Need some ideas

I'm really at a loss as to where to start this post, but there are a lot of young people on the forums here so I thought maybe you all might have some suggestions. My 19-year old son moved in with me last month after getting into a bit of minor trouble with the law and things aren't going very well.

He hasn't lived with me in 5 years (he chose to stay with his dad when we divorced) and things aren't going very well. He isn't motivated to do anything other than text his girlfriend or talk to her on the phone, and watch TV. There is little to no help with chores, laundry, dishes, cooking... nothing.

His dad let him drop out of school and though he completed his GED classes last year, he didn't take the test in a timely fashion and now he has to go through refresher classes to be able to take it, but I can't get him to do anything about it. He doesn't have his driver's license either, so I'm playing chauffuer all the time and I can't even get him to go get his learner's permit for that, in spite of dangling the use of a car in front of him. when I try to talk to him, it's all "I know and I will, Mom", but it took me 9 hours to get him to carry 3 bags of trash 60 feet.

I'm NOT going to play "maid" for a 19-year old, but I'm sick of my house looking like crap because he won't clean up his messes. He has even started to take over the living room as his "bedroom" saying he "doesn't like sleeping upstairs".

So, do any of you "young people" (or others) have any ideas/suggestions on how to motivate him without starting a war? Any help would be appreciated greatly.

Forums: 
Gudy's picture

Embodiment

I don't think there is any way to motivate him. What you need to do is to stop enabling him because he won't change his behaviour unless he needs to, which he currently doesn't. And yes, that may very well mean war. The guy is here on your good will, and he's stretching his welcome mighty thin, from where I sit.

Don't cook for him. Don't do his laundry. Don't drive him around. Tell him to move his stuff out of the living room and into his room. If he doesn't like his room, he can move somewhere else. Should he continue to leave his stuff everywhere, give sufficient notice, say, in the morning to have things cleaned up by noon. Upon failure, treat his stuff as garbage and throw it out of the house.

I mean it. The only way to deal with this shit is to draw a line in the sand and make a stand, and the time for that is NOW.

Nye's picture

Supplicant

You can't make him be motivated, but you can make it a hell of a lot less comfortable for him to be unmotivated.

Give nothing. Make him take care of his own shit. You provide a roof and food. If he leaves stuff around, it becomes yours or trash. If he complains, he can go somewhere else. Set up a timeline for when he will start contributing rent and money toward bills.

Hell, insist he leave the house for 8 hours every day. He can do whatever the hell he wants, but texting on the lawn might get cold, and lack of a bathroom will suck. Reward his doing something useful. If he goes to class, he can come inside. If he gets a permit, he can drive with you. If he gets a license he can borrow the car. If he gets a job, you'll get him some clothes.... etc.

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

why do you play chauffeur? If a 19-year-old hasn't gotten his shit together enough to have a learner's permit, a diploma, a GED, or a job, but has instead acquired an attitude like this and a sense of entitlement this big...

Don't keep making him your first priority--and remind him that homelessness is an option, too.

Alot of what Gudy said.

The Vixen's picture

Devotee

I'm a tad older than 19, and also everyone is different, but from my experience, I've always worked better when I felt like someone was counting on me to do things, as opposed to being badgered into doing things.

One of the crappiest parts of being a teenager is being treated like you owe everyone something, but not having enough experience to really be responsible for yourself. I always thought being a young adult was supposed to be training for being an adult, but I found that growing up I was just bossed around, and when I didn't have anyone bossing me around, I didn't know how to do things myself.

Both my cousins and I were really good kids because we were really close to our parents, and we cared about their feelings. We didn't want to make them sad or upset with us.

I think you really need to bond with him first and foremost. If he has no relationship with you, then he won't care about what you think. This will most likely be tough, because right now, the last thing he probably wants to do is hang out with is parents. But I don't know of anyone where it didn't improve the relationship tremendously.

