Raising Independent Children-Not Moochers

Close to 14 million adult children are still living at home. There are simple steps both parents and their kids need to take to make their lives more productive, fulfilling and successful. Over-indulgence is one of the most insidious forms of child abuse.

Your primary job as a parent is to prepare your child for how the world really works. In the real world, you don’t always get what you want. You will be better able to deal with that as an adult if you’ve experienced it as a child.

Are your kids a sponge or are you a sucker? There is a difference between helping your children get up on their feet and setting them up to expect less of themselves. Set boundaries without feeling guilt. Parents need to put down boundaries and stick to them. Children often assume the victim role and say, “I can’t do it. I have to live here.” Parents buy into this thinking, and then feel guilty because they want to help their kids. When they feed that guilt, they ignore the fact that they are crippling their children’s advancement in life.

Getting Adult Children To Be Financially Responsible

Let your adult children plan their own lives. Parents should not try to make a life plan for their adult children; this is something they need to devise on their own so they will follow it. Parents can guide and support their kids, but treating them like babies may cause them to regress. They need to be moving ahead and maturing, not regressing into childhood roles. Adult kids should be living as independent young people and making their own way.

They need to decide for themselves what they want out of life, and devise a plan to obtain it. Spoiling your children doesn’t teach them how the world works. All you are teaching them is that if they ask enough, you’ll give them what they want.

Your child is doing what he’s doing because he/she can. Instead of asking why your kid isn’t more productive, have a job or goals, ask yourself if you have created an environment in which your child doesn’t have to. Can they maintain the standard of living you raised them in without any effort?

Helping or Enabling?

Think about the true meaning of help. There is an old saying: “Those for whom you do the most, wind up resenting you the worst.” Are you really helping your kids if you’re not showing them how the real world works? Parents need to redefine what it means to help someone. Look at your motivation for helping your children. If you are doing it to feel better about yourself, then you probably don’t have your child’s best interest in mind.

You don’t help people by taking away their self-sufficiency, pride of accomplishment and achievement. Children need to take an initiative and find ways to achieve their goals on their own. If something is important enough for your children, they will find a way to make it happen.

How To Stop Enabling

Learn how to say no. Your children need to learn that if they choose a behavior, they choose the consequences. Don’t allow them to keep choosing behaviors that have negative consequences that you pick up the tab for! Remember, you are not doing your child a favor by making it easy for him or her to continue to live at home. Children get into a “comfort zone” where days turn into months and then years and before you know it, you’re 28 or 30 and living at home.

Prepare your children for the real world. When we talk about loving our children, loving them means preparing them. In the real world, your children will have to pull their own weight and make their own way. If you allow them not to require more from themselves, then they won’t, and they won’t progress. It is important for your children to learn self-sufficiency, develop high self-esteem and be motivated from early on in life. It is important for your children to learn self-sufficiency, develop high self-esteem and be motivated from early on in life. They should know how to pay their bills and pay them on time (do they know How to write a check?), how to cook basic meals for themselves, how to change a tire, pay taxes, repair appliances, and change the oil in the car, and so on. If you are constantly “helping” them and taking care of their needs, you are not preparing them for the real world, and in fact, you are actually crippling them.

Learning How To Let Go

Don’t feel guilty for wanting your children to be out on their own. It does not mean you don’t love them. It means that you don’t want to rob them of the chance to be self-sufficient, productive adults who are able to have a sense of purpose and pride.

Remember, you don’t solve money problems with money. You solve money problems with lifestyle, values and priorities. Come up with a plan that contains clear steps and a timeline that both of you can agree on.

If you’re frustrated because all of your help thus far hasn’t been appreciated, remember that no good deed goes unpunished. Those you do the most for will resent you the most – because it becomes a bottomless pit. The most valuable gift that you can give your children in this situation is to start requiring more of them and allow them to be grownups.

Parents who have adult children still living at home should give their kids 30 days to move out of the house and then change the locks. You are not being mean by requiring them to grow up. Pushing your adult children out of the house helps them begin healthy, successful lives.

For Adult Children:

Take responsibility for yourself. Oftentimes it is easier to sit back and let others provide for you, while you get accustomed to a comfort zone. By taking the path of least resistance, you reward yourself with comfort and relief from anxiety that comes from reaching for something else. You may feel safe when you don’t attempt to change, but you are sabotaging yourself. You are selling out your happiness and putting up with something you don’t want. Require more of yourself.

