18 Year Old Step Son Dropped Out of School and No Job - Can We "Kick Him Out"?

Updated on March 24, 2013
V.M. asks from Lincoln, MA
20 answers

I will try and keep this as short and on point as possible. The background is that my step son, now 18, has been living with us full time since he was 13 (part time before that). His mother is pretty much out of the picture, but in the past, when he's gotten in trouble with us (like grounded over something serious) he will run off to her house, spend a week or two there until things calm down and then just flounce back in as if nothing's happened. His mother doesn't care at all if he's in school, so that obviously created a lot of problems when he WAS in school. He got kicked out of his last school, then we got him in to another to allow him to finish his last year. He never went and this past January finally just "quit". This pattern has gone on for years and creates a lot of upheaval in our household. We also have a 4 year old by the way. Initially my husband had told him if he wasn't in school he wouldn't be living with us (we live in the city, so we felt it was just like giving him a bachelor pad to operate from) but my husband never follows through on his threats as he's guilt ridden and completely afraid that something horrible will happen if he kicks him out (also, knowing his mother, going there would only be temporary). So we told him he had to get a job and contribute - which of course he hasn't done. When this comes up and it gets heated and he runs off to his moms as usual. So - the other night it happened again - big fight, he admits he's taking advantage of us but won't do anything to remedy it. He stormed out and I went in his room and packed all his stuff up and told my husband to drive it to the mother's house...which of course he didn't. I felt bad, but at the same time I'm sick of this (it's been going on for about 4 years) and husband, daughter and I all have to share one room because stepson needs his own space. NOW I find out his mother is going to France for 6 weeks (at least) and she doesn't know what she'll do after that. (She says she's getting kicked out of her house and will be "homeless" - which is only true until she finds some idiot friend or guy to take her in). I feel like, well my step son is 18 - he alone decided not to finish school and so has to grow up, get a job and start dealing. Most people agree with this, but HOW do we make him do that without tipping him over the edge?! We don't have the space - we're stuck in a two bedroom apartment and I am being driven mad never knowing from one week to the next what is happening. Our daughter is starting school in Sept and I would REALLY like for her to have her own room (and I'd like our room back!) Would a deadline of some sort work? I have not helped him find a job as I felt he had to do it himself, but should I try and help and then tell him he has a few months with us to save up for an apartment and move out? I'm at my wits end. My marraige is pretty strained to begin with and this situation is what generally brings us to breaking point every few months. It's getting untenable. I love my step son (I've been with him since he was 3) - but I just think enough is enough. I know though if he were "my" child I would be handling things differently, but in fairness if he was my child he never would have gotten away with this behaviour in the first place! Has anyone been through anything like this? Any advice would be hugely appreciated. Thanks for listening....

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all this dialogue - some of it is hard to read, but I need to hear it. You're all right in one way or another. I actually said to him last time after I'd packed all his stuff up - "I'm not actually kicking you out, I'm trying to give you a kick up the butt!" He understands it, but he doesn't DO anything about it. I think I wrote to you all here to solidify what I knew, which is that he'll need some help, and a strict dose of guidelines and a deadline have to be in place. And I will get his father to agree on that at least. Then, when the deadline comes we can go from there. I am actually willing to help him out with rent as it would be less expensive for us to do that then rent a bigger place ourselves (which we can't afford). And of course I know that all it sounds like is "hey, your sister needs the room, get out!" - I'm well aware of that, especially because he own mother never keeps him in mind at her house in that way. I think I'll make a deadline of late summer - by then his mom should be back from where ever she's frolicked off to, so if there is any "drama" that can be some sort of fall back for him. He knows he can get away with this forever with his dad, but I think he equally knows I expect a lot more of him. He is, by the way, quite mature in certain areas - and well capable of taking care of himself (partially to do with his mother's neglect sadly)- but he plays in a band and they make money, but it's not regular cuz all the other guys are in school!. I may check out the military as well - he's mentioned it himself before, I just don't think he could hack it to be honest. But it might be the best thing after all.... Thank you all for your honesty.

