19-Year-old Won't Work

Updated on December 15, 2010
P.L. asks from Independence, VA
22 answers

I'm so thankful to have stumbled across this site. I realize it's probably for kids under 18, but I'm at a loss and I wondered if there was anybody else out there with the same problems. I have a 19-year-old on who simply won't get a job. He still lives at home. His car got totaled about 3 years ago and I let him drive mine off and on for the last 3 years, but I have to stop. He has had 2 accidents with my car and our insurance rates have gone through the roof, so I took him off of our insurance. I stopped him from driving for a while, but he always had some type of excuse why he needed the car, and I always give in. He has quit 2 jobs because they expected him to work when it was "cold outside" or when he had put in to be off due to something going on with his friends and they wouldn't let him off. He has had a free ride up until now. I finally cut off his money, because I just simply couldn't afford it. Now, he has started pawning stuff off to get money. He only comes home about once or twice a week. He stays at a house with a bunch of other teenagers and I don't know what's going on there. He always tries to "butter me up" when he is at home, hoping I'll give in to him again. I worry about him so much. I wonder if he's eating (he's losing weight). He doesn't take a shower half the time, doesn't have clean clothes. I've been taking clean clothes to him every other day or so and taking him soap and towels and, if I have any money for him to eat on, I give him that too. I know I'm enabling him, but how do you get over the guilt? He manipulates me and I let him get away with it. Where do you find the strength to be stern? Any advice you can give will be appreciated.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everybody for all your good advice. We had a long talk. He denies the drugs completely. He states he just wants to stay in town because it's closer to all his friends (which we do live out in the middle of nowhere). He is no longer allowed to drive my car at this time and won't be given money. If he is hungry, we will be glad to pick him up and bring him home, or he can have a friend drop him off at his grandma's house to eat, take a shower, etc. He says he has been trying to lose weight and he has been more athletic, playing basketball, etc. IDK. We'll see how it goes. I just have to pray daily for God to give me the strength to say no. Thanks again guys!

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answers from Jacksonville on

Something about this screams that he is experimenting with drugs.....I'm sorry and I could be totally wrong, but it just seems to me that the losing weight, living with a bunch of teens, not caring about appearance, pawning things or "buttering" you up for money and not holding down a job screams possible drug issue. I would definitely intervene and quickly.....if he is just experiencing "growing pains" then at least you will have been there for him and if it is something worse you can know you did what you could. Good luck!



answers from Raleigh on

I remember a story Danny Bonaduce told. He was using drugs a lot, not eating, etc. His mom came to visit. She said that she loved him and she came to say good-bye because she thought he might die soon. That made him wake up. He kicked his habit and moved back in with his mom while he looked for a job. I just thought you might find that interesting.

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answers from Burlington on

Hi P.,

You have been helping him because you love him. Problem is, it's the worst thing for him. He manipulates you. That means he doesn't respect you. He's pawning things, I'd worry about him stealing your things to get money. Sounds like this money is going toward drugs. I am concerned about your safety. I would change the locks on the doors and not give him a key. I'd meet him in a public place, tell him that you're sorry he didn't grow up to be a responsible adult. But he's an adult now and time to leave the nest. If he needs advice, you'll be happy to give it but you aren't giving anymore handouts. If he's hungry, he can go to a soup kitchen. If he needs clothes, he can go to the Salvation Army. If he needs a ride, he can walk. If he needs a place to sleep, he can try the homeless shelter. He did not take advantage of preparing himself for life while living with you. Time and patience are up. He's out.

Good luck and hugs to you,
M. D.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


This website is for ALL moms!!!

It is time for Tough Love. It's not easy. But it HAS to be done.

1. Type up a contract for your son to sign. He will have pay rent and utilities. He's an adult now and will be treated as such.
a. rent is X. and due X. there will be a X late fee for late payments (just like real life).
b. he is expected to do:
1. his own laundry and his day to use the washer/dryer is X.
2. keep his room clean and tidy.
3. take out the trash - trash pick up is on X day and it is expected to be taken out by x the previous night.
4. replenish food he uses in the house. If he uses the last of the milk, he is expected to buy a new one.

2. If he has chosen not to go to school (university/college) full time, then he has to support himself. If he is going to school then rent will be a portion as you might expect him to work part time.

3. DO NOT allow him to drive your car. PERIOD. If he needs to go somewhere he can call a taxi. If he "needs" you to do - then you will charge him a fare for driving him. NO MORE CODDLING HIM!!

