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Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part I

by James Lehman, MSW
Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part I

Do you have a child between the ages of 17 and 23 living with you? If you're in constant conflict with an older child over everything from curfews (should they have one or shouldn’t they?) to getting a job to alcohol use, James Lehman offers advice on how to set reasonable limits, and how to coach your child to responsibility and independence. (Part 1 of a 3 part series.)

"I want you to think of your adult children as guests. Not as children. How would you let a guest act? When would you draw the line with a guest?"

Parents feel they have to take care of their kids, whether they are 9 or 19 years old. But as kids get older, they engage in more risky behavior, and “taking care of them” becomes more challenging.  When they’re five, they’re climbing the monkey bars and you’re worried they’re going to break their arm.  At eleven they’re starting to play football or baseball and you’re afraid they might get hurt with a piece of equipment.  At 16, they’re starting to drive, they’re often getting money on their own, and they’re around people with drugs. On the surface, they may seem much more independent, but actually they are simply much more able to put their parents off and hide what’s really going on with them.

Related: Fighting with your adult child?

Kids between the ages of 17 and 23 have a lot of thinking errors. Just like you can have a spelling error, and misspell a word, you can have a thinking error in which you misread life’s problems and come out with the wrong solutions. When kids start hitting their late teens, you’ll hear them saying things that indicate they see themselves as victims. “It’s not my fault.” “I couldn’t help it.” “I only stayed out an hour late and you want to punish me?” They become much more adept at manipulating their parents by blaming them for being too rigid and strict. You’ll hear kids say, “I’m getting older now. You should trust me more.”  But the fact is, they’re not getting that much older. Teenage mentality lasts from early adolescence until 22 or 23 years of age.  Most of the research shows kids are still using the same parts of their brain at 22 that they were using at 15. Their brain is still developing in their early 20’s. So they are not that much more prepared for adult situations.  But parents can get sucked into the thinking error that “You owe me. You owe me a place to live. You shouldn’t be too rigid.”  When parents hear this enough, they start to feel guilty for the rules by which they have chosen to live. They begin to think they’re too strict just for trying to implement the rules they’ve always had since their kids were young.

How to Enforce the Rules of the House with Older Kids

I think parents should have two levels of rules with their older children who are still living at home. The first are the rules of your household that reflect your values, structure and moral authority. For example: People don’t abuse people around here. That doesn’t change at 18 or 19. That rule never changes. No drugs and alcohol, especially if you’re under age. That doesn’t change at 18 or 19. That’s the rule.  No stealing. No lying. I would keep those rules very clear, because you don’t want to start having double standards with older kids, especially if you have other younger kids in the home. 

The second level of rules is the one that enables parents to live with young adults. Certainly, young adults should get more responsibility and independence, but they have to earn it. If you’ve got a job, you get more independence. Should kids be able to stay out all night because they’re over 18? Absolutely not. If they’re living in your house, they have to let you know that they’re okay. That may mean calling in if they decide to sleep over at someone’s house. You have a right as a parent to expect this.

Related: Learn how to restore peace in your home today

The most important part of having rules with older children is the discussion that establishes those rules. When a child is about to turn 18, parents need to have a serious discussion about what the rules are going to be in order for everyone to live together. It should be a sit down, and you should write everything down that you agree to so that everything is clear. What can you do?  What can’t you do? How will we support you in what you can do? What’s going to happen if you do what you’re not supposed to do? What is forbidden? These things should be clearly spelled out. 

There’s a thin line between carrying your kids and being supportive of them. I think when someone is 18, if they finish high school, they should be supporting themselves financially. There should be no job too menial that they can’t take it until they find something better. Many kids don’t give a darn in high school, aren’t ready for a better job, and they resent the fact that they have to work at McDonald’s, 7-11 or some other starting out position. So they avoid doing it and think they’re better than that. This is a thinking error—a complete cognitive distortion that you shouldn’t accept as a parent. Parents need to say to older kids, “You made your choices in high school, and now if you want to better yourself, you’re going to have to go to school at night. If you want to better yourself, you’re going to have to start out in a junior college. If we can’t pay for  college full time, you’re going to have to work and go to school part time.”

Everyone in the home should know what the rules are, and it’s important to lay it all out before the child turns 18. For example, the rule on drinking: “If you come home drunk, you will not be allowed to live in our house."  It can be you’re out of the house for a few days, a few weeks or forever. Just establish the rule, write it down and explain to the child that he is over 18, and this is how we have to live with this issue. If kids get belligerent and violent after 18 (or at any time, in my opinion) the police should be called. 

Think of Your Adult Children as a Guests—Not as Children

If you feel compromised and taken advantage of by an older child, you need to realize this: the child is an adult now. He may not act it, but he is an adult. He’s living under your roof.  He has to follow your laws. I want you to think of your adult children as guests. Not as children. That’s the most important thing to do. They’re done with high school; they are now guests in your home. How would you let a guest act? When would you draw the line with a guest? When would you feel you have to call the police with a guest? 

When my son went to college, one of the biggest shocks he had was when we started to refer to his room as the guest room. I remember him saying, “But that’s my room.” We said, “No, that’s the guest room. You can stay there anytime you want, for as long as you want, as long as you live our way.” We said it with love and kindness, but we wanted him to see his role in a different way—as an adult.

Related: Having trouble getting through to your child?

For parents who are very anxious and have a lot of fears about their kids, this sounds like a difficult thing to say. I know that. But it’s really the best thing to say because you need to let these kids know that they have to start to make it on your own. In effect, you are saying, “You’ve had 18 years to learn how to make it on your own. Now’s the time to put it into practice. Whatever you’ve chosen not to learn or chosen not to do over those 18 years, you’re going to have to pay a price for that now.” 

The bottom line is, sometimes kids have to start out small. There’s no shame in that, and you have to make that very clear.  Even if it doesn’t match up with what you had hoped for your child. Many young adult children often have a false sense of entitlement. I met many kids in my practice who refused to go to school, and could only read and write at a seventh or eighth grade level at best. They told me they were going to be video game programmers, basketball players or rap singers. That’s how they were putting off their anxiety. If you’re talking to a kid who says, “I’m not making it in school, but I’m gonna be a rap singer. I wrote a few songs tonight,” that’s the way that that kid is postponing his anxiety. What he’s really saying is, “I’m so scared about the future, I have to make up this fantasy, and then I’m gonna cling to it.” Then, if you challenge that fantasy and say, “Wait a minute. There’s 20 million kids out there. What makes you think you can do it?” the kid says, “You don’t believe in me. You don’t have any faith in me.” He turns it right around on you until you’re the problem.  His not studying is not the problem. You’re not believing in his fantasy becomes the problem. 

When you have these different currents coming together in a home where parents are living with an older child, it can get very uncomfortable for everyone, if not hostile. The way to keep that hostility at bay is to have clarity beforehand. Get the expectations and the consequences down on paper—literally. Write them down and expect the child to live by them.

I have known many parents who couldn’t get their adult children out of bed. They think that they’re helping their adult children by giving them a roof over their head and not making them be responsible because they’re afraid for their kids. But what they’re afraid of can only be cured by that kid getting out of bed and doing something for himself. The parent is afraid the child is not going to amount to anything, that he’s not going to find a good job, that he’s not going to make it in school, that he’s going to get into trouble socially. But the thing that addresses those fears is to get him up at eight o’clock in the morning and get him out there looking for a job. Tell him to leave with his lunch, a cell phone and the internet want ads and don’t come back.   

This may sound harsh. You’re pushing someone out into a world that they have to deal with. But you’re not pushing them out of a plane without a parachute. You’re pushing them out into the street without any money. The solution to that problem is getting a job. Many times parents use their own fears, anxieties and sense of guilt and remorse to justify not doing what they would do to a guest. Out of fear, they choose not to expect out of their child what they expect out of themselves and each other every day.(Part 1 of a 3 part series. Please also see "In Response to Parents of 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."


Excellent advice!!

Comment By : Marie G.

The article is right on target. I am struggling with a daughter about to turn 18. The article helped me know I am on the right track with my rules of the house -- written down and posted on the closet door. Now I need to add the consequences for breaking the rules. Thank you,

Comment By : connie

My son is 17, he will be 18 this August before his Senior year. he is falling behind in school and says he will probably quit when he is 18. He is smart, likeable, and has a good heart. He is a hard worker and will get up at 6am to work before school. He says he just wants to work. He would give his last dollar to me if I needed it. I am a single mom and also have a 9 year old daughter. I am successful and so is his father, it is hard to know that he may make a decision to get a GED rather than a diploma. I know that he will be successful no matter what, but all I can do for now is implement the rules. He goes to school, but lets me know that when he is 18, he will make up his own mind. He said he will either pay me rent or move out if I want him to. I feel torn, because, truly, he is a good heart and is not as troublesome as some teens. He is not lazy, abusive, or a drug user. He started smoking cigarettes, but I chose not to fight that battle, as long as I dont see it. And it is never in our house. So is this a difficult child? How do I say anything differently to help him make a better choice?

Comment By : Annette

Hello James, I am so grateful for the Total Transformation Program. I am just starting to use it by listening to the CD's and reading the work book. This article from EP was a very helpful eye opener. I am a single mother of a 17 1/2 year old son. I am dealing with him not doing school work, although he is a smart young man with a high IQ. I have provided music lessons, and Kung Fu lessons for him to keep a balance in his life. He had been verbally abusive and defiant. It seems to be getting worse. I divorced his father ten years ago because of his verbal and controlling abuse. To make matters more complicated, my son and I have had to move in with my mother to care for her because she had been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease. My son is extremely frustrated with this situation, and he does not want to live with his father who's parenting style is abusive (I don't want him living in that environment either). I feel like I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. I work full time as an analyst for the State of California. I care for my mother and take care of her household items, including bills, banking, investments and taxes. I have enrolled my son in an anger management class recently to see if this will teach him that verbal abuse and uncontrollable anger is not acceptable. I even called the police to talk to him the other day. I got up the nerve to do this from you stating an obvious consequence. It is not easy at first, but I am not throwing in the towel. I have a few months left before my son turns 18 and I am going to keep fighting to the end to raise this boy into becoming a fine young man. I look forward to more of your articles, and although I am extremely time challenged, I look forward to completing the CD's and work book of the Total Transformation Program. Thank you for the great service you are providing myself and other parents who suffer anxiety on dealing with teenage difficutlies.

Comment By : Persevering Parent

James, I live in Maine We put together a group of mothers and studied the Total Transformation Program together and it was very helpful. My issue is I have 2 sons (ages 20 and 22) who are just loafing. My younger son Jonathan has been attending 3 semesters of community college and has failed many of his classes. I need to send him out on his own at this point. My other son Alex is 22. Both sons have ADHD as well as myself. Alex grew up in residential schools in Massachusetts due to severe behavioral and oppositional problems. Last year he joined the Air National Guard in Maine and did extremely well in a structured environment. He returned from training last August and all of the improvements have gone out the window. The number one problem with my adult males is "Addiction to the Video games". Alex has means to get a car yet he has more excuses. He was supposed to sign up for community college and start this week. Unfortunately, he never submitted the paperwork to the Airforce in time for him to start classes. He has $3800 left from his military sign-on bonus and he is living in a fantasy land due to his video game addiction. Both of my sons are addicted to on-line gaming and they pay for cable. I wrote them a letter back in early December to inform them of their last day if they don't start taking responsibility for their lives. Neither of the men/boys has even looked at the letter. I am giving up my doormat status and I will not continue to enable them. Right now they have no place to live as of Jan. 31st. I must follow-thru even though I feel extremely uptight about it. I am worried about Alex's anger so I will be calling the police to escort them out. In summary, this has not been easy. I realize things have to get worse before they get better. I have been inconsistent in my parenting in the past and so I realize that I have taught them how to treat me. I will follow-through. Do you do phone support James? I realize you live in Florida but your services are so greatly needed. I have heard a lot of professionals and by far, your program and philosophy is the best I've ever encountered. There is such a strong market for your services. Teenagers over 18 and adult children under 23 is an untapped market which many parents struggle with today. Thanks for your wonderful services. This article is very helpful. Regards, Ellen J

Comment By : Ellen

I have twin 14 year old boys. They are in constant competition with each other and as a result do not always respect the house rules. I always have to remind them to do their chores and it is usually followed by a criticism of how poorly their brother did it the day before. Not only is this emotionally tasking for me, I am concerned with their ability to take responsibility. If they are doing things such as not doing their chores and then sometimes lying about it, and going to different friend's houses without informing me, how can I regain this trust and get them to step up to their responsibility. Sometimes I feel like they are self deserving.

Comment By : A. King

Hit's the nail on the head! And, of course, the challenge is putting it into action.