Featured Answers



answers from Chicago on

It sounds like he is the type of person who gets overwhelmed and then just won't do anything. It looks like laziness, but I bet deep down inside he wants you to be proud of him, and he wants to be proud of himself.

If I were you, I'd do it in stages and help him ALL THE WAY. Like others have said, kicking him out won't do any good. You'll need to get his dad on board too. I know what you mean about the Divorced Parent Guilt. My husband suffers from it too. When his daughter doesn't do what should be expected, he goes all Divorced Parent Guilt on her and lets it slide.

I would give him some timelines and options. Why did he drop out of school? Was it too hard? Was he not interested? Did he just not have the follow-through? He needs someone to talk to him and LISTEN to him, not just make him wrong for dropping out and not having a job. What does he want out of life? He may not know, or have no idea how to get it.

I would give him a month or so, and then he moves out of his room and onto the couch. That should be an incentive to get his own place, but he's not homeless. You could start charging him a small amount of rent when he gets a job (to prepare him for what it's like when he moves out). Save the rent but don't tell him, and then give it back to him to use as a deposit on an apartment.

Go apartment shopping with him so he can get an idea of how much it will cost and what different price levels look like. It might also get him excited and motivated.

You're going to need to "hold his hand" but I think with love, patience and a little bit of a kick, he'll be getting ready to live the kind of life he wants!

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answers from Miami on

Boot him or start charging him rent.

Bottom line is that he's an adult. He's dropped out of school, so he doesn't have a "job" anymore as a student (which typically comes rent-free). He needs to either get himself into a GED program (thus keeping the rent at bay) or get out.

Good luck.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

I'm having a total insomnia night so I have had the opportunity to read your prior posts about your step son. I actually feel bad for this kid....being shipped off to boarding school at nine years old for 4.5 years. Are you still living in Europe? It sounds like his mother is still in the picture if he is going there frequently and just a couple of years ago it was 50/50.

If you have been with him since he was three and is now eighteen, he is your kid and you have had influence. I couldn't give up on him, he sounds like he has completely lacked structure and co-parenting. I just don't understand not planning for space for the entire family.

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answers from Miami on

I'm so sorry, V.. Both of the parents of this kid have failed him. Yes, that includes your husband. He has not made this boy toe the line where school is concerned. Your husband's handling of him has been totally ineffective. Allowing him to make you and your husband and child stay in one room while he hogs the other one has made him feel entitled and self-serving.

The only thing I can see is for you to leave and take your little girl with you. Tell your husband that when he has figured out what to do about this kid that doesn't include him living with you, that you will come back.

This kid will never get a job while he is allowed to stay with dad. The dad needs to show tough love and move this kid out. He needs to find college kids to live with and go work at MacDonalds. College kids live on bus lines and he can take the bus to work. After he figures out in a year or so that he screwed up mightily, he can study for his GED.

Yes, it seems to be that you are making your husband choose you over your son. But you know what? His son is now a grown man. You've done your duty towards this kid for his formative years and now he needs to get out on his own and learn how to take care of himself.

Then you come home with your daughter. Go to marriage counseling if you need to.

Good luck,

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

If you and his dad can't agree on a plan and follow-through, you can't do anything. Maybe you could give your daughter your room and move to the living room?

And as a stepmom I have to say, and please forgive me, but he has lived with you full time for 5 years, you've been with him since he was 3, his mother is pretty much out of the picture...he may not be a child you bore, but he is your child.

In answer to your title question, yes, you can kick him out, he's of legal age, his father is no longer legally responsible for him. All it would take is a call to the police telling them you've told him to leave and he won't. Which brings me back to what I first said, you and your husband would first need to agree. If the two of you can't get on the same page I don't see a solution, in reality your stepson knows nothing will be done, his deadline already passed.

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answers from Albuquerque on

Of course you can kick him out of the house. But is that really the right solution to a problem you have ALL created? Sure - he's got a crappy Mom who isn't there for him. And a wishy washy Dad who never follows through. But what about you? You've been in this boy's life for the last 15 years. How have you not taught him any responsibility? Consequences? He's not your biological child, yes, but did you really think that you could just let him surf through his childhood and one day he'd wake up as a responsible adult?