4. DO NOT ALLOW HIM TO treat you this way. PERIOD. You have basically trained/taught him and now, the hard part - untraining/unlearning this behavior. This means saying no and meaning it - NO MEANS NO! PERIOD. END OF STORY!
In my home, if my boys ask me more than once for something - I take something away of theirs - whether it be computer or TV time - or their DS. NO MEANS NO. DO NOT ASK TWICE - DO NOT WHINE, DO NOT YELL, DO NOT SCREAM - PERIOD. You WILL treat me with respect and respect my answer.

I have a 24 year old daughter. She quit college her sophomore year. She wanted to come live with me - I said FINE - rent is X, etc. she didn't like that - she called her dad - he said the same thing (I Love his new wife!! When they let our daughter come back home to live - they took the money that she paid in rent to them and put it in a savings account for her. She does NOT know about this money. They plan on giving it to her when she graduates college and buys a home).

If she wanted to continue with school - fine, she would work part time and rent wouldn't be as much. She tried living with her dad for about a year - she wasn't happy and decided to move out on her own. She is still going to school part-time and is NOT happy about her wages or hours. ONLY SHE CAN CHANGE THAT.

how do I find the strength to be stern? I love my children enough to show them HOW to be a capable adult. My kids learned at 5 how to toast bread, make their own L'eggo waffles, make their own beds, separate laundry, fold it and put it away. My kids can fix scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast for themselves. They are learning how to use an iron too. They each have their own savings account as well. They each know EXACTLY how much money is it. They need to put money from their allowance into the savings account and they can donate money as well. To me - these are ESSENTIAL life skills.

You have already stated that you ALLOW him to do this. It is up to you to stop it. It will NOT be easy - but he MUST learn to care for himself.

next - you need to call the parents of the teen he appears to be staying with and find out what they are telling him. Tell them that you are TRYING to get him to become a productive citizen. Oh heck - I might even ask her to charge him rent!!! So he knows he can't "free load" off ANYONE.

As to his pawing items - you need to make sure that he's not taking your stuff to pawn. Also let this other parent know that he has been pawing stuff and ensure that he is NOT taking from her as well.

I would also go to your local pharmacy and get one of the at home drug test kits and when he gets home - make him pee in the cup and YOU test it. If he doesn't like it or doesn't want to do it - find out what he's hiding. If he is doing drugs - get him help with the caveat that he MUST remain clean in order to live under your roof.

I don't have guilt from telling my children NO. I might feel bad that they are NOT getting what they "want" but there is a difference between "want" and "need". You NEED food to survive, you WANT steak to eat.

If you feel like you can't say NO to him because he "needs" food money - this WILL be hard - tell him to go get a job. Or come home to eat a meal with the family. Otherwise the answer is NO.

If you need strength - in box me. YOU CAN AND MUST do this - not just for your sanity but for your son!!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

When my oldest turned 18 he could have gone to college on scholarships but didnt want to go. He got a good paying job, bought a car, and did fine. He met a girl and they decided to go to Disneyworld for a vacation. He took 2 weeks off of work flew to Florida, blew all the money he had saved and pretty much lost his job by the time he got back. I told him he either had to work or go back to school or join the army. He joined the army. He got tons of money for college while doing his time, he spent 6 years and is now making 6 figures. It made a very good man out of him. You are crippling your son right now, seriously.... and it will only get worse... he's still young, you need to make some harsh decisions, his future is at stake.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

It is time for some tough love. You are enabling him...and I know exactly how hard it is to stop it!!
Your job right now is to help him learn how to be a responsible adult...and your "help" that you have been giving him is actually crippling him.
No more money...no more hand outs...no more car....and if he won't abide by the rules of your home...no more free room and board!!!
I am not telling you it is going to be easy....you need to find someone there who can help you by giving you "pep talks" when you start to waiver!!!
He is going to pile on the "guilt"...make you feel like the worst person you can imagine...but you have to look at the goal that you are moving towards...making him independent and responsible and capable of not only surviving but thriving in our society!!!
If he gets a job...charge him "rent" to live at home...and then save that money ( without telling him) to give him a "nest egg" when he eventually gets ready to move out on his own.
Treat him like you would a total stranger who is trying to become part of your life. Would you let ME come into your home and treat you the way your son is treating you?? Of course you wouldnt.....think of what you would expect of me...and have the same expectations for your son!!
Good luck to you!!! God Bless

