How do you set boundaries with older children?

If you have children who are technically adults, but who still live under your roof or benefit from your resources, it's hard to know where it's fair to draw the line between respecting their adulthood and retaining respect for your wishes. How do you set boundaries for children who are no longer, legally, children?

36  Answers

1 23

What an interesting question and the answers all have a universal underlying theme... RESPECT.
Some noted that there should be no difference in the "adult child" as they were raised in that house knowing rules and the family expectations. The difference and the point of frustration is that as parents we were setting down rules and processes with out discussion. As young kids there is no need for discussion. They just had to do what was expected of them and what we TOLD them to do.... over and over day in and day out. Then at 18 they get it in their head that they dont have to follow these rules any more. They are free to do what they want when they want. That Hey I'm 18 Now... attitude. Not every kid goes through it but every kid has a infectious friend who is going through it and tries to pull them into it... hey you dont have to worry about curfew your 18 now...Your mom cant tell you what to do... your 18 now. Yeah, if your "Adult Child" (oxy moron like Jumbo Shrimp ha ha!).... has a friend like this bending your kids ear, you end up having a tuff time of it until you get them back down to earth. That phrase, "to whom much is given, much is expected in return"... that really applies as we have given 18 years or more to our kids to prepare them to be contributing people to society and their own welfare. Yes, free at 18.... free to be responsible and respectful and profitable and fruitful in deeds to others....yes, free from someone wiping your nose and making excuses for temper to do the right things and pay your parents back by being a contributing adult in their home. That could be financially, emotionally, chores, to give back and not take any more. Free to become successful through effort. I believe in helping my kids get a good start in life through giving them a roof over their heads while they navagate this awful economic cycle we are in. But I have to see that they are working and trying and making smart choices too. That is being respectful too. To not squander our open home invitation and they are not saving or paying their bills or working at making their life stronger. No parents need squatters doing nothing with their lives.

75 104

Vicki,that was excellent advice. Thank you so much for taking the time to write to us.

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8 40

They can choose to be respectful and responsble while still living under my roof...or they can move into their own house and pay their own bills.

18 10

Adults who share living space follow rules out of respect for each other.

Letting the other adults know where you are and when you expect to be home. If you plan on being out overnight. Whether you will be home for meals.

Nothing to do with being a parent or a child - everything to do with being respectful. That's the way adults behave.

When my eldest son found that he could not comply with these rules, I told him to move out.

10 3

It's the same as when they lived there as minors. Unless they are paying rent, they live by the rules of the house (your rules) or find somewhere elso to live. That's been my motto with my kids.

0 1

even as adults - even if they pay rent - unless it is a shared roommate situation - there are still family rules. Interestingly enough, my son-in-law has a friend that is in his 30's that wants to come spend time working on our farm in a developing nation to see if that is where he wants to put his energy. My son-in-law told me that he had told him the "house" rules, which included no overnight guests (meaning his girlfriend) as the standards of our home were high and he should expect to abide by them. Okay, first you are asking where can I get a son-in-law like that! But the fact that all adults who visit or stay for a bit are expected to RESPECT the traditions and guidelines of the host without pushing... that I find an attitude that we need to expect from our adult children. As a was said above - they are free to choose where ever they wish and it might be noted that there will be rules where ever they live - such as paying bills on time and cleaning up after oneself that they will find even more difficult to observe in a timely manner. :)

1 7

When my son was living at home, he had to give at least 12hours notice if he was not going to be there for meals. His bedroom was his responsibilty, if his washing was in the dirty clothes basket I did it if it was on his bedroom floor he did it. If he was not coming home for the night I had to know no later than 9.30pm. There were no sleep overs allowed in his room. We both lived with this arrangement until he was 28 and we still have a good relationship.

0 1

I like the clear boundaries and expectations - and it worked!

1 6

I believe things are different in today's economy than when I finished school. Jobs are harder to find and many college graduates are under employed. My eldest moved back home after graduating college and is still looking for a full time job. He works two part time jobs while paying huge student loan payments. I don't charge him rent, but when a big expense comes up , such as replacing a heat pump, he is required to pay his share of the costs to replace it. IF he was out partying all the time, I'd increase his expenses or charge him rent, but he spends the little spare time he has researching jobs and graduate programs. We both understand, that his intentions are to move out when he secures a regular full time job.

