Responsibility Answers: Adult Children

“You are 100% responsible for how your children turn out. And you accomplish that by teaching them that they are 100% responsible for how they turn out.”

-Peter Koestenbaum

Responsibility Answers

Adult Children

Sandra from Germany writes, “My 19-year-old son failed his exit exams for secondary education, and now is seeking the credential through an alternate path, which I think is great.

However, because of the COVID-19 crisis, he must stay at home now. He sleeps until midafternoon, then plays computer games until 3 AM. He refuses to do anything helpful, like doing the dishes. This annoys me. How can I get through this and end up in Responsibility, and how can he stop Quit?”

Sandra, I think millions of parents worldwide can relate to your situation.  

I don’t want to make assumptions about your thoughts. So, I’ll speak in generalities and share my experience with myself, my family, and many others. 

First, I’ll address your question about how he can stop Quit.

Quit is one of the positions in The Responsibility Process®. Here’s my question, Sandra – How do you know he’s at Quit?  I’m not sure he’s at Quit. In fact, I’m not sure he even has a problem. 

You have to have a problem to trigger The Responsibility Process.

Here’s what I know. Your son is 19 years old, has free room and board, no rules, no consequences for not helping out. At 19, I would have taken that deal and loved it. I wouldn’t have a problem. My response is a little bit tongue-in-cheek, and I’m poking a little bit. 

Here’s why: The Responsibility Process only works when self-applied

It doesn’t work when we use it to label other people or make assumptions about where other people are in the process. It’s a horrible management tool. It’s a horrible parenting tool. It’s only a tool for leading myself. It’s not a tool for me to judge or diagnose others.

Let’s talk about you, the parent. 

Sandra asked “How can I get through this and end up in Responsibility?” I assume what’s wrong is that your son is not doing his life right now the way that you would want him to. 

Some marketing professors in the United States wrote a book about 25 years ago called The Millionaire Next Door. There was something in there about the desire to rescue our childrenMany people rescue their children at five years old,  rescue them at 10 years old, rescue them at 15, at 20, at 30, and at 40. 

Essentially, the more we rescue them, the less prepared they are to face their struggles, challenges, or issues.

In Responsibility Immersion and Mastery, we study the notion that we, as parents, assume that our kids aren’t taking responsibility for their lives. What we often find is that we keep rescuing them because their situation gives us anxiety, and so we don’t like to feel that anxiety. 

When we rescue them, we make ourselves feel better. 

Sometimes, the lesson that we learn is that I have to be willing to allow my offspring to solve their problems. This has never been said better than by my mentor. There was a time when his young adult daughter returned to live at home but began abusing drugs. He told her, “I’m sorry, you cannot live here and do that.” He says kicking her out of the house was the hardest thing he’s ever done. 

Parenting is an interesting situation. We have to be willing to face our anxiety and make our own choices. Peter Koestenbaum’s weekly leadership thought “Personal Responsibility Paradox” says: 

“Taking personal responsibility for getting others to implement strategy is the leader’s key polarity. It’s the existential paradox of holding yourself 100% responsible for the fate of your organization, on the one hand, and assuming absolutely no responsibility for the choices made by other people, on the other hand. 

That applies to your children too. You are 100% responsible for how your children turn out. And you accomplish that by teaching them that they are 100% responsible for how they turn out.”

“So, how do you motivate people? Not with techniques, but by risking yourself with a personal, lifelong commitment to greatness – by demonstrating courage. You don’t teach it as much as challenge it into existence. You cannot choose for others. All you can do is inform them that you cannot choose for them.” 

Here’s the important part: “You cannot choose for others. All you can do is inform them that you cannot choose for them.”

“In most cases, that in itself will be a strong motivator for the people whom you want to cultivate. The leader’s role is less to heal or to help, than to enlarge the capacity for responsible freedom.” 

In answer to, “How do I get through this,” every time I ask that, no matter what the situation is, the answer is, “Well, Christopher, what do you want about this situation that you have control over, that you can choose?” 

You can’t choose for anybody else. But, you also don’t have to rescue anybody else and you can’t help others learn if you keep rescuing them. 

Please send me your questions at I’d love to hear what’s on your mind. 

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