When Your Grown Child Makes Bad Decisions: Guide For Parents

A parent’s care for his child never stops, even if he has grown up and is expected to make his own decisions in life. A parent will always try to facilitate, especially when the child is struggling in life, so follow this article to know what you should do when your grown child makes bad decisions.

Seeing your child struggling or going through a failure can be one of the most traumatic feelings for the parent. Sometimes, a child is capable of dealing with the difficulties on his own through his appropriate decision-making abilities, but if your child is constantly making bad decisions, it can cause him harm.

When your child is an adult, you are unable to make their life choices or correct their mistakes, so there can be multiple questions in your mind regarding your responsibility as a parent to help them deal with this challenge.

However, there are some ways discussed in this article through which you can help out your adult child even if he does not ask for the help, so read on to know what you should do when you so when your grown child makes bad decisions in his life.

How do grown children make decisions?

Humans are constantly growing and learning in life through different challenges, but when a child hits adolescence, he starts to grow up into an adult. Adolescence brings multiple challenges that involve risk as well because when a child enters his teen years, he starts dealing with the responsibilities and has to make many decisions on his own. Some of the decisions turn out good, and some turn out bad, as it all depends on a couple of factors, including cognitive growth, parenting, education, and background.

Cognitive growth refers to the development of the brain. Different sections of the brain develop in different manners and have different functions. The middle and back sections of the brain perform the emotional functioning of the human brain, and it develops first, including the amygdala, hippocampus, and insular cortex. How we feel and then react are linked to these sections of the brain in all humans.

The front part of the brain that helps an individual in reasoning and decision-making is called the prefrontal cortex. This section helps us plan, solve problems and organize ourselves according to future needs. In adolescents, emotional development is faster as compared to reasoning and decision-making which is why they are impulsive and tend to react without properly thinking about it rationally.

A process in the human brain called myelination takes place during which the covering of axons takes place, which is called insulation, so that the signals are transmitted in a quick and effective manner. This process starts from our birth and continues till the age of 30. Therefore, in the teen years, an individual’s brain is developing and learning to communicate so that new emotions are experienced by the person to gain knowledge and wisdom.

How does an adolescent behave?

Every human brain is supposed to go through this process of brain development so that they can learn the required knowledge and function in the world by socializing. The stage before adulthood is called teenage, during which an individual makes mistakes and learns a lot.

Mistakes are not harmful if a teenager learns from them and implements the learning in the future. However, learning does not refer to the absence of rationalization during the teen years, so the development process is rapidly growing in adolescence and not completely absent. Proper nurturing and education can divert this rationalization into a productive one that can benefit them in the future, while a lack of nurture can result in the ill development of personality.

Some of the behaviors that arise in adolescence in the development stage are as follows:


They are more eager to take on challenges and experience new things because they want to discover themselves. It is in these years that we see most people set their goals in life and start to work towards them. It involves both long-term and short-term goals. They are also eager to socialize, meet new people and make friends; hence their emotional development is utilized in these scenarios and forms friendships and relationships. He is figuring out his own personality in the community among different people.

He indulges himself in different activities to learn about the world and his own existence in the world. Although self-discovery is a never-ending journey and every individual is in a state of discovery until he dies, the moment he grows up, his journey initiates as he tries to think rationally.

Decisions making

It is in the mid-teens that an individual gets to make his own decisions through cognition. Parents and society allow children to realize their responsibilities and slowly make decisions in their teens, which eventually grows as their competency and cognitive ability also grow with time. They start to understand and implement the ability to solve problems, be creative, commit to a course of action and make decisions.

These abilities keep growing with age which is why young adolescents are introduced gradually to the world of decision-making; young adolescents are learning these abilities and are less able to create options, foresee the consequences of their decision, and identify the risks involved. Therefore, when adolescence ends, humans are expected to be independent and make meaningful decisions to excel in all the critical areas of life, including connections with people, career choices, and personal commitments.