Comment By : Al

I have a 17 year old son who will graduate from high school in June. He won't legally be an adult until next November. He got a job last summer (with me driving him every day because he had not proven that he was responsible enough to have a license) and everything appeared to be going well until I found his pot stash. The day after our discussion about it (and me flushing it down the toilet) he quit his job and is now refusing to look for a new one. I don't know how to get him on track.

Comment By : Valerie

the article hits home. I have an 18 yr. old son who has been in trouble with the law. he struggled through school and did graduate. He has great ideas and lots of potential. always held a job and is well liked. at home is a different story. he is verbally abusive does not like house rules although we never wrote them down. (maybe thats were the confusion is) everything is a debate and he thinks we should hand out to him all the time. on the other hand he wants out on his own and wants us to give him a chance at being an adult. realistically thats all fine, great thats what we want also, but he cannot aford to do it right know. we would like him to live in our house with our rules and save his money so he can have a plan and make it work. sometimes he acts very mature and equally immature. he is add and has lots of anxiety. he is very munipulating, emotional, hostile, but loving and caring and a very giving person. he is coming back home soon from incarseration and we need to know how to instill our rules without conflict.

Comment By : mike

Dear Dr. Lehman, This may or may not fit exactly into your article, but since our daughter is almost 18 (8 months away), I am hoping you can provide some advice and clarity into our situation. She has become very oppositional over the last 6 months when ever she doesn’t get her way and we put our foot down on things she wishes to do. She has run away twice. She has an angry attitude all the time. She has cursed at us and wished us dead. She does not keep her room clean-it is a total mess and so is her bathroom. She had a few chores around the house and these two rooms were to be her responsibility. She has failed all classes except the two she needs to graduate high school-she is aware of what she needs. She seems to have all the information on her rights. We have had the school cut her schedule to AM and enrolled her in two community college classes. We have told her she must get a part time job. The problem seems to be that she's almost 18 so we can't do anything (legally) when she doesn't follow house rules as we are still responsible for her. We have called the police when she has run away; they are supportive of us, but tell us there isn't anything they can do to force her to come home, behave and be respectful. We have felt like prisoners in our own home. We have watched our daughter go from a person who was headed to a four year college to a person that seems to absolutely hate us and is barely going to get out of high school. We have not found any drug/alcohol evidence but this level of opposition did start when she met an 18 year old boy/man last summer who we know does/sells drugs-she dropped her then boyfriend. I don’t know how much he is still in her life as she has met a new boy that seems like a nice person. He is older (19), attends college and has a job. She has lied, stolen from us, and dared behavior that we would never have imagined. The only way we have been able to have any control is to tell her we would send her to one of those schools for troubled teens-escorted in cuffs if needed-if she doesn't follow house rules or runs away again. Living with her under this threat is very stressful. We have all gone to therapy, but it doesn't seem to be changing the situation. She feels entitled as you mentioned. We have now told her that we would help financially if she attends a community college in the fall that is away from home. We want her out of this environment of bad friends and bad choices. She doesn't want to do that, she wants to stay here and attend the local community college. We have told her that if she wishes to do that, then she's on her own-move out, get a job and make your own life choices. Every day it's fear of the next drama. We are doing the best we can to get her to be a responsible person and to not enable this hostile, self-centered behavior to continue but it is exhausting. The joy has gone out of our lives. We can’t seem to understand where our daughter went. She is not the same person she was. She was not perfect, but we all had a life that was much different than this one we have today. She had everything that she could want-part time job, computer, cell phone, learner’s permit as we were teaching her to drive, friends, a boyfriend that was a good kid, a social life, goals, success, and a loving home. We have such angry, hurt feelings ourselves that we are consumed by this daily. Can you speak to our problems? Thank you in advance.

Comment By : Linda

Wonderful article! Will try to implement your suggestions and will forward your article to other parents who have troubled teens/young adults in their home. We also purchased your program and found it helpful. Thank you for your guidance.

Comment By : Deborah

Boy, does this article speak about my situation. My son is now 24 and a high school drop-out. He managed to get his GED last year, and longs for a life driving over the road with a truck. We have battled drug addiction in the past and even with the help of a treatment center.He is the type of person who wouldn't get out of bed in the morning and clings to the hope of his education money buying the big rig for his future. I bought the total transformation program and wished I had it 10 years ago. I really don't know what to do he is living rent free in a condo I have purchased and the state helps him with some services, but he doesn't seem to be able to start his life. He claims he's depressed but now I know it's lack of problem solving. HELP! Mary L

Comment By : Mary L

Thank you for this article. We have a pregnant unmarried daughter at home. She is pushing us and we have been setting boundaries. She won't like them but we have to set them to survive. Your words confirmed to me that we are doing the right thing now and making her mind us and our rules. NO more garbage!

Comment By : Michelle

Informative article. It's good to see some of the behavior we are experiencing with our 17 year old son is common. He becomes belligerent when confronted or asked questions and has been "off track" for much of his senior year. I see where I have empowered him to act like this AND as I read I remind myself that I have to be firm with him. I believe the anger he expresses to be will be temporary.

Comment By : Jan

My 19 year old son has flunked out of college & Junior College (living in the virtual world (computer & text messaging on his phone & sleeping all day). He is living at home. He was just fired from his most recent job & has been without one for 3 weeks. He pays for his own phone. He pays monthly payments for his car & for some of his insurance. He has started mooching off friends & staying with them at their apts. to avoid the dreaded parents. How do you motivate a 19 year old who feels entitled? Great article.

Comment By : holly

So, James we are caught in a very difficult spot now. Our son is 22 and barely making college, won't get a job, in trouble with the law, stays out all night and comes home drunk. We don't want to kick him out because we feel that he needs a safe place to know he can stay and be loved. He has been out on his own off and on but always runs out of money and moves back in. I have purchased you program 2 years ago and it was very helpful, however lately, we don't get much time to talk with him as he is never home when we are. We need help.

Comment By : Jan

This is excellent advice. I need all the support I can get with my two teenage boys. Your description of the sense of entitlement is right on! I am going to write down my rules and consequences this week! I look forward to part II.

Comment By : Cindy

* ***Editor’s Note: James will select from among specific questions you’ve sent in regarding older children and will answer them in next month’s issue of EP. Thanks for sharing your stories with us.

Comment By : Elisabeth Wilkins, Editor

I rent a house from my best friend. I have living with me, my 22 year old son, 18 year old daughter and my best friend's 19 year old son (he came with the house). My son has a job and he pays rent to my friend, as do I. My daughter and my friend's son do not have jobs, do not go to school and refuse to do chores. None of the three pay me anything to contribute to the utilities and food. When I say something to my son, he says, "I have a job. Talk to these other two." The others think, somehow, that it is my responsibility to keep them in electricity, water, DSL, satellite and food. They will not have a rational discussion with me. One of them or all three will get angry and stomp away when I try to talk to them. How can I communicate any expectations and rules when they will not even listen?

Comment By : Crazy in Georgia

I have a 19 year old daughter, attending university, paid for by ex husband who lives out of state. He and I both believe our daughters boyfriend (no in college, a bit older than her) are changing our once outgoing girl into a dependant hanger on. She works during school breaks whereever her boyfriend works, stays at boyfriends house on holidays, leaves school most weekends to be with boyfriend. She claims that because they are so poor, they need her help so she pays them a bit to live there. She refuses to live with us any longer on her breaks because of anger management issues we have at home with our younger kids, and I can understand she has the right to live where ever now that she's older, but it hurts to think that this a student is that running from one set of problems to another set and thinks it is ok. We talk about it, cry alot, then seem to come to an understanding, but the pattern repeats. Her father hasn't set any ground rules that seem to affect her. Her step father won't even deal with it, just calls her names and says she's a loser (he raised her from age 6-18). While we try to show love and interest in her college life, she doesn't like to talk about it much. She has always maintained that she doesn't drink or do drugs, but we know she's on the pill and is having sex. But lately she doesn't return my occasional (once a week) calls and I'm worried about what else she may be doing, or about her decisions about issues she is dealing with (summer plans, etc).

Comment By : concerned mom

I have a 15-yr. old son who is very demanding, often speaks to me very disrespectfully and forcefully using foul language as though I were anyone OTHER than his own mother. The boy is 6ft. tall and towers over my 5'5" frame. He has become quite strong, and frankly can be very intimidating to me at times. He has threatened me on occasion. I actually DID treat him as though I would treat a guest in my home and called the police once when he threatened me and we got into a physical altercation with each other, and told him I would NOT allow him to live in my home under those circumstances, but once the police arrived, the officer told me that by standing up to him , I was only aggravating the problem (allowing it to escalate0 and that I should simply walk away. Was he KIDDING ???!!! I am not about to walk away from my own child who is threatening me and speaking to me in that manner. I am a single parent with no man in the home, and I feel as though I am being greatly taken advantage of, and I don't know what to do. I divorced his Dad for being abusive to me...but how can you divorce a child ? Where would he go ? (at age 15?) The police told me I can't very well just send my own teen son out on the streets with no place to live...but under the circumstances...I am not willing to live under those threatening conditions!& I refused to be treated that way by my own son. Please help...what should I do ? I can't very well put him over my knee anymore and spank him at his age and size!

Comment By : Singlmom3

My husband an I agreed to take in his 17 yr old sister who is an unwed mom to 10month old. We have 3 children 13-9-6 and we are so stressed out having her in our home, she wants to behave like a 17 year old that has no responsibilities,and leaves the baby with me to take care of and complains the whole time she is home. There is no one else in the family to take her and the baby in, what should we do, this is not fair to our children or our relationship.

Comment By : Mandy

My daughter is 20, she has been struggling since 16. She says shes not doing drugs. Her problem is that shes been in trouble for steeling. She's racked up fraud checks and to me does'nt get it. She'd write a bad check from 1 account she had and cash it at another bank she had an account. This is going to catch up with her and I can't get through to her it's going to catch up. She can't seem to keep a job or get one at this point. She's a beautiful woman, can come across as a sweet personseems to have lost all her girlfriends and is now living with her boyfriend at his parents house. They lost the apt. they were sharing together. I think she needs professional help. Today she got caught at the bank trying to cash one of my checks for $40.00. She went into my house, even after she was told never to go in without permission. But she's already out of the house. ?

Comment By : Tuff love or hard time

I have a 21 year old son that we just kicked out for the 4th time. He hasn't held a job for the past 8 months and was sleeping all day while staying up all night and partying (drugs & alcohol). He lies to us, steals from us, money, tools, jewelry, etc. He doesn't pick up after himself until I get angry with him. Basically lives like a pig. I have tried to help him with jobs, but he has either blown it off or just doesn't show up. He does not have a running vehicle to drive and has lost his driver's license due to driving without insurance. He has a warrant out for his arrest and has spent many days in jail (which I thought he had hit bottom). A year ago he joined the Army Reserves and after Boot Camp he decided not to attend the weekend duty. The Army gave him an Honorable Discharge and he now owes the government $5,000 along with the Warrant amount of $2,200. When we kicked him out the other day he left but has now come back crying and sorrowful of what he has done and is living in his broke down truck in front of our house. We have asked him to leave, but he refuses. I do not want him living at home with us, especially when my husband and I are raising our 16 year old son. What should we do? Signed HELP!

Comment By : Deb

To Linda-- My son fit your daughter's description, and I would bet money on the fact that she is doing drugs. It's amazing how they are able to hide it. Nothing matters anymore and their main goal in life is to get high. My son is in a residential school now, and if we hadn't done that, I'm afraid to think where he would be. Even he admits that he was really screwed up. Do whatever you need to do to feel that you've done all you could. Therapy doesn't always work.

Comment By : Valerie

We are at our wits end with our 16 year old daughter. She is adopted and has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, Depression, Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. She has been on multiple medictions. We have had her in CD tx centers--both inpatient and outpatient as well as psychologists and psychiarists. She has had trouble with the law-multiple times. We ae now trying to get her into an Outpatient Mental health treatment center. She has stole from us, damage personal property, assaulted us-verbally and physically etcetcetc.. We have listened to all your tapes but still feel we are losing the battle. The county we live in won't help and we ae running out of financial resources. She is on several medications to control her behaviors etc. but minimal results. We could go on and on and on about her difficulties. What else can we do??????? Thank you from Minnesota

Comment By : Julianne

How do you make an 18 year old get a job when he has no car, no license and no skills and yells obscenities at you for trying to wake him up at 2pm? He thinks he is too good to work at menial minimum wage jobs!

