Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part II: In Response to Questions about Older Children Living at Home

by James Lehman, MSW
Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part II: In Response to Questions about Older Children Living at Home

There has been overwhelming response and interest in last month’s article on adult children. It was viewed over 10,000 times, was our second most emailed article ever, and has received the most reader comments of any article we’ve ever published. I must say I’m not surprised about this, since in my private practice I dealt with many parents who had terrible problems with children who were over 18 and still living at home. I believe this phenomenon has become a national problem. As the cost of living goes up, adult children who are not really prepared for the workforce have to make some sacrifices. Unfortunately today, kids don’t like making sacrifices and parents don’t want to enforce sacrifices.

"Be specific. 'I want you to put in three applications a day. I want you making three follow up phone calls a day. And if you verbally abuse me, you’re out of the house for 24 hours.' Remember: Nothing changes if nothing changes."

A few notes before we begin. In this forum, I will not address individual cases or parents. The reason is that this forum is not counseling or therapy and should never be misconstrued as such. Rather, this is a place where I can offer you my personal opinion from 30 years of professional experience. What I will do here (and what I believe will be helpful for the most readers) is respond to the important themes that recurred within many of your responses. This will be a long article, because I see so many issues that call for discussion. If you posted a question after Part One of “Rules, Boundaries and Older Children” last month, or if you are struggling with an adult child, I hope you’ll take the time to read my response to readers here, and that it will help you and your family.

For Readers Whose Adult Children are Verbally Abusing them and Destroying Property
The theme that stood out most is the tremendous amount of verbal abuse that adult children are laying on their parents. Along with verbal abuse and cursing, I saw many of you writing about destruction of property and your adult child’s refusal to communicate and respond. This may sound harsh, but I think it’s amazing how people will make excuses for that type of behavior. It’s understandable that parents make excuses for younger kids who are abusive, hoping they’ll grow out of it. But I think once these kids are adolescents and adults, their behavior patterns are very set, and you need to know that adult children won’t take the time and trouble to learn new behavior patterns unless they’re forced to.

Adult children who use verbal abuse, aggression and destruction of property to deal with their parents are still using intimidation and force to solve complex problems. When you’re 18, 19, or 20 and all the things your parents told you are coming true—that you’re not prepared for the work force, that you should have studied harder, that you need to push yourself—it is easy to get resentful and blame and intimidate your parents. Because that’s easier than getting a job and working your way up. That’s easier than learning how to live with a roommate because you can’t afford your own apartment and a car at the same time. One thing we know about human beings is that they will, by their nature, take the easy way out. In this case, the easy way out is being oppressive to your parents so that you don’t feel any stress.

Related: Fighting with your adult child?

I think that parents also have to take some of the responsibility for this behavior. In the last twenty years, so many parents did everything they could to ensure that their kids didn’t feel discomfort because letting your kids feel discomfort was considered a bad thing. I know because I’ve dealt with so many of these parents. They fought with the schools. They protected their kids from consequences. In many cases they let things slide that they knew were wrong. They made excuses for the kids. And what they ended up with is a kid who is not prepared to deal with the injustice, stress and discomfort of life. Making a transition from adolescence to adulthood is very stressful, uncomfortable and difficult. It involves solving some very complex problems about how you’re going to live, where you’re going to live, who you’re going to live with, and what you’re going to do with your life. Although many kids solve those problems in a non-destructive way, there is a sub-group of kids who still make it their parent’s problem and society’s problem and everybody else’s problem. If you’re dealing with one of these adult children, it will take all the strength and commitment you can muster to force this child to become independent.

I noticed in one of the responses that the parents thought I was telling them to throw their kids out. I am not saying that at all. But I am saying that your kids won’t change until you do something drastic. Making them leave the home is one of those things that may have to be done.

As a parent, I understand the difficulty, fear and anxiety of sending your child out into the world. But also as a parent, I know that the best personality characteristic that you can give a child is independence. The best knowledge you can give them is how to solve life’s problems. If they’re still at home cursing at you, abusing you, not getting a job, sleeping until noon and playing video games all day, they are not independent and they are not solving life’s problems. There’s no gray area there. Parents have to be very strong in demanding that their kids start to face their situation in life before it gets worse.

Let’s be clear: from an adult child’s point of view, this is a great life. Somebody’s paying the rent, there’s food in the refrigerator, they get to party with their friends, they don’t have to be anywhere at any time. They get to avoid all stress, and if their parents give them a hard time, they bully them. Nice life. If parents are willing to live that way, you don’t have to read any more of my articles. You’ve found the solution that works for you. But if you’re determined not to live that way, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have a lot of choices. You need to make a drastic change.

Here is my recommendation on what that drastic change looks like. Number one, you set some simple structure and some rules for your child. Rules like: You need to get up at a certain time. You need to go out and look for jobs. You can’t sit around and play video games all day. Be specific. “I want you to put in three applications a day. I want you making three follow-up phone calls a day. And if you verbally abuse me, you’re out of the house for 24 hours.” You don’t care where they go. Let them go to their aunt’s house or their friend’s house. Let them figure out where they’ll stay. They’re out of the house for 24 hours.

I want to make a distinction here. What I just suggested is a consequence. It’s not preparation for life. If they’re verbally abusive a second time or destroy property, they’re out of the house for three days or a week. You don’t care where they go. They’ll tell you they’re partying at their friend’s house. Let them party. All you know is that they can’t stay in your house. This is a consequence for disrespecting your home and your values. This is not a preparation for independence. (See the discussion below and in part two of my article on “Rules, Boundaries and Older Children”, which will be featured in Empowering Parents in a few weeks, for suggestions on how to prepare kids for independence.) This is used strictly to get some control in your house. If you have adult children who are verbally abusing you and breaking things, your house is out of control. I don’t know how you can live there.

Use the police. Put his bags out on the sidewalk, call the cops and say, “He doesn’t live here anymore.” Don’t play games or you’re not going to own your own home.

I’ve worked with plenty of parents who had to do this. They were all afraid to do it. I understood that. They got into their situation because they were mortally afraid their kid would face discomfort. But when all other efforts failed, they had to call the cops to get the kid to change.

Let me be straight with you and offer you some empowerment. You’ve raised this kid. You’ve invested everything in him and now you have to tiptoe around the house? That is unacceptable. To the parents who are willing to live this way, I tip my hat to you. But I personally could not live with that, and I’m not willing to.

Kids learn best when parents use parenting roles such as teaching, problem-solving, limit setting. On the other hand, parents who are martyrs and excuse-makers wind up with children who won’t and don’t know how to respond to the demands of young adult life. And nothing changes if nothing changes. For your sake and the sake of your child, demand change now.

