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4 Criteria That Define a True Adult [UP AGAINST THE WALL]

definition of an adult

You can print this column and hand it to your self-proclaimed “adult” kid some day; you know, when that time comes.

One of my daughters told me, when she was 18 and we were having a disagreement, that she was an adult and can make her own “decisions.” My response was to explain to her what a real adult is. And here’s that response, in a nut shell.

What is an Adult?

There are 4 criteria that define a true adult. Just because someone reaches the legal age of
maturity does not make that person an adult.

1. Tax Return. The young person files their own tax return and is not listed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
2. Job. The young person holds a real, full-time, paying job.
3. Home. The young person lives in their own household (as defined by the census bureau) and does not live at home with their parents.
4. Support. The young person supports himself or herself financially and is not supported financially by another person or a parent.

You’ll notice that there is not even an age requirement in those criteria because age doesn’t matter. It’s about being a self-supporter. As I explained to my daughter, it’s not about reaching age 18, it’s about supporting yourself and not relying on mom and dad to support you financially.

Example: When I turned 19 and was in college, I was supporting myself financially, but I still lived at home for two years. Not until I was a junior in college and moved out and met all those criteria would I have been considered an adult. I mean really, as long as my mom was making dinners for me at home, I would hardly consider myself an adult, even though I was making a lot of money and running my own business.

This is also why I didn’t let my other daughter move home to save a few bucks while she took an accelerated nursing program. Had she moved home, she would have reverted to being a child and that would not be good for her or us.

I know that was harsh, especially the part where I told her I would change the locks before I would let her move home, but hey, tough love is supposed to be tough – on both of you. I know some day she will understand and, when she’s done with the program, she will definitely know that she accomplished that goal completely on her own, without our help, and she’ll ‘own it,’ and feel an enormous sense of pride at her own achievement. It also forced her to really consider what she wanted to become in life; no wishy-washy decision making because dad was paying the bills. She really needed to decide since she would be footing the bill.

I think parents, even we conservative parents, coddle our kids too much these days. Okay, yeah, you don’t have to be an idiot like me when I responded to my 4th grader when she said she was planning on living with us ‘forever,’ to which I said, “no you’re not; you’re outta the house after high school.” That did bring on a bawling spell and a reprimand from my wife, but what did I know? I panicked. I didn’t want to be supporting the kids ‘for life.’ This deal was a limited time offer! You know what I mean?

Just like the promise to cover four years of college and not a penny more. If they wanted to go to grad school or bail out on their original choice for a major and start over, that’s on them! This definitely forced them to make some tough choices. Both are going on with some higher education after working a few years, and doing so without taking on debt. (My recommendation; don’t go to college if you have to take on a ton of debt.)

Maybe I’m a little too tough, but both of the girls turned out well-adjusted, mature, and capable of taking care of themselves, and they know not to even ask me for assistance. Try it; you may like it.

T. Wall holds a degree from the UW in economics and an M.S. in real estate analysis and valuation and is a real estate developer. Disclaimer: The opinions of the writer are not necessarily those of this publication or the left!

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