18 Year Old Son Wants His Freedom...

Updated on July 14, 2010
L.J. asks from Valdosta, GA
17 answers

We have a son (H/S senior) who will turn 18 next month (June). He is an excellent student (Honors/Gifted) who earned money to pay for half of his own car, pays his car insurance & hasn't been in trouble at school or with the law so far, ever. He was just accepted into the honors program at a nearby University. HS is for the most part over for him (done with finals).

He has a 9:30 curfew on school nites & 11:30 on Friday/Saturday. We would give him til 1pm over the summer til he leaves for college & he also has complete freedom during the daytime when he is not working. We have caught him in lies a number of times when he has asked to spend the nite at a friends house & found out he was at a party all nite. We asked him to be honest with us and so he has. He says he drinks, but never drives (which is why he asks to spend the nite elsewhere all the time) and smokes pot with his friends (most of whom are not good students or collegebound like he is (pre-med)in the fall) & is having protected sex with a variety of girls. He has also had 4 speeding tickets in the last year & he is rude and disrespectful to me.He wants complete freedom to do what he wants, stay where he wants all night because "he is an adult now & needs to make his own choices". We want to give him the freedom to make his own choices & mistakes, but how can we give a stamp of approval to his underage drinking, having sex & smoking pot while he is living under our roof?? He *says* he would never use harder drugs and draws the line at drinking and pot (PHEW, isn't THAT a relief...HA!). It took his dad 20+ years to overcome his addictions, which also started with alcohol & pot, and he knows this but is not concerned that he might have the same issues. He has a very bright future ahead of him and we can't bear the thought of him hurting himself or others or throwing his life away with bad choices.

He asked to go camping overnite on Friday and we said no because he acknowledged the alcohol that would be there, etc. He pitched a fit and took off on foot anyway and didn't come home til Sunday evening when we asked him to come by to talk. He says if he can't have complete freedom til he leaves for college in August, he will leave & stay with friends til then. We told him that we want to launch him properly and help him financially through school, but if he leaves, we cancel his phone contract, his car insurance policy (our policy, he pays), and we will sell his car & give him the half he paid for so he can be the "responsible adult" he claims he is & he will be on his own. We told him we love him, but we can't condone his behavior & bad choices. He said he would think about it for a few days & had his friend come pick him up again. This is absolutely killing me & I've done nothing but cry since then. Are we doing the right thing or are we being too strict? I want a relationship with my son, but I want him to live so we can have one. HELP!

Catherine: He will be receiving grants & scholarships for college for the most part, but we had offered to give him a monthly allowance to help with his expenses as long as he keeps his grades up.

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So What Happened?

Well, he decided to "be an adult" and stayed with the friend who picked him up...for 3 days. Then he called to ask me to log into his bank account and "check the balance for him". When I told him he had $3 in there, he said, "Dang. I'm reeaaally hungry", so I told him we were making burgers on the grill. Then he asked (meekly) if I could possibly pick him up from the Walmart parking lot. He came home and we had a nice talk along with dinner. I guess he found out that he had it pretty good at home with a nice room, a soft bed (instead of a pillow on the floor) and a fridge full of food. He came home several hours before his curfew every nite for the next few weeks. We've kept him pretty busy since with a vacation, family get-togethers and then we sent him (his choice) out of state to work for a relative for 3 weeks to earn money for college. Once he returns, we just have to get through a few more weeks and he will be launched off to college! I no longer live in dread of that day (a year ago, I thought I would melt away into a puddle of tears!)...I welcome it. We have taught him our values and right from wrong and once he is in college he will have to make his own choices and live with the consequences. All I can do now is pray :)

More Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

If he is under your roof, even though he pays his personal expenses, he needs to obey your rules. If he's not willing to do that, let him go. He'll get a rude awakening sooner or later, might as well be now. You are doing the right thing, in my opinion. Hang tough, Lisa. I think you're doing the right thing.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think you are being a FABULOUS parent. I felt similarly to your son at his age. It's the wanting your freedom to make choices for yourself without the means to support yourself or some of those choices. Yep, he's a young adult alright. Pushing limits, demanding to be treated "like an adult", complete with all the bad decisions that come with that...like drinking, smoking and having multiple sex partners.

You should stick to your guns. He will appreciate that you have rules that apply to those who live in your house, and the benefits that come along with your rules - like health/dental insurance, the car, phone and financial assistance while he is a "full time student".

Perhaps you can talk with him and come to a "college bound" agreement that will work through college (after HS graduation)? Like no cerfew, but if he's not going to be coming home he has to call before 10pm? The reality is he is legally an adult, responsible for his own actions and soon you can't impose a cerfew on him while he's away at school anyway.