0 8

My house, my rules. If my child who is an adult can't respect the rules of the household then maybe it's time for them to move out on their own. For example, if my daughter wants to live at home after she's 18, she needs to understand that visitors in the home will only be at certain hours. There are other children in the home therefore our rules still apply even though she's an "adult". So, in our house, no overnight guests of the opposite sex. Sorry, my house, my rules.

5 0

I am a divorced mom and have an 18 yr. old son. He had a full grant to a university and the grant and his acceptance was rescinded, for he received a "D" in english while attending Jr. college and high school at the same time. He got this by missing too many classes. (even though he graduated with High Honors)
Since his behavior showed me that his priority was not education, I told him he needed to get a summer job. And contribute to the household. I felt that he was most disrespectful about water and lights so, I decided, as a responsible parent, that I needed to help prepare him for life, by being financially responsible by paying a bill. He is in charge of the D.W. P. bill. He is now more respectful of the water and electricity.
Part of him is resentful, and part of him carries a sense of pride. I told him he only needed to contribute until he wanted too. Lol
A devoted mother who enjoys her son

5 0

I almost forgot: He is in school, and working, and still contributes $200.0 a month. I find that he is much more conscious about ensuring that the food is put away and protected, where as before he was so lazy and would not take the time to make sure the food did not go stale by not protecting it. I am proud of my choices as a parent.

1 5

I have three adult children and the youngest along with her two year old and newborn live with me. Boundaries should be set no matter what the age especially when they move back in with children. I am at a point in my life where I don't wish to be tied down baby sitting etc. I love my grandkids dearly, but at the same time, I feel like it's finally time to look after myself first. Am I being selfish? Maybe, but for the last 25 years, I have given my children my all. Maybe it's a different era/generation, but when I moved out of my parent's home, I didn't move back in. I respect my adult children and treat them as such, but this is still my home and I pay the bills period. I don't like my daughter's boyfriend at all and he is not welcome in my home. Believe me, I am justified in doing so. Without starting a mother/daughter brawl, I put my foot down. The way I see it, is if she doesn't like it, she can find somewhere else to live.

1 19

definitely, you are not being selfish...every one is responsible for their own choices and decisions, sometimes we make mistakes nad have to asume responsibilities even though the easiest way out is to run to our parents, no matter the age, and try having them to come with a solution...

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48 11

The boundaries could be set where the behaviors affect other members of the family. If the half eaten hamburger under the bed is attracting roaches, it has to be cleaned. If coming home at some unearthly hour awakens other family members, find a solution. Living with one's family can be thought of as practice in living with other people. If the family member makes others unhappy it might be a time to practice somewhere else.

15 4

1) By telling them that we are not their ATM machine. 2) Tell them to shape out or ship out 3) Tell them "GROW UP!!!"

7 61

I would hope that through the 18 years of living under your rules they would understand the hardships of being on their own and being responsible for how things progress in their life through the lessons we as parents have tried to instill. In regards to a child of mine living under my roof and legally an adult, the same rules apply!! Respect my rules or go do u and see how hard it is in the real world!!! I've worked too hard to now be stressed out for someone who now doesn't want to face adulthood and work or go to school to become a positive citizen in the community~ I refuse to tolerate such a thing.

110 19

I have 4 adult step children. The oldest (22) still lives with us while his sister (almost 21) has moved out. They had the house rules explained when they first moved in: let us know if you're going to miss dinner, when you'll be home, etc and what was expected of them in the way of chores. My stepdaughter didn't like my rules, so she moved out and we still have a very close relationship. She has also learned through living with roommates that my rules really weren't unreasonable. My stepson still lives with us as he honestly doesn't feel he's ready for the responsibility of having his own place. He's also in college full time and wouldn't be able to afford his own place. He helps watch his youngest brother (4) and helps out around the house, runs errands for us, etc.