Eager to take risks

To make meaningful and foreseeing decisions, it is important for an individual to experience new things, even if it includes failing in them, learning from and then recovering from them to move forward. An individual is required to take risks for self-growth, and cognitive development, as wisdom does not merely come from having knowledge about certain things until one has personally and practically experienced the roller coaster of life. Teenagers are more willing to take risks and seek sensations to experience new things and discover the meaning of life.

However, not all the risks are worth taking, and teens having a natural impulse sometimes are unable to rationalize their decision and follow their impulsivity. Some of the risks can do more than good and can put you in danger. A guardian plays a vital role in this situation to ensure that the risks being taken are adding to the positive development of his child and not attracting problems in his life.

Parents should provide emotional and physical facilities to their children so that their cognitive development journey is productive and full of learning experiences. Decisions based on negative peer pressure and rash thinking lead to dangerous consequences, while decisions based on positive peer pressure and calm thinking lead to impressive results. In a situation where the child’s logical part of the brain stops responding maturely, it is a guardian’s responsibility to help them. Parents should provide them space to make their own decisions, but the factors influencing their decisions and learning should be noticed.

Why does a person make bad decisions?

The concept of morality and correctness is known by most people as soon as they grow up. School learning and society teach every individual the concept of right and wrong, but the real challenge comes when a person has to make the right choice in a critical situation. Their behaviors to deal with the challenges influence their decisions which are why some people acknowledge the existence of correctness but are unable to implement that correctness practically in their lives.

For instance, a person knows that alcohol abuse is injurious to health, but various factors such as lack of resistance to peer pressure resistance, high emotional arousal, adequate cognitive ability, and lack of social handling lead him to fall prey to these wrong decisions of drinking alcohol. Similarly, a student is well-aware of the importance of studies and good results, but he is unable to focus on his studies because of a couple of factors and ends up prioritizing other things compared to studies which leads him to fail the exam.

However, such a person does not make all his decisions poorly, but it depends upon the intensity of the effect the situation has on him and his emotional response to that situation. Most of the wrong decisions are taken in situations where an individual has high emotional arousal. They lose their self-control and find it difficult to stick to morality, so they engage in risky behaviors, which further results in poor decision-making.

When an immature child makes bad decisions, parents feel authoritative and try to instruct the child in the right as the child finds it easy to stumble back to his parents in difficult situations. He knows that his parents will take the lead and eradicate the difficulty from his life. However, when a child grows into an adult, it becomes difficult for both the child and the parent. The child is hesitant to run to his parents because the guilty sense of not being able to be an independent adult haunts him, while the parents find it difficult to take hold of their child’s life decisions. He only feels like being involved in the situation when he is asked by his child.

What are parents supposed to do when their grown child makes bad decisions?

The role of parents in the life of their children never ends, even if they grow up. It is usually considered that a parent caters to his child until he grows up and becomes independent, but that is not true. Parenting never stops; no matter how old the child is, parents will always be involved in the life of their child and try to provide for them in whatever means they can. Parenting has different stages depending on the age of the child, and every stage has its own challenges.

A parent constantly adapts his behavior towards the child as the child grows. Children do grow up and mature to make their own decisions, but they always need their parent’s guidance in their life decisions. A human can not make correct decisions all the time, but the repetition of bad decisions can be a sign of concern for parents.

When an adult makes bad decisions consecutively in life, his parents turn themselves into guilt and hopelessness. They feel as if they did not fulfill their parenting responsibilities properly and now seeing their child making wrong decisions for himself makes them even more vulnerable. Hence, it must be understood that anyone can make mistakes, and it is never too late to redeem the mistake. When a decision is made, and it causes difficulty, one can only try to learn from it and not repeat the mistake again.

You as a parent can not make decisions on behalf of your child as it is their own individual authority as an adult to decide for themselves, but here are some of the things that you can do to help him:

  • Do not blame yourself
  • Communicate
  • Be there for them but let them handle on their own
  • Manage your emotions
  • Find the right moment
  • Be a role model

Do not blame yourself

Life has many complexities, and there is no fixed rule to parenting that can ensure the danger of any situation. Every parent tries his best to provide for his child according to his needs, but the frequency of emotional and financial providence can vary depending on the abilities and consequences. In all the phases of life, one relies on his family and stays intact through all situations, so it is important that one acknowledges that it is a part of life to face difficulties.