For Readers who are Struggling with Getting their Adult Child to be Independent and Move Out
Once you’ve established that they can’t abuse and intimidate you and train you to give into them, then you have to help them prepare themselves for adulthood, even though they’re young adults. First, you have to force them to find work, no matter how menial they think that work is. The way that you force them to do that is you establish a time when they get up in the morning. Then they read the want ads, they go out, they put in job applications. On weeknights, they can’t stay out past a certain time. They have to live as if they have a job. If they’re not willing to do that, you fall back on the consequence structure that I outlined for you earlier. Number two, once they get that job, they have to pay room and board—not to add to the money of the household, but so you can put it away and have enough money for them to talk about moving out. They have to sit down once they have a job and work with you on doing a budget. The kid should have so much money for recreation, so much money for room and board, so much money for his savings, even if it’s only ten dollars a week. If he can’t open up a savings account yet, he gives the money to the parents to hold. He doesn’t put it in his drawer. And he has to live on that budget. You should not rescue him. You’re already providing a safe place to live. These mundane, basic skills make the difference between the kids who learn how to survive out there and the kids who can’t seem to make it.

Related: Having trouble getting through to your child?

Again, if this seems harsh to you, think about it this way. If this kid gets a job and spends all his money and can live at home, why would he ever move out? If you have a job at $12 an hour and you’re living at home for free, that’s like having a job for $25 an hour. Kids are going to want to live that way if you don’t make them uncomfortable. If you don’t demand change.

I want parents to think of the future. Not what are you doing for your child today. But what are you doing for your child tomorrow? If you’re supporting him today and making excuses for him today and buying his excuses, what you’re doing to your child of tomorrow is continuing his crippled attitude toward life. I can’t do it because…then fill in the blank. Because they don’t pay enough. Because they don’t like me. Because I don’t like doing that kind of work. Because I won’t work in fast food. Just fill in the blank. By not demanding change, what you’re doing to your child of tomorrow is not forcing him to prepare to learn how to live independently. He has to solve the problem of learning how to support himself. Make no mistake about it: If you tell a kid he has to work and he doesn’t, and you tolerate that and just continue to fight about it, you’re saying to him, in a non- verbal way, that he’s a cripple and you know it. You’re saying to him he’s not as good as the other kids, and you know it. You’re saying you’re willing to put up with this because you know that there’s something wrong with him. That’s the message he’s getting. So, he thinks there’s something wrong with him because he doesn’t know how to deal with discomfort and stress.

So, to push him, make demands of him, hold him accountable and give him consequences, are all really ways of saying, “You can do it and I expect you to. In fact, I demand you to.” It’s never too late to deal with children in a teaching, limit-setting and coaching way. If you don’t know how to do that specifically, we offer a program that can help you here on the Empowering Parents web site. Parents can start anytime, as long as they’re willing to deal with the discomfort of demanding that their kids change and holding them responsible. It may feel like the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. But it could save your kid’s life.

As a parent, I’ve had my ups and downs with my son. He’s self-supporting now, but that situation has been on and off for many years. He’s 31 years old, and he’s a real nice guy. I love him. But if he lost his job and he moved back home, he’d have to pay rent, come up with a budget and get a job. And I’d help him in any way I could. But if he verbally abused me or his mother, he’d have to go. It’s just that simple. I’ve worked all my life. I’m not going to take abuse now. So when I urge you to push your kid, understand that it’s exactly the way I pushed mine. If you don’t want to do it, that’s your choice. But, once I offer you a solution, if you come back and say you can’t do it, I don’t have another solution. Forget all the razzle-dazzle and the hype talk of the 80’s and 90’s. If you don’t work hard, you fall behind. If you don’t learn how to solve problems, you get stuck. If you don’t know how to deal with discomfort and stress, you’re going to have a hard time making it until you learn how to deal with these things. That’s the reality for adult children.

What to Do If Your Adult Child Is Stealing from You
Many parents wrote in and told of their struggles with an adult child who steals from them, be it credit card theft, stealing money from the house or forging checks. Stealing is absolutely intolerable. Whether it’s stealing from parents or siblings, it’s a crime. Know this: the laws don’t change inside the walls of your house. If I steal $20 from you on the street, that’s stealing. And if somebody steals $20 from you in your home, that’s stealing. And if it’s an adult, it’s a crime. It’s called larceny.

If your adult child steals from you, first of all, you should tell him, “Go upstairs, pack a bag and come back downstairs in five minutes.” When he comes back downstairs with a bag, say, “Here are your choices. You’re out of here for a week, and if you don’t stop stealing, you’re not coming back.” And I would call the police. I would pack a bag, put it on the curb, call the police and say, “He doesn’t live here anymore. He stole from us.” I’ve worked with many parents whose kids broke back into the house and they pressed charges for burglary. You have to be really clear with the police and tell them that he doesn’t live there anymore and you have to put his stuff out on the sidewalk. It’s going to cause a scene. You’re going to be embarrassed. But you can live in a little prison where you’re being abused and where there’s a predator stealing from you, or you can break out of that prison. It will take some noise, but you can break out of that and not be a victim.

Parents need support and help, and I understand what they’re going through because I came from this kind of family and I’ve worked with these families for three decades. But you also need to understand, you didn’t work like a dog all your life just to be in prison now. Ask yourself: is this what we worked for all our lives? We dealt with discomfort. We dealt with stress. We dealt with unhappiness. We had to come up with humility. Is this what we worked for now? That our adult son is going to live with us, steal from us, abuse us and make our lives miserable? If the answer is yes, I say go to it. I’m not here to contradict that. But if your answer is no, then you need to make some changes, and you need to make them now. It begins with getting him out of bed tomorrow morning and calling in the authorities if he gets abusive.

Parents are supposed to have a certain amount of power in our society just by virtue of being a parent. Sadly, in many cases, that is not the story. If you’re living with an abusive adult child who is committing crimes against you and your home, he obviously does not respect your power as a parent. So, you need civil power. You need the civil authorities. Don’t hesitate to use them. Everybody else is going to use them. Why shouldn’t you? Let me tell you one more thing that’s going to sound cold. If your kid does ten days in jail, good. Because he’s not going to curse at people and intimidate them in there. If success is having a job and being productive, then failure is sitting in a county jail. Ten days in jail can teach your child that it’s time for him to reach for something in between.

Let him share some of your pain and discomfort and see how he likes it. Because this is important: if you’re willing to do something about it, he will become willing to do something about it. He will not become willing to do something about it as long as you remain unwilling.

Fear of Responsibility: Adult Children Who Hide out Playing Video Games and Sleeping
In adolescence, kids want to be independent and free. They can’t wait to get out of their parent’s house and tell them what a pain in the neck they are. But the fact is that many kids, before they graduate from high school, do some acting out and show some anxiety or depression because they’re terrified of what’s on the other side of that. They’ve been safe in grade school, middle school, high school and in their families all their lives. Many kids are able to deal with these problems and they prepare to grow into the next stage of life. But there are those kids who, for whatever reason, are not prepared to grow into the next stage, and it shows in their behavior. The kids who are not prepared to take responsibility in their lives become angry, resentful and do irresponsible things. They’re terrified of change, and they’ll do anything to avoid it, including partying all night, sleeping until 2 pm and doing nothing but playing video games when they are awake. But these are the kids who have to be pushed the most.