2 6

I've told my children, parents don't live forever. You have to eventually know how to take care of yourself. If you wish to be lazy, you'll be living on the streets, going hungry. If you are having a hard time, I will do everything I can do to help financially within my means or just give advice. But there has to respect for rules. Without rules, there is chaos, we have to have rules. I do this because I love you.

13 0

My "adult" son moved out this spring, after he turned 19- he didn't like the rules we gave him, so moving was the option for him. Our rules were not difficult, if he didn't choose college, then he needed a job. We asked that he pay for his on cell phone (which he did), We told him $125 for
rent" and he needed to let me know when he was not planning on coming home. No coming home after 1 am (he as a 10 yr old sister) and we both work full time. The plan with rent, we were going to keep it for him in an account to help him afford an apartment when it was time. Of course we didn't tell him about that part because we knew he wouldn't pay. He was also supposed to keep his room clean. He couldn't manage to follow these rules, so we told him he needed to move.. tough love i know.. but I think he's finally learned that being an adult is not all fun and games.

0 17

When our son was 20 years old he said he and his girlfriend needed to talk to me and my husband. Expecting to hear that someone was "with child" we listened. He told us, "If he was going to continue living with us things had to change, and his girlfriend should be allowed to spend the night." We informed him that the rules of the house didn't allow for that, and if he wanted his girlfriend to spend the night he'd be paying rent somewhere else. He moved out, and all were happy.

1 18

I cannot answer this question correctly, because I am one of those moms that struggle with this everyday. My daughter is 23 years old, lives at home, eat our food and lays up watching our TV. All the while I am working daily and constantly paying all the bills. She has a job but works when she wants to and will come up with excuses to pay her debts, but yet buys clothes & has her nails done. I love her with all my heart but she drains me. I am in need of the guidance to draw trhe line & make a stand.

0 8

Two words: TOUGH LOVE. It's time for little girl to grow up and be responsible. I lived at home until I was 22. All the while I was going to college, working full time and paying my parents rent. I also paid for my own car, insurance, gas and contributed to the family. If she doesn't want to contribute, it might be time for some tough love. My stepdaughter asked me about living at home while going to school. I told her if she lived at home during college she could work at the same time and help out. She asked why would she work? I about fell out of my seat. IF an adult child is living with his/her parents, then they should contribute. No free passes.

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63 13

I think it’s important to set the rules before the move if possible making it a house my rules policy. However, you can’t treat grown ups as children courtesy and respect should be the hallmark for both parties. Children should help with chores, keep regular hours and communicate.

7 1

My daughter is still living with us so that she can attend an expensive private school. She doesn't drive so I am still the one transporting her to class. She rides the bus some days. I wouldn't let anyone I care about ride the bus at night. It hasn't really changed much but we have always had a respectful home and she still hasn't had a boyfriend so that isn't an issue. She has many medical issues and I have a hard time not reminding her to take her meds. If she wasn't such a good person we probably wouldn't be doing so well. I am looking forward to having her here for the next four years.

254 28

it's definitely a differrent level, but the respect level should still be there, whatever your house rules are. When my 19yo moved back home, after 3 months of not putting a lot of effort into doing something full time, I gave him 30 days...he said or what? you're kicking me out....I told him absolutely not, you will just need to start paying rent. He had a full time job in 2 weeks. While they are legally adults, I think they still look for guidance and approval from parents and it is a struggle finding the balance between that and doing their own thing. I think honesty and respect are the two keys to a healthy adult/child relationship, and when the benefits at home aren't worth the sacrifices they feel they feel they are making (chores, curfew, no girls spending the night), then it is time to move on. I think it's harder on the parent because we KNOW how hard it is out there & want our child's life to be better than we had it, but we have to accept it's their turn to try it and we've prepared them as much as we can.

1 0

Amen: I did the same thing, and it worked; it worked better after he got married, and they set their rules for visitors. And reminded them, when the shoe is on the other foot, it's different! Now just setting the bounderies for their children, and mom and dad to comply with these rules too! What works in their home, doesn't always apply to grampa & gramma's house. The older grands comply with these rules, they are no different!

