20Yr Old Son

Updated on January 14, 2008
K.E. asks from Rochester, NY
13 answers

my son is almost 20 yrs old and just lost his job that he really could have done good at.
I don't know what to do with him, he also has 4 violations for traffic and this could cost a lot of money. I really don't know what to do, he has no male figure in his life and I think that is what he needs. My x-husband has washed his hands of all 3 of my children.
I feel as though I'm failing as a parent. If anyone has any advise for me please feel free. Thank you.

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answers from Binghamton on

Now's the time for some "tough love". Do not pay his traffic fines! And insist that he pay you rent, or if he's not working and living at home he has to do the household chores since you're the one out earning the money. If not, he's out. Don't wonder how he'll end up if you do this; he's not headed in the right direction now, and you can't keep bailing him out for the rest of his life. That's no incentive for him to ever be responsible.

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answers from New York on

Your son needs to know that you believe in him maybe now more than ever. Take him out to a sandwich shop for lunch with the purpose of relationship building and maybe even a little fun. Let him know that you will stick together and somehow you can get through anything together. Notice something that he does well and tell him about it. Tell him you love him. (And for this time period leave your worries behind; and leave any additional judgements about him behind--how he dresses or whatever.) It is a treacherous time for a young man, but how he needs your vote of confidence. Your scared and concerned. He is more scared and concerned.

It is a place to start.

Be kind to yourself too. You are carrying a lot. Pray.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

First of all, you are NOT failing as a parent! We all feel that way sometimes-it actually means you're a good parent because you take your role seriously.

Secondly, I give you a lot of credit for being a single parent. I can't imagine raising my two boys on my own, so remember to pat yourself on the back once in a while.

Now, about your son. I do believe that having a positive male figure in a young man's life can make a difference. Perhaps you can look into a mentoring program in your community, or ask another male relative (brother/brother-in-law) to help out. BUT the lack of a male role model isn't an excuse. Your son is 20 years old! You have set an example for him, and the fact that you're a woman mean nothing- he can still follow your lead as a responsible adult.

I would suggest a little real-world education for him. If he lost his job then he is 100% free to go out and start looking for another one! Those traffic violations? DON'T PAY THEM FOR HIM! He broke the rules, he is responsible for the outcome. Explain to him that when bills are due, an adult will take care of them even if they have to get a job pumping gas to do it. If he lets the tickets slide, well, when his license is suspended for failure to pay it will be a hard lesson to learn. Then he'll have to ride the bus until he handles his business, because you won't be driving him around everywhere, right?

It may sound harsh, but you'll be doing him a favor. The sooner he learns to manage his affairs the more fulfilling his life will be. And you don't want to be paying his speeding tickets when he's 40!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Buffalo on

i am in no way an expert in having a 20 year old son, but my mother is... and i've watched her go through all the pains involved. He's similar, never been good with jobs and has been irresponsable... the way my mom has dealt with it (besides secretly being terrified as any good parent is lol) has been to ALWAYS there for him - never to pay his bills or bail him out of problems (unless their critical) - but to give him help and wondeful advice and someone he knows he can count on. She's always looked for jobs for him and helped him with his resume. She never paid his traffic tickets but constantly reminded him about the importance of paying them (in a non-nagging, non-yelling way... just a sweet reminder, usually multiple times lol) and left it up to him to be responsable for them. But if he was ever in HUGE financial trouble i know my parents would help with SOME of it.
When he lived at home she finally told him that by a certain date, he had to start paying some rent or move out... so he moved out and guess what, he's still got to pay rent plus some. He's learning as he goes (just as we all do). Honestly, I've gotten angry with him in the past because he can act so ungrateful to my parents, but now that he's a bit older (not much, he's only 24) i can see sometimes how he truly does appreciate it. It still doesn't mean he makes the best decisions.
My mom was always there to help us but never did things for us. That's all you can do. Please don't feel you're failing as a parent. At his age, it's about time to set him free to get his feet wet at being an adult, while still having you there to trust & to be there for him. Trust that you have taught him right from wrong and now it's his job to put that to use. I bet you're an amazing mom!! the fact that you are so concerned for your son is proof enough! just always remind him that you are there for him always (especially since he knows his father isn't).



answers from Albany on


I have to agree with the last poster. I have a half sister that I didn't meet until I was 21. We both had different and difficult upbringings and she and I obviously look at life different. She chooses to be angry about our dad and her mom and think about how her life "might" have been different. She gets mad that he abandoned her (understandably) but she takes it a step further and resents me that he was around longer for me. I tried explaining to her that we both had it different but hard and that while he was around longer for me, he was also physically abusive to my mom and me. That is something she didn't have to experience but I don't resent HER for being spared that.

Instead of blaming my parents for the "woes of my life", I am trying to learn from them - the good and the bad. I'm not trying to bore you about me. I'm just trying to make a point. My sister is the complete opposite of me. She is in her late 30's now and still runs to her mom to bail her out of everything and is always quick to blame everyone else for her lot in life including where she is now. She is completely unaccountable for her actions.