I’ve dealt with many adult children in my office who had this fear, and I empathize with them. I do tell them that it’s a part of the process and that they have to face it. How do you face a fear of making it in the adult world? You get a job. And you do that job. You take a job for three months and you say, “I won’t quit. I’ll deal with all the craziness and I won’t quit. And at the end of three months, I’ll have some experience and then I’ll decide what I want to do next. And what I want to do next may be stay at McDonald’s or go someplace else. I won’t leave my job until I have a new one.” Eight months out of high school that kid is going to have some skills, experience and independence. He’s at work dealing with adult stress and mommy’s not holding his hand. That will prepare him for the next stage of growth. Maybe a more responsible job or going back to school. A lot of the work that I did in my office was coaching and teaching these kids on what they had to do. I literally had kids fill out three job applications a day then call me in my office to say that they had done it. And they would, because I gave them the clear message that accountability matters. While I empathized with them, I didn’t accept their excuses as to “why” they were stuck in life. Because “why” didn’t matter. Everyone has to be independent, no matter how afraid they are and what challenges they have in their lives.

I worked with mildly mentally retarded adults in my practice who lived in group homes with staff. They had to learn how to have a job if they wanted money because the state paid for their group home but did not give them any spending money. They had to learn how to have a supervised job if they wanted money. They had to learn how to talk nicely to people if they wanted to go out and do things and have privileges. They had to clean their rooms and make their beds every single day. They took turns cooking at night with staff support. They did these things because they had to acquire independence. So don’t tell me kids can’t do it. Not only can a kid do it, he has to do it.

Yes, these kids are afraid. They have a false sense of entitlement that they should have all of life’s niceties without having to work for them. They don’t know how to be independent. They haven’t learned how to solve social problems. But if they don’t start learning to solve them today, it’s not going to happen. So parents have to draw the line because the adult child will not draw the line. They’re having too much fun and they’re too afraid. If the parents can’t draw the line and the kid pushes it, then the police have to draw the line. It’s that simple.

Adult Children with Children: When You Have to Parent Both
I’ve worked with quite a few families who were living with 17, 18, 19 and 20 year olds who had their own children. The adult child can’t make it or the marriage falls apart and they move back in with their parents. This is a really tough situation, and I don’t want to minimize the emotional pressure everyone is under. These are innocent grandchildren. The role of parents and grandparents is very different. A parent sets limits, goals, and gets the kid to meet objectives and be productive. A grandparent is benign and indulging. They also set limits, but not in a full-time, around-the-clock manner. It’s a very difficult situation and I just want to make some observations that may be helpful.

Grandparents should do what they can to help out with child care. But only with the goal that the adult child pays room and board and that the money is put away until the adult child can move out. The adult child has to have a job and needs to look into daycare or public daycare. Parents everywhere go back to work when their kids are six months old. So you have to demand that your adult child do something to dig themselves out of the hole they’re in, and not just jump into the hole with them. Too many grandparents jump into the hole that their adult child has dug and stay there. And that doesn’t make any sense. You have to help or get out of the hole. The first way to get out of the hole is to stop digging.

Related: Having trouble getting on the same page with your spouse?

So, your adult daughter who has a toddler can’t run around all night. She has to live a work schedule. If she wants to go out at night, she has to get her own babysitter. Grandparents should not be babysitters for adult children living in their home. Let them pay for that. Have them live on a budget and let them pay for that. The adult child is not going to like that, but that’s where you draw the line. We’re not here to parent. We’ll help out while you work if we can. But you’re going to have to pay for that. If the adult child becomes explosive, call the police.

And there’s one more very hard thing that grandparents have to do. If the adult child is not taking responsibility for their own child and putting that child at risk, you have to call the state. Call the Department of Children and Family Services or whatever it’s called in your state. If the state comes in and does an investigation and finds the mother is not fit, they’ll first turn to the grandparents to see if they’ll take custody, or a family member. They will offer the mother supportive training and help. They don’t remove kids that easily. They don’t want your adult child’s child. Grandparents are terrified that the state will take their grandchildren. They don’t want your grandchild unless the mother’s strung out on drugs or committing crimes. They want the child with the mother. Because that’s where the child should be by nature and that’s the least expensive way to deal with the situation. The state does not want to take on the cost of raising your child’s child. Don’t fear that.

I’ve worked in states where state agencies have taken kids and they’ve needed to take those kids because they were in danger. But as soon as they take the child, they come up with a plan on how the parent can get the child back, whether it’s substance abuse treatment, career counseling or parent training. Just as you need to turn to a greater authority if your adult child is abusing you, you need to turn to a greater authority if your adult child is not caring for his or her own child. Understand this: you’re doing it for the welfare of your grandchild.

You may read my suggestions here and call it “tough love.” But that’s not what this is. There’s nothing tough about love. This is responsible love. It’s saying to your adult child, “I love you, and I’m going to be responsible. You can love me, but you have to be responsible.” Responsible love means demanding that your adult child learn how to solve his problems. Responsible love means demanding change. Now.

(Part 2 of a 3 part series. Please also see "Rules, Boundaries and Older Children" and "Rules, Boundaries and Older Children: Is it Ever too Late to set up a Living Agreement?" .

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James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."


Oh my word, wow! I need to hear this day after day. Thanks for saying what needs to be said. Please keep saying it!

Comment By : amazedatthepriceIchoosetopay

I appreciate the down-to-earth approach. It seems in today's society almost every parent I know is struggling with a teen and their behavior problems or an adult child that can not make it and stays home or keeps moving back in with no responsibility, just using the parents and they put up with it as if the child and his life are more important than the parents. People are afraid that their child will fail or feel bad. And I think parents do not feel they deserve happiness. I have intelligent, talented, healthy teens who are demanding indenpendence at the same time resisting it. I say that's normal, and you will figure it out just like everyone else around you. Now I am going to live the life I have created for myself. I will be here to support healthy behavior and unhealthy behavior belongs completely to you. These news letters are affirmation for me infused with practical problem solving techniques. Thank you!

Comment By : chelle

Awesome article that rings true to many parents!!!!

Comment By : Allie

I really like to read your thoughts and suggestions, keep them coming. You have helped me tremendously understand the way I have raised my children and what I can do to help them grow as a person. Thanks for your newsletters and transformation program.

Comment By : Tracy

It's like you've been living with me and watching my life with my son. All this time, I wondered why he is so different from his independent brother and now I see my part in creating that.

Comment By : Mom46

This says it all!!! I have an "adult" daughter who has a 3 mo old. I did the tough thing several months ago and had to call the police to get her out. Now she's home with the baby and is working everyday pt and going to college pt. She seems to be growing up - I just hope she continues on this road. Thanks so much for the support your program has given me to show me the way to deal with adolescent abuse - it was hard to call the police but, like you said, I've worked too hard to be abused by my own child.

