Enabling Self-Indulgent Adult Children Is Not Good Parenting

self indulgent children

About ten years ago, a woman I know gave up a high paying job in Connecticut because she felt that she could not handle the stress. She moved to rural Florida for a few years, lived with a guy she had met in high school in a house that her parents bought and basically became substantially unemployable – not that she was looking for a real job. She held various low level jobs until the economy started to slump.

Over the course of the past decade, she has broken off her relationship with her high school “friend” and grown increasingly dependent on her now seventy-year old parents. They started by paying for her home and then her health insurance. Finally, about six mon

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86 Responses to Enabling Self-Indulgent Adult Children Is Not Good Parenting

  1. Velvet Jones says:

    Are there any studies, census, or data of any sort to tell us what is actually going on? Aside from “it seems…” I’d be interested to know to what extent adult children get and/or expect their parents to help them financially.

  2. David G. Mitchell says:

    Velvet — According to the Pew Research Center, 40% of adult children are receiving some support from their parents. The statistic is sited in the linked article.

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Financially-Supporting-Adult-Children-Without-Hurting-Yourself&id=1716080

  3. Velvet Jones says:

    The article you refer to doesn’t cite or link back to the actual study. I did a quick search of other Pew studies that touch on the topic and find that they consider an adult child age 18+. I’d be interested to know how many boomers have college-aged kids. Another thing, purely anecdotal like the example in your post, I know a few people who are receiving money from their parents and/or grandparents as a form of “living inheritence.” They parents/grandparents are choosing to give the money while they are living instead of giving it once they die. I’m guessing to avoid taxes and such. So I’d be curious to know how many people are doing that.

    All that being said, I agree with you that parents aren’t doing their grown children any favors by enabling their entitlement. I often wonder what would happen to these grown people once the parents die and/or have no money left to give. What would they do if their parents were in a state where they needed to the kids to step up and help with their care? On the other side of that, in my personal observation, I’ve seen a lot of parents that “need to be needed” so they swoop in and rescue their kid, whether or not they actually need saving. It just creates this giant clusternut where neither side will listen to reason. So you just have to watch from the sidelines, and possibly be prepared to financially rescue the both of them. Ain’t that a kick in the head?

  4. Dana says:

    Unbelievable. Yet the practice is so widespread. It is possible for parents to love their children without supporting them through money once they are adults. At a certain age, you just got to cut them off!

  5. MizPat says:

    My dear roomie’s adult kids sucked her DRY of all her savings and left her drowning in debt.

    And she’s still paying for their cell phones.

    And the little I saw of how they spent money showed a lack of financial maturity that made me angry.

  6. Ann says:

    I don’t understand some grown up “kids.”

    I think it’s something that starts early, when some children learn to feel entitled. (As a matter of fact, you might be in danger of that yourself, David, with your oldest… according to a previous article or two.) Kids learn early that parents will either give them everything they want, whether or not they’ve “earned” whatever that is, or they learn that, if they want something, they have to work, get the money and pay for it themselves. It’s when people are young that they learn the basic “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

    This is not to say that parents shouldn’t ever help their grown kids out, but it should be in terms of a loan (to be repaid with interest) and/or have a time limit. I needed help one time and that’s exactly how things were set up… and, if the mail was slow and the check not received the day it was due, I most definitely received a call! LOL But I never expected my parents to just give me money.

    The really pathetic part is that this all too frequently happens with older people who really don’t have the means to support grown kids.

  7. Analise says:

    What a sad situation you describe. The well-meaning parents are enabling their daughter to be a deadbeat. Once the parents are gone, the daughter will no doubt go through the rest of their assets, assuming there is anything left. Then what?

    I have a friend with a 35 year-old son who lives with her. He pays no rent and has a low-paying job. My friend wants him to be “independent” so she plans to buy him a small condo with the equity from her home. She just doesn’t get it. No wonder the son can’t keep a girlfriend!

  8. Monkey Mama says:

    It’s extremely common in my circle. I mostly went to school with babied children of immigrants. They weren’t extremely well off but were handed Ivy LEague college educations. They so much wanted a better life for their kids. Most of them squandered it. I run into them and they still live at home. Most of them were serious about school but they got art and literature degrees. They live with mommy and daddy while they get real degrees in their late 20s. They work at Wal MArt.

    On the flip side of the coin, we have a lot of upper-middle-class clients. They have done well and handed their kids Ivy LEague college degrees. The same thing happened. I am literally preparing tax returns for kids older than me who work at Target and still live at home (I am 32). I hardly saw any of them pull down a wage more than $20k. It’s RAMPANT!

    In this culture my parents would be labeled barbarians because they expected me to be rather self-sufficient at 18. They didn’t kick me out at 18. They were extremely supportive. But it was clear I was expected to be completely on my own mid-way through college. Once college was done? That was it. They prepared me for this though and I have no issues. I KNOW I am better for it.

