How to turn your millennial kids into millennial adults

I couldn’t believe we were arguing about this.

My mother and I were in a verbal wrestling match about papers in a shoebox. I had called her for accounting advice soon after launching my training and consulting company, The Millennial Solution. I was 24 and she had thirty-plus years leading and running a company. It seemed like a no-brainer.

“What’s the best way to keep track of your expenses?”

My mother’s response was unexpected: Keep your receipts in a folder or a shoebox and give them to your accountant at the end of the year.

I made zero effort to muffle my laugh. She must have been kidding.

“I’m sorry, Mom, but there is no way that I’m keeping receipts in a shoebox all year long. There’s got to be a better way. Like an app or something.”

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In a recently released annual report, research firm comScore found that millennials spend an average of 90 hours per month spent on smartphone apps alone. It’s no wonder that millennials have earned the nickname “facedown generation.”

Technology certainly isn’t the only divide separating parents and their millennial kids.

Transforming millennial children into millennial adults is a process. Many parents I have worked with don’t know when and how to let go.

Not sure how to do it? Start here.

1. Set expectations.

Whether you are taking them off your phone bill or asking them to find their own place, communicate clearly to your millennial kids at least two months before a major shift will begin. They will be able to plan accordingly, and it also gives you an opportunity to think through options with them.

2. Be consistent.

If you are asking them to find their own place, don’t reject their request for help. Do not, however, take this as a sign that you should do the work for them. Consider yourself a highly paid consultant – take on the projects you want and don’t implement anything. Your child may come to you for strategic advice and wisdom, but they should not be coming to you for the execution. Saying one thing and doing another is a major parental faux pas.

3. Let them fail.

It’s hard, especially at the beginning. But your millennial child will fail – hopefully a lot. How you celebrate their failure will determine how they view their capacity to rise above the situation. Sara Blakely, CEO and Founder of Spanx, explained in a Business Insider interview how every evening, her father would ask the kids in her family what they had failed at. He was more excited about them failing than excelling! Create opportunities that celebrate their failure and challenge them to keep going.

4. Be tough.

Do you remember when they finally stopped sucking their thumbs? If your kids were anything like me growing up, breaking habits didn’t come easy. I can still remember my dad sitting me down and explaining why sucking my thumb wasn’t what “big girls” did. Although I was a child, he talked to me as an adult and used reason to help me understand why I needed to let go of my childish habit. Your adult children may not be sucking their thumbs—at least we hope not. Maybe they’re texting at work or wearing sweatshirts to formal events. Rather than scolding them, empower them with the knowledge and context for why their behavior isn’t appropriate.

Read: Disappointing news on millennials and prayer — how should we respond?

It didn’t take long for me to realize how disrespectful I sounded in the conversation with my mother. I would call her back and apologize. But first, I opened up the App Store on my iPhone and searched “Track Receipts.” As soon as I hit the search icon, my phone lit up with a colorful list of applications designed to track expenses, photograph receipts, and record mileage.


I quickly downloaded the app with the best ratings and most extensive reviews. I decided to wait a few hours before calling Mom back to apologize.

It’s hard, especially at the beginning. But your millennial child will fail – hopefully a lot. How you celebrate their failure will determine how they view their capacity to rise above the situation.

When I did, she happily answered the phone as if nothing had happened. I explained that I wasn’t frustrated with her; I was unsatisfied with her advice because I use technology to solve most of my problems. We had such different ways of solving problems. Her way seemed so archaic, but I realized that my desire to use technology came across as disrespectful. Her methods had worked for her with the knowledge and tools available at the time.

She readily accepted my apology. Before ending the call, I made sure to tell her this: “Hey Mom. You’ll never guess the name of the app I downloaded…” I paused for dramatic effect and then shouted, “Shoeboxed!”

Now read: Why millennials aren’t patriotic — and how to fix it

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