15 answers

Help! How Do You "Make" a 20 Yr Old Grow Up?

I love my son and he does help me. However, I also have three smaller children inwhich he is sometimes mean. He doesn't have patience with them and is even sometimes mean to me. (yelling, cursing, using my stuff and won't give it back til "he's" done. It's kinda like living with Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde. You never know which side will come out. Don't get me wrong I do love him and he's good to us in alot of ways, but this rudeness has got to stop. He isn't working now... there are few jobs where we live. So, he can't just run out and make money to move out. His dad "may" take him but his new wife doesn't really want my son there. He had a falling out with his best friend so now he just hangs out here usually on my computer. What can I do??

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I want to THANK YOU ALL!! I now have my backbone back. I let him get away with so much because I didn't want the littler children being around fighting all the time. Well, after reading everyone's responses I realized that he will never stop this unless I put my foot down. So I did. This is my house and you are a guest in it now. You will respect my rules or move out. I will not put up with you being verbably mean to me or the kids any longer. If you threaten violence on me, my children or my home again: I WILL CALL THE POLICE AND PRESS CHARGES ON YOU!!! He kept apologizing to me yesterday and saying he will stop. If he doesn't I will KICK HIM OUT or CALL THE POLICE. (sorry not yelling just have the caps for what I said to him). Thank you again everyone for your help! I have to work on my looks and health instead of walking on egg shells in my home. (just for laughs) I was at the store yesterday and had my two little boys with my and the bagger called me the grandma. hahaha I really need to color my hair! haha thank you again. hugs to all!!

Featured Answers

If you find out please let me know! I am having the same problem with my son. One day he is wonderful the next downright cruel. I do believe mine is into pills though. Legally there is nothing we can do because they are adults. My son is living with his 81 year old great gma now and taking her for a ride. I wish he would grow up and get a job!
I think we should be harder on them. It is out of my hands now and I hate seeing my gma enable him to be a looser. He is such a smart sweet kid but is fading fast I fear.
Good Luck
I feel ya on this issue
38 years old with 3 other children 11, 2, 1

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Hi L.,

My answer to that is "let him". I understand how tough this is so I will share with you what I did with my now adult children.

Once you turn 18, I am no longer responsible for your life, you are on guest status while in MY home. I have to pay all the bills, I am responsible for MY house, if you don't like my rules, go get a house of your own. Included in that is acting like an adult guest, I will not be sworn at, argued with, or treated with disrespect in any way. You will not use my things, change my television or radio station, etc.... If you don't like it, get a house of your own. The other children living in my house are my responsibility and they have to live here, so your will extend the same courtesy to them, you must be nice, period, or get out and get a house of your own. I will give no "notice" to move out, if a guest were to treat me with disrespet I would ask them to leave right away, and so you will too. I also expect long term guests to pick up after themselves and help out with day to day chores, as that is what any long term respectful house guest does. If not, you ask that guest to please leave!

Lack of housing or lack of a job is no longer your problem, it is your sons problem, let it be his problem. He can treat you well, or go. This is one of the painful aspects of growing up, but a necesary one for a child to become a responsible and respectful adult.

When my kids turned 18, they all put it to the test once or twice. They argued and yelled at me, I stayed calm and asked them to please leave MY house right away. When they yelled "what" at me, I reminded them they were an adult, and a guest in my home now, and I didn't have to be treated poorly by a guest. They weren't happy, but they got the message (and within a year, a job and place of their own where they got to learn about room mates LOL). One child did push it, continuing to yell and telling me I could not put her out, I picked up the phone to call the police and have her removed, she got the point.

From one single mom to another, I know it's hard, but you will both be better off in the long run. It's not only time for your 20 year old to start growing up, but time for your relationship to evolve from one of parent/child to adult/adult. You will always be his mom, but he needs to fly on his own, and this is how he starts.


1 mom found this helpful

Get him to school, projects that need to be done around the house, American Red Cross training, the military...there are so many choices; but it's his butt that has to be motivated. Perhaps just sit him down and tell him flat out he's using you and exhausting your patience. Then give him a list of what you "expect" from him...and give a date to produce by (preferably by the end of the week and no later)
Blessings, S.
PS Your dear mother probably needs things to be fixed in her house, too; and hopefully is not feeding him (food OR money) just to let him get by...