Comment By : Debbie

I can't believe how this has all come about with your newsletters @this time..Being 57 with a 18 yr. daughter is overwhelming..I have been so confused, frustrated, sick, worried, lost and exhausted from knowing what should really be done, but not knowing how to do what I need to do...I'm also dealing with the care of my parents who live in NE. My 18 yr old, husband, older daughter, 2 grandaughters live in PA so I travel back and forth...there are so many emtions I deal with it's sometimes easier to not think or try to feel but just go thru the motions....Thank you for the least I feel now I have some type of map to follow for my 18 tr. old...

Comment By : momnmald

I agree with the authoritative approach expecting the child to take responsibility for his behavior; but, when I speak, my 13 yr. old foster son looks at me with disdain and does what he pleases. When my husband or I say, "Don't talk to me in this abusive manner,..." he sneers and continues doing what he pleases. He will devy instructions to his room or follow other directions. He has lost so many priviledges that there is little ammunition to stand behind our direct orders. He has ODD (Oppositionally Defiant) and ADD/HD so it is such a daily struggle to keep him on task and help him not sabatoge his own success in graduating eight grade. It seems he is anxious about moving on to H.S. and is doing everything from being late to playing hooky this week. We presume the school anxiety will pass, but it is getting his compliance in treating us respectfully that is most needed. He has been with us 6 years and we are not giving up on his placement; but, we're emotionally exhausted from his verbal abuse, slamming doors, banging, throwing, and doing damage in a threatening way. When he goes off to school, we're just dazed from the morning behaviors; only to have it repeat itself when we try to get him started on homework. He takes 30 mg. Adderall XR and a 5 mg. booster @ 3:15pm.

Comment By : Suzanne

I could not agree with your advice more. Having worked in a college setting for 17 years, I see entitled, helpless young adults every day. Parents who do not teach responsibility and consequences are not doing their children any good. In fact, they are harming them in ways that will last a lifetime. There will come a day when you (the parent) will not be around. If your job of teaching your young how to function as an adult is not done, then what??? We are faced with a generation full of young adults who cannot stand on their own two feet and have every excuse in the book as to why that is. Parents need to stop buying in to this nonsense. These kids are our future! Scary!

Comment By : seen too much not to worry about the future

James, you commented: "Making them leave the home is one of those things that may have to be done." This was exactly what the police 'enabled' me to do by informing me, too, that at the age of 18, in my state, an adult child is 'emancipated', meaning, as a parent, I no longer have responsibility to feed, clothe, house, nurture, etc. One would like to continue relationship with their children into their own adulthood, but sometimes the little bird needs to be pushed out of the nest in order to fly....all of the equipment is there. Let gravity do the work. 'Leave the alone and they will come home, wagging their tails behind them.' (Little Bo Peep)

Comment By : MEJ

Mr. Lehman, Your stark honesty about the real world, and how we need to prepare our kids for it, is refreshing. I think you're cleary correct about how many of us have allowed ourselves to pamper our kids too much, and the results speak for themselves. G. Bolles

Comment By : G.Bolles

Hi James, Excellent and timely article! You have really provided the motivation with practical steps that we need, as parents, to take control and put peace back into our homes. Thank You!!!!

Comment By : Jan

I have a 24 year old sister that still lives with my Mom. A lot of this would be so helpful to my Mother, but she is who created this situation and I know she is not open to change or to see it any other way. I emailed it to her... but I cant talk to her about it, it causes WW III. So, hopefully she will read it and some will sink in. Thanks for everything... and Im loving ur program!!! So are my kids! Structure is a wonderful thing!!

Comment By : itlnbrt551

How do you prevent your child from becoming an adult children? How do we prepare them to be a responsible adult?

Comment By : Susan

Our daughter is about to turn 18, and I feel we read this article, and started your program just in time, as she is the oldest of 5. Thank you so much! We are seeing results already and our home is already so much more peaceful after just 2 weeks. At first it seemed like things got much worse though, so hang in there, if you've just started! I was dreading her 18th birthday, but now I am seeing the future in a much different light.

Comment By : hopefulmom

awesome article, my thoughts exactly. I had an adult son who just moved out this time without me putting him out. I set the boundaries each time and he would not have been back this time had he not been in a car accident, but when he came back and I nursed him I explained you're not crippled only encapacitated temporarily so once these pins come out of your leg, or once you're walking get to walking. So now he's gone. But everything you said about their unwillingness to except change, responsibility for their actions is so true. I was not the doting parent, I'm a firm believer in boundaries, consequenses and rules with responsibility I had a son who would test every limit even to the verbal, stealing, and manipulating and trying to intimidate me. He's gone now and at 26 I don't see him coming back. I'm truly going to forward this article to all my friends in my e-list. Thank you and I do have your CD collection on behavior. Thanks Dr. for stepping into your God assigned roll, you're awesome with your advice and councel. God bless and keep you and your family well always.

Comment By : Jo

My daughter, 25, is married to a medical student. They have 2 children, 4 and 2 yrs. old. She recently got her first job as a teacher, but before that, I totally supported them financially. She suffers depression, got pregnant at 19, interrupted her university studies, and ended up getting married. I still help them financially because her pay is not enough for their expenses. Her husband still has 2 more years of studies, and is not working. They don't pay rent since his parents provided a house for them. Am I being too lenient? Should I draw the line, and let them try to survive with their low income? I keep saying to myself that this is temporary, but I am scared that they will become too comfortable with my help, and stop them from ever becoming independent.

Comment By : AHG

I loved this article and lived through some of it while my mom and stepdad dealt with two sons who would not grow up. Finally, one son went into the Navy and got straightened out, the other just drifted off to use other people. Sadly, 25 years later we were still worried that second son would "crash" mom's funeral and make a scene. To prevent a repeat of this HOLD KIDS RESPONSIBLE AT AN EARLY AGE. There is no excuse for abuse EVER. My kids 8, 11, 12 and 15 must maintain their rooms and things, achieve 80% or better in school (better in subject areas that they have greater ability) or they have no social life, no phone, no computer. Currently, all "screen" time is extremely limited. Kids who don't live up to parent's expectations need the boundaries narowed down to where the kid can succeed. This is not punishment, it is training. When my kids complain I tell them, too bad you don't like my rules, maybe at 18 you'll move out and make your own rules. Then we can visit over Sunday dinner and you can tell me all about it. Even my 8 year old knows that at 18 she will have a plan to launch and she will go.

Comment By : momto4

I have a situation of my stepson. He was incarcerated for ten years and has been with us for 2 years today. HE IS 46 and will not work, sleeps all day, drinks, smokes, uses drugs, etc. He lies, borrows money, never to repay, and does not contribute one cent to the household. I would have put him out in about two weeks, but my wife is not willing to do what counselors have told us LONG ago. I keep telling her she is not doing him any favors.

Comment By : droopy66

Mental Illness in Adult children may show up as abusive and or checking out behaviors such as glued to the TV all day, etc. This is something not to overstep. Here, it's important to not allow verbal/mental abuse as well, regardless of a Mental Illness.

Comment By : a Mom whos been there

I am so happy to get this articles, It's a constance reminder of what we should do with our kids. I thank you for teaching me how to deal with parenting, Its so hard and some times I forget you are there to guide us. I will keep doing my best to teach my 12 year old girl and my 17 year old boy, he is the hardest right now!. thank you againg.