Comment By : drichey

My sister is 26 years old and currently lives with our mom and dad. She has a 2 year old little girl. She doesn't work or receive any financial help from the father. She gets free insurance and food stamps through the state. She is totally ridiculous when it comes to responsibility. She is not responsible for her daughter. She doesn't follow our parents rules AT ALL!!!! She wants to constantly run around with her friends and her idiot boyfriend. My parents put gas in the car they gave her, they pay her car insurance, they buy diapers for the baby (my sister won't even potty train her), they buy my sister's cigarettes and give her money for her "other" smoke. Don't get me wrong, my parents help me out too, but I am 29 years old, have 2 kids, work full-time, and go to school full-time. I have my own car, pay most of my own bills (they do help out) and I also receive no support from my kids' fathers. It upsets me soooo much to see her take advantage of them like this. She won't even clean the house when they ask her. She never keeps jobs that she gets, she is also let go for one BS reason or another. She lies constantly. She takes advantage of us watching her daughter so she can "get away." I have told my parents it is partially their fault that she acts this way because they keep allowing her to get away with this behavior. They don't wanna kick her out of their house because of my niece, but something's gotta give. I said kick her out, she always has someplace else to be, so its not like she will be on the street. But they won't. I told them they have to show her tough love because she will never grow up and be a productive member of society. She just doesn't want to work or be responsible for herself, she wants to live off other people. She actually is waiting around for a man to come along that will take care of her and my niece. It is seriously stressing my parents out, especially my mom, and I can't stand to go visit when there is soooo much tension and drama. Please pick this as one to comment on. I will show it to my parents and my sister so they can have an expert's point of view. Thank you!!!

Comment By : Fed Up

James, Great article! My husband and I purchased your program just over a year ago. We have a daughter who is over 18 now and no longer living with us (her choice as a result of setting clear, firm, loving bounderies based on our values.) We also have two younger children who have endured alot of turmoil and poor examples of appropriate behavior, mind you; I a including myself and my husband in this "poor example" definition. When our middle child who was diagnosed two years prior with ADD began exhibiting some of the same behavior issues as his sister I was at my wits end. I was not going to do this again! I could not live this way any longer with this lack of self- control, respect, responsibility and 'true love' going on in my home. My family and marriage were in trouble! I believe the Lord answered my prayers that morning when I saw your infomercial. I immedietly ordered the program. We started working thru the program right away...with small and then larger successes. I remember reading thru the discriptions of behaviors and saying "yes...this is so and so's problem, this one is so much like so snd so..." What I also had to admit was that many of those same behaviors had become evident in myself and my husband!! OH MY GOSH! That was not what I wanted to see or admit. BUT, how could I expect my children to live by a standard that I was not living by! That was the first step of the Total transformation. My husband and I continued to change and grow into the parents we were ment to be, the younger children began to change as well. We found that our older daughter just continued to become more rebellious and more resistent as we stopped reacting to her choices and acted approprietly prior to, or after with the natural consequences one would reasonably expect to come about. Over this past year+, her behavior has gone up and down on the scale of acceptable to totally out of control. The evidence is overwhelming in her life, even as we stand back and love and pray for her from a distance. The truth of it all...any transformation, change,repentance, whatever you want to call it has to come from the heart. If it is to be a permanent change! If the ideas and teachings are only reaching the brain, anyone can change for awhile...but the true feelings and beliefs of their heart will eventually come to the surface again in the form of those same old unacceptable actions. It is a CHOICE we EACH have the freedom to make for ourselves....even as small children who rebell in big ways will demonstrate. When we start to get results we can no longer "live with"...we will change or move. That is a natural scientific fact. As a child who grew up in an out of control, verbally and physically abusive environment, who then unfortunately, but forgivably became a parent in an out of control home; and who is now experiencing a family that shares a totally loving, respectful, home filled with honor, love, acceptance (not blind tolerance), and personal responsibility for ones own actions...(by no means is this claiming perfection in any of us) I want to encourage everyone to determine your values, look to your own "Higher power" (we call ours God) stand firm on those truths and use the tools you have been given in this "Total Transformation" program. The results will come about. It takes the daily constant action. Don't look at how high the mountain is until you are at the top. You will look down on your journey and say, "now, that wasn't as bad as I feared it would be." We made it, and have made many changes, resulting in not only our childrens', but our own "Total Transformation"! Our journey has been ongoing from about 11 years ago. I hope it is not over...(I am just much better equipped)... if I have already learned everything I need to in this world of ours, I would have no challenge to grow, to be better, to do better, to do more, to give more etc. Thanks for the tools, and thanks for the opportunity to share from my Transformed Heart!

Comment By : true heart of a mom

Our 16 year old son has started smoking cigar/cigarettes! We have told him he is not to smoke in our home and we catch him now and then doing it anyway! We don't want him to smoke at all! We don't and his father has asthma and it is not good for him to be around it! We have an 8yr old and a 14 year old and worry about how this will effect him and how we should handle it so they will understand we do not approve and will not tolerate it!

Comment By : Worried Mom

I find it especially amusing that you use the word 'entitlement'. That's the same word I use to describe my 21 year old daughter's (Kim) attitude. I am her father and divorced from her (and her sister - Carol's) mother. They lived with their mother for 8 years after the divorce and have been with me for the last 3 years. I allowed Kim to attend a private school because she received a large scholarship that resulted in a tuition bill similar to a state school. I stated at the beginning that if she losses that scholarship she must transfer to a state school. So, guess what? She failed two classes and lost her scholarship. She stated that she could get it back if she picked her grades for one semester, so I signed a loan. She did well, but could not get the scholarship back. I don't even know if she really tried and the school will not talk to me without her permission because she is not a minor. She won't give her permission. She has been demanding that I sign additional loans! I refuse - go to a state school is my response, I cannot afford a private school, partly/largely as a result of the divorce. I have stuck to my word and refuse to give in, and we fight often. I suggest many alternatives regarding financial aid - I fill out the federal forms - but cannot get anything worthwhile. However, I don't own a home and her loss of the scholarship would help her get other aid if she talked to them - and I offered to go with her. She refuses! She just seems so unbelievably stupid and stubborn about this! What do you think is going on here? Thank you.

Comment By : wwk

We have an 18 yr. old son and a 12 yr. old daughter, both adopted as infants. Our son has ADHD and our daughter has Sensory Integration Disorder. At 15 our son was cutting himself, using alcohol and drugs, smoking, skipping school, hanging around with losers and running away from home. We had tried many different counselors (from age 11 on), but he was refusing to go to therapy and take prescribed medications for ADHD and depression. He was being very destructive with our property, throwing dresser drawers and breaking them, took a knife to his mattress, punched a hole in the wall,etc. Finally, not knowing what else to do, we sent him to a residential school in another country and didn't see him for 18 months. We had to bring him home before completing the program because we could no longer pay for it. The "honeymoon" period lasted only a few weeks. He no longer was cutting, but went back to the same activities as before. He went back to the same high school but decided to drop out midway through his senior year. However, because he was on an Individual Education Plan for his ADHD, the school district provided a private tutor who came to our house and literally lead him step by step to finishing high school. He spent the summer playing around and has actually kept a part time job for 4 months now. However, he spends every cent the moment he gets his paycheck on clothes and junkfood. He continues to be rude and beligerant to us and his sister and has put a hole in his bedroom door and knocked it off its hinges. He leaves a mess everywhere he goes in the house, and has to be reminded to do simple chores. I recently found a gallon bottle of vodka in his room when he wasn't home and removed it. He was furious that I had taken his property and went through his room looking for other contraband (I found wine in a thermos and a couple cans of beer). He lies and steals from us. We have had a padlock on the outside of our bedroom door since he was 15 just so we have a safe place to keep money, alcohol and valuables. Obviously, all of the trauma in our family has affected our daughter who we just found out is now cutting herself and has become beligerant. We have gotten her into counseling, but I suspect we have a rough road ahead with her, too. There is seldom peace in our home. I have been being treated for depression and anxiety because of all the turmoil and my husband retreats to playing games on his computer to deal with the tension. We feel like we are constantly holding our breath and walking on eggshells. HELP!

Comment By : Going crazy

We adopted our daughter when she was 15 and now she is 19. We have 3 other kids. They are all close in age. Because she was "behind" in her academics, we had to put her in a grade lower than she should be and so she thinks that she is sooo much older than the rest of the class. Since she turned 19, she has turned into a rebellious, uncaring kid. It's all about her. We have rules about coming home, not staying over night, finishing high school, no parties with drugs,alcohol, no drinking/driving or riding with drunk drivers, being respectful to each other. But, apparently the rules don't apply to her. It has been a challenge because it is hard to discipline her or take away her priviledges that usually work with a younger child. She lived in the streets for a few years before we adopted her so she has been there, done that, what could we do to her that would be so bad? She has rarely, if ever said she was sorry for the things she has done. Now she is pregnant and she has to finish high school. We were looking forward to sending her off after high school, but we do want to help support her thru the pregnancy and help her get on her feet. We do need to sit down and write out the rules of the house while she is the guest. I have issues with her attitude which I understand is not the right "wording" to use. So, she needs a Miss Manners class. She is totally lacking in the social skills of just being nice. My husband and I have been her biggest cheer leaders, yet we have also been the enforcers of the rules and it has been challenging. Things will go ok for awhile and then, BANG, something blows up and we have to start all over. Anyone out there who is going thru this, I completely understand and you have my sympathy.

Comment By : trying to hang in there

* Dear wwk: What I think is going on is that your daughter is not taking advantage of the opportunities that are available to her now or that were available to her when she had a scholarship. She is responsible for the grades she received. What you offer financially is up to you and I think you have been clear on what that is. It is important to stop arguing with her. This gives her the idea that there is a possibility of change and that she has the right to an explanation or solution that is acceptable to her. Just remind her that she has a decision to make about the educational opportunities that are available to her. Our best to you.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor


Comment By : MS. T.

Would you make any changes in these instructions for a bipolar child? Knowledge of this illness often shades our decisions. He has been away, but is recovering at home now.

Comment By : Carol

My 15 year old daughter needs help! My husband and I are at a point where we absolutly have no idea what to do. She was 6 when we adopted her along with her younger sister who is now 12. She has always been extremely loud and bold as a child and for the first couple years after we adopted her we went to therapists for Attachment Disorder. We've been to several therapists the last couple years but her behavior never gets better. She's done drugs, smokes cigarettes, yells she hates my husband & I, she hates living here. She lies and is sneaky about everything. Our problem is it's gotten to the point now that when we give her any type of consequence she yells she hates us and runs away right to the people that give her the drugs and cigarettes. We've called the police a couple times but then she thinks it's cool and we've heard her bragging to her friends how the police came to get her. She has no fear of running away and of course we need to have some sort of consequences not only to protect her but her younger sister sees everything she does. We wonder if its hopeless and we should send her to a boot camp or boarding school and just try to focus on raising our younger 12 yr. old. (We've raised a 22 year old son who has been out on his own since he was 19, has a great job and is doing well so we know we're not terrible parents.)

Comment By : any suggestions?

My son is 21 and in his third year of college in chicago. When he comes home we very rarely see him he is out partying or sleeping all day. He has done exremely well in school and has kept his grade point average at a 3.0. He will not get a part-time job while at school. He is a recipient of a low interest loan that helps pays his living expenses books etc. He thinks this is a free ride and can use this money any way he sees fit. His rent in Chicago is outrageous to say the least. I have tried to help him with his finances and time management skills to no avail. We have berated his sleeping behaviors and his room while he is home is unbearably filthy. I can not tell you the number of times that we have shoveled out his apt in chicago when he had messy room mates NOW he is by himself and still his cleanliness habits leave alot to be desired. He says he is busy with classes BUT when he has a day off it is spent sleeping in bed all day and playing video games. We are at our wits end. On the one hand he is getting a very good education and doing well but we are also paying his car payments insurance etc (He does not have his car in chicago it is way too expensive to have a vehicle up there) We can not seem to motivate him to help himself a little more financially. We have had to take out parent plus loans to help pay for his college eduction and we continue to tell him we are going into debt for him the least he could do is help himself... What are we to do. we are so lost.