Then, in addition to that, try and talk to him like an equal when you tell him why he needs to help you out. If you boss him around, his instinct is to rebel. If you talk to him like a partner, then hopefully he'll feel more in control of his life, and more like a real adult.

Funnily enough, I've noticed that teenagers and toddlers are [i]tremendously[/i] alike. Bossing a 3-year-old around just results in them getting angry and throwing temper-tantrums. I always talk to them like an adult, and I always try and find a way to make them feel like they are appreciated when they do something right. Positive reinforcement just works wonders. I don't lord over them that I'm the law of the land, if they want something they can't have, then simple fact is they can't. Sorry, that's not how the world works, but I know how that sucks sometimes. Empathy is important, and so is explaining 'why' a lot.

I guess, what it really boils down to in the end is that the Golden Rule is just as important with kids as it is with anyone else. Yes, you are the authority, and you will have to be tough, but I think parents are really just the ultimate teacher, and your obligation to him is to teach him how to be an adult in society.

I hope that helps, this is pretty much my opinion of how a parent/child relationship should be, while being past my dependency, but not yet a parent. I know all situations are different, and also that theory and practice are very different, but I do remember what it was like living with my parents, and I know what works when I'm busy taking care of other peoples kids (I nanny, and I was also a teachers aid for a few kids programs).

Best of luck to you both. This is gunna suck, but hopefully it works out in the end.

The Vixen's picture

Devotee

Hmm, reading what everyone else has said, I do want to mention that enabling him is a HORRIBLE idea. By all means, I don't want to imply that you should baby him.

Again, using the teacher analogy, my teachers never told me I had to do my homework, but they also wouldn't give me the points if I didn't. They would also provide me as much help as I requested, but in the end, it was my job to do my work.

Don't drive him around, if he doesn't want to get his license, fine, but you have no obligation to drive his lazy butt anywhere. Tell him to pay you for gas if you have to drive him somewhere. Don't give him money, give him one of those prepaid track phones if he doesn't want to pay his phone bill himself, but you still want to be able to keep tabs on him. If he wants to sleep downstairs, run the vacuum at 9am, and keep moving his stuff to his bedroom. If he keeps having to move his stuff back to the living room, he'll eventually get fed up and realize it's easier to just leave it in his room. And make him do his own laundry, hell don't make meals for him either, if he wants something to eat, he should learn how to prepare it himself.

Again, this is shit he has to do on his own eventually, he should learn how to do it himself. I just know from experience that you can't demand respect. You have to earn his respect just as much as you have to earn respect from anyone else. Part of that is showing him 'some' respect (as much as he has earned, and as much as he is due as a human being). My step-dad has always treated me like I was a burden and now I don't go home to visit if I can help it. My dad always understood that I was learning how to be independent and sometimes I needed to be encouraged, and now returning the favor and helping him get his life back together.

Just don't let him ever doubt how much you love him.

Laureril's picture

Supplicant

You're right, you can't demand respect, it does need to be earned, but he certainly hasn't earned any imo. I guess the word I was looking for was something more like enforce. You can't make him respect you, but you can enforce a minimum level of your expectations.

Part of the problem (and I'm speaking from the receiving end of experience here - no little'uns of my own yet) with good parenting is that it's a blend of being a commanding officer, a councilor, a diplomat, a doctor, a landlord, a teacher, and a dozen other hats besides. It seems like the hardest part is understanding which hat you need when, and in what proportions.

Laureril's picture

Supplicant

If you really want to scare him, you could always move his stuff out onto the lawn and have the locks changed. Smile

I don't know if you can motivate him, but you can definitely lay down the law. It's your house after all. Sit down and have a discussion. Turn his phone off while you're talking. Define his jobs and chores and how often you expect them to be done. Listen to any actual objections he has. Set some deadlines. There needs to be some actual discipline if he doesn't meet them (eg, driver's license by this date, or no more chauffeuring. GED, or he pays for his own texts.) And once you've drawn up a contract, STICK TO IT! Think about it as a landlord instead of a parent. If he's 19, he needs to get a clue and suck it up.