Have a plan to get on your own. Find a job, something that gives you the pride and independence to be able to say, “I am taking care of myself.” Start living where you can get up in the morning and look in the mirror and say, “I’m a grown person; I’m living on my own and I’m proud of that.” Start at an entry-level position if you have to, and then build from there. Saving yourself for a management position is not the place to start. You need to get whatever job you can, and then build for another job. Set some goals and make a time-line to get there.

Further Reading:

How to Stop Enabling: When Our Grown Children Disappoint Us
Support Groups for Parents with Grown Adult Children Living at Home with Parents

Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children As long as we continue to keep enabling our adult children, they will continue to deny they have any problems, since most of their problems are being “solved” by those around him. Only when our adult children are forced to face the consequences of their own actions—their own choices—will it finally begin to sink in how deep their patterns of dependence and avoidance have become. And only then will we as parents be able to take the next step to real healing, forever ending our enabling habits and behaviors.

Be Sociable, Share!

21 Responses to “Raising Independent Children-Not Moochers”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Erica says:

    so im speaking from the young adult

    my parents think that this is one of the best ways to teach me how to grow up

    well they live in europe and i live in the states

    before my friend totalling my car i was working at starbucks full time paying my bills except rent because my parents pay for it and i was also enrolled in school

    now that my car has been totalled i have lost everything that was going for me because of transportation

    my parents were a day away from using the insurance money that we received to get me a car since i live alone in washingon i think at 19 its crucial to have transportation considering my famialy and i got insurance money for one, i never got into accidents or even had a speeding ticket

    i have been fully responsible with goals and i think after my parents read this lovely book it gave them the insane idea that i all of a sudden am a moocher and i have no clue what independence is

    so explain to me from a young adults view how im suppose to not want to go crazy and how im suppose to understand by my parents watching me like a chicken with its head cutt of how im suppose to go on living looking at life as if its only suppose to go up from here

  2. Lin says:

    Hi Erica, I can see how you might feel that your parents taking this action is “the end of the world” so to speak, but it’s not. Perhaps you can give me a bit more detail into what has been happening that would make your parents feel the way they obviously do.

    Are you parents upset and angry that you allowed your friend to drive your car, which then brought on your car being totaled, thus the need for another car? I can only assume they are very upset about that, and I can understand why they feel disappointed and upset. Your parents likely told you no one else is allowed to drive the car, but the choice was made to allow it anyway. Such choices cost money. Usually the parents money, not the child’s money. A lot of money to be perfectly honest with you.

    I don’t know why your parents have been paying your rent, but I would never recommend that parents pay their adult child’s rent, car insurance or other bills. Such things are the adults responsibility, not the parents responsibility.

    If I’m understanding you right where you say “my parents were one day away from using the insurance money” to get you a car, apparently they decided against getting you another car. I’m also not sure which book they read, since I’ve discussed and recommended several. Regardless of which book they read, it’s pretty clear to me that there are things going on that they are not happy about at all, but I have no way of knowing what things you might be doing that have them taking this position.

    If your parents are paying your rent (and any other bills) they have every right to “watch you like a chicken with it’s head cut off”, to know where THEIR money is being spent, and if the money is being spent on the things they agreed to pay for or not. In such situations, the “adult” child should realize and understand the importance of being an “open book” about how their parents money is being spent, answering any and all questions honestly and without any deception or hiding the truth. Not only that, but also for the adult child to make sure that they are using their parents money in the way it was intended, rather than making poor choices and using the parents money for things not agreed upon. That shows your parents respect, gratitude, appreciation, love and several other words that would indicate to your parents that you are not taking advantage of their interest and desire to help you.

    Your choices, whatever they are, have consequences that may be good or may be bad. Too often, “adult” children make choices that hurt their parents financially, and “kids” have the unrealistic tendency of expecting their parents to continue to open their wallet over and over again.

    Adult children have to learn how to be an adult living independently of parents which includes paying their own bills and taking responsibility for their own choices and behaviors. It’s called “living within your means” as a grown adult, even if it requires you to greatly reduce your “want” list in order to provide for yourself and the more important things on your “needs” list.

    Too often in today’s society, even adult children have the mistaken belief that their parents OWE their adult children help and financial assistance with an open wallet for many years, including owing their kids a college education and/or paying their rent and other bills. Then these so-called “adults” become angry and upset when mom and/or dad put their foot down and say “no more money” and no more……whatever it is.