Comment By : monasue

My husband and I have listened to the Total Transformation program, but only AFTER our son had gotten into trouble with the law. We turned him in after two years of counseling (with counselors who did not report) for sexual acts. The final straw was when our daughter came to us and told on her brother-the counselor finally reported and we turned our son into the police. We have filed complaints about the two counselors (Christian) that did not report. Anyway, our home of course is upside-down. We (our whole family)have been in counseling for 3yrs. now. Our two young children (5,8) were victims. Our son (16) did this at night while we were sleeping. Needless to say, our hearts have been wrenched with grief for everyone. Our son is entrenched with a broken system and is getting harder and harder. There are some break-through times, but our son sabotages his work just when he is about to make great progress. We have watched him go from placement to placement and facility to facility. He was on so many drugs at one point, he gained 80lbs. in less than one year. Our dilema is this: How will our son get the help he needs if he has had approximately 6 placements (one was 20 months), 10 counselors, 6 psychiatrists, and 4 different school environments? He also has comprehension deficiencies (I homeschooled him with specialists) that have been documented in neuro-psychological testing repeatedly (3). I am not making excuses for him, but some consistency needs to happen. We have had One excellent counselor the whole time who sees us weekly as well as, our other children been with another counselor the whole time. The "system" seems to think they are doing all they can for our son. Every time he begins to develop a rappor with a counselor, it changes and he has to start all over again. Every time he is making good progress now, he acts out. How can we advocate for our son without it seeming like we are making excuses? We are documenting all the team treatment meetings, visitation, and all the other requirements. We have only missed one team treatment mtg. in three years. We have submitted reports to our lawyer and Judge. Our son is worse now emotionally than he was when he went in. We are almost sorry that we turned to the system for help. We sure wish we had had your program long before he got in trouble. The tools you present are invaluable for the rest of our family. Thanks for your help.

Comment By : Exhausted in NC

I have a 17 year old son with a learning disability. He has a victim mentality, is immature, manipulative and missing too much school. His self esteem is very low and he is always saying that he is in the "retard" classes, which is actually Resource/special ed reading. I try to encourage him that he has other important abilities. The situation has been complicated by the loss of his dad to cancer when he was 13. He doesn't want to discuss his feelings about the loss and I can't afford private counseling. He is very irresponsible, doesn't take care of his or anyone else's belongings. No matter what he gets, whether it is privileges or material things, it is never enough. If he hears the word "no" he usually goes into a verbal temper tantrum, using foul language and yelling. It reminds me of the way a 4 year old acts when told no (except for the language). I don't use that kind of language and never have. One of my problems is that I am just not very creative at coming up with consequences and am not sure what to do or what consequences to use. This is complicated by the fact that I have a fiance' who is getting increasinly agitated with seeing me not effectively deal with my son (and I can't blame him). And it is causing problems in our relationship. However, I am most concerned with what my son's future holds if he doesn't learn to make better choices.

Comment By : needhelp

I have a 16 year old son who has not gone to school for 4 months. He is adopted, parents divorced at age 7, lives with mom who has had cancer 6 times (currently on chemo), dad had lymphoma last year and is just recovering from a stem cell transplant. He went to wilderness and rehab for 6 months last year (because he was on steroids and drugs and became violent) and after getting back into regular high school last fall was ostracized by all of his friends because of an incident over a girl. He is hurt and angry, he rarely leaves the house and doesn't have any friends. We have tried everything from the Total Transformational parenting program, to therapy and medication to Wilderness and Therapeutic school and nothing is helping this boy. I am looking for advice on how to get him out of bed/off the couch and back into life.

Comment By : distressed single mother

As parents of an almost 18 yr old son, I can relate to all the issues you covered in the article above. My husband and I used the program last year, and it saved our son and it saved our family. I understand now it is our mindset that we need to change in order for our son to grow up and out of the house, if we want to do it positively. No, it's not easy, but for us, I really believe it will work. We have already been telling him these things, and of course he is going to test us to see if we can really keep our word. Thanks to James Lehman I think we can. Now I think we have the tools to keep him from turning our world upside down again.

Comment By : luellas

I have a bright 25 year old who does not speak to us. He lives with us , has a good job but he acts like he is a border. When I ask why he doesn't speak o us he says leave me alone. I know he is not on drugs and he doesn't drink. He plays sports and gets up for work on his own and works long hours. he is a mechanical engineer. He has friends but we neer see them. I think he dates because someone sends him home with tupperware full of food. This has gone on for 6 years right after a girl broke up with him. My husband does not want to bother him and says leave him alone at least he lives at home. I feel I have lost my son and don't feel like this will ever change. We have an 18 year old daughter who he doesn't talk to either. She has lots of friends and cant understand why her brother is thy way he is We are pretty decent parents who don't pry or nag. We don't understand this behavior and are heartbroken over it.

Comment By : fratopia

Just reading some of the comments and letters. We are having some of the same problems. Our Daughter has turned 18 in December. All we hear is I am an adult and I can do what I want. We have not caught her doing anything that we can prove because she always says you always believe what everyone else says. So there is a guilt trip on us. She never does anything wrong. It is always someone elses fault. The other day she was caught with a young man and she was to be at a school activty. Not that the was the bad thing she was catch and that made her mad very made. The thing is that we are told that she is taking drugs and drinking alchol. But we are not sure what to do I know that I told her the other day I was feed up and that as long as she is in this house that she will go to Church when we go and that she will go to school and third she will be here when she needs to be and if not she find her another place to live because we will go against the rules. We are waiting to see how this works. I believe that the main one I ask for help with everything is the Lord and He helps me be strong thru all these things.

Comment By : chpeanut

We have an 18 yr. old son who has been diagnosed ADH and Bipolar. He is supposed to be in Abilify but he only takes it sporatically. He has caused complete cahos in our home. He has physically damaged our home and belongings (holes in walls, smashed out tail lights, kicked in doors etc.) during his anger fits. He is verbally very abusive and has threatened physical harm to us. I have kicked him out of our home several times but his mother keeps letting him come back and eagerly welcomes him and makes over him when he comes home. He has a 2 yr. old daughter that we have about 80% of the time and he seldom does more that play with her for a few minutes when he is home. He can not keep a job because he will not let anyone tell him what to do. His pshchiatrist told us to kick him out and change the locks. I have done this. How can I get my wife to "see the light" and support me in trying to help our son before it is too late.

Comment By : sstski

My nice lives with mom and dad. She is a 19-yr out partying all night comes home drunk or sleeping all day; she had been in trouble for steeling. She goes to the community College and has a part time job. My sister clean her bedroom, cooks and gives her money for gas etc. She doesn't help at home, doesn't have a plan with her life and doesn't listen to her mother; Their son 16-yr old son who is sometimes very demanding, often speaks to her very disrespectfully and forcefully using foul language as though she were anyone OTHER than his own mother He is very irresponsible, doesn't take care of his or anyone else's belongings. Daddy supports everything they do and say. My sister (52 years old) has not work for the past 20 years is afraid to go out and look for one to the point she is putting up with a husband who had a 2-yr affair, he smokes marijuana everyday, drinks at home 4 –12 glasses of wine, has a court case pending and is sometimes offensive towards her. She is offensive towards him too; don't have health insurance and 5 more relatives (mother and sister in law and 2 nephews) are moving in with them today. House 3 bedroom, 2 living rooms and a spacious office. Husband works from home not doing very well financially. I have paid their mortgage, listen to their problems, respect their choices, buy them food and give them cash I have to listen my sister complaints. I am frustrated to listen the same stuff for 14 years. What can I say that help? It hurts I loved them. I have 2 kids and I want advice how not to end up (teen problem) as some of the families that write to you.

Comment By : Jenny C.

I have an 18 yr old daughter. During her high school years, she cut classes, was diagnosed with depression, had an eating disorder, and was cutting herself. Her chores to do at home was to fold the laundry, take out the trash, and wash the dishes. I had to constantly remind her to do those chores. When I did remind her, she would get mad. I sent her for treatments for depression and her eating disorder for 2 years. She was suicidal at one point in high school and was admitted to the hospital for one week. I visited her everyday while she was in the hospital. After graduation, she was attending community college but quit after 5 months. When She got a part-time job, she was so happy but got fired after 6 months for her poor attendance. She is grouchy to her grandma and doesn't respect her. I pay for her cell phone plan. In July, she lost her phone and i replaced it. In October, she lost her phone again and I replaced it. In December, she lost her phone again but I made her pay for it because she was working. She was upset that she had to pay for it. In January, her phone broke and she expects me to have it replaced. She is not a responsible person. She was caught shoplifting a $5.00 item at the mall and was arrested. She had money to buy the $5 item but followed her friend and stole anyway. She got arrested and paid the $50 bail. She blames me that she has to go back to court. I told her to plea no contest but she pleaded not guilty. She does drugs, alchohol and stays out late and doesn't come home for days at a time. Only comes home when she needs clean clothes. Her room is a total mess and i have told her many times to clean it but she doesn't. She doesn't call and tells me if she is ok or her whereabouts, even though i have talked to her about calling home. When she does come home, she is moody and always in a negative state of mind. Always feeling sorry for herself because she quit college. I have 2 younger sons, 5 and 9 yrs. The 9 yr old is autistic, so i need to spend more time with him. My daughter claims that i don't spend enough one-on-one time with her and that I am always too busy for her. When I do make an attempt to talk to her, she is too focused on chatting on the computer and ignores me. She will then want to talk to me on her terms when I am ready to go to sleep. It seems like she resents her younger brothers because she doesn't get to be the only child anymore. When she is home, her brothers are afraid of her, they don't talk to or approach her anymore. Its so sad that her brothers feel that way about their big sister. She has told other people that I, her mom and grandma, hate her. She feels that her friends love her more than her family. I feel that I have to carefully choose my words around her or she will get easily offended and think i am ridiculing her. Our home is more relaxed and peaceful when she is not at home. I want her to come home but not where I have to walk on eggshells and the air feels thick.

Comment By : LKC

Great advice. Will try this on my 18 year old daughter who doesn't listen to me.

Comment By : BZ

This article is very appropriate for me. I kept looking for suggestions on consequences that delt with the 17 year old who is still in High School and presents with defiant behavior. The present rules are spelled out, the consequences clear. The problem is, my son just chooses to not come home when the consequence has been that he do just that. I am at a loss of how to handle this. He came home after two days but whats next for me to do?

Comment By : froggywood

I copied Mary L's story because it is so similar to mine. My sone is 25 and can't seem to get past things that happened in the past. He is also dealing with much anger and becomes distructive at times. I am about to lose my mind. And the rest is Mary's story: Boy, does this article speak about my situation. My son is now 24 and a high school drop-out. He managed to get his GED last year, and longs for a life driving over the road with a truck. We have battled drug addiction in the past and even with the help of a treatment center.He is the type of person who wouldn't get out of bed in the morning and clings to the hope of his education money buying the big rig for his future. I bought the total transformation program and wished I had it 10 years ago. I really don't know what to do he is living rent free in a condo I have purchased and the state helps him with some services, but he doesn't seem to be able to start his life. He claims he's depressed but now I know it's lack of problem solving. HELP!

Comment By : mella

So many comments about children failing I thought you might want to hear a success story. I have a 19 year old son, he gave us a challenge most of his life. During his junior and senior years he was very verbally abusive to me (his mother),couldn't follow house rules, but did excell in school and hold a part time job. We have always been strict with him as far as dicipline and have stuck to our guns most of the time. He graduated with honors from high school and couldn't wait to move out when college started in the fall, because it was so "Bad" living at home. He moved into the dorms for a short time and could not handle the environment and called begging to come home. School was local so it was fesible. We did not allow it right away as we felt it was important that he experience the consequences of his choices, but when he seemed to slip into depression we agreed to allow him to come home with new house rules. We let him know that he was an adult now and we expected him to be responsible to the house rules just as any other adult, and in return we would treat him like an adult. It has not been perfect, but the verbal abuse has stopped. He is excelling in college, and has grown up enough in the past 6 months to begin to look for an appartment with another succesful student, and plans to move out (hopefully for good) at the end of this semester. I read your article and have put most of the suggestions in place on our own, and it really does work. I look forward to watching our young man continue to grow and mature as he takes on the world.

Comment By : happy mom

This cames at the perfect time my girls are turing this year and this will help, they are oppositional at best .

Comment By : CJL

Dear Dr. Lehman, Thank you for this timely article. My daughter (I'll call Jess) is 20, and turns 21 at the end of May. I am at my wit's end. I am a recently divorced, single mom, and head of a household of 3; including my youngest daughter, who just turned 15. For the past several years, since approximately age 14, Jess has displayed a number of antisocial behaviors. She began bullying others as a defense mechanism as result of being made fun of for being overweight. It seems she learned to get them before she was made fun of which established her dominance. Jess of course enjoys this power and still practices it with her sister and tries to practice it with me. Bullying was a tactic her father used to create some kind of "order". In addition to bullying, Jess has little regard for my (or any other's authority). She usually does not do the household chores I ask of her, often doesn't pick up after herself, does not repair/replace things she has broken, has called me vile names on many occasions, forged checks from my accounts, (I've had to open 2 different accounts since July 2006), taken my credit cards from my wallet and charged things without permission, (I canceled those cards and new ones were issued), taken my vehicle without permission, taken her brother's vehicle without permission - this was 5 years ago- (which resulted in several tickets, a court appearance, and community service), shop lifted (4 years ago), resulting in more community service, numerous times since then she has shoplifted and told siblings of it, stole money from every family member, stole money from her friends, accused of "padding the bill" at a restaurant she was formerly employed, dropped classes that I paid tuition for (while unemployed none the less - won't make that mistake again), and last but not least, was let go this past December,2007 from her full time job for processing her own merchandise return. She is still unemployed, but looking. To compound this mess, she is involved with a 26 year old "man", (who is a reflection of how immature she is) and their relationship is very volatile. I have told her I do not want him on my property, but when I'm not here, her sister says that he has stayed over night. She is as you described in your article, "still using the same adolescent thought patterns" and demonstrates severe "thinking errors". I feel so torn as a parent. I want to love and support her but she keeps walking all over me and her younger sister. I see that I may have to ask her to leave, but I really do not know the steps to do this. If this behavior continues, should I ask the police to escort her off my property? Please advise. Thank you for any insight.