Comment By : Pily

Hi, I was an adult child who lived with my parents until my daughter was 5 years old. When her dad and I split up, I did not want to move in with them. They insisted, and I knew that I would be going back to graduate school and she would be safer in their home than in a low income apartment and questionable daycare had I tried to do it on my own. While I was in school, I got student loans and anything my parents provided for her was of their own doing; I paid for everything for her. They told me not to worry about billd, just be a good mom and do well in school. When I began working, I tried to look for a place for me and my daughter, and they were very angry. They controlled everything I did with her. THe only activity I did for myself was go to the gym, and I took my daughter with me. My mother constantly berated me for this, even though the gym had an excellent childcare program, she was there for an hour a day, and I was modeling a positive behavior for her. That's it. I was not partying and doing drugs. I took her to gymanstics and Sesame Street Live and to the library. My ex and I tried to work things out until my daughter was 3, and I did not begin dating until after I saw that we could not get back together. When he offered to send child support, they insisted that I did not need it because they did more for her than he ever could. I said but I would be able to help with living expenses, and they told me they were not want that. I remarried in 2006, and my parents have made me feel guilty for it ever since. My husband treats my daughter like she is his, not a step-daughter. He was married before and has 2 girls that are around the same age as my daughter. The girls get along well; his fight with each other, not my child. There is some jealousy, but no more than a typical sibling relationship. His girls have more problems with each other than they do my daughter. His girls are the reason I ordered the total transformation program, but that is another story. My parents want me to come stay at their house constantly and go on vacations with them without my husband, they nitpick my husband, and insist that my daughter stay with them regularly during the schoolweek. THis is very difficult because I feel like we are divorced. They call me crying and tell me that my daughter is not happy, yet she shows no signs of unhappiness and I am not one of these oblivious moms. I taught high school for 4 years and quit teaching this schoolyear in order to be more involved with my child's schooling and because my husband and I are expecting a baby in a month. While my daughter is loving this, my parents focus on the negative constantly and have even said they don't know what kind of relationship they will have with my son because they are so close to my daughter. My husband feels that they want me to leave him, and move back in with them. It is not always the adult child's fault in these situations. I have prayed about this for years. Did I do the right thing? Was it best for us to live with them? My husband and I are hoping to relocate within the next year or so, and I feel that will help the situation. They have done this to me my whole life, any time I have tried to be on my own. Not all of us move home in order to take advantage of our parents or get a free ride. I love them and am very thankful to them for any help they have given me and my daughter. They have a wonderful relationship with my daughter and I am grateful for that. Perhaps this is a unique situation; I just felt that, as an adult child who had moved back home, I needed to share this because not all circumstances are the same and we should not be sterotyped in any way.

Comment By : angiekatie

I was one of those parents who had to throw my son out of the house due to his aggressive/abusive behavior. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I thought my son was bipolar which made it that much more difficult to throw him out. However, he refused to seek treatment or get a full-time job--he had just graduated high school and his philosophy at 17 was that I had to take care of him until he was 18... at 18 he said I had to take care of him until he was 20, etc.etc.etc. I am divorced from his dad and dad initially refused to take my son in. Therefore, my son had to live out of his car for quite a while. He wound up in a respite program for a couple of weeks and his father took him in (because I stood firm and refused to put up with his crazy behaviors). Sure, I felt bad especially considering he may have had a mental illness. However, my mental health was starting to suffer and it was affecting every aspect of my life. His dad took him in and set very strict rules--that was 10 months ago. My son, who is now 20, has had a full-time job, works quite a bit of overtime, has saved up $5,000 and wants to go to college. I also found out that his bizarre and aggressive behavior was due to heavy drug use and many of the behaviors mimicked bipolar disorder. Towing the line and not giving in WORKS!!

Comment By : SLM

After our son blew off looking for a job until too late last summer, his father (my ex-husband) and I sent him to work for "Habitat for Humanity". Our stance was that "You may not get paid, but you are going to work". He wasn't thrilled, but he did it and got some great job experience. I know it's a tough job market out there for everyone, getting a kid involved in volunteer work may be a good "first step" for others while they're unemployed.

Comment By : Cathy in Allegan

This is exactly what I've been telling my 17 year old, and yes you have to push them because they don't initiate on their own. My daughter says that I'm too strick and that as soon as she turns 18 she is out of my house. She doesn't have a clue, she doesn't have a job yet, but I've been doing the 10 job leads a week, she has no job experience and her heart is not in it. She is trying to get her GED (other issues) so she can go to dential assisting school, with out that she is in for a rude awaken. Onward through the fog. A reader

Comment By : Ms. B


Comment By : ERP

Thank you for your encouraging and informational articles! Wow! I am so greatful to hear that I am not crazy with teaching our child responsiblity and accountabilty. Our daughter is 20 years old with a 7 month old. They presently live with us. All of my daughters friends live carefree and have every new gadget that comes out on the market because their mommies give them whatever they want. Our daughter feels that we treat her like a twelve year old with all of the responsiblities and rules. We know that she is born to do great things and it was our job to empower her with disciplines that would take her far because of her character. I have been told by so many colleagues they take care of their grandchildren and let their children go out because their young and need their space. I say let them hire a babysitter if they want to go out and have their space. I am not a built in babysitter. It has been such a blessing to see our daughter mature into a responsible adult. She will be married within the next year and able to succeed without totally depending on us. Keep the great articles coming. My husband and I are enjoying them!! May God continue to bless you and your family for the awesome service you are sharing with concerned parents.

Comment By : Jeanine

I'm having such a hard time with my daughter, but after reading this article I see it all makes sense. Especially the fact that she is only hearing that I think there is something wrong with her because she doesn' know how to deal with discomfort and stress of growing up. After reading this, i want to help her to grow to be independant. So please keep these articles coming. They're great!!!!

Comment By : Jana

**Suzanne with ADD 13 YO son....I don't know when you wrote this, but maybe this will help. My daughter, 13, was on Adderall when she was 9-10...she never ate, and was ANGRY all the time. Finally pulled her off the meds..she is now taking strattera and while not as effective for the scattered behavior, the anger is gone, she is more normal now. Maybe a switch of meds is in order to help control the anger.

Comment By : momtutu

How do you deal with a 21 year old college student home on spring break who goes out with friends and is out much later than she said she would be and doesn't call to let you know her whereabouts? So you cal her. When she gets home she doesn't want to talk about it. Soon there is yelling and pushing and shoving. Help!

Comment By : Mom from MO

I will be sharing this article with my parents. I am 46, a working mother of two boys, and have been independent and working since I was 17. I have two sisters that still live at home and take advantage of my aging parents. I have tried to discuss this exact issue with my parents many times regarding my sisters but they tell me I'm jealous. I believe this is just an excuse and makes it easier for them to justify my sisters living with them. This article may be what they need to take the next step and remind them that being taken advantage of is not a good thing and that others feel the same.

