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Ask Dr. Meg: Am I Enabling My Young Adult Children?

Being tough on your grown children is more important now than ever. Here, parenting expert, Dr. Meg Meeker gives a stressed mother some guidance.
Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
December 5, 2016
Minute Read

For the first time in the modern age, adult children are more likely to be living at home with their parents than anywhere else, or with anyone else. An entire generation of millennials is moving back home. This has some parents at their wits’ end:

Dear Dr. Meg,

I am very concerned about the issues concerning our young adult children. Our son graduated from college two years ago. He is working full time and living with us but doesn’t pay rent.

His room and bathroom are a disgusting mess at all times. I ask him to keep those areas to my standards. He ignores this and is disrespectful in his speech to me. My daughter is often rude and disrespectful as well.

I feel they are far too old to behave this way, but the truth is I have no backup from my husband. I am at my wit’s end, ready to kick them out – but again, no backup!

Aren’t we just allowing them to remain immature?


Wit’s End Mom

Dear Wit’s End Mom,

You are absolutely right. By allowing your son (and daughter) to be rude, not pay rent and trash the room he occupies in your home, you are teaching him that being rude to others isn’t harmful to them or him in any way, that he isn’t a man yet because you and his father expect him to act like a child and that he can’t really be responsible for his actions, behavior or speech. Here’s how each of these lessons affects him.

Allowing him to be rude teaches him that he doesn’t need to have respect for his father (or any adults for that matter). This makes him feel demeaned and at some point, this will show through to his boss, and he’ll be out on his rear. And when he gets married, he will be rude to his wife and children. This isn’t fair to him or any of them!

By allowing him to live like a boy, not a man, he will be insecure. Young men who act like boys question deep down whether or not they “have what it takes” to be mature, responsible and respectful to others. This is a horrible handicap to live with and by not forcing your son to act like a man, you and your husband are making him believe he can’t be a man.

When you allow him to talk like a spoiled child, behave like an entitled young man and not take responsibility, you are teaching him that he isn’t able to control himself. When a young man lives with this message, he becomes fully dependent on others and never grows up. Furthermore, he becomes a person that no one likes or wants to be around. This is completely unfair to him.

Your husband is enabling him to be a child and your son will suffer great harm now and later in life. If your husband won’t believe you, please have him read this letter.

Your son deserves to be treated like a man and you both deserve to be respected. Period.

If you really love your kids, you'll get tough with them when you need to.

If you don’t force change now, you and he will pay a huge price. Your relationship with your son will continue to get worse, and he will eventually become miserable (if he isn’t already).

You have the right thinking and you need to be tough enough to demand respect for yourself, even if your husband won’t demand it. Give your son an ultimatum: He pays rent, cleans up his mess and changes the way he talks to you within two weeks or he’s out. You are enabling his miserable life, so stop. If you really love him, you’ll get tough.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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