Comment By : design1

TOUGH LOVE WORKS!! I know, Ive had to do it. I am structured person personally with work, exercise, etc, but parenting wise I have not been great with boundaries. I had an ex who was great at using guilt and fear to manipulate me, and unfortunately, it taught my boys how to treat me. I have spent the last 6 years un-doing it, and its harder than establishing it the first time! I have learned to set better boundaries as a friend,parent, volunteer and just as a person. These skills James talks about helps!! I had a 17 year old son that was spiraling downhill- I made a choice to intervine and have him removed from our home by escort to a private, christian boarding school in the midwest that was extremely structured and disaplined for his senior year. It was the hardest thing Ive ever done. He graduated with honors, earned the right to play basketball, and developed some self-esteem. When he came home, I didn't push things, and after two weeks I laid it on- "you've had a year to think about what you want to do, now its time to take some action. Im off today, and can take you to the college to register, I can take you to the recruiters office to enlist in the USAF (this was his "plan" before coming home) or I will drive you around to apply for jobs- which one is it going to be?" My son is now a confident young man in the untied states air force and sounds happier and healthier than Ive seen him in along time. They need boundaries, otherwise they will keep pushing it like theyve always done. Im using similar skills ive learned in James CDs/books on my 15 year old son-with similar success. STICK TO IT- YOU CAN DO IT!! If you make a mistake, sit down and tell them you've had a lapse in judgment, we make mistakes too, and set a new boundary and stick to it next time! Thanks James!!

Comment By : karen

Carol's comment definitely caught my eye. My son (20 yrs old) was recently diagnosed with bipolar. He was working, but was laid off 6 weeks ago. My husband is constantly telling his that his mouth and attitude got him fired. I think that it was from his bipolar. He is currently on medication and will start working again this week. Am I making excuses for him or do allowances need to be made because he is bipolar?? He does need to accept responsiblity and not blame his actions on being bipolar. I welcom any advice//suggestions.

Comment By : barbrende

My 17 year old daughter is a beautiful, artistic, passionate, and high spirited young girl. Trying to make up for abuse that she suffered from her step-father when she was a child, I spoiled her when I left him and now I am paying the price. She is doing poorly in school, she has run away so many times, I finally told her that she won, and to come and get her things. She stayed in school and while she was on her own, we became very close again. We go hiking together and had those wonderful long talks. She moved in with a boy and he beat her, she moved back home and now just 2 weeks later she has left home again, bound and determined to do it on her own. I have a full time job and 3 younger kids at home. I love her so much, everyone does, she's a social magnet, people are just drawn to her. I am hoping that she makes better decisions this time. However, I feel like by not calling the police, I am abandoning her, yet, I cannot keep her home.

Comment By : Tracy

It is enlightening to me to know that our family is not the only one struggling with these issues of an abusive young adult child with entitlement issues. Our 23 year old adopted daughter is classic to the descriptions of other entitlement issue children. She is verbally and sometimes physically abusive. She is trouble with the law(on probabtion for shoplifting, not paying resitution and court costs)and will probably have probation revoked soon. She became pregnant-she says from rape, but was probably a drug related incident with an opportunist. The only good thing she has produced is our wonderful granddaughter, who is now a toddler. We procured permanent guardianship of our granddaughter to protect her from our daughter's irresponsiblity and possible endangerment. Things were okay for the first 3-4 months after our granddaughter was born, we told our daughter she could live in our house, but would have to pay her own bills and personal expenses. Our daughter has made a career out of looking for a job. She has lied about having jobs, and I am at fault for enabling her by giving her gas money, which she used for other things. Finally, when faced with revocation of her probation, she is now working part-time at a fast food establishment. We have bought several vehicles for her, which she wrecked, gave away one in a drunken binge, or drove into the ground. She is now afoot, we are providing rides to and from work. So, this is probably the only reason she is working. My husband wamts to kick her out. I find that difficult to accept and won't agree to it. He is constantly belittling me and criticizing me. I have begun to resent his bullying and belligerance to the point of avoiding him as much as possible. I really want our daughter out of our home, but can not overcome the sense of guilt that I failed to give her the "tools" to become a responsible adult member of conventional society. My husband and I have worked hard all of our adult lives to make a decent living and to provide a good home for our daughter and ourselves. My husband is now diabled with a progressive disease. I continue to work. My husband, by far has the most important job in the world as primary caregiver for our granddaughter, who is thriving. If learning by example has merit, then our daughter should certainly not have turned out the way she has. Today is my daughter's 23rd birthday. It is the first time I have regretted that we adopted her, not because of all the trouble and heartache, but because maybe in a different environment she would have gotten the skills and the drive to be a better person and a happier adult. I am 55 years old, have the responsiblity of a professional job, taking care of a progressingly debilitated husband, a beautiful toddler, and a severely maladjusted adult child. I am getting tired and discouraged that our daughter is beyond my scope of help. My husband thinks that if our daughter goes to jail, it will be the wake-up call to her to get her life straightened out. I am afraid it will just hasten her ever downward spiral to the bottom of the barrel. I have made it clear to our daughter that I will not bail her out if she goes to jail and if she does go to jail she can not come back to our house to live when she gets out. I AM hopeful that the information in the Total Transformation program will help me to help my granddaughter to fulfil her potential and not to follow in her mother's footsteps.

Comment By : Beaten Down

Great article! My husband and I are on the right track. Continue to publish articles like this. It is very encouraging and keeps us parents on course with the different stages of parenting. Thanks a million.

Comment By : Jeanine

I love to read your articles all of them are very helpful. Me like other parents, worry when we find out our kids are using drugs, my question is, If you as a parent already know that your child (my child is 17 yrs old) is using mariguana not often but I had smelled him and he doesen't admit it, is it a good idea to take him to be checked, and if I do and is possitive how do I handle the problem and make him understand. He is a C student and a soccer player for 9 years, a good soccer player that wants to go pro. he is graduating this June,08. can you please guide me?

Comment By : Pilar

* Dear Pilar: In an upcoming issue of Empowering Parents, we are planning to feature an article about kids smoking marijuana, and what parents can do to combat the problem. Thanks for your question--we will be sure to include your concern (about checking kids when you suspect them of smoking pot) in the article.

Comment By : Elisabeth Wilkins, Editor

I have a 16 year old daughter who thinks she knows everything. She has ran off from home (she was grounded for a week) We got into a fight when she had taken my sim card out of my cell and put it into another phone to sneak calls. The next day she ran off. She decided she wanted to come home again-- what do you do? I want to make sure that she knows that I am not a hotel. She is "in love" with this loser and she regularly smokes pot. I am adament about it being in this house but I cant control her when she is not around me. Help. She is sarcastic and a bully. She is the master of manipulation. I am so tired. She has episodes of rebelling by running off- about once or twice a year. She says that she is an adult and should be able to come and go as she wants. She has lost 2 jobs for not going by the rules. She sometimes lies about where she is.

Comment By : Joy

I learned these lessons the hard way over time and through experience. I'm sure it would have been easier for everyone concerned to have done it correctly from the beginning. Valuable insights!

Comment By : mbs

My 16 yr. old daughter, has me at the verge of a breakdown. Right now I’m considering going somewhere for depression, I just don’t now how or where. I never leave my house any more, and most days when she’s not here I don’t even get up. She will leave, tell me she’ll be back in a while, and I won’t see or hear from her for days at a time, one time it was 7 days, and she comes rolling in as if nothing has happened. I tell her she can’t got out, as soon as I walk into another room she gone. I take her to school maybe once a month, she gone. So, consequences are out, she just laughs, right. I put her in a re-hab/behavioral program (yes, the drugs and alcohol are all involved) she was inpatient for 3 wks, out patient 2 wks, and the first day she was done , not having to go back, she got home left and I did not see her for 3 days, she text me, “I’m alive, don’t freak out”. she came a day later shower and left again ,for 2-3 days. My husband and I have ask only 2 things from her, number one and the most important thing is school. The second one was to call and let me know where you are so I don’t worry. Well you know how that ones doing. When she was going to school was got good grades, was on the volleyball team, the water polo team, captain of one, and also the inspiration for the whole team, ( and a very good player at both), then BANG. I still really don’t know what, who, when, where, thing went wrong, but it started , and like a wild fire, she is so out of control, I really don’t know what to do. The police have been to my house on numerous occasions, she is so disrespectful to us, but when she goes off on the officers, it I don’t know I can’t even explain it. They have told me straight out that if they see her on the streets, she will be gone, Juvenile Hall. I guess that’s where she will be landing up, because when I tell her that, she says “oh well” “you want me gone any way”. I’ve tried to explain to her after the rage, (like the next day) what the police officers said to me and I get the same response. I have a hard time with the fact that just a few years ago my little girl was normal, she was never perfect, but I don’t what perfect just normal, normal trouble not this insanity. I have not gotten the total transformation program, but I’ve been reading the commits and thinking about it, I just don’t think she is that frame of mind to even listen or care or anything for that matter. I just found this sight this is the second time I read it. I know the saying never give up, and I haven’t, I just don’t know what to do. Any thoughts. Commit by: breakdown mom

Comment By : breakdown mom

Dr. Lehman, Thank you for the wonderful, matter of fact articles regarding older children. I have worked in the addictions treatment field for over 25 years and have seen certain themes recur over and over again, "Parents loving their Kids to Death". Setting and living up to expectations, boundaries and limits are a fact of life for us all. Many parents, some with adult children in their 30's and 40's, have difficulty understanding how standing by the limits which are made can actually help save their child's life. At the very least my job is helping them to understand that the earlier the child learns,the less pain they will experience later on in life. Enabling only puts off the inevitable.

Comment By : Mike Mizell Couns. Doc., M.A., CACII, CCS

My problem is that my 17 year old son keeps saying I am always trying to control him. He has always struggled in school has lousy grades he does have a Learning disability (short Memory//auditory problem) and the teachers and his peers like him. He is an outstanding athelete who has the potenital to get scholarships, but won't keep up with his school work, homework or chores. His grades are all over the place. He doesn't won't help with schoolwork or to talk about school work. I've tried eveything I know to encourage him and now this is the last straw. Any suggestion on how to give him his final talk?

Comment By : STINE

A response to so many of the comments from other parents...JUST HANG IN THERE. You're so close to the fire, you can't really smell the food cooking. You should know that the best recipes for the most fulfilling, completely balanced and satisfying meals don't just come from single ingredients alone, but rather from a lot of things mixed together and in stages. It takes time to prepare, and sometimes you have to substitute ingredients... but don't taste the cake batter before it's finished baking! You'll just be disappointed, frustrated, doubt yourself, and think something is wrong. JUST HANG IN THERE, please don't give up. Please don't stop reading articles like this, and corresponding with others, and trying to find better solutions, and realizing when change needs to occur, and especially...please don't stop giving credit where it is due. Whether your previous comments can be personally replied to or not, whether you can find specific and personal answers to your family's situation, I just wanted to say that I respect you for being concerned, for showing your care, and please, just don't give up. I'm now 38 years old but WOW the stories my parents could tell about my teen and early adult years brings me to tears. I put my parents through hell. Teenage pregnancy, defiancy, drinking, school drop out, and of course a very strong sense of entitlement. Oh there was more. I hurt them so bad, so many times. I think back on what they went through with me, as I try to navigate my own 5 kids, with oldest being 19 and pregnant. How did they survive? Because believe me, I dared them not to! But they didn't let go. I think it was also key that they had no problem letting me move on. Thank GOD my mother's favorite saying was 'this too shall pass'. May her soul rest in peace. And deservedly so.

Comment By : Hang In There!

joy lock your doors.