Sounds to me like this young man is immature, has no sense of consequences, and doesn't have any resources if you kick him out. So what would you be proving? That you can give your favored child her own room? That's not exactly a good lesson for a struggling young man. How about you sit your husband down and tell HIM to grow up and act like a parent here? Then the two of you come up with a plan - son gets back to school immediately, or signs up to take his GED, gets a part time job, does specific house chores, and keeps his room. Or, if he doesn't do all of that, he gets the couch for three months to give him time to come up with his own plan.

Abandoning someone because he's finally of legal age and is taking up space you'd rather give to your younger child is legal, but it's not right. You say that you haven't helped him get a job because you feel he needs to do it on his own. But think about it - does he have any idea how to get a job? Who would hire him? How will he earn enough money for his own apartment if all he has is an 11th grade education? Parents help their kids. Help him finish school, get a job, and move out. (in that order)

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answers from Washington DC on

I'm sorry - I had a hard time reading your post.

I got through the first three lines and my head hurt.

He's 18. He's a legal adult. He chose to drop out of school. You need to check with a lawyer to find out your legal responsibilities for your state.

In my book? He's 18. He made adult choices. Go out into the world, young man. It's called tough love and he needs it.

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on


Another option is the military. An old coworker of mine did this with her son. He was starting to head down the wrong path, so she told him go to school or enlist. He enlisted with the marines. He did 4 years overseas and stayed in. Now he's a recruiter in San Diego, has his own apartment, a wife and two sons. This is a great option for someone who needs some direction/discipline. It'll have him out of your house and out of trouble. Win-Win!


This would drive me to the point of divorce.

You should give your husband an ultimatum: "If you want to continue to let Johnny live here rent free, I will leave and take Sally with me. If you want me and Sally to stay, we will draw up a timeline for Johnny. He will have 30 days to get a job. After getting the job, he will have 90 days to save money so that he can get his own apartment. If on August 1, he has not moved out as per the agreement, we will remove his stuff from the apartment and change the locks. Once he has moved out, we will be moving Sally into his room, and he will not be allowed to live here again"

If you don't do this now at 18, in 10 years, he will be 28 and still mooching off you guys, and your daughter will be 14 and still sleeping in your bedroom. Ridiculous!

I saw an episode of Dr. Phil about this just the other day. A mom was dealing with the same issues with her 25 yr old daughter and the daughter's live in boyfriend. Neither were working! Dr. Phil asked the daughter if she spent all day every day looking for a job. Well, of course she didn't because she didn't have to. Mommy took care of her. Your SS could find a job at Target, or the mall, or a fast food restaurant to start. Then while working that job, he could spend his days off trying to find a better job. And if he can't, he'll have to take a second part time job in order to pay the rent. He will quickly realize that he should have stayed in school and gotten his diploma.

Good luck!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I always liked the quotation "Prepare your child for the path, not the path for your child." He's young enough that there's still hope for him to get his life together, and you should do that, but don't let him turn into a lifelong moocher.

I met the 38 year old version of this last year. He was partially self-employed, but didn't really want to work. He was living with his parents when I met him. He moved out for a while, but since he really doesn't want to work, he's going to have to move back in with his parents at the end of this month - AND THEY'RE LETTING HIM! He's going to turn 40 this year, and he's mooching off of his elderly parents because his family keeps enabling him by lending him money.

My first year of college I was living with my grandmother and I was depressed. I ended up dropping out of school, and my grandmother told me I couldn't keep living with her if I wasn't going to school. I was really lucky that my stepfather realized what was going on, and he told my mother that she needed to get me out of there. I ended up moving across the country to live with them, and they took me to the doctor and got me on anti-depressants. My stepfather thought physical activity was necessary, so he tried getting me to jog through the neighborhood while he "coached" me from the car (smoking the whole time, LOL). He had me help him do some construction work renovating our apartment and getting the family business ready to open, and then I enrolled in the local community college when the next session started. When I found the right major for me, I ended up graduating in three years, even taking classes during the summer. I really owe my stepfather a lot, probably even my life.