    I am still astounded at the people I run into today who still live with mom and dad. I ran into a college friend at a seminar recently (she had to be at least 30) and she was stunned to learn we had moved out of the area and kept pushing why we didn’t move back. I was like, “Uh, it’s INSANELY EXPENSIVE here???” I was confused by her confusion. She kind of just said, “Oh. I live with my parents.” Like she had no idea she lived in the most expensive region in the nation because she has no rent to pay. ??????? She just could not grasp why we possibly left the area, and were happy too. Thing is, this is most of my conversations with people from high school. “You are still going to school and working on a degree? Living with mom and dad? I have been out of school a decade, licensed for 8 years in my field, married for 9 years and I have 2 children. I haven’t lived with my parents in about 15 years!”
    My own personal experience couldn’t be more night and day. I wonder what the heck these parents are doing to their children.

    My parents are simply extremely practical. It’s really the only difference I See. They knew paying for the most expensive college they could find would not make me successful. I think a lot of their generation is learning this the hard way though. You don’t know how often people ask my parents how they got my sister and I to move out. Seriously. We both left the nest around 18. A HUGE factor? We weren’t given a free ride and we were raised to be extremely independent. We simply wanted out. OF course if I could have free rent and no rules for all of my 20s I would have stayed home! Who wouldn’t???

  9. Luke says:

    When I moved to Tennessee for school…I borrowed a large amount of money from my father to pay for the first year, with the understanding that I was responsible for the rest of it. I ended up not staying in college there, and used the money I had borrowed to live on for a year or so until I got on my feet. It took me a few years, but even with his objection, I got him paid back. I could have taken advantage of his gift and just kept it all but I didn’t use it for it’s intended purpose so I felt obligated to pay him back.

  10. spicoli says:

    I know a woman who is almost 40 and living with her parents. The woman does not realize it but her siblings spend most of their time trying to figure out ways to get their parents to throw the woman out of the house without risking having the woman show up on their doorsteps. They have tried to help her to get a job — even tried to set her up on dates with successful businessmen — but she prefers to stay in her parents’ condo with her cats. I don’t think she realizes that her parents cannot live forever.

    I know another woman in her 70’s who lived with her mother until her mother passed away. She always worked but it was still a bad relationship. When her mother passed away (at 88!), the woman lost her mind for a bit, became very angry, and then married the first guy who spoke to her even though he was a bit of a loser (but to his credit, he has stood by her for the past 20 years even though the woman has gained over 200 pounds).

    It is just not healthy for adults to live with other adult family members — other than their spouses.

  11. CPA says:

    I live with my parents, but I pay them some rent, am licensed in my field, and have a well paying job. My parents benefit from me being here financially as well as in practical ways (such as I can help out with work around the house or give them a ride (in a car that I paid for) when their car needs to go into the shop.) I also have lived completely on my own for years before moving in back in with them.

    I don’t think that living with parents in one’s twenties is a bad thing – that’s a completely separate issue from learning to be self sufficient. I know many friends who are “making it on their own” but who owe $ks for school, $ks for their car loan, and at least $10k or more on credit cards (common in large cities.) I also know people who shared living expenses with parents until they could afford to live debt free (or with only a mortgage) after moving out. This is a very responsible thing to do, and ultimately enables one to financially care for parents (if it’s needed) as the parents grow older and need help.

    I completely understand all of the objections to deadbeat children who can’t earn a living and have no desire to. That, however, does not directly correspond to whether or not someone lives in the same household as their parents, especially when you are talking about people in my generation.

  12. Anne says:

    Don’t forget that for much of history, parents and children and grandchildren living together was NORMAL. The difference was that the children were usually that ones doing the supporting, or at least it was a healthy relationship where everyone contributed to the household.

  13. Greg M says:

    This is actually something that was discussed in great depth in the book, “The Millionaire Next Door”. The grown-ups are receiving what’s called Economic Outpatient Care. The parents are enabling them to become dependent and studies have shown that grown-ups who receive this kind of support end up being on the lower end of the scale of wealth creation. Additionally this type of behavior is extremely detrimental to them when something does happen to the parent such as them not being able to support their grown child anymore or death.

  14. JoBeth says:

    My DH is Japanese, and in Japan, it is common for 3 generations to live in one house. It makes more sense economically…only one mortgage has to be paid, instead of 3. Although DH never lived with his grandparents, and he left his parent’s home at college, he wants our daughter and our future grandkids to live with us. He thinks it will give them a good financial head start. I think it’s great…my parents couldn’t wait to kick me out when I went to college!

  15. Jackie says:

    I do not have any respect for capable adult children who essentially bleed their parents dry – but the parents who allow them to do so play their own part in all of this. As adults, these children are certainly capable of comprehending the harm they are doing to their parents and the blame is clearly theirs for asking and taking assistance they do not or should not need.

    However, it seems like few people want to speak frankly about the parents’ role in these situations. Aside from those criminal cases where the children actually steal from the parents (pawnable items, identity theft, etc), it is also the parents’ fault for indulging their children. The parents keep saying yes, they keep falling for the sob stories and the manipulation – they keep on giving when they should start practicing a tougher kind of love. They are doing NO favors for their children or for themselves by keeping the Bank of Mom & Dad open.

    The adult children have had plenty of interaction in the real world to see how other, functional adults behave and deserve the lion’s share of the blame – but don’t let the parents who could have said no off the hook either.