Comment By : thinking

Step daughter will be 19 next week. She graduated from HS 1 year ago. She is floating now and undecided what she's going to do. She steals, lies, smokes marijuana 3x daily. She is now working but living at home. Its hell at home with her. She is A.D.D. that's always her excuse.. and she lets us know! Of course , I am the evil step dad who wants her out of the house. I think she may be bipolar too. We've tried counselling 4yrs straight..didn't work..actually made things worse!! Do we kick her out? After all, she is working 35hrs a week...I think so

Comment By : sevenmann

This article sounds like a good start but I am pretty far down the road with my son already and not sure what to do next, my son is 19, a very smart kid but very lazy. Breezed through HS, did well on tests but Never did HW.. so he consistently brought home C's. Video games, staying up late, sleeping late, some drinking... Struggled with comminity college the first year. Behavior wise, he makes everything a struggle. Whether it's chores, keeping his room clean , keeping himself clean or just helping out when we need (it's always a struggle). Kicked him out a few months ago because of the issues I mentioned and because he can become verbally abusive at times (he loves to argue because he thinks he can win). We let him come back with some specific rules that he has to follow but overtime he has slipped back into bad behavior. Has had on and off girlfriend that makes this worse because they always fight. I have 6 other kids at home, and my wife has had it with him, says he my responsility and does not want to deal with him because he gives her a hard time (she would rather have him out of the house at this point). At this point, she wants him out even if that mean we separate. At this point my son "no" money, lost his job yesterday and is going to school (I hope) . Has never been in any trouble outside of the house. I want to save my marriage and my son. It just seems like I can't do both and have everyone in my house. How will he survive (literally no money and no car, he drives a car that we own and he can only pay for a little of the insurance when he worked,still owes me money for that). If I let him go, do I never let him come back (my wife would live in fear that he will just go back to being the same person after a short while). Obviously I need help.

Comment By : jb

Excellent advice, but in my late teens and early 20s I earned more money than both my parents and I was paying most of the bills as they were unemployed at the time. Using their logic as viewed it was dominate income dominate voice. We fought constantly as I, being the oldest and a jock, I was quite the playboy at the time and had little concern for the image I was presenting for my siblings and the rift I was causing between them and the parents. I had a baseball contract, thought I ruled the world... Well I became a journeyman minor leaguer but made a good living playing a game; I was not rich but made more in half a year than most do annually. So I figured I should set my own rules. It made for loads of awkward situations and arguments. Now as I approach 50 I understand the folly of my young adult mind.

Comment By : tndriver

We have a 23 year old son that has a college degree from a pricey private college but he refuses to work or really engage in any adult responsibilities. We basically forced him to volunteer at the local hospital just to make him do something but just found out he hasn't volunteered there since Sept 16th and he sent them a letter telling them he couldn't volunteer any longer because he was going to be attending college! He still lets us think he's going to the hospital to volunteer! Dad has a very difficult time with confrontation and tends to make excuses for our son's lack of motivation and responsibility. He still lives at home and does watch a very handicapped 16 year old 2 1/2 days per week. Other than that we can't get him motivated to do much of anything. Dad says he may be depressed but I say if chooses to sleep until noon and then gets up and plays his video games then he goes and work's out, bowls on a team on Monday nights, plays darts, goes out with friends he's not depressed he's spoiled and taking advantage of us! Any thoughts?

Comment By : mmysk8r8r

I can speak as a parent educator and a parent of an adult son who is moving soon. A philosophy that is black and white and rigid may not work for your family. Supportive advice and positive thinking go a long way. I know a father that pays all of his adult daughter's bills- I think it makes the father feel in control but is highly dysfunctional.

Comment By : maryj

my 19yr old daughter had moved in with a 17yr old boy,she had no job nor did he but she owned her own car but was on our insurance since then the b/f has been driving the car constantly and even carries her cell phone.her relationship with me has almost disappeared because she verbally abuses me when she does come around and she expects us to keep her on the insurance and give her money for gas ect.I dont think moving in with a young boy only knowing him for 2 weeks is acceptable not only that we learned he was on drugs and are daughters behavior has changed and she doesnt care how she looks.I dont know what to do only to take her off the ins to protect me and my husband.she had a promising future after high school graduated with honors.this all started 3 months ago after her 4yr relationship ended.and then her step-grandfather died.We tried were just tired and angry.

Comment By : brokenmama

* Dear brokenmama: Sounds like your daughter is going through a lot of changes. Given that she is not currently living with you, you will need to look at the other privileges you provide - including car insurance and spending money. If you can meet with your daughter in a "neutral" place, let her know that you are concerned for her safety and well-being. be clear with your daughter about what you need to see her accomplish in order to continue to receive financial support, whether that is finding and keeping a job, applying to college, or passing drug tests. While it is tempting, please try not to lecture or point out all the things you feel she is doing wrong - this will only make her defend her choices more strongly. Stay focused on safety issues and concern for her health, and link specific behaviors to daily or weekly spending money (remember that you will need to see evidence that she is meeting those expectations each week in order to receive money). For car insurance, you might have a goal tied to monthly tasks, such as showing evidence of clean drug tests, and completing job applications. Most importantly, let your daughter know that no matter how much you may disagree, you love her, and your door is always open if she is in danger and needs help.

Comment By : Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor

A great article that reminds parents that we still have options and some power even when your child turns 18-years old. I strongly support the use of an agreement: * It gives you something to refer to very easily * A reminder to them especially when they conveniently forget the rules * Saves you energy---i.e. You won't have to engage in any back-and-forth negotiating It's challenging to enforce the rules which I realize is key to maintaining respect and consistency. When necessary, I strongly agree calling the police or put them out when safety becomes an issue---It also reminds them that you also have options.

Comment By : jne

These articles are wonderful. I needed some guidance in setting rules for my 18 year old daughter who has returned home from her first year at college and will remain home during her 2nd year. I need to set some rules for curfew and chores and her attitude, but I don't what type of consequences I can use to help her grow in these areas. I don't feel I can take her car or cell phone away from her since I don't pay for either of them. I would appreciate some advise. Thank you so much.

Comment By : Mom in Michigan

* Dear ‘Mom in Michigan’: It certainly is reasonable to maintain some order in your household by requesting a curfew and to ask your 18-year-old daughter to help out around the house. What you might set aside for now is your daughter’s ‘attitude.’ James Lehman recommends this to parents. The idea is to stay focused on the behaviors -- the chores and curfew -- and ignore the grumbling or bad attitude. (Look at this article by James Lehman: Sassy Kids: How to Deal with a Mouthy Child James says, “Pick your battles and the ones you pick, make sure you win.” In that light, it’s also important to pick a consequence you can enforce. However, just because your child purchased something or something was given to her as a gift, this does not exclude it as being used as a consequence. Remember that in James Lehman’s Total Transformation program, consequences are only one part of a system that changes behavior. A much more important part of that system is teaching your child how to problem solve. If your daughter does not yet have the skills in place to maintain a household, first try working alongside her as she completes the chores that need to be done and tell her how you organize your day to get work done first -- then free time. Move into using consequences if she is not cooperating. We also recommend that you call the Total Transformation Support Line and talk to a specialist. Together we can help you fine tune your use of the techniques in the program. Give us a call.

Comment By : Carole, Parental Support Line Advisor

Your advice regarding adult children living at home is a good start. The problem we are having is two fold: Our son lacks motivation and is addicted to TV and DVD. Often my husband is not in agreement with my efforts to establish rules in the home. He tends to be very passive and an absentee father. Our son seems to break each rule that is set up, 1. clean his room, 2. attend church 3. attend singles group. (He has no friends) 4. Attend a fitness class (He very much over weight). None of the above has he succeded to do now for several weeks, months and some of the rules he has not done at all. I am still on lesson five in the Total Transformation Program. Hopefully, I will see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Comment By : Alice

Please help my wife is the worst enabler.our 27 year old son living at home is an alcoholic 2 dui drunk in public. And more. If my wife wasnt here my son would have been gone along time ago. I took her to alanon i kicked him out and she let him back in.

Comment By : doomed

* Dear ‘doomed’: We’re so sorry to hear your family is experiencing this. You made the right choice when you took your wife to Al-Anon. Al-Anon is the best resource for families dealing with an alcoholic. If your wife will not go with you, go alone for your own support. To find a meeting, visit the Al-Anon website.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I recently found your website and we've implemented an agreement with our 19 year old son this week. He has a job, but it's part-time at night and has no structure during the day. We told him he needed to leave the house when we left in the morning (we both work and two younger children go to school) to look for a full-time job and he could return after 4:00 pm when our 16 year old daughter got home. On Day 2 of the agreement, I found out he was in the house. Evidence suggests he'd brought his girlfriend over during the day. He denies this, he says he got in through an unlocked back door and was only there to look for something he left. We later found a window unlocked and partially open, but of course he knows nothing about it. He has a history of lying to us, but is indignant when we don't believe him. I can't prove he's lying (but I know he is). We've told him if we find out he's having people over during the day, he's out of the house. Just in case you think this seems harsh, we found out about a month ago that he was inviting strangers (to him and us)that he met online over to our house during the day. He doesn't seem to get the impact to our safety that this causes. So having people over when we're not home is a deal-breaker. But if I can't prove he's lying, what do we do? There were other rules/consequences of things that have been an issue, but those aren't an issue yet.

Comment By : WantingPeace

* To ‘WantingPeace’: It is easy to see why you would be so confident that your son is lying to you. Let’s take a step back and think this through. As humans, our memories do not always serve us well. I have talked to parents on the Parental Support Line that were certain things happened a specific way and their child must be lying about it. Some of these parents have called back to admit they were wrong, that their child had been telling the truth all along. If you are wrong, you may end up feeling foolish and very guilty. And guilt does not help you in being an effective parent whatsoever. Accusing your child of lying and bending the rules without solid proof can really hurt your relationship. And, sometimes children become entrenched in the labels we place on them, even discreet ones. What might be helpful instead, if you suspect your son is lying about having people over, is to talk to him about what seems out of place and ask him to help you make sense of it. He might still maintain that he knows nothing—just go with the flow and see what happens rather than try to get him to tell you what you perceive as the truth. Focus on talking with your son about what he can do while he’s out during the day and reiterate your expectations and house rules briefly and calmly when necessary. Here is a blog that contains more helpful information on this topic: Ask PSL: “Is It OK to Accuse Your Child of Something without Concrete Proof?”

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

My 19 yr daughter thinks that she don't need a job cause she is going back to school. I think she should get a part time job an her school will be at night. what should I do or what should I say to her. I know she will not listen to me at all.Pls help me. tks

Comment By : Ice

* To ‘Ice’: Your daughter doesn’t have to like what you say or the rules you establish, but she does have to follow them. We suggest looking at what privileges you provide to her and choose one that you will use to motivate her to get a job. You could use the car, cell phone, or computer for example. Next, set some expectations. For example, she needs to apply to 3 jobs each day and make 2 follow-up calls each day in order to be able to use the privilege in question for the day. Once you set up this structure with her, she will choose whether or not to listen. If she decides not to, you are doing what you can do hold her accountable by withholding the privilege you chose. Hold your ground. She will test you, and she might not believe you at first. It can take some time for her to get into gear and start doing what you are asking of her. We wish you luck as you work through this. Take care.

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

Dear Support Line, My son is 20. He is in denial that his ODD is affecting his life. He believes I am the problem. I can't take it anymore. I have done nothing but provide and nuture him his whole life. His Dad is an absentee angry alcoholic who I believe also has ODD. His Dad convinces him I'm the problem. This makes my life at home with him unbearable. He is very clever and bright, he is in college and doing well, he is able to keep a job, so all of those values I insisted on are there. It's not that he is lazy or doesn't understand what he needs to do to make money, if anything he gets that part really well. The problem is his total disrepect for me...the hate, the anger, the relentless manipulative arguing and turning things around so I am to blame... and his self medicating with marijuana. He expresses he is depressed but won't do anything about it. He just keeps blaming me telling me I'm the only person he has a problem with. I feel like I'm going to explode with anger and grief at this. He refuses counceling. I have thrown him out a few times this summer but he has had to come back after staying with friends for a while, even his Dad for a while (who lives in a trailer with no running water or toilet). What do I do, keep him with me and get abused becasue there is no place to go? Kick him out into no where..literally on the street. Please, please help me. I'm beside mysel. Joanna

Comment By : Desperate Single Mom...Can\'t Cope

Best advice I ever got from a counselor: If you don't want your kid to grow up to be a drunk/drug addicted/depressed, then NEVER do something for them that they can do for themselves. It starts young ("I'm too tired to put on my PJ's before I sleep," so we put them into their PJ's. "I'm too tired to do the dishes after dinner," so we do the dishes. And so on. Message we give them when we do for them what they can do for themselves......They cannot survive without us. Is that the message we want them to get???

