your kid to a deadbeat? Mediocre? Do you think it’s okay to stare hours at a television or smartphone playing video games instead of working? Are you teaching self-sufficiency or co-dependency? Are you expecting school to teach your child how to be an adult? Do you (parent), have unresolved issues stemming from your childhood preventing you from allowing your kids to fly? Are you a mom who still sees her 24-year-old24-year-old adult child as a toddler?
Deal with your issues so not to cripple your child. It’s not fair to handicap your child because you have insecurities and fears about your child growing up and becoming a self-sufficient young person. It’s not fair to the person your child links up with either. No one wants to be in a relationship with a leech. Eventually the imbalance becomes a strain in the relationship, and the victim wants out of it. You created a problem and sent it out into the world to bother others. Don’t be that parent. Teach your children how to leave the nest with haste. If you don’t teach them to leave, they won’t.
Birds don’t stay in the nest forever. Neither should your children.
©2019 Marley K. All rights reserved