1 mom found this helpful

Just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt since we don't know eachother...

First, keep in mind that "giving him more responsibilities" (which many people will tell you that you that you need to do -including me)does NOT mean that he should babysit more often or take care of his siblings. Helping you and your mother with the kids is something he should do as a member of the family, period. If you are trying to train him to grow up and be able to be on his own some day soon, taking care of his siblings is not a skill he will need. Think about what he will need to know how to do in "the real world" and insist that he starts doing those things NOW. For example, does he join the family for dinner? On his own, he will need to know how to make some basic, healthy meals for himself so he does not live on frozen dinners and canned soup. He should either make dinner for the entire family (with your guidance) once a week, or cook Sunday breakfast for the family, or something like that-- or in the very least he should cook some of his own meals (and heating up a can of soup or frozen dinner does not count as "cooking").... and he needs to understand how to budget money for groceries. I am not buying the idea of not being able to work AT ALL so he needs to find SOME sort of income -- if that means working the night shift at McDonalds or driving (or taking a bus) an hour away for a more decent paying job, then so be it. YOU don't have the option of just sitting around all day because "there are no jobs out there", so why should he??? Having ZERO income and living off of you at his age should just NOT be an option! Anyway... back to the budgeting... until he does have some income, try working with him on an allowance, but it's not money to go out and play- it is money for essentials like groceries for his own meals/snacks, and maybe even pitching in for some of your household bills. He DEFINETELY needs to chip in for household bills once he has outside employment. Insist he pays you a certain amount, but secretly stash it away for him for when he moves out. Hopefully, he is already doing his own laundry and a good bit of the house cleaning. Do NOT consider these things as "helping you out", consider them as things he needs to know how to do for when he lives on his own. In the meantime, his computer time should be seriously limited. If you need a password on your computer to enforce it, then do what you can to put "parent controls" on your computer-- or take the laptop's battery with you when you leave the house, or whatever you need to do. My parents were VERY big on "if you live under my roof then you live with my rules" theory, and it sounds like it's time you start that, too. As for being mean and cussing at you and his siblings, would you put up with that if he was 4? What about if he was 8? What about if he was 11? Why put up with it at any age? He needs logical, age appropriate consequences for his actions. Sounds like privilages you can take away would definetly start with computer time, and think about what else you can limit and he can "earn" with good behavior. If he gets upset and threatens to move out, offer to help him pack.

1 mom found this helpful


I am not trying to condone bad behavior or laziness, but you said your son helps out at times, and good to you guys in a lot of ways. Sounds to me like your son is frustrated. Trying to find life for himself, being the product of a separation, being stuck at home with a woman and a bunch of small kids (don't take this the wrong way, just trying to make a point). He is torn between staying at home and being good to his mom, versus leaving the nest, but probably can't because there are hardly any jobs. The anger is probably due to all those and not necessarily wanting to be rude to you. Try to be patient and encourage him to find a job, if you can afford to, give him jobs to do and pay him a stipend, so he has money somewhat to feel like "man at home"..when he gets a job, you can insist he pays you back in the form of rent until he gets where he wants to in life. I know it's easier to say "kick him out" cause he is yelling cussing, etc, but the mere fact that you said he is good in a lot of ways, I think he means well, but like any other human being he gets mad too. Give him his space and ask him to help with his siblings, but don't expect him to because you are single and need the help, he is not the parent, you are. Don't get me wrong, if he was 13 yrs old or so, I would tell you he needs to help as part of the family, but being 20 that's a different story. As for him using your stuff, that you can put your foot down on, cause he needs to respect your home and your belongings, but in the same light, I still would give him his own things until he can buy his own. 20 is a number, not every child is ready to be kicked out, it's based on his maturity and teaching him to become independent of you..and that comes by encouragement. You need him to get on his own foot and he wants to as well.