Everyone responds to difficulties in a different way, and similar is the case with you and your child. Their personality differs from yours, and hence their strategies and decision-making also differ. They might not see the situation from your eyes, so you need to embrace your child’s unique personality and not try to undermine their own views unless they are morally on the wrong side. It is also not important to agree with your child, but as long as this difference is not causing any harm, you do not need to worry.


Communication is the only way through which two people can understand each other’s perspectives. It is true for all relations, including the child-parent relation. When a child grows up, his conversation with his parents shortens, so there comes a gap between them, so a parent might find it difficult to initiate the conversation.

It is to be noted that this conversation should not only include your voice but theirs as well. You should convey your message but also listen to them so that they feel heard and find it easy to open up to you. It should not feel like an interrogation or agony, ask them about their concerns and convey your concerns regarding the situation. They should not feel as if you are trying to blame them for the result because it will fill more gaps, and they will avoid you.

Be there for them but let them handle it on their own

Every individual wants emotional support, but that does not mean a parent should make decisions on behalf of his adult child. Sometimes unnecessary interrogation and opinions can irritate them, so if they do not need an opinion, what you can do is spend more time with them. It should not always involve talking as you can spend that time in an activity together that both of you like. Spending time will not only help you make them feel comfortable around you but also provide an opportunity to influence them indirectly in a positive way.

Good family time is important for all the members of the family as it creates a strong emotional bond where people feel connected even if they are not living together. A person through these times gets to connect with the parents, so if their decisions are a result of distress or disturbance, you will be able to identify it easily in those times.

Manage your emotions

As a parent, you can feel a lot of emotions in this situation when you find your child making a poor decision. Parenting itself is a roller coaster of emotions because the life and behavior of your child influence you. When you see your child making progress, you can be the happiest person, but when your child is going through a rough patch in his life, you can feel guilt, failure, sadness, etc. These negative emotions not only harm you but also disturbs your child’s mental health.

If your emotions are getting difficult to manage and are disturbing your peace of mind, then you should reach out to a friend, another family member, or a therapist to help you deal with it. Sadness and grief are natural emotions that should not be suppressed, so you should neither recklessly express your emotions in front of your child without properly contemplating them nor sweep them under the carpet.

Find the right moment

Not all moments are right to discuss your concerns as your child might also be going through a lot, so he might not be ready to listen or talk about it even if you want to. Spending time with them will help you find the right moment to discuss your concerns. Moreover, their attitude when you initiate the conversation can help you judge if they are ready to talk about it and listen to you.

Some people prefer to talk in front of other people, while some find it embarrassing when their personal matters are discussed in front of other people, so the environment should be kept in mind. It will also be easier for you to convey your expectations and disappointments, which they might not be aware of, as they will be ready to listen about it. If they are indulged in any harmful activities, then you can make it clear to them that you are against this behavior, but you will help them fight against it, so they know that your support is a sign of help and not encouragement to their habits.

Be a role model

Every human being is flawed and makes mistakes, but those mistakes should not overtake your personality. Parents specifically should be more alarmed in this regard because their children learn from their parents, so your behavior towards life can highly impact your child’s behavior in life. If you contemplate decisions with rational thinking, it will be a role model for the children, and they will know how to implement the same behavior when any such situation comes into their life.

Your decisions in personal and professional life will influence their perspective of life, and they will make decisions based on it. However, every situation has its own complexities, but you can be an inspiration for them so that they learn from you and reach out to you for any advice.


When a child grows up, the challenges of a parent also change. Society expects that the role of parents ends up once the child grows, but if they see their child in any danger, they get influenced by it and try to eradicate the challenge. Parents can only think about the best interest of their children, but certain weak moments make them powerless to help their children.

However, some of the ways through which a parent can help the child develop good decision-making skills include communication about the concerns, allowing them to learn from their mistake and do good in the future, and making sure they know you are to help but will not support them in the wrong and portraying yourself as a role model for them.