My boyfriend (21) moved back in with his parents and helps out with the grocery bill by paying rent. It's not that uncommon - I have two other good friends that chip in since they've started living with their parents again. When I'm home, I don't have a job, but I still do my share around the house. If Mom asks me to do the dishes and vacuum, I do it. Since I was home for winter break and my sister went back to school before me, I was asked to pick her up and did every day and on time. If I'm told to be in by midnight and call before I leave, then I do. It's a matter of respect. If you don't demand it from him, I doubt he'll give it willingly.

Jacob's picture

Just asking how you can get him to start behaving like an adult is half the problem he may be your son but he needs to be treated like an adult, just as you had roommates at some point and had the inevitable conflicts it's a matter of exerting that you are a person who will take care of themselves first if he provides a compelling reason or offers something in return for assistance that's fine. Shoot be like my parents kick him out, I was working two jobs going to school full time and living on my own at 19 paying all my bills and putting money away. You may feel the need to coddle him but he will never become a adult till he gets that. Ohh well this stuff always has pissed me off.

GreenGlass's picture

Supplicant

I'm no expert, but I hope my advice will be of some help.

A lot of what everyone has already said is based on good reasoning, and a lot of it is what you should try to do. From my perspective, there are just a few more things to remember when actually trying to put this tough love into practice.

Why do you end up cleaning up someone else's messes? Because it affects YOU. So, here's the perspective to carry with you. You ARE the one doing him a favor. It is YOUR house and you aren't used to having to live with someone of such different habits. Honestly, a lot of people, guys and girls, live in places that are pigstyes. It's possible. It's not the best, but it is totally possible to ignore garbage and junk and organizing, to skip all that hard work, and just let it go. And if it bugs someone else, they get to deal with it, not you (most of the time). But this is NOT his father's place, or anyone else's place, it's YOUR place, and that is not how you live. Tell him if he really wants to be messy, he can leave his room a mess, he's an adult, but he needs to respect your space if you're going to respect his, and not pull the throwing his junk out the door thing.

I think the point about trying to treat him like an adult despite maybe pointing out that he IS acting like a little kid is vital. He's still an up and coming adult, no matter how badly he's acting. At the end of the day, you're not only bothered by the fact that he is making your life more difficult, you are also concerned about him because you want him to be an upstanding human. You want him to be a good man as he continues to mature. And part of that is learning how to treat other people with respect and be responsible for yourself and your messes. Remind him that if he really wants to live in a pig sty, he'll have to find a girl who will put up with that. There are not many girls left any more who will clean up for their husbands while he doesn't lift a finger. And if they do, it won't last very long and he'll be resented as a bad husband. Why? Because he's not being dependable! He's being selfish and unrealistic. Learning how to get along with others is very valuable. If he wants to pretend it won't affect his life later, fine, but it DOES effect his life now! Because it effects yours. Your lives are now connected and he needs to see that when he won't be responsible for his actions, he really is hurting himself. You can't carry him through life. But also, right now he's hurting you. You now have to buy groceries and wash dishes and whatever FOR HIM if he doesn't pick up some of the mess he's created.

It is not okay. Everyone is trying to tell you, set boundaries. Don't just let it go. And they're right. But it's an uphill battle. It won't work if you just turn it into a battle of wills. "Because I say so. Because it's my right." Yeah, it is. But also because if he goes and finds people who won't hold him accountable, his life will be a big fat boring dead end in which he can't afford the things he wants and surviving at a horrible job will take up most of his time. He won't be able to really relax and watch TV or play games then. The TV will break. The games will be too expensive. He won't be able to afford the internet. He does need to shape up. Having a good life takes hard work. You need to talk to him from a position of reality. Ask him to step up because you won't keep helping him get through his screw ups forever (parents who have tried this have lost their children in various ways, but I don't know of any who have saved them). Eventually he'll be so far into life debt that HE will be the only one paying for it for the rest of his life. He's spoiled. Help him see it. Don't do anything you shouldn't be. Get a friend to support you, so they can help you go over what boundaries you're trying to maintain. With that friend, practice saying everything you want to tell him. So that when you do have a serious talk (no music or TV allowed), it comes out right. Start right away too though, saying the most important things that need to stop and ceasing to put up with them, one step at a time. You can do it. It isn't easy or magical, but his whole future is at stake.