    This is a very personal topic for me after seeing both my grandparents never prosecute a son who has repeatedly stolen my grandfathers identity to run up bills and my parents who continue to “help” one of my sisters who won’t learn financial responsibility. It is frustrating to watch and saddens me because I’ve seen how their relationships have suffered.

  16. persephone says:

    I know an older couple who are trying to disentangle themselves from a dependent adult child (over 40!!). The older couple has spent over $50,000 supoorting their daughter after she made a series of costly mistakes (primarily due to getting involved with an irresponsible man). The daughter (and her dysfunctional pets) are now living with the couple and making their life miserable. They won’t force her to leave because she seems to have emotional problems, but at least they are no longer paying her bills anymore (other than her housing costs).

    Can you offer any advice to this couple. What do you do with an emotionally unstable person who cannot support herself?

  17. Jackie says:

    Persephone –

    Does the daughter work? If she does, then I would suggest that her parents suggest she look into any EPA programs that might be available to get some help with the costs of counseling. Even if her emotional instability is not something clinical like depression or manic/depressive disorder, counseling could be the ticket she needs to get her feet under her. It’s never too late to get help.

    Maybe the parents can try to find local support groups that can help them with suggestions and support with their situation. Even if the daughter/parents cannot afford for the daughter to go to counseling, perhaps the daughter can also find some kind of support group for her specific issues.

    One of the first things I would do in their situation is to either be very honest with myself or get outside help to determine if the daughter is really incapable of helping herself. Literally incapable.

    From there, it can be helpful to formulate a plan with a timeline. Something fair, but with a definite end date so that everyone is on the same page.

    If the daughter is truly incapable of taking care of herself then they might just have to resign themselves to taking care of her and doing their best to leave a trust for her care after they are gone. Or, she may just have to go on public assistance.

  18. persephone says:

    Jackie — Thank you so much for your sound advice. I’m going to forward your comment to the couple having the difficulties with their daughter.

    Also, can you tell me what the EPA is?

  19. Jackie says:

    Persephone –

    Ooops, sorry I had a typo.

    EPA should have been EAP – Employee Assistance Program. Most of these programs have a lot of different services that they offer in conjunction with or in addition to their standard health insurance. My company’s program has a number that we can call to find a mental health professional or to find a lawyer. If you’re calling for legal advice, many programs even have an option where initial legal consultation is free or discounted. If her work has an EAP program, for mental health it may work in conjunction with their insurance to provide a certain number of subsidized visits for therapy/counseling.

    It’s definitely worth looking in to.

  20. persephone says:

    Jackie — Thanks again for the tip. I’ve passed your suggestion along to the daughter’s parents. I hope this works for them!

  21. renee says:

    my kids are all over 18 and wont work and dont wont to follow the house rules. im so stresses out . they so sorry mom andbreak the rules over and over. NEED ADVICE ASAP

  22. David G. Mitchell says:

    Renee — If the children are living in your home, you still make the rules no matter how old they may be. If they are not willing to follow the rules, you need to be strong enough to make them leave. Stop giving them money. Stop feeding them. Make them see what it takes to survive on their own.

    If you have trouble doing this, I suggest you seek out a therapist who can help you through this process. If you are employed, your employer may have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP, as Jackie has already noted) which you should call for help.

    Good luck! (And I hope my other readers will also offer their advice as well.)

  23. persephone says:

    Renee — Even if it does not immediately solve your problem, you should seek professional counseling to help you to deal with it. Based on your rather brief note, you seem overwhelmed, a good therapist can help you to feel better about yourself and the steps that you are taking to resolve your problems with your kids.

    Good luck!

  24. Ann says:

    Renee, it’s time for some tough love in addition to the counseling!

    First, you have to set up rules and consequences and timelines AND STICK TO THEM.

    I don’t know exactly what you’re doing, but you have to be making things pretty easy or they’d want to leave. You’ve got to be giving them money, so that’s the first thing you have to stop doing… just be sure that you have someplace to lock away your wallet! If they want money for anything, it’s about time that they worked for it.

    You’ve got to tell them that the free lunch is over with. They’re grownups and it’s time for them to get on with their lives. You love them, but that loving includes believing that it’s time for them to grow up. You can’t afford to keep paying their way — fiscally or emotionally!

    Set up some more basic “rules for living”. They do their own laundry, they help to make dinners, they do their own cleaning, etc. Plus, they have to help with general area cleaning, wash their own dishes, help with yardwork, wash your car, and don’t give them any money for anything.

    Finally, sit them all down and tell them that in four or six months they all have to have jobs and be out of your house. If they haven’t moved out by then, have the locks changed when they’re out of the house and don’t give any of them keys. Tell them that you’re going to do this and that, if they’re stupid enough to try to break into your house (after it’s done), you WILL call the cops and press charges.

    Write everything down and make sure there are consequences to everything they don’t do! (It’s their tough luck if they don’t have any clean underwear, NOT your responsibility.) If they don’t help to fix the dinner and clean up afterwards, they don’t get anything to eat. If they don’t help to clean the livingroom and keep it clean, they can’t watch your tv or use your computer. Post the written rules and consequences prominently and stick to what you say!

