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18 reasons why many parents can’t help but give unsolicited advice to their grown children

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Moving through adulthood involves striking an intricate balance between branching out on your own and receiving helpful guidance from your parents.

Every adult choice you make sparks the unrelenting urge for your parents to offer their advice, whether you ask for it or not.

It’s ingrained into parental DNA to offer unsolicited (and often unwanted) advice.

Parents of grown children frequently feel they know better because they’ve already lived through it.

But surely if they’ve lived it themselves, they’ll know how frustrating it is to receive parental advice they didn’t ask for.  

So why do they do it?

Read to the end to understand the 18 reasons Mom and Dad just can’t help themselves when it comes to giving unsolicited advice to their grown children.

1. The complexities of parental identity.

Parental identity is paramount in understanding why parents give unsolicited advice to their adult children.

For many parents, their identity has evolved from the time they were expecting and all through the child-rearing stages.

Their identity has been woven by the fabrication of their role as parents. However, as children grow up, it can cause a shift in this role and seemingly tip the scale to an unbalanced position.

When parents offer unsolicited advice it gives them a way to reaffirm their role as their grown child’s parents. It can be a way to reaffirm that they know what’s best and that they are a valuable and reliable source of wisdom, advice, and information.

A parent’s profound sense of responsibility for their small child doesn’t halt once they reach adulthood. Thus, the parent still feels a strong parental identity that they need to exercise to protect their adult child.

It can be quite challenging for parents to see that their babies have all but grown up and are craving their independence instead of being told what to do.

2. They carry the weight of past experiences and regret.

Parents have past experiences that influence how they parent their children.

Experiences and regret can be considerable motivators to spark unsolicited advice.

Parents offering unsolicited advice can shift their regret and hardship into cautionary tales fueled by the deep, heartfelt wish for their child to be spared their misfortune.

3. They need validation.

Sometimes, the reason parents give unsolicited advice is their deep desire to be validated.

Parents often have a longing to be recognized and valued by their children.

Mom and Dad want their grown children to affirm and acknowledge them, to reinforce their position, wisdom, and seniority in the family. It can reaffirm that they are worthy of consideration in the eyes of their grown child.

Though validation can feel like a form of acceptance, it can also be negative when parents rely on their grown children to obtain it.

4. They have ingrained communication patterns.

Communication patterns are deeply woven into the parent-child relationship. They are often the heart of the family dynamic as they represent how ideas and information have always been shared and received.

In the early years, it’s often established that when the parent speaks, the child listens and obeys. And young children will proactively seek out their parents for help and guidance.

But as children get older and voice their own plans and ideas, these ingrained communication patterns can make it challenging for parents to listen to their adult children and know the difference between offering helpful counsel and giving unsolicited advice.

These ingrained communication patterns can be the foundation for Mom and Dad feeling like they need to tell you what to do and how to do it, and they can blur the lines between helpful and unwarranted advice.

5. They feel the weight of cultural expectations.

Parents may experience cultural pressures, making them feel like they need to guide their children in line with their beliefs or traditions.

Depending on the culture, it can be normal for parents to offer advice to reaffirm their place as the elder in the family.

Many cultures emphasize respect for parental wisdom and authority, which can lead parents to think they know better. This can compel them to share their guidance and wisdom, often in the form of unrequested advice.

6. They have a strong emotional investment.

The emotional investment that parents have in their children can be an irresistible force that drives them to offer unsolicited advice to their children regardless of their age.

This is because heartfelt attachment, lifelong dedication, and committed nurturing create a fundamental bond between parent and child.

Parents might even weave their hopes, dreams, and aspirations into every part of their child, increasing the desire to protect, advise, and support them in any way they can.

Parents often believe that offering unsolicited advice can safeguard their children from potential hardships, driven by love and unwavering devotion to them.

A parent’s emotional investment in their child can shape much of how they offer advice and wisdom.

7. They lack boundaries.

A lack of boundaries can significantly contribute to parents offering unsolicited advice.

Families with open communication and a “we talk about everything” vibe throughout childhood can easily blur the lines between helpful and oversharing.

In addition, sometimes advice sharing from parents is perceived as an indication of love. Because of this, parents might struggle to recognize the limits of their support and understand how to respect their grown child’s autonomy.

The absence of healthy boundaries can cause parents to interject their opinions, and to be unaware of whether it’s helpful or wanted.

8. They have a fear of failure.

The fear of failure can be a fast-driving force behind parents giving unsolicited advice to their grown children.

Parents may fear their children facing hardship, challenges, or disappointments and believe their advice can change the outcome.

But even though their fear of failure is deeply rooted in their love for their child, unsolicited advice can actually drive their child away rather than pull them closer.

9. They have a specific perceived family image.

How a family is perceived by their extended family or society can motivate parents to offer unsolicited advice.

Many families emphasize upholding a particular image or reputation within society and offer unsolicited advice to safeguard it.

Offering their advice can be a way that parents try to align their child’s choices with societal or familial expectations, fearing that their child’s choices may reflect poorly on their family.

10. They need to validate their parental authority.

It’s no secret that the role of parents is significant, and some parents may offer unsolicited advice as a way to validate their parental authority.

While raising children, the parental role is clearly defined as one of a trusted authority figure. However, upon reaching adulthood, that role can diminish.

For some parents, the transition of their children into adults with their own plans and ideas can be hard to accept. This causes them to interject their own advice to reaffirm their authority and the significance of their influence on their grown children.