Comment By : Michigan Mom

* Joanna: Your anger and grief comes through so clearly in your words. Your son has a lot of strengths that you see, yet you are hurt by the way he treats you. It’s so hard for you to accept that your son will not get help for his depression or drug use. Remember that James Lehman felt that kids act out as a means of solving a problem that they don’t know how to handle more effectively, and you might not know what that problem is. The hardest thing about this might be realizing that you can’t make him get help. You can, however, control how you react to his refusal to get help or treat you respectfully. Whether you ask him to leave or not is up to you. He has a job and he’s in school, so he’s got resources for help. He’s been able to find a place to stay in the past, right? You might choose to require him to get some counseling in order to stay in your home. Or, you might decide to shift your focus off of him and onto yourself—what do you need? What can you do to take care of yourself? You have the power to end the arguments—it takes two, after all, to argue; but only one to end it. When he’s being abusive or disrespectful, when he’s trying to argue with you, walk away and go to your room. Or, leave the house. Go for a walk, go visit a friend or relative, or go hang out at a local coffee shop and journal. I am including a couple articles by Debbie Pincus, our Calm Parenting expert, which I think will be very helpful to you. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this decision.
Adult Children Living at Home? Part I: How to Manage without Going Crazy
Adult Children Living at Home? Part II: 9 Rules to Help You Maintain Sanity

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

my 21yr daughter and her 4yr daughter live part-time at my house. her clothes are at my home,all her mail come to my home. Her legal address is at my home. She works on weekends and attends college during the week and just ignoresmy requests to clean up after herself, she'll sometimes say "ok" or "yes" but then not do it. she spends the night with her boyfriend along with her daughter. As long as I can remember she has kept a messy room but, now she and her daughter are at my house from 5 to 10pm nightly and just mess up my house, dishes, toys, clothes left where ever it lands. Her room doesn't have one space to walk...I just can't stand it anymore....I can tell when she comes over by the dishes, letters and messy she leaves. help...i want to tell her to just stresses me so...

Comment By : valap

* To ‘valap’: It sounds like you are really tired of cleaning up after your adult daughter. If you want to tell her to leave you certainly can. It sounds like she has plenty of support available to her to get by. James Lehman does say that when you’re dealing with kids this age, to treat them like you would a guest in your home. I know it’s a really hard decision for you to make and I hope you know that you are not alone. There are many parents in situations similar to yours who have done just what you are contemplating. If you’d like, you can read the comments on this blog from other parents who have also made tough decisions like this: Tough Love: Should You Hold the Line, No Matter What? We wish you luck as you work through this. Take care.

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

We live in Florida. My 19 yr. old daughter ran away from home today. Do we have any legal backing in taking her back?

Comment By : Gary

* Hi Gary. We don’t know the answer to your question, as laws can differ greatly from state to state. For guidance on the laws in your state, it is best to contact the non-emergency phone number for your local law enforcement team or speak with a legal advisor.

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

I can relate to all the comments, my common-law wife does the same thing. i call it enablism. She has a 27 and 23 yrs old men "MEN". these two take advantage of their mother, they both work and still ask there mother for money. the 23 yr old still lives at home. but lazy as hell, he doesn't mind dirting the kitchen and leaving things all over and doesn't pick up after himself. these two do drugs in and around the house. I have done everything possible to remind my girlfriend that that this my house as much of her's too have a little respect of my concerns. it escalates into and arguement. these two take advandage of that. They don't help in anyway financially with rent or groceries. And i remind them of what they shouldn't do they both run to their mother and from their the arguements start, i always end up giving up. These two are causing this relationship to end. I myself don't drink or smoke. I have 4 children of my own, but they are all grown up and looking after themselves. they are very successful. These children of mine have been on their own since the age of 17. they work all thru high school and moved on. so what do I do?

Comment By : stressedman

* Hi 'stressedman': It sounds like you are in a very frustrating situation in your house with your girlfriend and her sons. What James Lehman talks about in a situation like yours is to talk with your girlfriend, in private when things are calm, and finding some common ground for expectations for her son. Do you want him to pay for rent and groceries? Do you want him to move out? Do you want him to simply start picking up after himself? Once you have developed those expectations, you can start to move forward. Also, James recommends letting the birth parent take the lead on disciplining her child and holding him accountable. This means, as hard as it may be, realizing that your girlfriend’s money is her own, and what she does with it is her choice. I am attaching some articles that may be helpful for you as you work through this.
Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part III
“My Blended Family Won’t Blend—Help!” Part I
“My Blended Family Won’t Blend!” Part II
Thank you for your question and good luck as you work through this!

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

So what about a 19 year old that has been diagnosed with Depression, ADD and failed out the first year of college, isolates himself and is angry, unhappy, and irritable all of the time? We have provided his car, cell phone, schooling, and he is living at home with a minimal paying part-time job? How do you kick a child out who has already failed miserably with these mental health issues?

Comment By : Thomas2

As a child and youth care practitioner, I've got to say that I am quite appalled by the amount of people following these "tips". While creating structure and defining rules are necessary to parenting, the more important thing that you all should be doing is maintaining healthy and loving relationships with your kids. If you show them respect through honesty and understanding, they will follow along with what you suggest out of a mutual respect, rather than because of parental tyranny. Having a 20 year old who comes home late is not a big deal, nor is having a 16 year old who gives you "attitude". Having children like this means they are going through developmental stages appropriately and at the right times. That 20 year old is correctly using their 20 years of knowledge to try out some independence. This should be encouraged, and the only reasons that limits should be set for YOUNG ADULTS should be based on your personal emotions (When you are out all night without telling me where, I FEEL SCARED). That 16 year old is realizing so much of their childhood fantasies are not true. They feel challenged by how real the world has become, and mom or dad usually takes the role of who they first argue with. If they argue, they feel safe. This is developmental theories we're talking about. Talking to your kids like humans will get you much further than commanding them and treating them like they are immature individuals who know nothing. Give your kids some freedom, they will learn by their own mistakes rather than what you tell them.

Comment By : cycpractitioner

* To ‘Thomas2’: It might be helpful to establish a living agreement with your son that focuses on one primary goal. For example, perhaps he is required to pay ‘rent’ weekly and you take that money and put it into a savings account which can be used for moving expenses to get his own place. If he does not pay his rent for the week, he has to leave for 24-48 hours as a consequence. The other alternative is to turn off his phone for the week until he makes his next rent payment. James Lehman makes several other helpful suggestions in the other two articles of this series: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part II, Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part III. We wish you luck as you work through this.

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

Need advice: Son 24 - Lives at home because his job keeps him on the road most of the time. He pays rent and until recently no real problems. 2 months ago started to date this young woman and thinks she should be allowed to stay over when he's home. He knows this goes against our values. Any advice other than showing him the door?

Comment By : confused mom of 3 boys

I toally agree with this,us thinking as parents as if are young child/adult is a guest is the best advice i have ever read yet.I to have a twenty year old son who has moved out when he was eighteen cause my rules were you had to go to school or get a job once you get a job i will start to charge you rent of 100.00 or 200.00 that was based on the job plus you have to do your chores why cause this is how i want my house kept and you have to be home by midnight until you have a job once you have a job you have to be home by 2:00am.He said why if im paying rent why cant i be home when i feel like it?I said cause theres other people living in this house and you have to have respect for them to.We tried this out and as soon as my son broke any of the rules i said well thats strike one,two and three your out and even though it was really hard to do i have kicked him out twice now.Every time i have let him back in it starts out good and then he gets comfortable and hes out again.This last time i told him if he wants to move back in hed better be ready to make a big change and go back to school.I feel i have the right to say this since we have already gone through got a job and pay rent.I told him hes going to be 21 and he needs to start to think about his future.He said hes not going to move back.I said i love you and good luck finding another job.

Comment By : Brenda

* Dear confused mom of 3 boys: It can be frustrating when kids want to engage in behavior which they know is against the house rules. What James recommends is sitting down with him when things are calm, and laying out the rules of the house very clearly when it comes to this young woman. It can also be helpful to let your son know what the consequence will be if he does not abide by these rules. For example, you might say, “When you are home and your girlfriend is visiting you, the house rule is that she needs to leave the house by midnight. If she does stay over, you will be asked to leave the property for 24 hours.” When he returns, you can do some problem solving with him about what he can do differently to comply with the house rules. You may find it helpful to review another article in this series: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part III: Is It Ever Too Late to Set up a Living Agreement? Good luck to you, and we wish you and your family the best as you work out this issue.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

My 19 year old son just got angry about our rules and left. He graduated from high school 5 months ago. He's trying to get into the Navy, but that process has been long with many delays and we kept telling him he needed to find a job until the Navy was ready for him. We didn't have unreasonable rules... we wanted everything turned off by midnight so my husband and I and our younger son could get uninterrupted sleep. He obeyed that rule for a few weeks, but decided he didn't have to anymore not long ago and he's been waking us up at night. Then he would sleep half the day, not get up when I tried to wake him to get him to go job hunting or help with chores around the house. We also told him only 1 shower a day. (none of us could get hot water because he was always taking it) He took two today and when I reminded him of the rule he began to argue. I remained calm but he started yelling. My husband told him he needed to be quiet and listen and that's when our son started yelling and stomping his feet like a 2 year old. He got our younger son very upset. He has threatened to leave in the past but never did. He left this time, though. He accused us of loving his brother more than him, said we never loved him, packed a bag and a guitar and left. I'm scared because he's on his own with very little money, but I am confident we did so much for him and that his attitude was unjustified. I was struck by his utter selfishness, I don't think he once considered all the sacrifices we made and how patient we have been with him. He said he will never come back. I find that hard to believe. Many of his favorite items are still here. We kept telling him over and over that freedom requires equal amounts of responsibility and that no matter where he went he would have to abide by someone's rules until he got a job and supported himself. I just hope he learns what he needs to but remains safe. Kids are hard. lol

Comment By : exhaustedmom

From the perspective of the adult child living at home: I think this has some great advice. Especially about being explicit on what the rules are. A problem in my household for me has been the covert nature of things. In great part because I hardly ever stepped up to the plate and asked for that discussion. My mother's attitude seems to frequently shift from: I'm your mother, follow my (implied) rules! to do whatever the hell you want (resentfully, with guilt on top), and vice versa. What this article, and advice, lacks for me is something outside a very stereotypical scenario presented here. I had a job in my mid teens, all through college, after college, and I am in pursuit of a graduate degree. Through these years, I supported my family financially to the best of my ability at each stage. And I don't mean I bought the occasional dinner and mowed the law. I mean, rent and/or utility bills, depending on my income. For a time I didn't live at home and I paid two rents. Point being, I'd rather love to read something on adult children who live with parents because the household unit is financially unstable and parents depend, in one way or another, on their kid's support. In terms of parenting, what is good advice? I feel like I had to be an adult in so many ways my peers have yet to discover but emotionally I am a 10 year old in my house, trying to gain "permission" from my mom to do different things. Last time I told her I'm old enough to make my own decisions, mistakes, and experiences, she laughed at me. I was 21-22. I was never the disobedient type either. No parties, no clubs. Excellent grades at a top school. No one but me paid for my college. I'm not a perfect person. I'm sure I did, and still do, things that upset her or waver her trust in me. But given the situation--the fact that I have shown I can support myself, support her, and generally be a stable person....shouldn't things loosen up? I guess money doesn't buy you freedom! :)

Comment By : Julie C.M

ummm ok.. great, but you do NOT say what to do when you cannot get the 17 year old to obey anything....what are the consequences? What to do

Comment By : shay

* Hi Shay. You are correct—James does not address consequences in this article. He does, however, discuss several specific examples of common scenarios, as well as consequences for common issues, in parts II and III of this three-part series. The articles are a bit lengthy but worth the read. You can find them here: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part II: In Response to Questions about Older Children Living at Home & Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part III: Is It Ever Too Late to Set up a Living Agreement?

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

I read your article and I mostly agree with it even from the perspective of a 22 year old child myself. However, there is the other side of the problem as well. There are cases where parents are not ready to let go and it can be an equally daunting problem. I have successfully made it through college and am preparing to graduate. I am a good student and extremely successful so far and don't foresee it changing. Still I am faced with the harrowing task of separating from my parents. Despite my success as a student and business woman at my early age I am facing an angry family because I have begun to rethink decisions such as immediate graduate school and my end career goals. Your reference to wanting to become a rap singer made me laugh because my interest in music has actually led me to the career I am in right now, but I understand I could be the exception to the rule. Now, I am actually being faced with guilt of "you owe me" by family members who believe their support financially and otherwise gives them the right to decide where I need to go and I am having difficulty keeping a peaceful relationship while asserting my own desires and visions for my future. It has led me to extensive research and as a senior in college I am already preparing to launch my own small business. Despite all the signs that I am a responsible, level-headed individual personal decisions are being called into question. I understand your article is to empower parents, but what needs to be understood is that there is a fine line. Giving respect and trust is often the best way to have those same sentiments returned. Concern is understandable but you have to be careful once a child is at a certain age that concern and control do not get mixed up.