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You are enabling him because you "feel guilty" and you wonder why he is playing you? You need to change your thinking because he won't change until you do. You've always bailed him out... That has to stop.
Sit him down and tell him in no uncertain terms that he is not a child. He is an adult. He needs to realize that he is responsible for his own actions. Then - Cut him off completely. He is up to no good - I agree with the others - Drugs...
Change the locks. Don't give him access to the house at all.
Don't give him money for food. You can always give him a plate of leftovers if you think he needs it.
You can offer to put him into a treatment program if you think he'll go, but until he hits rock bottom, he'll probably not be interested.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I was thinking the same thing as Diane, drugs. You need to put your foot down. No more free ride. Give him a certain amount of time to clean his act up and if he doesn't he needs to move out.

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answers from Atlanta on

get him out of your house! he is using you and you are enabling this by babying him. am sorry but the best love is tough love when it comes to a man child. am sorry for you but not for him. it your house your rules and if he can't follow the rules he is out! he must learn this now or life in the real world is going to be real hard. my father always said you work 10% of your income goes to the family. and when your 18 you have to be going to school or you can't live here. and we turned out just fine. 2 went to college and 2 got jobs but at 15 we all had jobs! stop giving in... that's not love.

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answers from Nashville on

You must get the strength by knowing that you have not and are not preparing him for the real world and how to take care of himself. He is reliant upon you b/c you let him be. If you suddenly get sick or pass away, who will take care of him? It is a sad thought but truth. I dated a guy that was 25 and exactly that way b/c his mom 'saved' him no matter what he chose not to do. You sit him down now and give him a list of things you expect out of him as an adult. 1. get a job 2. bathe 3. be responsible and if you can think of any others that are just the norm for being an adult. Anything other than that you have no control over since he is an adult. You tell him that for his own good and b/c you love him, you have got to cut him off. Then stick to it. He can either live in your home and have a job or he can move out but he cannot come home when he needs money. good luck, you know it is best for him so you must stick to it.

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answers from Spartanburg on

You are the mother so you know how he grew up. If you feel like you did all you could do to teach him responsibility and moral values AND you feel like he actualy absorbed your teachings, then it may be is has a mental problem. I don't mean the kind that is out-there, like a crazy-man or anything, there are personality disorders that get undiagnosed and are disruptive for people's lives. Get him evaluated. If you had an hard time raising him and guiding him while growing up (not blaming you here, just thinking of different possibilities, I don't know you, of course), if he was neglected under some points of view, or lacked consistency and understanding of important life skills, then he may just be a lost child that has no direction and doesn't know how to make the right choices. I am so sorry you are going through this, it must be very painful for a mother. Personally I would never cut ties with him, I'd want to know about him so I could help him. I'd probably take him with me away from his unhealthy environment, for at least a couple of weeks, just me and him, in a far away place, trying to reconnect with him. I'll take him to shelters or where people less lucky than him end up, to show him what will be of him if he doesn't take charge of his life. It's sad to see a young life wasting away..he just doesn't realize what he's doing, I guess. I would also give him a book of successfull stories of other peers who became something from nothing, he needs to learn dignity and self-respect. If he's not in drugs he's definitely got a personality disorder and it could be easiliy that he got in drugs BECAUSE he has some kind of PD. I hope you can find out.Good luck.



answers from Huntington on

I have always had the rule that you get a free ride( meaning room & board, not tuition or spending money!) as long as you're a full time student, but anyone in this house over the age of 18, not a f/t student is expected to pay their share of the bills. Kids under 18, & over 18 f/t students are all supposed to do their share of chores, even though they're not contributing monetarily. Anyone over 18 doesn't like my rules find themselves a different place to live. Any non-student over 18 temporarily out of a job, does MANY extra chores, until he gets a job & starts paying his way agian. Oh yeah, I got much flack for that stance in their teens & 20's, but in their 30's, several have thanked me (finally!) for instilling a good work ethic in them.
They are your responsibility until they're 18 so I would never kick out a kid under 18, but I did report one of mine as "an unruly minor" and had her put under "house arrest" once. Never had a peep of trouble out of her since! . Then he's an adult. treat him like one. I had one son even live in a homeless shelter for a while, he got over it, has a house , a wife & 5 kids he supports now! Some learn the easy way, some learn the hard way.
You must be firm, yet loving. At his age, he needs to act like a responsible adult. Expect that of him. Don't be manipulated. Giving a child everything they want is not good parenting, giving them what they need is. by 19 you should expect - no demand him to be self sufficient. if he's not, that's not your problem anymore! NEVER give him money!!!!!! treat him to lunch or dinner, buy him soap or clothes, but never anything that would enable him to buy booze, drugs or any unhealthy thing, instead of what you intended! And taking him clothes every other day?!?!? why? letting him use your washer is one thing, but dressing him,at that age is uncalled for. let him wallow until he wants to change, make him be responsible for his own actions or inactions. Many have said it sounds like drugs, this could be, esp. if he is stealing & pawning yor stuff, but I wouldn't assume he is, just keep it open as a possibility. As that one girl said, she was a lot like that & not using, just depressed & rebelling. But she still needed a wake up call, not an enabling hand out!



