Do You Overindulge Your Adult Children? by Ellie McCann, Guest Blogger for ParentTalk

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Photo: Fotolia, Graphic: David Bredehoft

Overindulgence in parenting can happen with any child, AT ANY AGE.

My youngest daughter and I live in the same city.

We talk to each other every day, usually multiple times.

I am a single mom. Being the youngest, she got to live alone with just me for four years after her sisters went to college. It was easy for us to live together because we are a lot alike. Pretty much whatever she wanted to do, we did.

And wasn’t that just fun!

See the web that I’ve spun?

She’s is now a teacher. We both work full-time and live in close proximity.

Last Wednesday, our conversation went something like this (my thoughts about what was being said are in parentheses).

Her: “Left my lunch of yummy wild rice left overs on the counter all night” (sad face, sad face).

Me: “Aw dang it”.

Her: “Yeah isn’t a cheap meal” (Oh no, she wants me to save the day).

Me: “I’m not done at Jean’s till like 11, but if I’m done early I can bring you something. Your lunch time is so silly early”. (I just apologized that I am working…what!?)

Her: “Yeah.” (Single word response to evoke a strong emotion from me).

Me: “Sorry bug”. (I used nick name to soften the apology).

Me: “Want me to bring something or did you figure it out?” (I had to ask one more time before I left it alone).

Her: “I’ll be fine”.  (Feels like she’s pulling my heart out. Be the Strong Heart Parent you know you can be).

Me: “Ok love ya!” (Strong Heart Parent action step).

That is where the conversation about her lunch ended. I did not go and save her. She did not die of starvation. We have all continued to wake up every day since and I have become a “Stronger Hearted Parent”.

Overindulgence in parenting can happen with any child, at any age. I have friends who are parents that I talk to about overindulging children. Some talk about the ‘other family’ and how they are overindulging. Some tell me they think it’s too late to do anything about it because their own kids are too old. 

As a parent it is so important to continually reassess where you are in your relationship with your children. They change as they grow and mature and you change through their influence and in your continued experience as their parent. I work in the field of Family Development. Come on, I couldn’t possibly be overindulging my adult children. HA!

We all overindulge our children. It’s how much overindulging you do that can cause the problem. Whether or not you give too much, do too much, or buy too much for a child is not the question. It is all about balance and checking yourself as a parent while they grow and develop, even as adult children. It’s never too late to make changes, even with our adult kids!

Ellie McCann, is an Extension Educator & Extension Associate Professor (University of Minnesota) in Family Resiliency. She works at the Andover Regional Extension Office, Bunker Hills Activities Center. She can be reached at:

There is more help about avoiding overindulgence in How Much is Too Much? Raising Likable, Responsible, Respectful Children – From Toddlers To Teens – In An Age of Overindulgence (2014, DaCapo Press Lifelong Books).

You will find free resources on how to tell if you are overindulging using “The Test of Four” from the University of Minnesota Extension.

All photos from Fotolia. 

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2022;