    I welcome you to give me a bit more detail on what has happened that has caused your parents to feel you are taking advantage in some way. If you aren’t sure yourself, now would be a good time to speak with your parents and ask in a calm, respectful manner what things they feel you are doing that have them so upset. It’s important that you do more listening than speaking during such a conversation, and don’t make the mistake of interrupting them mid-sentence to tell them how wrong they are. If you have made some serious mistakes, such as allowing someone else to drive the car your parents paid for, own your mistakes and don’t get angry at your parents or put the responsibility or blame on the other person. Adults must acknowledge and accept responsibility for their own choices and behaviors. Doing so is a clear indication of someone who has actually grown up and is a real Adult, rather than someone wanting to live as an adult in a child’s body.

  3. Pam says:

    I have been in a committed relationship with a man for about a year and a half. He has 2 sons, 1 completely independent (the oldest) and 1 that is a never ending money pit (the youngest). The oldest son lives on the West coast while the youngest lives in the same city, and also has “worked” for dear old dad for the past 13+ years at a business dad started in 1984. This business was quite successful and enabled everyone to enjoy some of the finer things life has to offer. Within the last year dad went through a pretty nasty divorce, started a new business with the proceeds of said divorce and is paying jr 6 figures annually while he exists on SSI. My fear is that dad is going to sell everything piece by piece to “bankroll” jr (and his wife and 2 children). They have plenty of money to go to fun weekends and wear very expensive clothes but dont’ have anything put back to repair a well in their home. I’m watching it before my eyes, 1st it was the plane, now the plane $ is gone along with the divorce settlement. Now the condo in FL is up for sale. How do you make someone see what is happening when they are in complete denial and refuse to see the monster they have created. Let me clarify for the record, I do live with dad but have kept all of my personal property, especially my house. I am convinced that when all is said and done, we will end up living in my house when dad is broke and jr has no use for him any longer.

  4. Lin says:

    Hi Pam, I wish I had an easy answer for you. People only see what they want to see, and no one can force anyone to see what is staring them right in the face. Reality sets in at some point and it’s like a light bulb snaps on over their head and they suddenly realize something is very, very wrong. Then they start thinking back to various situations and scenarios and finally say to themselves, Oh My Gosh what have I done?

    You can try to the best of your ability to get your boyfriend to “see the light” through reading articles such as these on “helping vs enabling” and “sense of entitlement” in today’s society to try and get the light bulb to snap on over his head. Unfortunately, you can’t force him to see the reality. Reality of what he’s creating will be crystal clear at some point. Hopefully it won’t be the point of bankruptcy. The only thing you can do is protect yourself and your personal finances from becoming involved and affected by the mayhem going on. Keep your finances completely and totally separate. Only you can protect you and your financial future. You’re seeing how things are and how things have been. That should tell you clearly how things will be……………..

  5. Darla says:

    I have a 19year old daughter who has been seeing a boy for about 4 months. She is spends her time 1/2 at the boyfriends and 1/2 at our house. She spends the night with him most of the time. I have put my foot down on him spending the night at our place and have asked that she no longer ask me since I am not interested in letting him. He is a nice enough person, but I am old school and do not want my daughter sleeping down the hall way from my room with her boyfriend. She now is spending all her time at his house which really bothers me. I clearly don’t understand why they need to be with each other 24/7 and this has caused big blowouts. I suggested that if she feels so little for her family and doesn’t want to be a part of our family she should leave. I don’t understand why a young girl wants to pretend she is married in our house. And, now that I’ve given her an ultimatum, I feel guilty.


    • Lin says:

      Hi Darla,

      Putting your foot down about whether you allow your daughter and boyfriend to sleep together in your home is understandable. You have your personal views on that subject and it makes sense that you’d expect your daughter to abide by your rules and values. I see nothing wrong with your values and expectations along those lines.

      The amount of time your daughter and her boyfriend spend together is natural and normal. Especially at this age. She’s 19, full grown and is able to decide for herself legally. I don’t see it as her not feeling for her family or not wanting to spend time with her family. She spends “all of her time at her boyfriends” and it bothers you. Why specifically?

      Because she’s dating THIS particular guy? Because she’s sleeping with him without being married? Because she’s going against your personal/religious views and values on the subject of sex before marriage? Because maybe you see this guy as not being “good enough” for your daughter?