Comment By : skb

I have a 21-year-old daughter who does not live with me but comes over every day and is VERY verbally abusive. She is always late with her car payment (car is in hubby's name) and when we try to talk to her about it, she gets extremely foul-mouthed and calls us names. She makes messes all over the house and leaves them for me to clean up. I have called the police in the past and she has stayed away until she promises to behave appropriately. When we give her another chance, she ALWAYS blows it. What can I do? She is making our lives miserable and is a bad influence on the 3 younger children still living at home. HELP! I cannot go on this way--my hubby is her stepfather AND an attorney and he just keeps letting her get away with it.

Comment By : SoTired

I am not a parent, but am dating a man who has a 22 year old son with many of these significant issues. Divorced for 12 years, with an ex-wife with significant mental and physiological issues, my boyfriend is now guilt-ridden which has prompted molly coddling of his disrespectful son. The son does not work, will not pay rent, but gathers money from his mother and grandmother to drink on the weekends with his friends visiting from college. My boyfriend will not take a stand, and is terrified of this young adult being on the street. He feels he will be a bad dad if he sets boundaries. The son is very manipulative, lies and has stolen from his 19 year old sister who also lives in the home with them, is a freshman at a local college, worked through the summer and all school year to buy a car for herself. She tends to spend her evenings sleeping at friends' houses. Although she appears close to her brother, I know she sees and is influenced him. She gets no reward, but the son gets free cable, food, sleeping until noon and no curfew. I am torn. I want to build a life with this man, but he will not move in or marry me until his son is "settled." I don't see any change and am now having to make the hard decisions for my own life, which don't include any of the ongoing drama. My BF and I both agree that his son could not move into my home (which would ultimately be our home), so I am left to wait. How to make a parent commit to being tough enough to make the hard decisions for their son's "tomorrow" and not just for today?

Comment By : PerpetualWaiting

* Dear Perpetual Waiting: Working to blend a family together can be challenging. It can take time for family members to adjust to new relationships. James Lehman wrote a series of articles on Blended Families you may find helpful; “My Blended Family Won’t Blend—Help!” and “Differences in Parenting? How Your Child May Be Using it Against You.” In these articles James recommends that the birth parent take the lead in making decisions around behavior goals and discipline for their child. And he recommends that both parental figures find a way to support each other as they help the child learn to comply with the house rules. That can be the tough part—agreeing with your partner on what those rules should be and then “letting it go” when you are in disagreement and supporting your partner’s decisions. We hope you are able to work this out together. We wish you the best.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My wife and I are the parents of a son who is 28 and still living at home. Generally, he is respectful but totally disrespects our expectations of him and the rules we set. The idea of enforcement has occurred to me on more than one occasion and this is the course we need to take. Ous son sleeps constantly, frequently stays out all night and we don't know where he is, has his own set of rules and lies to us and is now not only addicted to drugs but has his second offense for possession. I (we) are going to have a discussion with him today that has very simple rules to foolow about job search, sobriety, sleeping times and letting us know his whereabouts at all exceptions. If he cannot live by these rules, I will perfonaslly pack his bakgand call the police to escort him away. Thank you so much for the road map.

Comment By : TQ

Our 15 yr old daughter has run away again. Since leaving, she has admitted to being in a sexual relationship, she is now smoking and drinking alcohol, and smoking dope. Although she has been gone for 4 months now she continues to reach out by texting to us saying she loves us and is sorry. We know where she is living (she is living with her best friends family). But we have made no effort to ring or contact her since she ran away as she knows what we expect of her (the door is open to her but the rules still stand). However, we have just received a letter from her and in this letter she is pleading with us to contact her and to be a part of her life again as she misses us. The problem with this is that she wants us in her life, but also wants to continue living away from home to do her own thing. As far as I am concerned if she wants us in her life then she has to be prepared to come home and face the consequences of her behaviour and make some positive changes to become a part of this family again. Until then, although we are broken hearted by the decisions she is making, we feel she needs to get on with her life and leave us alone. (We have been battling with her for 2yrs now) She knows that we want her home, but she also knows we will not allow her to have a sexual relationship at 15, do drugs or drink alcohol in our home as we also have a younger daughters feelings to consider. I feel for our daughter as it is clear she is torn, we also miss her, but we will not be a part of her life until she is prepared to give up her current lifestyle and work together as a family to make the necessary changes. We have also come to the realization that this approach will probably alienate our daughter for some years until she gains enough maturity to realize the true depth of the hurt she has caused us all. Until then, she needs to get on with her life and let us get on with ours, as we are sick to death of the mental and physical drain this type of behaviour has had on us as her parents that have only ever wanted the best for her.

Comment By : TH

* Dear ‘TH’: We agree with you that it’s important that you have house rules and expectations your daughter must follow in order for her to come home and live with you again. If the reason you have ceased contact with your daughter is her struggle with alcohol and drug use, our best advice is to work with AL-ANON to find support and guidance for your family. Al-Anon is the best resource for techniques to use for family members of an active alcoholic or substance user. Alcoholism and drug use is a family disease and those who care most about the user, such as yourself, are affected the most. To learn more about Al-Anon, call 1-888-425-2666 or go online to We wish your family the best.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I needed to see this. I'm at my wits end with my 18 year old son and I needed to know that what I have to do next is the right thing and that I'm not the bad guy. Thanks

Comment By :

Thank You so much for discussing a topic that seems so widespread in our society,yet so ignored. I have experienced many of the issues raised in this series within my own (mixed) Family and I was very pleased to find that My philosophies match yours. I have been trying to help my significant other understand these philosophies in regards to dealing with her two adult daughters. I've stated all along that correcting their behavior and attitude may be difficult and scary but will benefit our Family in the long run. I wish I had access to this series of articles years ago. Thank You.

Comment By : Nick

I have a 9 year old son who hates school. We moved from Florida last year and it has been very hard for him to adjust to this school. He is in 3rd grade now which is harder for him. He has too many anxieties.He complains of stomach aches all the time. It is difficult for him to focused at school and when doing homework. The school and I are trying to help him the best we can, but I want your opinion on these behaviors. My son only likes video games. Doesn't like sports. How can I motivate him?

Comment By : lmptarpon

* Dear Imptarpon: It sounds like your family has made some major changes, such as your relocation. It is common for kids to take some time to adjust after moving. Given what you describe, we would recommend that the first thing you resolve is your son’s physical symptoms. If he is experiencing a lot of stomach aches, this will get in the way of him feeling motivated. Start by discussing with his pediatrician what you observe and what your son is telling you about his pain. We wish your family success.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I am the mother of a 27 year old adopted daughter that has recently come down with some sort of mental illness. We recently found out both birth parents have Schizophrenia. Our daughter has trashed her room, sleeps in the Family Room saying it is more comfortable, trashed that room and has taken over the basement. She brings all sorts of strange men into the house, does laundry at strange hours, has lost her FT job and only works 2 hours per day. She refuses to see anyone for her mental health issues. She continues to live at home and I have been made her "target". She says she wants to move out asap yet she has no income to support herself what do I do?

