Please give me a fresh perspective on how to deal with my 18-year-old son.

Alissa - posted on 06/17/2012 ( 15 moms have responded )

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My 18-year-old son just graduated high school (barely). He was going to go into the Marines, but changed his mind at the last minute because of anxiety. Now he is going to college in the fall. He has started not coming home, staying gone for days at a time. He spent all of his graduation money on tattoos. He is fine living off his friends. He has tried to find a job, but to no avail, and only after a lot of prodding from us. He also hasn't tried really hard. He is content to play video games at his friend's house and slept till noon every day. He did go register for his college classes on his own and his friends are all good boys who stay out of trouble. I just don't know what to do about him not wanting to come home. We haven't given him any money, other than what he earns cutting grass, which we have to force him to come do so that he will have some money. He has offered to give us his cell phone too since we have complained that he needed a job. We don't have much leverage is what I am trying to convey. Other than gas money and cell phone payments, we don't have anything else to hold over him. I am fine with him staying over there for a night or two, but he should come home to eat and shower since he has no money and it isn't the friend's mom's responsibility to feed him and wash his clothes. Every time we talk, we end up in a huge fight. Suggestions? I want to make him go to church, find a job, etc., but he seems happy with things as they are and he resents my trying to make him do the right thing.

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Medic - posted on 06/18/2012

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First of all he is an adult....you really do not need to know where he is at all times. Granted a hey I will not be coming home tonight is nice. So what HE spent HIS money on tats, he will suffer the reprocussions of not saving his money. If he offered up the phone then it must not be that important to him. And church.....come on really? He is an adult, do you really want to shove something else down his throat?

Stop picking fights you will never win. Just lay down some nice common curtesy ground rules and stick to them.

Karla - posted on 06/17/2012

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Alissa,



Hey there. You are in a very frustrating situation. My third child just graduated from HS also. It was my oldest though, that thought turning 18 meant she could follow her own rules. We had to tell her that while she lived in our house she had to follow our rules. She moved out within a week - shocked the heck out of us. She was still in HS, she was working and had a car that she bought with money from her grandparents, she was paying for her own car insurance. (My rule has always been that when they buy their own car, they must maintain and insure it themselves.) Even though she was so independent, I wanted her back home because she had another year of HS.



My husband and I told her she could follow her own rules, but she had to pay rent; like a tenant rather then our child. She moved back and paid $25 a week. It wasn't always smooth going, and there were times we didn't charge her rent because she lost a job or had a big car expense. After she graduated I told her as long as she was going to college rent was the same, but if she quit rent would double.



When she got a cell phone she got her own plan and paid for it herself. Later we did pay for cell phones for our other kids (and for her when she was unemployed for 6 months) but when they are working full time they get their own plan.



If your son wants independence, then he should know it comes with a price. All responsible adults have to work for their room, board, gas, phone, etc. If on the other-hand he wants to remain a kid at home (not a bad thing at this age) then he needs to be working member of your home, and comply with some reasonable rules.



Honestly, I would just have a few rules about touching base every day, earning money for gas if he wants to go anywhere, and if he can't do these things then let him give up his cell phone. (You might want to remind him that college text books are expensive, etc.) Also, I wouldn't go too far by insisting he go to church; it's better if that comes from a genuine desire to be there. IMO



Fighting about these things is a power struggle that gets you no where. Outline your expectations; have an alternate plane in which he has more freedoms at a $ price. Give him options and let him decide. You own the home, and the cell phone, (and the car?) so you call the shots on these items.



It sometimes helps to start the conversation with a little empathy about what is happening in his life: Big changes, apparent freedom, entering a new education system, and how he's feeling about going to college, etc. Then talk about options that can work for both of you. It could be helpful to ask him what his plans are and what steps he is taking to make that happen. Try to avoid fighting about these things, it's not worth the stress and it will just drive a wedge in your relationship with him. If things get heated, take a break from the discussion - do some brainstorming, or journaling about what your goals are and have him do the same.



Not least of all, I'd like to add that this is a transitional time for him and you. I imagine he wants to either enjoy this time of freedom before college, or he's having some anxiety about the end of HS. It's a big transition and some people need time to process the change. Getting a job could be very helpful with the transition because he would meet new people, learn the joys of earning money, and learn about the work environment.