My brother is his age. He's spoiled too. But you know what, my mom is trying to support him while she's sick. And reality catches up. Her poor health, her not being able to just by him anything, or buy him a car for college... the fact that he screwed up his grades so he's having a hard time getting into college... reality is sobering. She's very protective. But luckily life still gets through. And it's been good for him. Bleak, stressful, yes. Becoming an adult was a huge revelation for me. I felt overwhelmed and incapable. But I'm going to accomplish things because of it. So will my brother, once he pays for his mistakes. And so will your son. I hope. You hope. Let him know. Smile

Also, you'll stop "lecturing" (try not to nag, but hearing these things isn't going to be fun for him), when he starts showing that he gets it through ACTIONS. Tell him you're saying these things because he CAN'T ignore them anymore. This is serious. Turn off the music and listen! He may not know HOW to be an adult. That sucks too, but he HAS TO LEARN SOMETIME. TRY NOW, WHILE YOU HAVE HELP, SON!

EDIT: The 9 hours for the bags of trash thing? I am not asking you to do it eventually. I am asking you to do it now. The sooner you do it, the sooner I can stop asking! He might push it 5 minutes more just to see if you're serious. Wait a bit to see if he does it, without reminding, then say "It has been 10 minutes (5, 15, up to your timing) too long. You could have stopped what you are doing by now and done what I asked. When YOU need something, you don't like waiting for it. Show some respect and get off your butt!"

Bedazzled101's picture

Petitioner

I must admit you are being quite the enabler. It is obvious you are probably the stricter of his 2 parents, his behavior is an effect of how his dad let him act(spoiled brat).
First off, if he doesn't work...how does he pay for a cell phone? If you are paying for it, I believe you should call the company and put a hold on that acct. till he is able to bay for it himself.
Secondly, you need to sit your son down and go over what is expected of him and what won't be tolerated. Also, go over the consequences of what will happen if he doesn't fulfill his part of the bargain. To live in your house he must either be taking the GED classes full time, or have a job. If he chooses to get a job, he must pay a reasonable rent to you monthly.
You will no longer be chauffeuring him around town either. He can either walk, or use a skateboard or bike if he has it(and don't go out and buy him one if he doesn't). And no exceptions except if its to take him to his GED stuff.
If he doesn't have money for a car, he doesn't need a driver's licence. Even if he got his licence you are not to lend him your car.
If he needs money for anything(clothes, shoes, cologne), he needs to get a job. He is a tenant in your home, and treat the arrangement as such.
He must clean up after himself, if not you will make him do it when you get home(even if it takes all night). If he procrastinates...turn off the TV and take away the phone.
He must complete certain chores to have the PRIVILAGE of living in your home.
He is an adult now, and stress that to him. If he would like to live with you, there are certain expectations he must meet. If he doesn't meet your expectations, he must face the consequences of being kicked out.
Have all this in writing and have him sign it, and also give him a copy to keep.
Also tell him you love him, but if he doesn't have enough respect for your rules you will do what you have to do. He is an adult and you can't keep coddling him like a child. Now he knows the consequences to his actions, it will be nobody's fault but his own if he doesn't follow through.