Comment By : frustrated

* To ‘frustrated’: This sounds like a very difficult situation for everyone involved. The hardest part is that it’s not likely that you’re going to be able to make your daughter get help for her mental illness. In situations like this it is best to focus on what you can control, and that is yourself. It might be helpful for you to look into some local support for yourself, someone who might be able to guide you as far as what Total Transformation tools from our website are going to be helpful for your daughter. The United Way’s 211 service may be able to help you find some support for yourself and maybe even some services that your daughter might be interested in. You can visit and enter your zip code to see if the service is available in your area (the service covers most of the U.S.). If the service is available, a link to the website for your local branch should pop right up. You might be able to search for local resources right on the website, or you can dial 2-1-1 from your phone (it works best from a landline) to talk to a referral specialist directly. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My son has just turned 18 and is waiting for some exam results to see if university will accept him for a placement. Throughout his childhood I had severe mental illness - and he spent a number of years living with his father. From a very early age - about three/four - he became interested in video games and now he spends most of his time in his room on the pc. He came back to live with me about a year ago and often complains of stomach upsets which seem to be related to stress. He avoids any responsibility and when I try and tackle him about it or try and set limits he becomes angry and says he has had crappy parents and tells me that he has learnt his behaviour from me. He has a point, and unforunately since I've had him I've found being a parent extremely stressful and I've struggled to cope. I gave him some inheritance money so that he can afford to go to university - but I am now currently broke and on benefits myself and am trying to get back on my feet and go back to work and I am finding it really frustrating trying to find ways of coping with his avoidance of responsibility and all his defensive arguments - and again, its affecting me mentally. I really don't know how to get help for us. His dad copes by either giving into him, or by taking over completely so our son hasn't learnt responsibility through his dad either. Our son is very intelligent, but I think his upbringing by us has almost disabled or disempowered him - I'm aware of the problem but I don't know how to put it right without me rejecting him or him rejecting me. Any advice would be appreciated.

Comment By : rachel15

this article is all good excedpt for the fact in ohio i can't just put bags out and say she no longer lives here. i tried and my 30 yr old daughter called the cops to tell ME that i can't throw her out. i have to evict her. i was going to change the locks and put her stuff out on the portch but the police told me i couldn't. she had to have access to MY home. she quit paying rent months ago, she is verbally abusive, disrespectful, does what she wants when she wants and i am done with it, i've had enough. but now i have to go through the eviction process and she has become even worse. its a nightmare. not in my wildest dreams would i have thought that as a parent and a homeowner i would have to evict. it will be at least a month and a half before she is gone and she is making it so difficult.

Comment By : madmom

* To ‘rachel15’: Thank you for sharing your story with us. You seem to have a really good awareness of some of the behavior patterns in your family and how they work or don’t work in terms of helping your son become a responsible adult. You also recognize your own limitations and triggers and that is a great thing. When you’re feeling as confused as you are about how to get help or where to start, it’s great to reach out as you have here. Here are a few options you have available to find some help in your local area:
1) Contact 211, a nationwide information and referral service, at or call their national phone number at 1-800-273-6222.
2) Contact the National Mental Health Services Information Center for a referral at 1-800-789-2647.
3) Contact the Boystown National Hotline which provides 24/7 support, crisis intervention, and local referrals to youth and families at 1-800-448-3000.
I am confident that with a little time and research through these services you can find the help you need for you and your son. We wish you luck. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

I relate (again) totally to the plight of many.I have the DNA clone of SLM's son and can only hope there is a similar ending for my abusive non compliant 23 year old. I totally agree with the many points this article has made and go to bed praying that as a single parent with no spousal support, I have the strength to follow through with the suggestions. I also need to check into the laws in my state since I don't know if putting bags on the corner will suffice in declaring him emancipated. If anyone knows laws for NYS, please advise me. Now, as the doctor suggests, I am sick and mentally fatigues and ready to free myself of being the prisoner in my own home. I just wish I knew how it would play out.In any case, it can't be all that much worse than living like this.

Comment By : serenitynow

Please help me! Our daughter has moved back home, she is sweet and a little shy. She is healthy, can drive, has worked but is immature. She is back in school, volunteers but doesn't work (she is 27). She had learning disabilities all through school and had to work hard to get good grades. Went to a Jr. College has her AA but the 4 year college was too much. She's lost jobs because she misses work from the headaches she gets when she is stressed out..She has fainted twice in public and has zero tolerance for pain. I don't want to cripple her by protecting her but I feel as though I am. She seems to be on the right path AGAIN with the new studies in school but in the back of my mind I'm worried it may be another failure (I would never express this to her) How hard to you push when they are not obnoxious or mean? I do see how this life of ease could be preferred than getting a job and we are getting tired of paying for everything (It's almost 9 months since she returned home). After reading this article I'll set some rules and boundaries but I really want to know how to deal with them when they may have some real fears and learning disabilities... Thank you so much for any advice.

Comment By : Please help me help her

* To ‘Please help me help her’: I can tell you really want to see your daughter being more independent. One of the most effective things you can do for her at this point is to make sure she has the skills she needs to do so. So what you might do is talk to your daughter about her goals. Does she have goals to get a 4-year degree, keep a full-time job, or to move out on her own eventually? Choose one of these to work on first and then look at what happened last time she tried to achieve this goal. What worked well and what didn’t? Talk about what she can do differently going forward to be more successful and set a time to check back in about her progress. If your daughter works with any local treatment professionals, they will be your best resource for determining how hard to “push” her. I am linking another series of articles on adult children that will give you more ideas and information. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.
Failure to Launch, Part 1
Failure to Launch, Part 2
Failure to Launch, Part 3

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

Dear Sara, Thank you for helping me, you have no idea how much I appreciate your words! My best, "Please help me help her"

Comment By : Please help me help her

I like the ideas and they'll work great when he is 18, but the initial article said 17 - 23 and I haven't seen anything that addresses this type of behavior in a 17 yr old. I think I can kick him out for 1, 4 days whatever but I'd like some help with living with him for the next 6 months until he IS 18.

Comment By : LaurenR

* To ‘LaurenR’: In most states, you are obligated to provide for your son’s needs until he turns 18. In planning for your son’s 18th birthday, it may be helpful for you to have these ideas in mind for how you can hold him accountable once he legally becomes an adult and is living in your home. As for looking at what might be helpful for you now, it is difficult to offer suggestions without knowing more about your situation. In general, we do recommend looking at what you can control, such as cell phone service or use of the family car to hold your son accountable for his behavior. Of course, if you are dealing with safety or legal issues such as violence or destroying your property, you always have the option of calling the police for assistance. I am including a link to an article I think you might find helpful: Calm Parenting: Stop Letting Your Child's Behavior Make You Crazy. We know that this isn’t easy, and we wish you and your family luck in the coming months.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

Thank you for this article. My husband and I are dealing with an adult child and she has a baby and another on the way. Your suggestions are good, hard but good. Thank you

Comment By : frustrated

I yhew out my son after many chances and he went and got an older woman that he married who supports him and he is 22 ad a job! now what can ya do about that?