However, your agreement can stipulate that he is responsible for respecting your house rules - he does his own laundry, keeps his room decent and keeps the "common areas" clear of his junk. Also, that he has to treat you and your husband with respect, as his parents and as his providers. That means, no "attitude", being home for family holidays (Christmas, Easter, Mothers Day, etc. or whatever you celebrate).

My parents knew they had little "control" over me when I was that age. You have to trust that you did a good job. However, you still get to make the rules of your home and have "strings" attached to any money you give/send.

Keep at it Mama! Your teaching your grown son that if he wants to make adult decisions then he needs to do it "the whole kit and caboodle".

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dayton on

Hi Mom,

I think you are doing exactly the right thing. He is so sure that he wants to be an "adult" what that means in grownup speak is that he wants all the fun of being the adult while you pay the way to make it happen. Adults get their own car insurance, buy their own car, get their own cell phone, have a job, a bank account, rent and utilities. This is what adults do. This is really the perfect timing because he has a chance to learn this hard lesson before he goes off to college and you aren't there to ride herd on him anymore.

You have to do this FOR him. Keep that in mind. You are not doing this TO him, but rather FOR him. No one has complete freedom. Not a soul. We are all accountable to someone, somewhere be it the boss, the spouse, the landlord. Sometimes taking a step back and letting them stumble and fall is the best thing we can do because they need to learn what they don't know more than what they do know at this age.

Add to that the fact that he is doing things that are illegal. Yeah, lots of kids do them, but the common thing doesn't make it the right thing. You cannot condone dangerous things that are illegal.

Keep your chin up!


6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Drugs are bad news no matter how they're involved. And apparently it's bringing your son down. After fighting the cause with your husband for 20 years, I can't imagine the strength, courage, and love you must possess to do it all over again with your son.

I watched my mom do it with my big brother since he was 13 (both her mom and dad were alcoholics). She would cry herself to sleep when he came home drunk or stoned but they never kicked him out like they threatened. They had the idea that they would rather have him that way under their roof than not knowing what happened to him. He abused this idea of theirs. He finally moved out at 27 after dropping out of college due to his drug use. He is now 31 and is doing much better but is still struggling a bit. But we have always been there for him. Being a family is more than just the good times, but sometimes some people chose the hard road to grow up on.

Maybe if you're lucky, he just wants to sow some wild oats before he goes away to college and will straighten up once he's there. But I agree with Denise. If he doesn't want to live by your rules, then he can't live under your roof. Everyone has to chose their own destiny. Just hope that he listened to the lessons you taught him growing up and that he uses them as a guide to a good life. You did your job well, but you can't hold his hand forever. He'll realize his mistakes soon enough, hopefully before it's too late or someone gets hurt.

You will be in my thoughts. Good luck and God bless.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Been there, done that!! You are doing the right thing. He either lives by your rules while under your roof, or he finds his own roof!!

That is the only way he will learn and you will never get respect until you demand it. If he wants to be independent, then let him be independent - with all that entails. If he wants your financial support - then he needs to live by the rules you are putting forth (which sound VERY reasonable)

Hang in there. It's hard, but you are doing the right thing. God bless -

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Wow Mom, this must be breaking your heart! I'd like to say an otherwise good kid and focused student will survive a little rebellion, but if he is genetically predisposed to serious addictive issues, and is not regretful when busted, and is actually rude to his mamma, well this is a different thing, I think maybe you're right, I think you need to stick to your guns...I hope you can find little ways to let him know you love him so fiercely, don't want him to jump headlong into a life of addiction (whether he's a doctor or a truck driver) miss him very much.........when you see hear notice a thing you can be proud of about him, do so! You can still guide him a teeny bit here and there, but for the most part, he is right, it really IS his life now and you will have to let him make his own way....good luck, keep him close as you can without making demands

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Fresno on

Does he want to go to college? If so, who is paying for it? If he is paying his own way, then I guess it's time to let him go make his own mistakes (including finding his own place and paying rent, buying his own food, etc). If you are paying for it, then my view would be, while he's living under your roof, he lives by your rules. I do not think you're being unreasonable for worrying about drinking, drugs and loose girls. He's still a teenager. On the other hand, when he goes away to college, it will be an absolute free-for-all and you won't be there to supervise... but on the other hand, neither will you be up all night worrying, and most likely he can WALK home from parties on campus so it's not as dangerous.