magalicious's picture

Postulant

A) Time for tough love. I know he's your son, he hasn't lived with you in a while, and honestly, I'm suspecting you have some misplaced guilt, and it's easier to just play maid than to get tough - but do you still want him living with you when he's thirty?
B) The only place you should be driving him is job interviews. Seriously. No GF's house, no skate park, nothing.
C) If you're taking orders for the grocery store (poptarts, mountain dew, etc) STOP. If he's going to eat your food, he's going to eat *your* food. If he wants to eat that stuff, he should get a job and buy it himself. If he doesn't want to eat what you cook, then, he doesn't have to. Only babies have to have separate food cooked for them.
D) Once he gets a job, unless he goes back to school, charge him rent.
E) If he leaves his crap around Your House, it becomes Yours to do with as you wish. That being said, if you give him a drawer in the kitchen to put his paperwork and stuff in, it may not end up on your counter.
F) If he doesn't do his laundry himself, he can wear dirty clothes.
ETC ETC ETC.
G) Above all, *reward good behavior*. Did he put his resume online, or sign up for classes? Tell him you're proud. Take him out for dinner, or get a dessert he really likes, etc. Let him know that he makes you proud when he does something productive. Even if he acts embarrassed, it will most likely make him happy.
H) And this is the hard part: Perhaps he should get some counseling. I mean nothing personally, but I was where he is now a few years ago - and I was depressed as hell. I didn't care about *anything*. I dropped out of college. I was pissed all the time. I didn't want to get a job. I didn't want to get my license. I didn't want any sort of responsibility. I yelled, was pissed off, treated my parents like crap - and it was only when they got tough and I got a job and started to *take care of myself* that I started to climb out of my depression.
I wish you the best of luck. I wish *him* the best of luck, I really do, because I feel for both of you, and I know how hard it is. And I know, without a doubt, that this is going to be a tough time on the both of you - but you'll come out okay in the end.
Love love love.

MsGamgee's picture

Embodiment

I can honestly say that there is absolutely no excuse for this behavior. This kind of thing is unacceptable. I don't have any advice for you other than what people have already said, but you do not deserve to have to put up with this. If I knew your son, I'd give him a good kick in the behind and tell him to get off his lazy butt and help his mother, and make something of himself!

applejax's picture

Supplicant

I'm 19 as well, and I can say that when I lived with my parents I did the things they asked of me mostly because I was pretty close with them and I didn't want to disappoint them. Giving him ultimatums is an option, but he could just become even more irate and ignore you completely. Throwing out his stuff if he leaves it around can either motivate him to clean up his act or start doing things to get you back. Any technique you try is going to have a 50/50 chance of either working or backfiring, but as long as you're prepared for that then you should be fine. Good luck!

MeiLin's picture

Most High

...did I end up with all these kids reading me?! My audience was supposed to be women 35-45! That's what everyone told me, anyways... Smile

(Srsly, I'm happy you're all here, whatever age.)

NorthwoodsMan's picture

Embodiment

Women 35-45? For the paid gig, sure, but I don't see how that is the target audiance for this writing.

Otherwise, can't say that my advice would be any different that what anyone else has said. Just to reiteriate, don't be such an enabler. For the problem relationships that I've been a part of, the issue is that the half that is somehow being difficult, the other half is enabling that behaviour.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

that's not the Paid Gig. Smile The Paid Gig is a website development gig that I don't do any writing for at all; I just program and do markup. What you're referring to (if you've ferreted out my main site) is not so much paid as sponsored.

Brezelfrau's picture

Women 35-45? Where did you get that statistic? I'm 24, and I feel like I'm older than a lot of the crowd here...

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Before I put up the story, a few people read what I was doing and said, "Oh yeah, there's a market for this, and it's women 35-45." They were thinking the racy Harlequin erotic romance crowd, I guess. I so don't belong there. I know, because I belong to a couple of email lists with those authors on them, and I so do not belong. Sad

amiciaN's picture

Petitioner

First, I would like to thank everyone who posted suggestions. Most of them are things I already knew, but hearing such a chorus of agreement helps a lot.