Comment By : lynney

* To Lynney: I can imagine how frustrating it is to set some really firm limits with your son in hopes of teaching him how to be independent, only to have him leave your house and find someone else to take care of him. This is tough because you want him to be able to stand on his own two feet. However, he is an adult and there isn’t anything you can do about that fact that his wife supports him. That’s her problem now and how they choose to live is up to them. The only person you have control over is yourself. Our suggestion to you would be to focus on yourself—find something to do that helps you to cope with your frustration and disappointment with this situation. More importantly, focus on doing things you enjoy and living for you. Here is an article that will be very helpful to you: Calm Parenting: Stop Letting Your Child's Behavior Make You Crazy. We wish you luck as you work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

I'm a single parent. I moved back in with my mom a few years ago. I don't verbally abuse my mother, I don't sleep all day and play video games, and my mother certainly does not parent me or my child. I ended up in this situation because my (at the time I moved in) 11 year old was struggling with school. He was failing every subject and I worked full time. At one point I was working nearly seven days a week. Not only were my sons grades failing but our relationship was beginning to fray as well. We stopped communicating and became very frustrated with each other. I wanted him to do better in school but had no time to help him myself and he wanted someone home who could help him and take him to the movies once in a while. We were at odds all the time. I decided the best thing to do was to move back in with my mom and repair my relationship with my son as well as help him get him get back on track with his grades. I have taken a lot of heat over that decision. I have been lumped into this group of people who just don't want to better themselves or who want their parents to take care of them. Not the case! My son is not only doing excellent in school but he is an athlete and a musician. He has plans to go to college and will in fact be graduating high school soon. He is a very well rounded, respected, loving, and determined young man. All because I was able to be home with him. I can't imagine what would have happened if we had kept on the course we were on. I made a sacrafice to be a better parent. Any money that comes in goes right back into this household. Either I pay bills, buy food, or help with repairs. I could not have been an effective mother without the help of my mother. However, Now that my son is older ad stable I am having a very difficult time finding a job. I don't have as much work experience as the people I'm competeing for jobs have. The area I live in has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. I recieve public assistance but it's no where near enough to help me get on my own feet. I apply for jobs all the time. Sometimes the same job twice! I am not getting the calls back. I had Target call ME on the day of an interview as I was getting ready and tell me not to come. ??? It's hard out there! Just making a point. Thanks!

Comment By : MotherHen12

Spot on suggestions. I went to your site as have 26 yr old return home- no job, no volunteerism, no school. Thank you for suggestions. The rub is that I am social worker (LMSW) myself. Took a vacation thinking my jobs (have 2) were stressful, upon return discovered it was him that exhausted me of life energy. Thank you much !

Comment By : Ready to Retire

What if all of the suggested actions are done and still the adult child continues to threaten and bully family members?? Are there any anger management classes or are there any counseling or therepay you can recommend for the adult child??

Comment By : zelica

* To ‘Zelica’: It’s so hard to live with a child who bullies and threatens others in the home—nobody deserves that kind of treatment from anyone, let alone their child. You can certainly recommend that your child attend therapy or anger management (I will give you some information on how you might find these types of services in a moment) but what’s tough is that being an adult, your child doesn’t have to do either of those things. It’s best in this case to focus on what you can control. For example, you might require your child to get some help in order to continue living in your home. You can give your child a deadline to comply or find somewhere else to live. Another option is to call the police when your adult child is threatening others. This is a good way to send a clear message that his/her abusive behavior will no longer be tolerated. This is a difficult idea for many parents but once your child is an adult you are not required to provide shelter for them anymore—they are a guest in your home. Would you allow a guest to treat you the way your child does? What would you do if a guest was bullying people and making threats in your house? Asking yourself these kinds of questions is a good way to take the emotion (such as guilt) out of the decision-making process. Back to the therapy and anger management—you can locate services like this in your area by contacting 211, an information and referral service at 1-800-273-6222. Here are some more articles you might find helpful as well:
Failure to Launch, Part 1
Failure to Launch, Part 2
Failure to Launch, Part 3
We know this is really difficult and we wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My daughter is 23 and just joined the Army. She didn't even make it through reception week saying it just isn't for her and is returning home. She has previously dropped out of college (which wasn't even full-time)and had held a part-time job. She is a video game player, partier but cannot seem to stick by commitments. She says she is going to come home and go to school but we've been down that road already. She has a tendancy to destroy her own chances at independence and happiness. I want to pack up her things and ask her to leave because I cannot be staying up late at night to see if she arrives home okay every night. Can you offer any advice?

Comment By : Kang

* To “Kang”: Thank you for sharing your story with us. I can hear how much you want your daughter to be successful and it sounds like you have supported her through several opportunities to be happy and independent. When we coach parents of adult children on the Parental Support Line, we suggest focusing on establishing clear limits and firm boundaries, as Tina Wakefield outlines in the blog Ask PSL: When Is It Time for Your Child to Leave Home? If you should decide she can move back home, we would suggest developing a living agreement that outlines what the expectations are for her to live at home and what the consequences will be if she doesn’t meet those expectations. The living agreement can include her attending school and/or having at least a part time job, what time she will be expected home and what help around the house will be expected of her. James Lehman discusses how to set up a living agreement in his article Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part III: Is It Ever Too Late to Set up a Living Agreement? As a parent of an adult child, how much help and support you give your daughter is your choice. If you decide you don’t want your daughter to move back in with you, that’s OK. She is an adult and, as such, is responsible for taking care of herself; you are not responsible for providing continuous support after the age of 18. We hope this has been helpful. Good luck to you as you continue to work through this situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I have an adult child (19) living at home who has stolen from me primarily. I am considering having her arrested for the last incident. What happens to these young people long term; will this charge prevent her from getting a job or going to college? How do the courts deal with this behavior when it involves family? I am also worried that she will hate me for doing this. Additionally, I suspect that her boyfried will bail her out and that is not what I want either. If I do this I want her to have some time to sit in jail and think about her behavior and the consequences.

Comment By : Mother

* To “Mother”: Thank you for sharing your story with us. You ask some great questions. You might consider calling the non-emergency number of your local police department to ask some of these questions. Because municipal laws may differ from city to city, your local authorities would be in a much better position to answer your questions. I am sorry to hear you are going through this. Having a child steal from you can be distressing and disappointing. Many parents struggle with the idea of calling the police when their child is stealing from them. It’s understandable you would be concerned about what long range effects it may have for your daughter. Something to keep in mind is, when your authority isn’t enough, it may be necessary to call in a higher authority, as James suggests in his article Is It Time to Call the Police on Your Child? Assaultive Behavior, Verbal or Physical Abuse, Drugs and Crime. Calling the police is not an easy choice for any parent to make and, ultimately, only you can decide if this is the best course of action for you. We wish you and your family the best of luck as you continue to work through this challenge. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

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Responses to questions posted on are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

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