11 1

Wonderful book entitled Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children by Allison Bottke. I highly recommend it. It really helped me when my 22 year old moved back home.

5 43

They need to pay room and board. Period. If you let your adult children live with you without paying room and board, you are not giving him/her the opportunity to learn that it's important to have a job and nothing in life comes free.

7 1

The only reason my daughter lives at home still is because she doesn't have the money to pay for school and a place to live. She is paying her own way through school and she isn't working. She goes to one of the top art schools in the country and they work them very hard. She puts in 14 hour days at school and we all agreed that would be her job. Every family has different standards and I know I couldn't make her pay to live here when she is shelling out $30,000+ to go to school.

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I have an adult daughter with 5 children and a new partner, they moved into our house and we moved into our investment property.
We only ask 200.00 per week, which we rarely get and always seem to be paying to get them out of financial trouble. We are constantly abused when they have money and suddenly when they need money we are okay.
They use our grandchildren as blackmail and everytime, any problems "we caused"
I really am at my wits end emotionally and have no idea how to move forward without the cost of not seeing my grandchildren. Can any one help

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0 0

My son turned 18 in September, he is a senior in high school. He is a good, fun, personable kid, but he has been a challenge. He has always been very strong willed and stubborn. We've told him all along, if he stays out of trouble and takes care of responsibilities he will be "rewarded" with more freedom. He is a very social kid, and his summer job doesn't start until May, so he spends all of his free time with his friends and GF. He doesn't think he should have to check in with me or have a curfew, and I've tried to explain to him it is all a matter of respect. This fall he failed a random drug test at school for pot, and he lied about the whole story. Recently I caught him in another lie. He lies or tells me what I want to hear so he doesn't have to deal with my reactions. Which are usually disappointment and conversation. He can't manage money and starts community college in July. I really want these last few months with him to be happy ones for us all, how do I handle this situation where my 18 year old is still in high school? He won't try very hard to get a 2nd job because he wants to have fun before college. We have totally shut him off financially. I just don't know what else to do.

0 0

I have a 21 year old that has been back in forth living at home since 2010. She first came with my 4 year old granddaughter that now lives with the father. My Daughter has her boyfriend living with us. They do pay rent ,food ect. I said that i would driver him back in forth to work big mistake im getting burned out. She does not clean up after her self she dis respect's me. And all we do is fight she has broke my things never replaced them. Dishes have been thrown away my parents things i have borrowed have some how go away with me having to tell till them still looking . They can move easy but she won't go. She say's I'ii just till Grandma what you have been up to. If I go down so will you. I'm at the point am ready to move but still have till June till lease is up. Im a prisoner in my own home please help me. Also my 28 year old has just came home it's all good there he is very respectful. but he tied of us fighting he came home so he can get around for seeing the Dr better being we live in town. So as far as boundaries the line as been over drawn my wishes don't count. We have walls that we bump into when we speck . My therpist said she has never had to show respect due in are own self world she
grew up in her Father and I never gave it to one another .

1 20

I have a 20 year old (and a 13 year old). We homeschooled (unschooled) and I was never one for following nor encouraging some norm based on society's wishes. With that in mind....

The 20 year old goes to school full time and passes all his classes.

He plays video games at night with his brother and friends online (as do I and their father, on occasion!).

He is pursuing a career in art. He vends at comic and anime conventions several times a year with a local established artist. The artist also runs an art group and they have meet ups at various places around the town (which my youngest often attends as well).

He doesn't work yet. There will be plenty of 9-5 days, of bosses and paychecks and must-do's over the course of his life. Until he gets either his 2 or 4 year degree (as long as he's going full time, of course), he's welcome to focus on his education and his other interests/talents, which most of us, adults and children, rarely get to do. What could we achieve if we were allowed to do so? :) In spite of this, though, he intends to seek employment in January. I support him in this as well, I am only in an advisory position and have been since long before he was an "adult."

To compensate for no job, he occasionally does volunteer work.

He helps out around the house, without complaint.