11. They have a difficult time letting go.

Some parents struggle with letting go and can use their unsolicited advice as a way to regain control.

Children growing up into their adult years can evoke a range of emotions in parents.

Watching your child flourish into adulthood can bring many dynamic emotions like pride, fear, sadness, and even regret.

Having difficulty letting go brings complicated emotions for parents, and to navigate this, they may try to cling on by interfering and offering unsolicited advice.

12. They have a strong emotional attachment.

The emotional attachment between parents and their grown children can be profound and it’s a huge reason for parents to give their advice.

The unseverable, unconditional bond a parent has with their child creates a desire to protect and nurture them long past childhood.

The result is often that parents give advice when they fear their children are in danger of making a mistake, regardless of whether the danger is real or perceived.

However, even with these best intentions, unsolicited advice can be unwelcome, unwanted, and sometimes unhelpful.

13. They feel a sense of purpose.

From the time a mother and father first meet their baby until it reaches adulthood, they have a deeply rooted commitment, which can become their sense of purpose.

Parents spend eighteen (or more) years surrounded by and devoted to their children, doing everything they can to keep them safe and help them grow into healthy, happy, successful adults.

When children grow up and flee the nest, this strong sense of purpose can be hard to shake off and is often the culprit behind parents giving unsolicited advice.

14. They struggle to accept change.

Parents who give unsolicited advice to their grown children often have difficulty accepting and adapting to change.

When children are young, they are completely dependent on their parents, and as a result, parenting is an all-consuming role.

There are packed lunches to be made, permission forms to sign, parent-teacher conferences to attend, play dates to chaperone, and multiple daily pick-ups and drop-offs. The duties and responsibilities are endless.

However, once the child transitions into adulthood, they strive to have autonomy and independence. They want to make decisions for themselves and strike out on their own.

This change can be complex for parents as they navigate the complicated new dynamic.

Parents may give unsolicited advice to maintain familial connection, authority, and influence, regardless of whether the advice is wanted or not.

15. They feel parental peer pressure.

Some parents feel under pressure that their children should behave in the same way, or achieve the same success that their friends’ or siblings’ children have.

They may see their friends’ adult children working in a high paid job, or settling down with a partner and kids, and feel pressured that their children should conform to the same standards of ‘success’. 

Families and social circles often unconsciously dictate specific standards or guidelines that everyone is expected to follow in order to fit in. This can create a feeling of peer pressure among parents.

This need to conform can cause parents to give unwanted advice to their grown children, in a bid to get them to conform to these expectations as well.

16. They want to maintain relevance.

As children become adults and start making their own choices, it can be challenging for parents to maintain relevance in their lives.

In a perfect world, the grown child would still feel connected to their parents and would share healthy communication with them.

However, often what happens is the grown child wants to face life on their own, so they don’t seek out their parents’ opinion or approval. The parents, who then feel irrelevant and redundant, doll out unsolicited advice in an attempt to stay involved and important.

The newfound independence in grown children may create a subconscious distance between them and their parents, and parents may offer their wisdom in an attempt to reign the child back in.

17. They have their own anxieties.

Parents may harbor many anxieties surrounding their children becoming adults. In fact, all of parenthood is entrenched with anxieties and worries. From pregnancy and childbirth to early illnesses and first days at school, right through to teenage heartbreak and experimentation.

These anxieties don’t cease just because a child grows into an adult capable of living with their own decisions. It’s at this stage that the anxieties may actually worsen as parents can no longer exert the same influence over their children’s decisions and behavior.  

(It doesn’t stop them trying though.)

Parents want their children to be happy, and to feel loved and supported, and they often think that they know how best to achieve this because of their lived experiences and personal insight.

They may be anxious that their children will make the same mistakes they made as young adults, and are desperate to spare them the hurt or disappointment they suffered.

These personal anxieties can be the trigger behind parents offering their well-meaning, but still unsolicited advice.

18. They have a specific personality type.

Personality traits can significantly influence why parents offer their children unsolicited advice.

Some people have a natural tendency to guide and support. They view giving advice as an innate way of expressing care and concern.

Parents with these personality traits often perceive sharing their insights as a means of offering support and contributing positively to their children’s lives.

On the other hand, personality traits like assertiveness, conscientiousness, or a strong sense of responsibility can make parents feel compelled to intervene when they perceive potential challenges or foresee opportunities for improvement in their children’s decisions.

Then there are those parents who have an unhealthy need to control others, often to feel more in control of themselves. They make unsolicited suggestions because they want to pressure and manipulate their children into doing things a certain way.

Their controlling tendencies likely extend to people beyond their family too because they lack the normal social skills to traverse their various relationships in any other way.

Final thoughts.

Unsolicited advice from parents to their grown children is often motivated by love, concern, and complex familial dynamics.

Emotional attachments, fears, and societal pressures contribute to this behavior, reflecting a parent’s unwavering commitment to their children’s well-being as they navigate adulthood.

While the urge to offer guidance can be intrusive and unwanted, it is often a manifestation of parental devotion.

The parent-child relationship is complex and enduring, and parents can play crucial roles in supporting and guiding their grown children through life’s challenges.

Understanding the myriad reasons behind this common familial dynamic can help foster empathy and appreciation for your parents and for what they are trying to achieve when they offer you advice.

Even if you didn’t ask for it.