The Art of Premium Parenting: Should You Keep Your Mouth Shut and Your Wallet Open?

parenting adult children questions and answers

This is a guest blog by Dr. Michael Tobin; bio below.

To set the stage for a discussion on premium parenting and grandparenting, let me share with you my parenting/grandparenting credentials:

  1. My wife Deborah and I are the proud parents of 4 married children, 3 daughters and a son, ranging in age from 30 to 36.
  1. Each of our children and their spouses are all gainfully employed – important to know that when we start talking about money.
  1. Among them, they have 13 children, or, if you prefer, my wife and I have 13 grandchildren, ranging in ages from 1 to 15.
  1. Our children all live within a 25-mile radius of us, which means A) Thanksgiving and The Holidays are a bi-weekly occurrence; B) so is babysitting and C) they don’t hate us.
  1. Currently, two of our daughters, their husbands, and their 5 children, 3 girls, 1 to 4; and 2 boys, 4 and 7, live with us while they wait for their houses to be completed. (It’s that last 5% of a building project that never seems to end.)

So actually, Thanksgiving and The Holidays, less the tree, the Hanukah candles and the turkey, are daily events, and, yes, babysitting as well, along with constant decibel blasting screams, chaos, conflict resolution, sofa flips, spontaneous theatrical performances, and endless cycles of whining, laughing, fighting, playing, and crying, and that’s not to mention the various parental responses to all this. (We’ll talk more about that later as well.)

  1. My wife, Mama to the grandchildren, is an amazingly devoted, magical grandmother. The children (including the 15-year-old) stick to her like she’s The Positive Pied Piper – the loving standard that we should all aspire to – selfless, fun, attentive, engaging, patient, and constantly teaching. She’s the master distracter: 2-year-old is in the midst of a grand mal meltdown. Mama: “You want to feed the birds?” Insane 2-year-old: Transforms from thrashing and screaming to whimpering and follows Mama outside.
  1. I’m playful Grand Doc who makes up games, creates aeronautically sophisticated paper airplanes, and occasionally converses with them in Vashigaloupe, an imaginary language that all the kids have mastered. (I’m not bad as a grandfather, but I’m far from my wife’s level)

So now that I’ve established the fact that I’m a bona fide Premium Parent of adult children and a grandparent of actual children, let’s get down to the discussion of how do you Premium Parenting. I’m going to assume that unless you’re Mick Jagger, Billy Joel, or George Lucas, none of you are parents of newborns and many of you are like me with children in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

As you know by now, I’m not only a Premium Parent and Grandparent, but I’m also a Premium Psychologist (a title I gave myself after reaching 40+ years of experience). So, what I’m going to share with you is a culmination of a lot of years of personal and professional experiences.

I’m going to assume that many of you have had some or all of the following challenges/questions concerning your adult children:

  1. You don’t always (perhaps never) approve of how your children parent.
  1. If you answered yes to 1 above, then you probably are in a quandary about what to do about it, or you already did something about it and your intervention went south.
  1. You intervened with your grandchildren and your children are furious with you and/or you’re furious with your children for being “irresponsible” parents.
  1. You have trouble saying, “No!” to your adult children’s “too frequent” requests for grandparenting assistance, or your adult children are upset with your “too frequent” no’s to their requests for help. (How dare you have a life.)
  1. In your opinion, they too often go to the “other side” (the in-laws) for the holidays. Of course, the “other side” probably has the same complaint about you.
  1. You can’t stand the f**king b**ch/bas**rd that your son or daughter married and there’s nothing you can do about it.
  1. Your adult children either want to spend too much time with you or not enough. In either case you’re not sure how to deal with it.
  1. No one ever taught you how to be a grandparent so you’re not sure where the boundary between grandparenting and parenting lies.
  1. No one ever taught you how to parent adult children so you’re not sure when to speak up and when to shut up. Are they really adults or are they still children?
  1. You don’t know when or how to ask your children for help. It’s just too much of a role reversal.
  1. Your kids need financial help from you and you’re not happy about it. When do you say yes and when do you say no and how do you say it?
  1. Let’s assume you’re a Premium with wisdom and you’re going crazy watching your children make all the mistakes that you made. Do you stay quiet and let them learn just like you did, or do you jump in and try to save them from their inevitable suffering?
  1. How do you cure your adult children from needing too much from you?
  1. Here’s a ripe one that just happened to me. While I was writing this blog, my oldest daughter, also a psychologist, as is her mother, called me and spent a portion of the conversation giving me unsolicited advice on how I should behave with a certain individual. Actually, they weren’t suggestions – more like directives.

I never like being told what to do, but she was 100% correct. Who ever said that the appropriate confrontations and demands for excellence need to go in one direction only – from parents to children? Can’t we learn and grow through our interactions with our children? I think that’s one of the qualities of being a Premium Parent.

That’s a whole heap of thorny issues. You can take some time to wrestle with them by yourself, and you can also hop over to join me in a post where I focus on possible answers to these questions and challenges. Until then, be well and never stop growing.


Dr. Michael Tobin has been a clinical psychologist since Nixon resigned, and an entrepreneur since 1971 when, a month following his discharge from the army, he launched a health food truck on the UConn campus. Some of his ventures have been uber-successful and others not-so-much, but that’s why he coined the tagline, “Experience is Everything” for his newest venture, Gurfein & Tobin, a lifestyle brand for Premiums. Want to know what Premium is and if you qualify? Find out here.