answers from Atlanta on

I can imagine the guilt, but all you're doing is being a pushover. This house where he's crashing sounds like a highly likely drug place. I'm not super-paranoid about all teens being on drugs or anything, and I've had my own experiences with them, but I've also always had a job, gone to school, etc.

DON'T GIVE IN -GET MAD! Seriously -your kid is 19 and he's USING his own mother! Do you want to be doing this when he's 30? DO NOT take him one more piece of anything! NEVER let him drive your car. I'm sorry, but he's lazy. Tell him to get a job -and that hard work never hurt anyone. Ask him about drugs and why he's losing weight. Don't expect a straight answer, but let him know if he wants to eat, he needs to start making some money -that's how people eat. He's 19 and he hasn't learned to regularly bathe, dress cleanly, etc? Seriously, you've been a push over for way too long! I might feel some guilt if one of mine acted like this, but mainly I would be mad as hell!

The way you do it -sit down and tell him how it's going to be. If you need to quit taking his calls for awhile-do so. He's considered an adult now. It sounds like maybe signing up for the armed services would do him a world of good. If nothing else it will teach him discipline and how to keep himself clean. It will also snap him out of his laziness. You better get a little meaner right now because you're all out of chances for the most part! The "help" you're giving him is ruining him.



answers from Chattanooga on

My younger brother was manipulating me this way. We have always been close, so it was easy for him. Finally, I kicked him out of my house (after 6 months of 'job hunting') and he moved in with my dad... who didn't make him get a job but put him to WORK on the ranch. (Fixing fence, cutting wood, any hard, physical labor he could think of) It was far enough out in the country that he couldn't go anywhere without a car, and of course my dad took his to work, so he was stuck at the house all the time. He called me desperate to get out of there, but I wasn't going to let him stay with me, so we signed him up for Job Corps, and have seen a complete 180 in his behavior. If your son doesn't want to do Job Corps, then there is always the military to give him the structure he needs, while paying him...



answers from Nashville on

hi, my kids are 30 to 10. i have 2 that are doing the same thing. you have to stop
TAKEING CARE of him. the one thing i see is he better be careful hanging out with teenagers. he is concidered an adult. if any of them get in trouble and he is around they will get him for contributing. it is sooooo hard to let go. i say this as my 26 yr. old is on the couch asleep. he worked all night though. mom of 7 R.



answers from Cheyenne on

Oh Sweety your in such a hard place So first thing is first A BIG hug to you!! I think what you have done so fare is right on the spot. I agree with most of the writers befor me be that it sounds likely there is most likely drugs involved, but you dont know that for sure.
To tell you the truth he kinda sounds like me when I was that age. After High school I was a bit lost and truly not sure what to do with my self. I would leave home for days at a time and not tell my mother where I was going, I would ask her for money and refuse to get a job. It was no reflection on my mother and father...they were/are great!! I was in my own way rebelling, I jsut did it later than other kids. I feel the need to put in here that I was not on durgs, or hanging out with people that did drugs, I was jsut trying to find my place in the world and doing it very poorly. My poor mother cut me off the money, but NEVER kicked me out of the house. I was always welcome home. I always had a bed to sleep in and food on her table.
She did sit me down have had a fear sright converstaion with me. That I eather had to get a jod or go to school...That was it. There was not other opptions for me. I did and I slowly came around. As a side note here I was also in a massave depretion at this time in my life, could that be with your son as well?
Befor you take a had stand with him I would sit him down and talk to him like adults. Tell him that you love him and that your worried about him... Let him know that you are thinking about taking a hard stand. That if he keeps doing the things he is doing you are going to ahve no choise but to change things. I dont think you would be in the wrong to ask hime to take a dug teast, just be ready for him to get realy mad at that. Let him know that you love him and your not trying to be meen, but things jsut cant go on like this any longer.
Think about what you can live with and what you can. Would you be ok with kicking him out of the house untill he is ready to be a grown up, and when he is he is more then welcome back in you house and you will help him in every way you can. Some will disagree with me I am sure. your his mother. You know him better than we do, and your judgment on what to do with him is better than ours would ever be. No one will ever love him like you. I hope that you are able to fime something here that would be of help to you in some way. Let us know how its going. untill then Sweety Hang tough and chin up!!