Good luck and let us know how it's going! :-)

Krista - posted on 06/17/2012

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I'm not in complete agreement with the other girls on this. If he's living off of you, and dependent upon you for money, then you DO have some say over him.

And perhaps you need to position it as such. If he wants to be an independent adult and not have to answer to you at all, then he has to ACT like one, meaning that you will no longer give him gas money or pay for his cell phone, and he will have to pay you a small stipend for room and board. And if he wants you to support him, like a kid, then it's not unfair for you to set certain rules, one being that he not take off for days at a time without communicating with you.

(Question: when he's not coming home for days at a time, is he at least giving you a heads-up on this? Or is he just completely incommunicado for several days, letting you think he's dead in a ditch somewhere?)

Basically, he wants it both ways: he wants Mommy and Daddy to take care of him and support him, but doesn't want to have to answer to you or follow any house rules. And that just doesn't fly, in my opinion.

Iridescent - posted on 06/17/2012

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It's his choice. If he wants to be a leech, he will be. If his friends or his friends families don't like it, they'll definitely let him know. Let him make his mistakes - he's got good friends, and isn't going to totally fail in life just because he's not ready to be in full adult mode yet.

Karla - posted on 06/18/2012

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When my kids didn't have cell phones they were still expected to let me know where they were. They used phones at school, homes, or borrowed friends' phones. I know cell phones are convenient and I don't blame you for wanting him to have one, I'm just saying there are other options as well.



ETA: Texting is convenient too. They will read their texts. (I read that people read 100% of their texts!)

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Alissa - posted on 06/18/2012

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Thanks to all who have responded. Wow! I can't believe I didn't join this sooner. It's great to get feedback and honest answers.

Alissa - posted on 06/18/2012

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Krista, I have taken that approach recently by trying to be positive when he is home. I have told him a couple of time to at least let me know where he was. We don't give him gas money, but if we took his cell phone, he would be completely out of touch with us and we'd have no way to communicate with him. He will at least communicate back with me if I text him to ask where he is...

Linda - posted on 06/17/2012

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If he spent all his graduation money on tattoos, who is paying for college? If it is you, you definitely still have leverage over him. My house, my money, my rules. I would not be paying for any cell phone for him if he's not working as an adult. It is hard to find a job, but they are out there. My son had to apply to about 20 places before he found one. Keep the rules simple but clear. He needs to let you know where he is...that's only respectful. If he is expecting you to pay for college out of your hard work while he is goofing off, that is unacceptable. However, don't be angry. Just state the rules and treat him as you want to be treated. Lay down the law firmly but without anger. I think we need to teach our kids how to be adults by gently leading them down the path of responsibility.

Katherine - posted on 06/17/2012

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I don't think that's harsh at all Sharlene. It actually needs to be done.

Sharlene - posted on 06/17/2012

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You need to be more hard on him and tell him to get a job pay rent or just kick him out and let him learn the hard way.

Stifler's - posted on 06/17/2012

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I agree with krista make him pay board and for his own stuff and get a job or else move out. let the rest of it go such as going to church.

Krista - posted on 06/17/2012

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At any rate, I can understand why you're annoyed. I'd be annoyed too if my kid was acting like a giant mooch off of everybody and not doing a damn thing but couch-surfing and playing video games.

But, he is going to college in the fall, and you say his friends are good kids, so this really may just be a phase of slackerism that he's going through prior to starting college. So try not to get TOO wound up in it and fight with him when he comes home. Maybe just once, the next time he comes home, don't bring up anything about what YOU want him to do. Try to keep it pleasant. He'll be gone away to college soon enough, and do you want all of his memories of home to be about having fights with his mom?

Katherine - posted on 06/17/2012

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He's eighteen! An adult now. You can't *make* him do anything. You can't have leverage either. Why would you want to do this? Let him learn the hard way. He is no longer your responsibility Alissa.

If he doesn't want to do certain things then so be it. Now that he is done with HS, he is on his own as far as I'm concerned. If he spent all of his money on tattoos, that's HIS fault and problem, not yours.

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