Sometimes tensions become unbearable — in spite of doing all the right things as a parent of a young adult. There may even come a time when the conflict begins to cause damage, and it sounds like you’ve reached that point.
Your relationship with your son is changing
Your son isn’t a minor; you’re not expected to put up with the damage he’s causing. Instead, he’s officially an adult, and your relationship template needs to shift from “parent-child” to “adult-adult.”
Loving him well means helping him mature and launch out on his own. It’s OK to ask yourself if there’s any good reason to keep someone who causes harm under your roof — whether or not he’s family.
First steps: Check your motives and ask for help
Before doing anything drastic, check your motives. The goal is to make sure that you’re not doing anything based only on emotion.
If you’re feeling desperate to kick your son out of the house, pause and ask yourself why. On the other hand, if you’re reluctant to take any kind of action, pinpoint the roots of your hesitancy.
Before drawing a line in the sand, you need to be confident that your actions aren’t based on anger or fear. If they are, you’ll almost always make a poor choice. In other words, instead of solving the problem, you’ll lash out at what makes you mad and avoid what you’re afraid of.
Right now, it’s critical to figure out two things:
- Is your son’s presence in the house harmful to himself or others?
- Is that damage serious or potentially permanent?
Ask your pastor or a licensed therapist for insight. A trained professional can help you take a careful and complete assessment of the situation and every family member involved.
Next steps: Talk to your spouse and your son
You can keep emotions under control and work toward a wise decision by following this three-step process:
- You and your spouse should sit down separately and write out a list of personal statements you want to communicate to your son. Explain your concerns as clearly as possible.
- As a couple, review each other’s lists. After an honest discussion, develop an agreed-on list of statements that you can feel good about presenting to your son together. (This part of the process is extremely important. If both parents aren’t on the same page, you won’t make any headway.)
- After you agree on a joint list, sit down together with your son and read it to him. Make sure he knows exactly what you expect of him.
For example, if having alcohol or any kind of cigarette in your home is a non-negotiable issue (and we think this is about maintaining safety and order for everyone in the house), then let him know he has a choice: Either the substances have to go, or he does.
Or, if finding a job is a requirement for staying under your roof, say so. Don’t leave anything up to personal interpretation on your son’s part.
Once you’ve spoken with your son, remember that follow-through is key. This isn’t about scaring him with empty threats; that kind of manipulation won’t work in the long run. Instead, it’s about staying consistent and true to your word.
Consider how Dave Ramsey approaches a similar conversation: “We’re not picking a fight. It’s [our] job as [parents] to teach you to be a man, and right now, you’re acting like a 20-year-old boy. You need to be a man. Stand up and do manly things.”
If your son refuses to follow the rules for living in your home, ask him politely but firmly to pack his things and leave. If you need backup, invite a few friends from the neighborhood or your church to be there the day you’ve told your son that he has to be out. (You should also be ready to call the police — but only as a last resort. If you’re not willing or able to go that far, don’t issue an eviction notice.)
Not sure how to get started with all this? Call our licensed or pastoral counselors for a free over-the-phone consultation. They can help you set boundaries and clarify the consequences of your son’s failure to abide by them.
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Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children (Allison Bottke)
Parenting Adult Children