    Have a feeling that you and yours really need some family counseling, so I’d check with local groups — civic, religious, anyone and everyone. You’re probably going to need some help developing a backbone.

    Good luck!

  25. barbara says:

    What is in a young adult’s head that makes them feel this sense of entitlement. My two kids were raised in the same household…..one is self sufficient and driven – the other has a sense of entitlement. Lack of goals or sense of mission to me is the issue. If your child is lost in life – it is very hard not to try to be supportive – even when it hurts. No one helps their kids beyond reasonableness to hurt them – they believe they are helping. The adult children lie, misuse funds – but the parents holds onto hope that “this time” they will make it – like you did when they were learning to walk.
    They don’t have to be on the couch to be draining you dry. In some ways – you have to be ready for them to do something negative or drastic if you cut them off. Cutting them off could lead to suicide, cutting you off of communication, separating from the family. That is hard to deal with as a parent.
    I’m not making excuses – but people make this sound simple — “just make a plan and cut them off”. For parents who are doing this – it is about guilt (I’m one)………and loss. I lost a brother to alcohol. I don’t want to lose a son. I know it is intertwined —
    But – when does the kid “get” that they are loved and have support and need to utilize it well????
    Nothing easy about this from a parent perspective.

  26. Victoria Davis says:

    I am a parent of two adult children. I help my oldest with child care because he is a single dad of two childrenn now ages 6 and 4. They were three and 18 months when their mother decided she wanted a divorce.

    He resents that he needs my help. (he can afford to hire someone but the children already have a nanny) and he knows that i adore the children and they adore me. He does not say that he resents me but actions speak louder than words. he withholds gratitude, affection, dinner when i babysit, no christmas present for me (even though he earns seven figures)

    I finacially contribute to the support my 34 year old son. He also does not seem to like me too much. i am angry alot about the way they treat me but i do not do anything about it. I just keep doing the same thing over and over. I keep giving money, time, whatever I have waiting and wanting them to love me.

  27. Lacy says:

    I have two adult step-sons whose mom died when they were very young. I came into their lives when they were 5 and 8, now they are 19 and 23. We have definitely had our share of struggles with them.

    The 23 year old got through college in 3.5 years with very good grades. When he graduated however, he didn’t want to get a job and started drinking. he came home drunk one night and my dh said “the next time you do that you can find another place to live. Several months later we were called by his friends to pick him up at a party because he drank a quart of vodka. We told him we loved him and were very concerned about him. We gave him two options. Either get help or move out. He chose not to get help and after a couple agonizing months moved out.

    During those months he was very angry and would barely speak to us. After he moved out, he didn’t call for several weeks. Slowly he came around, and is now working oversees with a volunteer organization. We are sure that if we did not “kick him out” he wouldn’t be as confident and successful as he is now.

    We’ve always encouraged our kids to have as much independence as possible at each stage of their lives. I see so many of my friends enabling their children at younger ages and then I watch them become overly dependent adults. It’s sad to see our generation stifling the next by not requiring them to be fully independent, responsible adults. Imagine the gifts, talents, and contributions that are being wasted by our enabling behavior.

  28. babs98019 says:

    My 22 year-old daughter is a Junior in college and is fortunate to have an educational trust fund to pay for her tuition, books, and a car. She has always had a lot expected of her ( good grades, 7 years of violin lessons, working while going to school, sports, staying out of trouble) but in return received many things such as a nice car, clothes, expensive beauty products, designer handbags and shoes, etc. This arrangement worked fine until she became involved with drugs and alcohol. She has been in rehab once, but has relapsed a few times. Her latest boyfriend seemed like a nice guy at first but the longer I knew him, the less I liked him. He has also been to rehab. He became increasingly inconsiderate, verbally disrespectful to me and tried numerous times to get money out of me through my daughter. The more I tried to help the less respect I got, until I found out my daughter was lying to me and had pawned my late mother’s earrings for money. I got them back, but that was the last straw. I told her to leave, and after a blistering attack from her stating that, “You have no daughter” and ” You have ruined my life”, she left and is living with his parents. She recently got a summer job and a small loan and I will not contribute another cent to her support. I feel outraged and sad when I read other stories of well-meaning parents being taken advantage of, and disrepected. I have my home back,and my peace of mind. I know now that I was being manipulated. There are so many deserving children in the world that need help and would use this level of devotion to make a life for themselves.

  29. Susan says:

    I also have 2 adult children, one who is self suffiecient and the other who has been a complete pain/drain. If she is homeless I would allow her to stay in my home temporarily but refuse to give her any cash or pay her bills. She will steal anything that is not on lockdown and I told her that I can no longer have her in my home, because I cannot trust her. Now I have found out that she is in jail. I do not know why she was arrested but probably from stealing from someone else besides me. I’ve repeatedly told her to grow up and get a job, or if she would get an education I would help her some, but she refuses to keep a job for any length of time. As much as I love her I feel no remorse for not helping her. She was certainly raised better than that and the audacity that she thinks that its my obligation to support her and I don’t need near what I earn completely outrages me. I work hard and in this economy, despite earning a good salary I do struggle a bit.

