Enabling Our Young Adult Monsters
If you love your rude, messy, entitled child — your parental toughness is way overdue
I’ve watched parents raise children for 30 years (and raised four of my own), and I know how hard it is. Here, I share a question that came to me as a pediatrician, as well as my answer to this parent.
I hope this is instructive and helpful for other parents who may have wanted to ask the same question and who will appreciate some guidance on this tough issue.
Dear Dr. Meg,
I am very concerned about issues concerning our young adult children. Our son graduated college two years ago. He is working full time, but pays no rent. His room and bathroom are a disgusting mess at all times. I say he keeps those areas to my standards. He completely ignores this and is quite 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 affect him.
1.) 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 ear. And when he gets married, he will be rude to his wife and children. This isn’t fair to him or any of them!
2.) 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.
3.) 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 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 his mess, and changes the way he talks to you in 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 has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.”