Comment By : concernedchild

I agree with treating the now adult child as an adult. However, it isn't just the child's mentality. The adults raising the child will have something to do with it too. Otherwise, I agree and wish my parents would know how to let go and tell me the things I need to. I still live with my parents and I've offered to pay rent and such they say that it's ok for me not to then will go off and say that we aren't doing anything for them financially. My parents have always sent mixed messages and it is unfair.

Comment By : adultchild

I have taken in my 19 year old grandson,this has caused great conflict with my husband, the only rule we have is no sex within the house. He has been breaking this. My husband wants to kick him out but he has no way for paying rent if we do or no where else to go. Everytime he breaks the rule he says sorry but keeps doing it. what do i do please help

Comment By : confusednan

* To ‘confusednan’: It can be so aggravating when teens refuse to follow your rules and respect your values. It’s important to talk about what is going on and to establish some consequences as well. For example, you might ask your grandson what his reason is for continuing to break this rule and what he will do differently in the future to comply with the limits of your home. You might establish some consequences by taking a look at what privileges you provide and have control over. For example, he could lose the privilege of driving your car for 24-48 hours. If you don’t provide any privileges other than living in your home then perhaps the consequence is that he needs to leave for 24-48 hours. I encourage you to also read the rest of James’ series on adult children for more information and ideas: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part II & Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part III. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

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

What do you do if your child,age 14, says they are staying overnight at a friends house then three months later comes to you and confesses they went to a party and got drunk but promises never to do it again. What do you do? Another situation is when they start inviting boys over to the house they are staying overnight at and you find out later. Basically, what do we do and how are we to respond to unacceptable behavior and broken rules after the fact? The child comes to you and tells you with a promise of not again.

Comment By : OneUpped

* To 'OneUpped': This is a difficult situation to be in as a parent-where you find out about the inappropriate behavior much after the fact. We recommend sitting down with your child and talking about the behavior. I would encourage their honesty, while still reinforcing that the behavior was not OK. Next, I would recommend talking with the child about what was going on when they decided to go to the party, or invite boys over. Focus on what they were thinking. Finally, I would advise talking about what they are going to do differently next time. A promise to change behavior without considering what will be different is not likely to work. Focus on what specifically your child will do next time a similar situation arises-for example, “I will call you for a ride home if my friends want to go to a party where there will be alcohol”. I am including a link to an article you might find helpful: The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems." Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

Great recommendations and I feel empowered and a little more brave now after having read the articles and comments. I have a 20 year old son who has been living in our house since he graduated high school 2 years ago. He has enrolled off and on in college and does not work, has not even looked for work. He does not drink, or smoke pot, he does not do much of anything. In December 2011 we gave him two months to find a job and contribute financially or he needed to leave. Well time will be up on February 29th 2012. He will need to leave and become independent. I pray that I will be strong for I know this is going to be difficult. But I am done. What is it with kids and entitlement and lack of work ethic!

Comment By : SimplyDone

my son is 20 yrs old. he bounces back from his biological father house to my house, whatever it's convenient for him. he was expelled from college, fired from a very good job at Apple. he does not clean his space in the house, doesnt do dishes, take out trash, nothing. he sure does not pay any rent. i have a 12 yr old that has tours and i don't want him to turn out like my oldest. when i tell him a few things about himself he gets offended and tells me not to talk to him like a five year old and the last thing he did was that he wasnt coming home for days, without calling. come to find out he was traveling with his father, so when i asked him in order to come back home he would have to pay rent because my house was not a hotel, he told everybody i put him out. as a single mother i raised him to the best of my ability but i don't know what i did wrong or is it just abuse on his part.

Comment By : overwhelmed mom

* To 'overwhelmed mom': It sounds like your son put you in a tough spot-on one hand he is not doing anything to help out around the house, and on the other, he is pushing back against the limits you have set to hold him accountable. When we talk about having adult children in your home, we talk about that being a privilege, not a right, and it’s normal for kids to be unhappy when we raise our expectations for their behavior. In order to remain living in your home, your son would need to meet certain expectations, such as paying rent, picking up after himself or doing chores. At a hotel, if you don’t pay your bill or break another rule, the management can throw you out. If he is not meeting your standards, then holding him accountable by suspending privileges (even the privilege of living there) until he is able to follow your rules is OK. I am including a link to another article series on adult children that I think you might find helpful:
Failure to Launch, Part 1: Why So Many Adult Kids Still Live with Their Parents
Failure to Launch, Part 2: How Adult Children Work the "Parent System"
Failure to Launch, Part 3: Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out
Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

I truly appreciate everyone honest feedback on dealing with adult children living at home. I am on the other side of being a biological parent to a young man that fits the .typical child sleeping all day, staying up all night, no sense of responsibility. I have dated his father for over 12 years and John Doe we will call him has been in and out of trouble since his early teens. His dad doesn't share much about his son's run ins with the law unless I ask. I just found out that John Doe is coming to live with us so I was a little upset because his dad didn't even discuss this with me before making the decision. John Doe is 24 has warrants so is not able to get a legitimate job without proper I.D. os his dad, mom, and sister settle for whatever John Doe wants to do. I've tried to discuss the severity of John Doe's actions to his dad and I end up the bad guy, I don't know what to do. This grown man (John Doe) doesn't respect our home, doesn't have a care in the world because he's never been confrunted that I know of. His dad says he has talked to him before but I have a hard time believing, John Doe has stole $$ and jewelry from his father in the past and will do it again if given the chance. I don't trust him in my home and I don't know what to do anymore. I can't stay quiet anymore but it is causing conflict in my relationship. Any advice?

Comment By : Confused M

* To “Confused M”: Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. Having an adult child move back home can be a distressing event. It’s understandable you would feel upset about the situation particularly if it wasn’t discussed with you beforehand. At this point, it may be helpful to sit down with your boyfriend and discuss exactly what the two of you will have for expectations for his son while he is living there. From those expectations, you can develop a living agreement with his son as James outlines in his article Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part III: Is It Ever Too Late to Set up a Living Agreement? It will be helpful if you and your boyfriend are on the same page. I know that isn’t always easy in blended family situations. James discusses some ways to do this in his articles “My Blended Family Won’t Blend—Help!” Part I: How You and Your Spouse Can Get on the Same Page and “My Blended Family Won’t Blend!” Part II: What to Do When Your Stepkids Disrespect You. It may be helpful to find ways you can take care of yourself, too. When you find yourself becoming frustrated by the situation, going for a walk or finding another way to take a break from what’s going on can be a constructive way of coping with what’s going on. We wish you and your family luck as you work through these challenges. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I suppose I'm a lucky one. My oldest child is 20, my youngest 13. I've homeschooled them both (but not sheltered from the real world). The oldest and I don't fight. The boys always been allowed to voice their opinions respectfully, and they also know that in the end I am mom. It's been a good balance. We all have a really excellent relationship with each other. If you have a 17-22 year old that is disrespect, hates you, or one that you can't wait to boot from the house, something went very wrong years ago. The oldest has a job: going to college. I've made it clear to him that, should he want a job, he's more than welcome to it, but that he is free to put all of his energy into school. I've also pushed volunteering, which imo is better than a job. Free on the job training, helping one's community, looks great on a resume. He's considering volunteering in a water management organization in the fall and applying for a job in the spring. He has my full support. I have no desire for him to get out of my house. It's his home too, and I'm not complying with anyone's timetable but one that suits my family. Moving on, I feel, is best done as a gradual, natural process. I left my mother to join the military when I was 17, in an angry, hateful huff. She was none too pleasant either. I've never wanted that for either of my children, and I'll do what I need to to make sure that level of hostility never exists. When he's ready, he'll go. Until then, he stays. There is no lying, stealing, arguing, etc. No animosity from me or from him. I couldn't ask for better kids.

Comment By : Luna111

Beware of backfire...Tried Transformation Program advice for adult children...kicked our son out for two days to try to get him to respect and follow our rules better and motivate him more to actually start looking for a job. He never came back. He is living in a friend's basement. HE has told the family we are monsters and the family thinks we are too harsh.Our relationship is ruined and I miss my son terribly.They are enabling him by keeping him so he doesn't have to reconcile with us or follow our rules, but just beware of backfire. Might be better to keep working with difficult children and be more patient. Kids/teens/young adult kids are anywhere from 3-5 years behind in brain/maturity development.Sometimes being a harda** parent doesn't work. Missing my son.

Comment By : Concerned mom

Regarding above comment by concerned mom...I meant kids with brain disabilities are behind in development(ADD,Tourettes, Autism spectrum, etc.)

Comment By : concerned mom

Ah, but you are not considering that these "rules and boundaries" of yours should--no, MUST--vary from child to child. Contrary to popular belief, not all children are created equal. I'm not a parent. But my parents, when I was 17-23, set a lot of your "boundaries" and all they did was leave me scarred and resentful. They set all these boundaries because they thought I needed them to not flunk out of school or have drunken orgies or whatever kids do when parents aren't controlling every aspect of their lives. In high school, I had a 4.5 GPA, a part-time tutoring job, and productive hobbies. But I was not allowed to go to friends' houses or even to safe public places like the mall or local restaurants because my parents required that someone's parent be there to supervise. Because I could NEVER do anything with my friends after school--not even at my own house, because my parents hovered too much--I was always on the periphery of my group of friends, and couldn't make any close friendships. I felt lonely and humiliated. It took me many years (and college) before I finally learned how to make new friends, because I hadn't made any real friends between elementary school and the end of high school. College was a little better. My parents let me get my driver's license, and I could go places without them. But they were immediately suspicious if I wanted to do anything with my friends late at night. As a college kid majoring in physics with good grades, minoring in mathematics, and working part-time tutoring jobs and internships wherever I a kid who actually *drumroll* did not have sex before a kid who didn't drink underage... I deserved--yes, DESERVED--to not be treated with suspicion for staying out late. Honestly, I had so many hours of homework how else would I have found time to have friends? At home, I was the easiest kid to live with. I did chores around the house, exercised the dog, kept my room/bathroom clean, never ever asked for new clothes or things like CDs or movies. I wore out-of-style clothes all through high school and most of college, because they still fit so why buy new? (My parents weren't poor, btw--not by a longshot. Just cheap.) You know what my hobby at home was? Writing fiction novels. But I was never allowed to close my bedroom door except at night, and even then, in college, if I was up late writing my parents would come right in and make me go to bed. Really? A curfew/bedtime for a kid who's writing a NOVEL? It's not like I was just messing around on the internet... My parents did this right up until I graduated with a MS in physics at age 23--an age 1+ YEARS earlier than most people graduate with a masters degree. In grad school, I had THREE part-time jobs, paid for everything for myself but rent and gas, had a full course load plus thesis project, and hours of homework each night. I was on a clear-cut path to a good career. Did this earn me their trust? No. I couldn't even call them if I was going to be out late. I had to COME HOME. A kid that hard-working does NOT deserve a curfew or a bedtime--it gives you barely any leisure time at all. Point is, I was a GOOD freaking kid. GOOD kids don't deserve to be controlled every freaking second of their lives, and treated with suspicion when, for maybe just a few hours, that control slips and we go out with friends. Parents, you can treat your kid like a "guest" all you want. But if they're a kid who did everything right and you set boundaries that are too rigid, don't expect to have a good personal relationship with the kid once they leave the nest. I don't. I hate going over to my parents' house because it just feels like a prison I escaped. Yes, screwed-up kids on drugs or without college/career prospects probably don't deserve much freedom. But good kids do. That's how you teach them that behaving responsibly earns them the reward of FREEDOM--you're giving them the taste of the freedom they'll enjoy as an adult when they have financial independence. Guess what? That's all the motivation I would've needed. By the way, I'm an engineer now, making very good money. I can buy stuff I want. However, I still feel like I lost out on a big part of young adulthood by being treated like a cloistered nun. I am still scarred with self-esteem issues that come directly from that. No amount of salary seems to make up for it. ...Oh, and guess what? Your campaign against "sleeping in"? In college, even on weekends, my parents forced me to get up early for no good reason, even when I was a full-time student with a job. They felt that sleeping equaled laziness. Now I've learned I have a thyroid condition that makes me need lots of sleep. Your generations need to get rid of these mantras you chant--"early to bed early to rise", "spare the rod, spoil the child"--and use your brains to reason out whether they logically apply to your child or whether you're just a control freak who wants your child to endure all the misery YOU endured as a child.

Comment By : Successful Adult

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older children, family rules, teens still living at home, living agreement

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