Make a plan for helping him, but don't enable him. Don't let him turn into that 40 year old moocher. There's no reason he should have his own space unless he's paying for it - make him share the room with his half-sister, sleep on the couch, or he really needs to contribute to the household. If he ends up going to school and can't contribute financially, he should be able to cook dinner, do laundry, help clean the house. If he's part of the household he needs to be a part of its upkeep.

Help him with getting a job, and set a deadline for him to either get a job or finish school. Ask him questions and offer to help him find a job, recommend jobs you think he'd be good at, and provide that support, but don't enable him.

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answers from Washington DC on

while i agree with you 100% about the 'get a job or beat it' scenario, you cannot do anything without your husband's support and cooperation. you need to start there. it does no good to pack up his stuff and then expect his dad, who has not agreed to this step, to do the next one.
get on the same page with your husband, or this is going to rip up your marriage.
good luck!

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answers from New York on

I agree with Everly, Michelle, Gamma, and Jim, among others.

You seem to believe that if this kid is out on the streets, with nowhere to stay, he will suddenly, instantly gain the maturity to get a job and a place to stay. Immediately. I am sorry, but who's going to hire this kid? Who's going to rent anywhere to him? Do you really, in your heart of hearts, believe that this will work?

I get that you think this kids needs a cold shower's worth of tough love, but please read this: There is structured tough love and there's unstructured love.

Structured tough love is something like Outward Bound or the military. It teaches kids to be tough with themselves, but it doesn't give them a lot of choices -- because these kids can't handle choices yet. The command is "Get with the program," and the only possible response is "Yes, Drill Sergeant."

Unstructured tough love, on the other hand, is homelessness and a life of crime. It's, "You're 18, we're changing the locks, goodbye." It may be tough (though in a way, it's not), but it has nothing to do with love. You owe it to your stepson -- and most of all to yourself, in terms of looking at yourself in the mirror -- to find a structured-tough-love option and see it through.

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answers from Chicago on

he Talk to his Dad and write down a contract of expectations, including rent and have him sign both copies in front of a notary showing his drivers license for proof of age. If any, any at all of the contractual obligations of getting GED, full time work and starting at a jr college are not met he is out. Rent is expected on the first of every month, a 10% penalty for every week late with eviction after 30 days late. House rules are... And must be followed or can result in eviction. Food, contribution ti his other living expenses such as health insurance, utilities are ecpected as well.
Once you have made him aware of the rules, let him know you love him and that is why you will follow through. He has 30days to start his job and his Ged and if not he will have to figure it out on his own.so suggest he stand up, take a shower, put on his nicest clothes and run right now to find his job. Stand firm so he knows how to be an adult.

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answers from Dallas on

I totally agree with Gamma and Jim.

I agree that he is just not mature enough to be on his own, He has no skills or way to support himself. Kicking him out would be cruel. Coming up with a plan to HELP him is what ya'll need to do IMO. I do not believe that being an adult means you MUST have your own place. It means being responsible for yourself and contributing.

If it helps I am kind of in the same boat. My husband has been saying he is going to kick our son out since he was 12 for various reasons. I would/will never ever kick my children out. I won't let my husband kick him out either and he'll just have to be mad at me.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

As long as his dad allows him to do this he will continue. So, in this case you have some choices.

You could find out how hubby really really really feels deep inside.

He might feel that it's his responsibility to let son live there as long as he can, that it's his job as his dad to offer him a home for as long as he is his son.

He might feel like he'd be a bad dad if he didn't respond to his son each and every time with open arms, non-judging loving arms. That may be his image of a good loving dad.

He may be afraid of repeating his own father figures mistakes.

You can't possibly know how he feels about this until you entirely listen without any input from you. YOU are not his child, you are his spouse. A father's heart is different than a husbands heart. He may not know what to do. He may want to do something but knows you won't agree.