answers from New York on

Have you looked into whether your son is doing drugs? Once I read that he is home only a few times a week and hangs out with "friends" who all don't work, combined with unexplained weight loss, I suspect strongly that he is using. I would confront him and ask him directly -- and if you suspect strongly that he is using, I suspect that you and your family hold an intervention for him to either go to rehabilitation or you will have him arrested for possession (which you will have to find evidence that he is actually in possession, which I think may not be difficult for you to do). Either way, I think that you have to be strong and establish very clear boundaries with him -- that you cut him off financially is a great start, but it is definitely time to take the next step and forbid him into your home until you get to the bottom of what is going on, and he is willing to do something about it.



answers from Boston on

Ok picture this. Jump to when he is 30 years old. You will be all the same things for him. Let him grow up. Your not helping him at all your hindering him growing into a man.



answers from Lexington on

if you think he doesn't know you worry - think again. He is playing you and until you decide that you will not be played, you will continue to feed into his helplessness. If he does not shower, that is his choice, if he does not eat, he can work for a meal. You might consider not taking him clothes every other day - he is 19, it is time for him to pony up and become an adult. You enabling him keeps him a child - and keeps you an enabler. He can do his laundry at a laundromat, he can take a shower when he cannot stand how he smells or looks - you need to let go.



answers from Knoxville on

You have to stop giving in! Our job as parents is to raise our children to be productive adults. For most people that means a paying job. Our oldest son lives with my parents who do not expect him to work because he had a rough life. His life was not any worse than most. His bio dad left when he was 8 months old and only came around a couple of times, never sent cards, gifts or child support. I remarried when he was 3.5 and that wonderful person has been the only dad he has ever known. He has always had a roof over his head, food on the table, clothes to wear-some new some hand me downs. He has worked jobs in the past and done good well. He can do it but my parents let him stay rent free, so he does not have rent, grocery or anything else. I keep asking my parents to tell him no but they would rather tell him yes than deal with him feeling bummed out around the house.

On the issue of showering could he be suffering from depression? Or could he be using drugs or alcohol? If he is doing something illegal you need to put your foot down and either make him leave or resign your life to supporting him for the rest of his life. This is a dangerous path though. If something were to happen to you what would he do? Even if you support him with a trust fund or insurance policy upon your death would he use the money wisely?

As far as being stern you need to start with something small that you give into and stop giving in, then move onto something bigger. If you're married will your husband support you being stern and saying no? Find a support system that will back you up. You have no reason to feel guilty! He needs to learn to support himself. God bless!



answers from Philadelphia on

It does sound like he is using drugs. How do you get over the guilt? Take some time to think about it. What you have been doing hasn't been working and you need to move on and find a new way. Guilt will probably just make you react. You need more than reactions; you need a plan for yourself.

Where do you find the strength to be stern? Maybe find a mentor for yourself. You have spent a lot of years enabling him AND you realize it. You might have to change your ways for him to change his ways, so get some support. It sounds like you realize you are dong something wrong , but you don't know what yo do next. These boards can be helpful, but even better might be to find a real person to offer you guidance and encouragement. Maybe check in with a pastor or a counseling service for some direction on where to find a mentor or support group.



answers from Amarillo on

You only let people treat you the way you want them to. Put your foot down hard (tough love) and let him figure it out on his own. He has to find his way in life and don't provide clean clothes, food or money for him. Change his room into your favorite craft room and take out the bed. You wouldn't let a stranger that is 19 do this to you so why do you let your son? I know you gave him birth but you did not promise to carry him for the rest of his life?

When he realizes that you mean business and give him nothing he will find out that his friends are not as cool as he thought. Right now he thinks he can still do what he did in high school and get away with it by not going or showing up for work.

You have your future retirement to think about and the trips that you and hubby (if in picture) want to take so stop taking money from your dreams. There is a reason mother birds push their young out the nest.

The other S.

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