He doesn't drive yet. It seems this is a rather common thing today, among both his homeschooled and schooled friends, which I find fascinating, and I'm ok with that too! I don't think driving should be a given. He will get his license eventually, when he's ready or when the need is great. He has expressed interest but no "drive" so to speak. I will not push on him such an important decision.

In essence, I think my answer to the boundaries question has to be: I don't set them. I neither want to nor need to. We live in harmony--slowly, inexorably, healthily growing toward independence from each other.

Enjoying the journey. :)

0 3

The hard part is feeling guilt. My husband youngest son lived with us and we thought we were helping him get onto his feet and save for his own place. Instead we found he had quit both jobs and rifled through our bedroom dressers until he found money. My husband asked him to grab whatever clothes he could carry. We had taken him in 5 times. We always talked to him about responsibility and choices in life. He didn't think we'd know. He's 26. Somewhere.

0 12

I think u worked hard to give them the best of every thing as in education so that when they reach adulthood they suppose to become independant and go out on their own get a life and let me enjoy my old age

0 24

I have an adult son who has come and gone and come back again through circumstances beyond his control. He had to pay rent outside the home so he pays rent now to me and as much if not more than he would living away from home. He is rarely home, with work and dance classes, but I do his washing,because I want to not because he wants me to, and I make food he can take for his lunch,eg pasties and pies. He knows he can't bring girls home to sleep over and He is very respectfull of noise levels. I actually love having him home but know it is better for him to have his own place and look forward to him being independent again. I believe in being flexible but He is very aware of my values and doesn't impose his on me/us. Being an international home stay Mum I am used to people coming and going. And I wholely agree with Vicki's comment.

0 12

My two step-sons are both adults. One just graduated from college last weekend and is not living with us. The other is a sophomore in college, has a summer job and will be staying intermittenly with us. The problem is that when they come to visit they treat our home like the Motel 6. No respect for the others in the house. Eat all of the food. Come in late. Get up late. Now they pay for the groceries they will eat while they are here. They are told that they have to be home by a certain time or stay at a friend's house. They have to up in the morning at 9:30am. I'm not their maid. If they want room service go get a room!

7 12

My son is turning 19 in September and lives at home, but currently works out in the oil patch. He was always a respectful child, he knew his boundaries and rarely ever tested them. And even though he is an adult by law, he remains respectful. He will phone if staying out for the night, he will ask for permission before bringing anyone over ( even friends that we know well). But these are things he did while growing up.
I think if the values are pushed at a very young age, then there's less battles as they mature. Plus they all need to learn the hard way eventually. My son's friend was kicked out of family and friends, but still hasn't learned.

1 0

Respect everyone's boundaries - respect of consideration - respect of mutual co-operation and
you need help also- RESPECT YOURSELF! Making the boundaries work is very hard-
im not sure there is a true answer. Moms especially learn to live with guilt. For all the parents of
young children the time to start is at a young age- such a hard question and each child is individual as are each parent.

18 14

As long as they live under your roof set boundries that are fait to both parent and adult child.

1 29

I actually have a question and an answer for this one, but my question is what if your 18/19 yr. old decides to stay out most of the time except for when they work and come home just long enough to sleep and then get up and leave again, but they still use the water, electricity, and gas and you ask them to start paying maybe 200 a month to help with those bills plus the gas you use to take them back and forth to work, and they had people coming over at all hours or at least until 1 or 2 in the morning and made excuses to have their boyfriends spend the night like for one, they lived out of town and didn't know that many people here and two their parents or whoever didn't want them to come home. My daughter moved out cause she didn't want to abide by the rules that i finally enforced after letting her try and make the right decisions but she didn't and she has a younger brother and sister that are here and she didn't care about whether they were asleep or if we were asleep, yes she was quiet part of the time but there were quite a few times where she wasn't and she didn't control how her friends acted to give us respect. She told me that she shouldn't have to pay anything because i am her mom, but some of her friends were paying their parents to stay with them to
In my opinion, the kids need to help out if they are 18 they are adults and need to be treated like they were out in the real world and not at their parents.

31 22

Tough love!!!


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