    Longing for an adult child to act like an adult and live my life without her ‘drama’.

  30. Enya Sorenson says:

    We sent our child to college and law school. The financial cost was astronomical.

    We were rewarded with having to send our child to a 30 day alcohol rehab center 2 times after he graduated and we discovered he was an alcoholic. That didn’t solve the problem, so we sent him to a half-way house in another state and then to a sober living village.

    His girlfriend recently threw him out and he came back home to get a job. He is working and living at home, but using one of our vehicles. Now, we have discovered that he is drinking again.

    We have told him to start looking for an apartment close to his job and that we can’t help him anymore and will take our car back as soon as he is moved. The problem is that there are no apartments, etc. for him to move into.

    I keep looking, but there just isn’t anything.

    Eventually, he will probably lose this job, which may have been his last opportunity to turn his life around.

    We could have saved a million dollars if he hadn’t wasted it on this ungrateful, deceitful human being.

    We love our son and pray for his recovery, but we just can’t take it any more.

    We really don’t think he will ever grow up, or that he even wants to….

    This problem seems epidemic…

  31. Stupid Mom says:

    I finally wised up after financially supporting my 27 year old daughter. She has never held a job for more than a few months and I have always bailed her out, also her 26 year old sister to a lesser degree. When they were young, I went through a divorce and I guess I always felt the need to make it up to them. They stole from me as children and teenagers which should have been a lesson to me but it wasn’t. I was a good Mom but always had to work; however, they always had child care or spent two weeks out of every month with their Father, who also did a good job. Even more stupid was that I sent my older daughter money when she ran off and got married as she was still in college (that her Dad and I paid for) and her new husband wanted her to get a part time job. I knew if she did this, she wouldn’t graduate college (according to her). I feel used and abused. Now that I’m in my early 50’s, my husband and I want to retire in a few years and I finally realized this drain on our finances has got to stop. Looking back, I have sent my daughter upwards of $50,000 dollars through the years, not including college. I’m done with this now. God give me strength.

  32. ann says:

    how do you kick out an adult child who has a baby and STUPID us we let the boyfriend come as well- WE MOVED due to a work situation, they are in the house still and they pay us rent (the mortgage) but not always ANd the house is not being maintained- THIS IS ALL WE HAVE-HELP! what would you do?????????????

  33. Heidi Smith says:

    My father is elderly and with many handicaps…I am an RN and have tried to get him into assisted living situation, have set up some home-care, etc.
    However now a sister, who has been alwasy enabled by my father, found out her rent would be increased and can’t afford the amount. She now wants to move in with my Dad under the pretense that she will be helping him. She started by telling him he needed to put some of his furniture in storage, so she could move in.
    My Dad has co-signed on mortgages, cars for this sibling along with loaning thousands of dollars that she doesn’t consider repaying. Her last payment for from her divorce settlement, she used for unnecessary plastic surgery.
    I think my Dad’s refusal this time to enable was a sign that he has some of his mind working….and can see what would come ahead. My sibling has a skill, but is unable to apply for rent, since she only makes on the books 150.00/wk. I was shocked at this.
    This all ammazes me since she is 56 yr. old. Although I worry about my Dad’s well being, I think this sibling would bleed him
    dry, after reading some of the other comments. Any comments would be appreciated…thanks. H.S.

  34. wendy c says:

    Barbara,
    Your story is so very much like mine except I have three kids.

    “My two kids were raised in the same household

  35. Mary Verdier says:

    I am 63 and my husband is 64. I recently retired with a small pension and social security. My husband still works and will probably continue to do so for two more years. Nonetheless, we are on a tight budget and have to pay huge health insurance premiums. There is no money to spare.

    Our 47 year son drinks heavily, lost his license due to DUI’s, and although he does have a well-paying job (for now anyway) he has to skateboard to work. Prior to the most recent DUI, we GAVE him an older truck in perfect condition. Then he sold it to a friend. He told us about it later. We certainly could have sold it ourselves rather than giving it to him. The money would have come in very handy, believe me. He uses all of his money for recording music CD’s and alcohol and rents a room from a friend.

    It is easier for him to stay with us once or twice a week, and then my husband has to drive him to work.

    We acquired a second home in the mountains 16 years ago and our dream was that it would become our romantic getaway once we retired. We go to the mountains to our cabin most weekends, and he ALWAYS expects to come along. We have to pick him up, provide food and accommodate his schedule. We do not have the privacy we longed for. He never brings any food at all, only alcohol, and the alcohol is for him. We drink an occasional glass of wine and he has never bought a single bottle of wine for us. Nor has he ever offered to pay one cent for gasoline, which is very expensive. My husband and I do all the cooking. We don’t go out to dinner any more because we really can’t afford to pay for three restaurant meals.

    He has begun asking if he can bring some of his friends up to our cabin when we’re not using it! I am ready to have the “tough love” talk with him. My husband refuses. My husband actually calls him during the week to ask what time he (my son) wants to be picked up for the trip to the mountains. This is causing some conflict between me and my husband. I have been in the work force 42 years and now I can’t have the retirement I want. My husband doesn’t have the courage to say no to my son. If I tell my son we want to be alone for a weekend, both he and my husband will be angry with me. I’m stuck.