Secondly, he actually is trying to "grow up". Since I posted this, he cleaned up the worst of his mess in the living room WITHOUT BEING TOLD OR EVEN ASKED (again)! I know it may sound insignificant, but to me it was huge. And yes, I piled on the praise, along with a long talk that seemed to make an impact, at least for the moment. A lot of the problem is how his dad treated him. He was only 14 when I left and in many ways he's closer to 16 now rather than 19 in every way except by his birth certificate, so he has a lot of ground to make up now. A large part of what I've been trying to do is convince him that I'm not his dad and that I do expect him to behave like an adult rather than as a child. I think it actually may be sinking in.

Thirdly, he is in counseling, currently 3 days a week and that is why I am playing chauffeur; taking him and picking him up. When the temperature is only in the teens, making him walk a mile there and back is a little more than my mother's heart can bear. He doesn't have a decent coat either and right now, I can't afford to buy him one, even at a second-hand store, so putting him at risk for hypothermia by making him walk seems a bit extreme, even for "tough love". I have established a deadline for getting his learner's permit today that he has agreed to. It isn't quite the "contract" that people have proposed, but it's a start.

Also, any "enabling" I might be prone to do that involves money is simply out of the question right now and I've made him very aware of that. The local economy is in the tank since our county's 2 largest employers are in the auto industry and neither of us can find work right now. I have a small share of my ex's pension, but over half of it is eaten just by our heating bills right now and he is becoming more aware of how different my economic status is compared to his dad's. I do get help from my Master (wonderful Man that He is) but that also eliminates me from getting any "official" assistance, so saying things are "tight" financially is an understatement. His cell phone is "text only" @$20/month which his dad is paying so he can keep in contact with him without going through me. (YAY!!)

Finally, as I said in the beginning, I had already come to most of the same conclusions and that comprised the bulk of our talk today, which seemed to be well received. There is no war yet. Again my thanks to everyone who posted and wished us well. It is nice to feel confident enough in the community here to ask for help. May your own lives go as well as you all wished ours to.

magalicious's picture

Postulant

See? You already knew what to do. Wink

Laureril's picture

Supplicant

Sounds like you two are on your way to making things work. Sucks that the economy is so tight, but I'm really glad to hear that he's starting to make some changes. Maybe he just didn't realize how much he frustrated you or that he was being selfish. I hope the two of you get everything worked out.

Saramander's picture

Petitioner

It sounds like you and your son are reaching an understanding and that there is still plenty of hope for the both of you. I wish you great luck. Just continue to hold him accountable for his actions without being combative and you should be fine. I wish my own 19 year old brother was as receptive to my mother as your son is to you and vice versa, it would save the lot of us from a pretty monumental amount of heartache...

kawaiikune's picture

Embodiment

It sounds like things have gotten better, at least enough to give your relationship some hope. Good luck, and I hope that everything works out well for the two of you. You sound like a better parent then most.

Marri's picture

Supplicant

...I was going to respond to this, but my long standing and violent rage directed at anyone that spoiled made me decide it was a bad plan Biggrin

MsGamgee's picture

Embodiment

I had to hold back REAL hard. But I figured she probably loves that boy, and there's facets to him we'll never see, so I'm sure he'll turn out just fine.

seia's picture

Devotee

I had a period of extreme lack of motivation like that, though I was 16/17 at the time, so I can say from experience that you have a snowball's chance in hell of motivating him (sorry for the crude metaphor). My parents' way of solving it was by making in it very clear that everything that happened to me because of being lazy was going to be my problem. After that they only had to wait for me to make some big mistake. I made that mistake, realized what I had been doing and proceeded to work my way out of it.

EDIT: Just read your update/reply. Feel free to ignore this, as it was posted purely because of the initial post.

V's picture

Embodiment

Have him read MLM first thing in the morning, every day. That should get him started in the right direction Biggrin

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