      Her spending so much time with her boyfriend is natural and normal. She’s not choosing her boyfriend OVER her family – she’s choosing her boyfriend WITH her family. She wants him to be accepted and welcomed into the family fold and family togetherness. If she doesn’t feel that is happening, or that she/he/they feel he isn’t liked or accepted, they will likely continue to see each other and less time spent with those who don’t approve of him.

      It appears on this end as though you’re throwing out the baby with the bath water. So to speak.

      You don’t want them sleeping together in your house. Fine. No problem. They’re not sleeping together in your house. You can’t dictate to her/them whether they have sex elsewhere. They’re grown adults now and have every right within the law to go against their parents values and Christian/religious beliefs if they so choose.

      It’s their choice. You still love her and want her to be happy. Invite them over for dinner or a movie from time to time. Get to know this guy – he is your daughter’s choice. Whether it lasts forever and they get married at some point, no one can know yet. Don’t alienate your daughter and her choice of a companion because you don’t approve of their personal choice to “pretend they are married” when they aren’t married.

      Learn to pick your battles. Something like this should not be made into a full blown war. Just think of the kinds of battles that could go on and destroy the family and your relationship with your child forever, if she were to become pregnant and you become a grandmother? Think about and research what your role is towards your daughter now that she’s grown. It’s not the same as when they are growing up. The boundaries are different, and the areas where you have influence changes dramatically.

  6. Kathleen says:

    A girl of 19 is acting normal and natural wanting to spend all her time with her boyfriend. I agree with Darla that she has the right to enforce her rules in her home. Remember, a 19 yr old girl still believes in magical thinking. (We love each other, will be in love forever etc.) She will need a safe place and loving arms in the future. You can respect her choice as long as she respects yours.

  7. Chris Cadinsky says:

    My 4 children were raised to think for themselves and grow up to be independent. It worked very well, they never needed to ask for money or to come back and live at home. They are all doing well. The downside of this now is that they ARE so independent. They get on with their lives without feeling they need to bother much with their Mother!
    I rarely hear from them and if I want to see any of them and my grandchildren then I have to go see them. One lives 5,000 miles away, 2 of them 3,000 miles and the other 250 miles. I am now retired and can’t afford the airfares .

    Be careful of what you wish for…I got it and don’t like it!!!

  8. lulu says:

    I am married. My dad was the third wheel in the relationship causing it to crash. He convinced me to come back home because my husband was acting judgmental and irritable because of work concerns.

    My issue is that I don’t trust my dad. He likes to act like he wants to help others, but then behind their back, he complains about them like they wanted to be around him.

    Anyway, I feel bad for falling for the trick. He got some company at home because he was lonely, but I feel like it was a way for him to make me into a bad person. I am not sure if anyone knows he was the person who told me to come home.

    My point here is that sometimes parents pull their kids back home only to make them out to be the bad guys. I will not go home again. He invited all of the relatives and friends over to shame me. Yes, he is a bad person. I don’t trust him, and have not since I have been an adult. He has some messed up agendas to make himself a hero.

    • lulu says:

      The sad thing is that I have to deal with this person on a weekly basis calling and playing tricks on me to gain control. I wish I could expose the story on national tv so I would not have to deal with the worry and anxiety that comes with him.

      He calls from unidentified phone numbers and shows up at my door unexpectedly just because I have children [HIS ??? grandchildren.]

      Please do an article on toxic parents who won’t let their children go. It is not politically correct for me to speak on this issue with others. They do not understand I want nothing from this person other than my independence.

  9. Mary says:

    Yes…we have a 25 year old son who just quit his job (again) because he doesn’t want to work in the summer heat at a Jiffy Lube. He “wants a break”. He sold a car and is using the money to get another car running or other things. Meantime, he’s using one of our cars, asking for money which we get furious about. He does some things around the house. Husband and I want him to “find himself” and be able to live on his own as people his age should be doing. We are so disappointed and because we are retired on a limited income. He has other friends who are living at home and no jobs, but parents don’t seem to have a problem with.
    I don’t get the kick-em out of the house deal. Is he supposed to then go intrude on other families if they want to take him in? Live in his car. Go live on the street, I don’t think so. What if he ends up in worse situations? I agree this tactic would be a wake up call, but we’re reluctant to kick him out of the house like people who get rid of unwanted animals. I know I would have never wanted my parents to say, “go and see ya later after you figure out yourself. We love you, but you are not who we want right now”. There has to be a better way.