The way my parents always did it was, when I was at home, I had to play by their rules. When I was away at college, as long as my grades stayed up, they didn't interfere. Had my grades fallen, they'd have made me move home, live with them, and attend the state school that was in town. Because I didn't want to do that, I made sure I didn't get too wild while I was away at college!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My birthday was in March before I graduated in June. I too wanted instant freedom & rebelled. My dad clamped down & we had a serious no interruptions talk openly about all the issues. I ended up staying & I am glad for it. I owned my car outright so he couldn't take it, however I was on his insurance & I paid for that too $100 a month at the time. He laid out what the cost of living outside his house would be. I did the numbers & I couldn't afford it even with a scholarship to community college.
Costs he laid out for me:
1. Car Insurance on my own-about $400 a month.
2. Rent
3. Utilities
4. Food
5. Laundry- Laundromat-not free to do at home anymore.
6. Entertainment
7. Miscellaneous Expenses- health care
I had a full time job from the time I could drive at 16. I already paid for all my clothes, food I ate outside of the house, gas for my car & all car repairs as well as being on his car insurance every month & washed my own clothes.
If I left his house, I lost my health care benefits, car insurance with his company & I would have to find a way to pay for all the expenses listed above because my friends & their parent's weren't going to let me leach off of them for very long.
My father told me he raised me to be a lady & that I deserved to be treated that way & needed to act that way.
I ended up going into the Navy to get the G.I Bill so I would have no education bills, only to end up not being able to use it because it expired. It only paid about $1400.00 a month, that doesn't cover the cost of child care when you are going to college.
You did the right thing, stick to your guns. Not many a child really thinks about what a parent really provides until they must pay for it themselves, I didn't. He still hasn't gotten a taste of the real world on his own yet. As long as he lives in your house he must abide by your rules. Are they really so hard, bad or unreasonable, ask him that. Ask him to see things from your perspective. Tell him your desires for his future & how his current choices disappoint & scare you.
You are his parents, not his friends, you do what is best for your child even if they don't like it. I have a great relationship with my dad today because he stood his ground.
He said he would pay for half of my college and later decided not to because I didn't save enough money from my job in his opinion towards my college expenses. I wish he had disclosed at the same time he would rescind the offer, at the time when he made the offer to pay for half of my college if I didn't do what he felt was necessary to achieve my goals. I am a twinge resentful of only that 17 years later.
You should put everything in writing like a contract review it with him & everyone sign it & have a copy so there are no ambiguities as to what is expected of him. Try to consider all contingencies. If he makes this choice & this happens, this is what you his parents will or won't do for him.
He will have plenty of time to explore these behaviors after he can afford to live on his own without your help paying for anything including college. It's cliche & true "It's always darkest before the dawn."
I hope this helps, feel free to e-mail.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You ARE doing the right thing. Can't find fault with any thing you are doing.

Maybe try telling him that he should try using some of this time before college to learn to manage his life, in terms of stress and time management--pre med will be a lot of work and he won't be able to escape from it with alc/drugs without risking all of his plans. He should try to learn some other ways of stress release, like running for example.
Try not to worry too much. He is mostly on track and is obviously smart, and he actually TALKS to you, which is huge. Odds are, even if he doesn't make the decision you want him to, he will still be fine. He is probably thinking these few months of summer will be his last chance to party before all the tough work of college, and he figures his friends will go separate ways because they don't have the same futures planned, and he will miss them. This is a tough transition.
Maybe being angry about rules is just easier than letting himself feel fear about the changes the future will bring...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I agree with what all the other posters have said - you are doing a great job and your son is being extremely unreasonable (I know he's 18, but he does have the capacity to be reasonable!).

I would just add to tell him that you are supportive of him moving out and being an adult, but NOT of him moving in with friends and friends parents. I would go so far as to call the parents, explain what's been going on from your perspective, and ask that he not be allowed to stay there. He can choose if he wants to be an adult, but he can't choose to remain a child and pick his parents. It doesn't work that way.

Good luck. I hope you and your relationship with your son emerge from this period stronger and more resiliant.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sioux Falls on

He is on the way to trouble and can lose it all if he stays on this path. My son pulled the "I am an adult card" too. While he is living in your house, it is your rules. If he believes he is an adult and can face the responsibilities and consequences of his actions, he can move out and make his own rules. I told my son that there are rules because I love him and want what is best for him. There are responsiblities and consequences because I care. If I didn't care, I'd let him do whatever he wanted and he would be in a whole world of hurt.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

Thanks to a loss of wifi signal, my original message was lost, but I completely agree with Denise's original post.

He can't have his complete freedom if he still expects you to finance it. So, if he were my child, I'd give him 2 options.
1. It's our house and our rules
2. Congratulations - see how you do on your own

My sophomore year of college was spent out of school for no other reason than financial. I worked 3 jobs to get back to school. I'd been a Dean's List student the semester I learned I'd not be able to return. Making $7/hour teaches you a lot about how much you want to work towards something, and spending those 15 months working like a dog taught me a lot about myself vs. most other 19 year-olds.

As hard as it may be for you and his father to let him fail, if he refuses to be completely responsible at this age, one of the best things you can do for him is to cut financial ties and let him try to make it through life on his own without a degree.