1 mom found this helpful

If he is hanging out on your computer it doesnt sound like he is out there looking for one of the few jobs in town. Its simple, stop the rude behavior or live on the street. Where did he learn to act this way? True that God doesnt give us more than we can handle, but he doesnt expect you to be a doormat either. Get tough, he is a man now, not a child. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

YOu can't make them grow up.. I know I just started 2 years ago and Im 32 now. Sad. But, tell him gently that it makes you sad and you feel very hurt when he disrespects you or his siblings and that he is old enough to know better. If he isn't working then he definately needs to pull his weight around and help with his sibling and household chores. If he is on the computer so much, Maybe he could enroll in school online and do all his studies from home and get a degree. (Search AIU ONLINE) That way he can get a good job and learn to live on his own. Are you enabling him?? I was enabled a lot and it hurt me now I am forced to do things for myself, even if they are scary and overwhelming, I have to do it because I have 4 kids of my own. I dont know if this will help but i thought I'd let you know you can't make anybody do nothing they don't want to but you can encourage better behavior by letting him know he hurts you.

1 mom found this helpful

You are a big girl of 43, you can eat crow pretty well now when needed. Here's your serving.

Your son is an adult. Yes it is rough out there and few jobs everywhere, but there is no excuse for you to be keeping him from finding one. His job is to secure a job. Sounds like you are afraid of this kid and his outburst, you don't want to make him angry, but he will never be a man if you don't stand up to him and tell him that he has to take care of himself, is living under your roof and will not under any circumstance mistreat anyone living there with unkindness. You are cowering away and that is empowering him. You have created a monster and the chickens are coming home to roost now, because this is not new behavior. You have been allowing this all along. You have a 71 y/o helping you and you are letting this little piss ant destroy the balance of things.


I throw the towel down on this one! you had better start standing up or calling the cops! This is dangerous behavior. Maybe you need to call steve wilkos.

If it is indeed a fact that the new wife may not want him there, it may be just what he needs, because, she will not allow him to destroy her household and disrepect her in anyway, something it sounds as though you do not have the strength to do. If you allow this to continue, it is going to end up really bad. Let him go live with dad. He needs a man around to steer him in the right direction. You have been there all along, and you have tried, but you are unable to do. He is 20, you are not throwing him away. You would be taking a positive step toward helping him. So what if he gets mad, he needs to grow up and you need to let him.
Next thing is FIX YOURSELF. You enjoy attending your own pity party obviously. That quote is partially from 1 Cor. 10:13, It means:
"God will never give us more than we can bear, in trouble he will always show us a way out."

God does not just sit in heaven and pile miseries on, it is almost sacreligious to even almost think so. We make our problems, God does not sit there waiting to zap anyone. If we remove the the cobwebs, we can see more clearly.

Ask the savior to help you, comfort strengthen and keep you. He is willing to help you, he will carry you through. Eccl. There is nothing new under the sun. You are not going through anything no one else has. You can really do this but you must keep God in the equation, listen to some of these wise women here on the site who can help and stop making your son a bum. Make him a man.

Your 71y/o mother is helping you? Shame on you. She if not overly wealthy probably lives on a fixed income. She is at age, frail, you need to get out and find the community resources available to help you.
I know this sounds mean, but probably mean as what your son can dish out.
I say these things out of tough love for a fellow mom and christian sister. All through the scriptures Christ gave tough love. If you can do nothing ask for help from your church. But doing nothing is going to make things worse. I am glad you reached out to this community. These ladies usually have something to offer that is pretty terrific. Began to respect yourself and your station in that household and stop letting your son be a jerk. You don't have to tolerate it. I just feel alot of chaos around this. You and only you can pull this together, listen to others and take heed to their input.

good luck

1 mom found this helpful

If you find out please let me know! I am having the same problem with my son. One day he is wonderful the next downright cruel. I do believe mine is into pills though. Legally there is nothing we can do because they are adults. My son is living with his 81 year old great gma now and taking her for a ride. I wish he would grow up and get a job!
I think we should be harder on them. It is out of my hands now and I hate seeing my gma enable him to be a looser. He is such a smart sweet kid but is fading fast I fear.
Good Luck
I feel ya on this issue
38 years old with 3 other children 11, 2, 1

1 mom found this helpful

I would start charging him rent and STRONGLY encourage him to enroll in some kind of schooling for a trade or vocation. (on-line program or community college) Even if it's a small amount of rent, he won't be able to sit around all day on the computer. Even if he can't find a job right away he could at least contribute a little from a student loan.

1 mom found this helpful

There is no easy answer to this one. It's hard to radically enforce the rules you have been trying to enforce for years but you have to start and you have to start today. If it means telling him to move out than you have to do it for his sake and the sake of your children. The longer you allow him to sit around, the harder it will be for him to get motivated.