If it were me, well, I can be a real B^^#ch at times....lol. I'd tell hubby to move his stuff to the living room/hall closet and give his 4 year old child a room. Then if son tries to come back he has to sleep on the couch.

He's not mature enough to be on his own, if he's kicked out without a plan he's going to end up in drugs, prostitution, crime, etc.....there's no telling how he'll make ends meet. So you and hubby have to come up with a plan. How much money per month are you guys willing to contribute to his living expenses.

An adult person with a good job history isn't even able to make it and pay all their bills on minimum wage so saying he has to get a job and move out is a bit silly. An adult can't even do that. They all have to have at least 1 or 2 roommates.

What about job corp? Enlisting? Some sort of work/boot camp/mental health retreat where they take them out in the middle of the mountains or desert and they have to learn to survive, trust each other, work through issues, and come out of it a better person.

There are a lot of options that together you could work towards. I hope you can sit down with hubby and come up with a plan that he feels good about.

AND I WOULD MOVE THE GIRL IN THAT ROOM TODAY if hubby doesn't totally freak out.

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answers from Houston on

What a damn shame. Only in America do kids have so much provided for them, like free education, but turn around and waste so much of it.

I HIGHLY suggest pushing him to finish school. He obviously can't take care of himself because of immaturity and lack of responsibility issues. And with all your husband's guilt trips (aka lazy parenting) it looks like you'll be dealing with your son's disruptive lifestyle for the next 10 years because the kid is going to have major difficulty earning an income without his high school diploma.

10 years from now do you want him just walking into your house because he needs a place to stay? How about 5 years from now? 4? 3? My point is that his high school diploma will get him on the road to being on his own alot quicker.

Do what you need to do to have him finish. Find a tutor. Work with the school. Find programs to help him. Threaten. Yell. Scream. Buy him something. Anything to get him to earn his high school diploma.

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answers from Dover on

Nothing is going to work unless/until you and hubby are on the same page. As a mother, let me ask you "would you kick your child out?". If the answer is no, then how can you expect your husband to?

You and hubby should come up with what your ideal situation would be and what would be an acceptable compromise. Then talk with your son and come up with a plan. If he's not going back to school he needs to be pursuing at least a GED and needs to be job hunting now. If he isn't doing these things within a certain amount of time (like a week) then he has a month or two (whatever you determine) to find a place to move to (which by the way, he will need a job for). Some various of this.

However, I notice that you are in a two bedroom apt and want your daughter to have her own room. If your son was going to school and/or working, you would still be in the same boat regarding the size of your home.

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answers from Boston on

The first thing I would do is get all his stuff out of that room. I would move your daughter into that room. He can sleep on the couch, I would wake him as soon as the 6am alarm goes off. He would be out the door looking for a full time job. He would not have access to the home until I was home. A dead line of one week to get a job. A dead line of one month to move.
Time for this one to grow up. Your not helping him at all by hubby babying him. To bad he did not finish HS. His butt would be signing up for the Army.

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answers from Miami on

I think you will not be able to do anything. Its up to his father and he is not doing anything, Back out and stay out of it. Focus your energy on your other child.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I think it's time for tough love. If you have to research shelters and you and your hubby take him there to live. BOTH of you nee dto put your foot down or it will only continue. He's 18, legally an adult and can find a job, pay his way etc. I can not even believe he gets his own room and you all shrare one. That is absolutely ridiculous! Which leads me to the next issue, your duaghter. Do you want her exposed to this? You need to be able to raise her the way she deserves to be raised and not share a room with her parents because of this situation. It sounds like there may be some back story here but you need to get your life back and take care of your family. You can't help others unless they help themselves.


answers from Columbia on

Change the locks. He can go sleep on a friend's couch and get a job. Let him know that if he gets a job and signs up for a GED course, you'll give him a place to crash, but you're not a hotel for unemployed, lazy young men.

Please also read the book "Wild at Heart," by John Elderege. And give it to him.

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