When I was 14, my sister got engaged. She was 19, her fiance was 26 with a Master's Degree in Aeronautical Engineering. I couldn't understand how my parents could "let her do that" - they said they'd rather keep a daughter and let her make mistakes than to lost a daughter. Education is very important to my parents - my dad has a PhD and was a tenured professor when we were born, but they recognized she was an adult.

If he were my child, I'd make it very clear. If you want college paid for, you play by our rules. If you're not willing to, good luck paying for it on your own.

I have a 40-something year-old second cousin who is brilliant but a complete loser. His parents always bailed him out and let him do things knowing there was always going to be a financial safety net. In his 40's he now works as a diesel mechanic, a masseur, and a carpenter when he can find work. The rest of the time, he lives off of his dead father's inheritance.

Some of the best lessons in life are taught by the hardest of circumstances.
He's not doing anything that differently from most kids his age, and thank Goodness, he's being honest. But, you're enabling him as his parents and may be legally liable if something happens.

Good luck. I hope he outgrows this stage quickly.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I am having exactly the same problem with my son who is 18 1/2 years old. He called me some really rude names the other day and we used to be sooo close. We let him have his freedom and he does work very hard and when he isn't working is never home, out with friends. He is respectful and lets us know what time he is coming home or if he is coming home and actually asks but he does smoke pot which is really bothering me and my husband. He says he hates his friends because they are going nowhere but they are the only friends he has until college. I want to also throw him out to teach him a lesson as he has been very disrespectful with the names he called me and am very upset about it. No adult calls me names never mind my own son and it is very hurtful. I too want to teach him a lesson but am scared. We did find that instead of yelling having a heart-to-heart talk about the rules and talking to him like an adult they seem for some reason to take it more serious. I am alot like my son and we get into yelling matches which just gets us nowhere and hurtful things are said. Sometimes I have said hurtful things to him also out of retaliation and he ends up crying at almost 19 years old. It makes me realize that even those these kids think they are adults they are sitll just littel children trying to become adults and need our love. It is very difficult but continue to be tough as it will work as I am hoping it will for us. Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Provo on

I think it is important to remember that at 18 they are legally adults but I think that any child has to prove that he can accept the responsibility that goes along with it. My daughter is 19 and in another state going to the university right now. I told her that if she keeps her nose clean then I would stay out of her face. I call her about once a week and she tells me a lot of the things that are going on. I know she is very smart about worldly things. I give her things to think about and she has never let me down. I think that if you son wants freedom then you should let him go but be sure to explain the responsibility that goes along with it. He sounds like a pretty smart boy to an extent. Sometimes life can be the best teacher. Remember the prodical son story?? Tell him your concerns but give him the reigns. Explain that 18 year olds are adults in the eyes of the law and it would be foolish to be this close to starting a rewarding and productive future and lose it all.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

He is an adult, so he does need to choose: Live for free w/parents and abide by there rules, OR live on his own without their financial support. If you still want to help him through college, you can draw up some kind of contract with him where you pay X amount per month as long as he does not get any tickets, no disciplinary action at school, keeps his grades up, etc. Make your mind up and stick to it. You will not be doing him any favors by letting him continue these behaviors at home. Best wishes!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Roanoke on

I would be interested in hearing an update from you. I hope you were able to hang tough. You are DEFINITELY doing the right thing.

I wish more parents would take your actions. Alot of ruined lives would be saved.


answers from Savannah on

He's right. He's got to be able to make his own choices. I can't believe he confided that much to you guys already!.... not that you're all that thrilled to hear it.

You can't really tell him what to do or how to do it anymore. Sure, you could kick him out - in which case he'd immediately go crash on a friend's couch here and there for a while and you'd rarely see him.

You could also cut him off but he has a job so, really all that does is create tension.

You guys can be as tough as you want but in the end, the fact is that he is done with high school, he's legally an adult and from the sound of it... seems to be doing well for himself. Job, safe sex, scholarships, college, social drinking but never driving... I mean its not like you're finding needles in his room or anything.

You will get more respect from him if you give more respect to him as the young man he is. He will *definitely* make stupid decisions, and mistakes. But you can't control those.

If it were me I'd tell him how I felt... what I thought about it all, but that I also loved him and that his relationship with me is more important than my approval of his lifestyle. Tell him you want him to be an adult, but you want to know that he isn't going to accidentally screw up big time. Its one thing to be having safe sex... its another thing to become a dad at 19. Be honest with him. After that... give him space.

Don't hover, don't be nosy, and don't snoop. Just talk to him personally. You're relationship will improve and he will know he can be truthful with you instead of trying to "get mom off his back". It works when their 8.... not when their 18. Trust in how well you raised him.

Hang in there!

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