    Of course I am worried about my son’s alcoholism. I do not think he will ever drive again because he has to have an interlock device on his car for an entire year, and he has no car! As we get older and older, I wonder if we will ever have any privacy or peace from this almost 50 year old man who relies on us for his entertainment. Does anyone have any ideas that won’t cause a huge rift between me and my husband?

  36. CM BehanW. says:

    I empathize with so many people writing on this blog which is still generating comments one year after the original post.

    Really, though, each situation deserves consideration on its own merit and not a pre-fabbed set of rules with one size fits all specs.

    For instance, the woman who wrote in Aug. of this year has a son who has a sense of entitlement. She doesn’t say if he has a substance abuse problem or other addiction, but I suspect he does based on her comment about not wanting him to suffer the same fate as her alcoholic brother should she send him out on his own.

    To that I say trust your inner voice. If you feel you could realistically live with yourself if something dire should occur once you cut off your son and send him to live independently, then by all means try the “tough love” route; on the other hand, let’s face it: many parents do take the Shape up or ship out path and lose a child in the process, particularly if the child is an addict. If the thought of that possibility sends you into a cold sweat and has you pondering suicide, then don’t do it. Not yet, anyway. That’s my advice (as someone who lived with a similar situation, didn’t kick him to the curb, and can now say that with the help of N.A. and a good support system at HOME he is almost 2 years clean and sober. God is good.)

  37. MB says:

    I met my husband 3 and 1/2 years ago and have now been married for 1 and 1/2 years.
    I have 2 girls (ages 15 and 23).
    I am the custodial parent of my youngest daughter, who sees her father 2x a year for a week at a time.
    My oldest will be graduating in the spring with a degree in Special Education.
    My husband has 2 boys (ages 18 and 21).
    He had joint custody of his sons, who lived with their mother approximately and hour from us. Neither of them have completed high school.
    The oldest has had dozens of odd jobs but doesn’t stick with one for very long and he has lots of extracurricular activites. My husband continues to pay for his cell phone, car insurance, car repairs, and some medical expenses (some of his activities have caused injury) etc. and justifies it all by guilt, plus the fact his son tells him what he wants to hear. He has been saying he is going to get his GED, he is going to do this or he is doing that. What I found is this boy just plan lies!
    The youngest son never finished high school because he is sick all the time with stress or at least that is what is said. He stays up all night playing video games, on facebook/myspace and his diet is pop and chips. He doesn’t drive because he has no license and has therefore never held a job.
    It is now to the point where we only see them when they want something.
    I have voiced my opinions and frankly can not see myself remaining in a relationship where, I feel, he is enabling his boys behavior by giving, giving, giving.

  38. Mark says:

    Go to Austin TX. It seems like almost all the guys there are dependent on mommy and daddy. No one there can stand on their own feet.

    The try to pass this off as ” I love my parents” ..well no kidding…who wouldnt when you get everything paid for.

    They just hold mediocre jobs (enough to suport their drug habits and going out on weekend habits)

    Austin TX is the MECCA for adult children….very annoying population.

  39. DB says:

    Our son is 27 and living with us. His wife lives with her parents. He does the bare minimum to get by. He has major plans but bigger excuses. I have tried desperately to get my wife to stop enabling but it isn’t working. When he was 21, he nearly caused us to divorce when he was pawning things from our house for his pot and beer money. He joined the Navy which helped him grow, until he married a young girl who was lazier than him. Somehow I’m labled the bad father for not encouraging him enough. I’ve tried to change this situation and it appears that divorce is the only way out. He is now working 12 hours a week for beer, cigarette and fast food money. Three years ago, my wife and I lost our jobs and most of our retirement. We are doing quite well for now and desperately need to rebuild our retirement. There’s nothing I can do to get my wife to change… she says it’s her duty to take care of her son.

    I’m not really adding much here except an example of how bad it can get.

  40. CPA says:

    DB – Divorce is not the answer. That would be running away from your responsibility to your wife as a reaction to your son running away from his responsibilities. Your son needs a better example right now. Have you tried praying and seeking wisdom from the Bible about your situation? What about consulting a lawyer about other options?

  41. SH says:

    DB – Wow, I could be your wife. My husband would say the exact same thing about me. Clearly that I’m here on this thread tells you that I’m finally starting to hear what he is saying.

    Our son, mine from a previous relationship, is almost 23 and just moved out for the fourth time. The first time he left was when he had a fit over rules and walked out at 17. That there should have been my first clue that this was not going to be fun.

    Anyway, it’s been what I call “revolving door” parenting for the last 5 years and I’m finally as fed up as Hubby was 4 1/2 years ago. Though divorce hasn’t quite come up there have been some very heated discussions about how I keep giving into my son out of a sense of obligation and, as others have mentioned, guilt. I understand where your wife is coming from.