Sit down and talk to him about the way things are going to be starting now. If he can't find a job then he has to do volunteer work, but he is not allowed to sit at home and surf the web. Volunteering will give him something to put on his resume as experience and could possibly turn into a job later on. If need be, get in the car one Saturday with him and make him fill out applications at every business establishment close enough to your home. Even unemployment requires that you apply for three jobs per week. He may not know how to go about finding a job. You may have to find one for him if possible.

Good luck and stick to your guns. What ever you do, don't EVER not follow through on what you say or he will never take you seriously.

1 mom found this helpful

If jobs are scarce in your area...take him to the nearest military recruiter and sign his happy hiney up for service. The military can and will do what you have been unable to do and he will learn lots of valuable job skills in the meantime. If he doesn't wish to go this route, then he should find his own way, outside of your home.

Really...those are the options I would offer:
- Get a job and move out within a week
- Join the military

You are enabling him and that is only making this worse and making him a less desirable member of society.

When he moves, change the locks and add a deadbolt to each door. He is welcome as a guest when you are home, but he should not be permitted free access to a place he no longer lives and never respected.

1 mom found this helpful

Good morning. You cannot "make" a 20 yr old grow up who is obviously selfish,rude,"mean"and ungrateful for all you have done and are doing for him.You can lovingly and firmly enable him to become a responsible adult by not allowing him to take advantage of you anymore.Right now he has absolutely no reason to change.If you insist he start looking for a job and you set a timeline by where he needs to reach certain goals otherwise you will be forced literally to pack his bags and you follow through he will have to grow up. The amount of time he spends doing nothing should be spent filling out job applications, no matter what type of job!!!Is he above doing dishes in a restaurant? I assure you if he truly wanted to find a job and contribute, he would. In the meantime what he is doing to you and your other children as a whole is detrimental to the entire family and needs to stop. Your younger children are learning everyday to be disrespectful and lazy because it is what they are exposed to. I urge you to reach out in your community to one of the many free services available to single mothers and get the help you need to deal with this difficult situation. Good luck. you don't want your son still doing the same thing at 30 yrs old (because that is exactly where you are headed)!!!

1 mom found this helpful

unfortunately they do not grow up until THEY are ready. my 18 year old is the same way. and always rude to me and puttiung me down and cussing at me calling me names and basically telling me he is 18 and whatever he does is none of my F---ing business. well sometimes it is tough love i just told him he had to go--the lasty strawe was when he told lies onb me to his new girlfriends mom and i confrinted him he said it was none on my F---ing business I said it sure as hell is when you are telling her lies about me. he told me to shut up or he was gonna knock me off my f---ing porch. hell no, so i told him to go. they have other friends they will find somewhere to go and there are homeless shelters.
maybe your son need to go to a homeless shelter to learn home is not soooo bad. you just have to do tough love and throw him out on his but he is 20, he is his own responcibilty now and if you keep taking carfe of him and him not working he will never learn. and with the younger kids they will only learn from what you let him get away with.
it is hard, i cried after my son left. but it is them or your own health and sanity.just never let him see you cry when you tell him to leave and he begans to pack--cause if you do he will feed on that.
good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I think you should still give him consequences - even if he is 20. He lives with you and if he don't like it - he can live somewhere else! You pay for the house note, utilities, etc. I'm sure he eats your food too. Tell him if he can't find patience that you will not have none for him.

Please keep your courage and strength! You have a lot on your plate. I'll keep you in my prayers :)

Hi L.,

I just read your response the the 14 replies you received. It sounds like a good plan to put your foot down. Since you are the mother, you have the power to do it. No matter what, he will always love you. Still, knowing that doesn't make doing it any easier. So good luck with that.

I'm wondering about the source of his anger. I am a Stepfamily Coach and deal with many emotional issues related to divorced and remarried families. There may be some issues related to the absence of his biological father. I would need more details to determine that, but that is one possibility. Other questions in my mind are whether all of his siblings are 100% blood, half, or step siblings. Also, are you dating? Other possibilities are feelings of rejection or guilt. I don't know how much this helps, but it gives you a basis to think about.

Feel free to email me through Mamasource, or contact me personally, if you'd like to discuss this further. I give free evaluations.

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