    What I’m beginning to understand though, is that my “duty” ended when HE decided that he was better off out in the world than under my roof. I’m realizing that I have been refusing to let him suffer the natural consequences of that choice. For 5 years I have been padding the ground so he doesn’t doesn’t feel reality hitting his ass.

    I can see now that I wasn’t doing either of us, but mostly him, any favours. At 23, it’s about time him and the “real” world get to know each other.

    Thank you, David, for this article and to everyone who has commented, it’s been very insightful and somewhat of a comfort to know I’m not the only one who is dealing with this issue.

  42. Martha Myer says:

    We are in a situation where our daughter has cut us off from her (AND the kids). It’s very, very hurtful. We have done everything humanly possible to help her all her life, and yes we were too indulgent of her. She is so selfish right now and we don’t really know what (if anything) to do.

  43. Elaine says:

    My 24 yr old stepdaughter and her 5 yr old son are currently living with us. My stepdaughter was a great student and kid till about her 10th grade yr of high school. At that point she decided she was tired of being good and meeting others expectations, she she quit. She began hanging out with people who were like minded, smoking pot, having sex and blowing hundreds of dollars a month at Starbucks. We took her to counseling and offered to get her on birth control but she refused. Two weeks after she was offered a full ride theater scholarship to a jr. college, she found out she was pregnant. We told her if she kept the baby it was hers to raise, as we had a child in daycare. She was told she could live at our house and go to school, but had to work enough to pay for childcare and the added expense of a baby. She didn’t want to live by our rules so she moved out. Since then, every year or so we have to bail her out of major financial problems because buying expensive cell phones, cameras, computers and partying are her priorities, rather than being responsible. About 2 years ago she moved to a larger town. She was told that we could not bail her out anymore because we didn’t have the money, but if she needed a roof over her head, we were there. Well, a year into it she called and said she “lost her job” (there’s always a story that doesn’t seem just right) and needed to move home. She decided she wanted to go back to school and needed help with the baby (now 5). So, we made room for them in our small home. She gave us this line of BS that she’d help with expenses etc. Well, she has done nothing but cause my husband and me so much stress and frustration since she moved in. She is in school and she works part time, however, she doesn’t pay her childcare and gets notices all the time about it. She qualifies for state assistance on child care but is too lazy to do the paperwork to get the assistance. The same with insurance on teh baby. She gets insurance through us – however she won’t do what’s required to give her own son insurance. Her cell phone and skyping in the computer are much more important than spending time with her own son. I am so ready for her to be out of my house. She lies to her father and tells him what he wants to hear – but never changes. He can’t seem to find it in himself to give her tough love…………..and that will eventually cause a lot of problems between us because I am so tired of her. She is only concerned with herself – and that’s it. We wish she’d leave and give us the baby – but she’s even too selfish for that. I think my hubby is afraid if we dish out tough love – she will run with the grandbaby and we won’t see him again. I dunno – it’s a really hard place to be in!

  44. Mrs. McCoy says:

    I’ve looked at most of these and don’t see my problem. My problem is my 42 year old son who has been in and out of trouble since he was 17 – mostly to do with drinking. He lost his license when he was 20 years old and never paid the $1,000 fine to get it back. Since then he has been caught driving without license, no insurance, various minor traffic problems, but the fines keep adding up and now 20 years later he owes $2900. I am now retired and had a budget for myself and 5 years ago he showed up at my door again not having anyplace to go. I let him in, much to the chagrin of my other two sons – who have their own homes and work – and now he won’t leave. This one has never held a real job with a paycheck for more than a couple of months – he earns enough doing handyman jobs to buy his beer and cigarettes. he cuts my grass once a week. He says I have to evict him to get him to leave – that he is a resident in my home and gets his mail here. Turns out he’s right, according to the courts here. I have to file eviction – even though he contributes nothing and pays no rent! I can’t lock him out because this is his legal residence. Can you believe it??? If I lock him out and he comes through a window, the police won’t do anything because this is his residence! I can’t even claim this freeloader on income tax even though I’ve been supporting him for five years. Does anybody else have this kind of problem? Would sure make me feel better. I now have to pay to file eviction and have to give him a reasonable time (couple of weeks) to find somethig else. He has no regular income and nowhere to go, but I no longer care. He can go to a shelter or move south where if he has to be homeless, at least he’ll be warm.

  45. Mrs. McCoy says:

    As an addendum – he comes home drunk 2-3 times a week and we have horrible verbal arguments. He calls me names, I call him names – the last time this happened I called the cops on him and they took him to jail, but only because I knew there was a bench warrant out for his arrest for not showing up for a court date. He was in for a couple of months and they wouldn’t let him out unless he had a place to go . . . so guess what? Stupid me let him come back and now it’s the same thing all over. I guess I have to grow a backbone and just evict him. These were supposed to be my golden years and I’ve been miserable for 5 years, not to mention supporting two people. I guess I know what I have to do – wonder if anybody else is in this situation. thank you.

  46. Sylvia says:

    My son is 27 years old. I raised him as a single parent and unfortunately, I spoiled him for many reasons but mainly because I really love him (which is a stupid thing to do). He did not finish school or the extremely expensive sound engineering schooling in London which my mom financed twice for him.
    So he never really achieved anything, never worked full-time (he does not believe in it), and has no idea what it is like to be independent. He relies on the family’s money (mine and my 77 year old mom) with a sense of entitlement.
    Unfortunately, beyond being very spoiled and an underachiever, he has also been suffering from Crohn’s disease for the past 14 years. He has not worked for the past year or so. Sadly, his health has also recently deteriorated (although right now, he is stable). Unfortunately, he is physically disabled but his mental handicap (poor me, “you owe me” attitude) as always existed and it is even more debilitating than his physical handicap.
    Don’t misunderstand me. I have always felt very sorry for him and I always tried to “make things very easy” for him (and always took care of everything) but I have unwillingly encouraged him to foster this poor me attitude, mental handicap, and underachievement, and enforce a sense of entitlement).
    He is not always that sick that he can’t function but never believed in functioning. Of course, when he is sick, there is no question about supporting him and providing the best possible treatments for him.
    So now that he has been stable, he is back with these revolutionary ideas again. He always comes up with ingenious business ideas, dreams, and ventures that seem realistically so distant from reality and which require sometimes a pretty large financial investment understated “hoping for a family injection”.
    He has never had the motivation just to take care of himself. How can we inject large sums of money into something that seems so unrealistic? I feel that if he wants to be an entrepreneur, he needs to build a viable business by sharpening his business and entrepreneurial skills.
    I have had numerous arguments with him about this and he tells me that I am unsupportive and negative, that I don’t appreciate him. I totally adore him and do appreciate him very much – maybe too much. However, I am worried about him. He has only me (and my mom) to rely on. We will not be there forever. We may be comfortable but even if he inherits my apartment, how long with the money last? (He does not spend money wisely but neither do I or I would have savings/investments on the side. I am not proud of it but at least, I am able to rely on myself and support him).

    He does not think about the future. In one conversation, he stated that he did not see anything wrong with having women support their partner “out of love”. These are his plans. (As an independent woman, I find this utterly revolting).
    So, he relies on the hope that mom will invest and justifies it because she has invested my divorced sister’s failed businesses and that they have helped her raise her kids. My parents also helped me financially raise my son (because I was alone) until about 15 years ago, when I became fully independent (but support most of my 27 years old son’s expenses – so I don’t have much left). So to my son, it is justified that the family supports him too and invests in his ventures.
    The difference is that my parents HELPED us. My son expects us to literally carry him on our back. So not only do we (mom and I) fully support him but demand that he works towards building financial independence despite his disease (which we know he cannot do when he is flaring), he has been trying to get mom to invest in all kinds of unrealistic ventures. I mean, I am all for it, if he was investing HIMSELF and WORKING towards it passionately. Unfortunately, his plans seem to always rely on someone else’s investment but his own (referring to the family’s money). I am afraid that this is an invitation for failure. He does not know what effort and perseverance mean and has very low tolerance for frustration. Mom has told him many times to prove himself but he does not believe in that, he thinks that we should first invest without commitment on his part (nothing we have every invested in the past has ever shown any result and believe me, we have invested loads!).
    Anybody having sound advice? I am trapped between my love, lack of boundaries I have set to him, feeling sorry for him, and the desire to see my son able to manage after I am gone (I am not planning to go but I have already undergone cancer once and the thought that my son lives in lah lah land despite his 27 years of age worry me very much).
    I know that there is no quick fix and I should have practiced tough love. I was never able to do that.

  47. Dawn says:

    From my own experience I do not have children but I had parents and know that they said no when I needed help to pay my bills and no when I wanted to move back home. However, my boyfriend who I have lived with for 2 years has 2 adult children and 2 grandchildren living with us. They used to have jobs but as soon as I moved in 2 years ago they both quit their jobs. They sit at the computer once a week looking for jobs and the rest of the time they play. They do nothing for the household such as cleaning or mowing or taking out the trash. What I don’t understand is why my boyfriend has let this go on for so long. It has really put a strain on our relationship because they create drama and make us miserable and I have no control over any of it since they are not my children. My question is WHY DOES HE ALLOW THIS TO GO ON?

  48. too good says:

    Why do you put up with it? What’s your bottom line? Sounds like some type of codependent addiction. I was in a relationship with a mom who was still washing her 27 year old son’s underwear. he hadn’t worked a day in his life and mommy bought him a new car, iphone, ipad, imac, all his clothes, everything! to talk about was off limits. i finally realized that her not talking about it was her not paying attention to my needs. i finally left. They are still living together. Probably will live together their entire lives. So happy I’m rid of that!

  49. Kathryn Tass says:

    My husband has been giving his oldest daughter (my step) monoey for the past 4 yrs to the tune of $80K. He will not admit her failures in jobs, relationships. She feels entitled.I wnt this to stop, He says she will be homeless.What do I do?

  50. Kathryn Tass says:

    Oh, BTW: she is 46 yrs, old.No job, no plans for one, won’t admit changing jobs is a good idea. She has depleted our joint CD, diminished our savings, and keeps on asking for money saying “this time it will work”. She also has anxiety issues. I told her to seek counseling. I become the bad step mother…. I can’t handle this anymore.

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