Have you talked to your son? Have you asked him what happened with his job and what happened with the tickets? While he definitely needs to take responsibility for where he is ending up including getting a new job and paying for his tickets and insurance, I don't think you will completely help him if you don't try to learn more about why he is making the decisions he is. If you come at him, he is not going to be receptive and at almost 20, you have a touchy time frame here. It isn't like he is a kid you can ground. He is an adult and while he needs to act like it, your relationship needs to teeter between parent and friend right now. (Not saying you should bail him out regardless of if you are acting like a parent OR a friend.)

I just think it's important to try to talk to him and hear what is making him make the choices he is. He has to understand the track record he is beginning for himself...then again, maybe he doesn't. We all thought we knew everything when we were teens. It's a vicious cycle. When he becomes an older adult, he'll probably be saying the same thing to you about his own children.

I hope you are able to find some answers together and help him start down the RIGHT path.




answers from Albany on

First, take charge of the house. He is 20 years old no longer a child. He has a responsiblity to the home. Can he get unemployment while he is not work? If so part of this must go to housing expenses. Not to be thrown around on nonsense. Second, everyday he must go look for work, up at a normal hour and out knocking on doors for jobs, also a company that helps find employment or the state office of employment.
Once he has a job and works for a few months, he pays into the house also, he then looks for a small apt. and is to move out within 4 months of finding a job. He is to begin a life of independence, not depending on you for his upkeep.
This is hard, but I did it with my son and it worked. I was a widow with two sons so I know where you are.



answers from New York on

My advice is to let your son continue to find a work place that requires the same qualifications he had before (experience) It may take some time, but do not let him give up. I also have 3 children in which 2 are in their mid twenties,and the youngest is 17. My second oldest is 23 and he recently came back from Iraq. It is very hard to manage a family and a home. "Please keep positive" and everything will be fine. My son is a great role model for every young adult. If you want him to talk to your son just email me back, and i will be happy to help you.
From: Diana C.



answers from New York on

Hi K.
It's a tough age...not totally legal but still wants to be
treated like that, yet doesn't do the mature things. It's not
easy. My son, who now is 23, was a tough one. We did, however, insist on him working. I think you need to tell your
son that he HAS to work. Even if he doesn't like the job or the money he is paid that he is an adult and that's what adults do. As far as his 4 traffic violations, that is his
responsibility. Not yours. Even if he doesn't pay them it will reflect on him, not you. The only way he'll really learn is to take care of his own responsibilities, and the tickets are his responsibility, is to stand firm that he is
the one who needs to pay them and that you are not going to pay them for him. If he doesn't pay them he will
get additional charges on top of them and possibly the loss of
his license. You are not a failing parent. Our kids can certainly make us feel that way. Don't let him wear you down
and that happens easily. Be consistent with him, let him know
that you are not paying his bills. I assume he is living at home and You give him a roof over his head, a place to eat and clothing to wear. Now it's time for him to grow up and face his future and take care of his responsibilities in a
grown up adult way. It's to bad that your ex husband has left you to handle all the aches and pains of raising responsible
children but in the end your children will realize that and
what you do for them and did for them will come back to you
ten fold. It seems like forever sometimes but in most cases
it does. You are doing a good job and don't let anyone tell you differently. I wish you much luck in what ever decisions
you make and I hope all goes well. D.



answers from New York on

I don't think you are a failure nor do I think this has much to do with the lack of male figure in the house.

I think it's the sign of the times and growing pains. Your boy is still very young. Give him a hug and let him know he's not alone and with time and patience, new doors will open for him. Suggest the importance to him to continue looking for a new job...that part of each day has to be spent on making that effort and that he should take any job for now that will hire him until he can find the one he really wants....that he must keep looking even while working as the job he really wants wont be knocking on his bedroom door. (((hopefully getting that job he really doesn't want will lift his spirits and give him the insentive to keep looking...he'll at least be making some money.))))

Keep in mind the experience although not pleasant will be good for him...make him stronger.....life after all is about growing and learning.

I think loosing a job is an ego blower for anyone...as well all of the rejection one gets in the process of trying to replace the job....at any age.. He can and will over come this if you are supportive of him through out the experience.

Sit with him, listen to his concerns and with humor, circle job adds in the paper with him. Tell him you are looking forward to hearing about the interviews.
Also suggest he go from store to store asking if they are hiring...leaving his name and phone number with the managers even if the answer he gets is NO...."Please call me when you do have an opening".

If there are any friends or realitives who own businesses....suggest he calls them asking if there are any openings for him...."NO, well thanks anyway but do keep me in mind when you do have an opening or if you hear of something in your travels."

I also think it's emportant after an interview, that your son follow up with a phone call the following week or two. Many people think because they haven't gotten that call from the company, they aren't being considered for that job....often, many times it means the company is still interviewing people or they just got to busy. A follow up call lets them know you aren't a laid back person and infact really intereted in this job.

In terms of the 4 traffic violations....remind him if he doesn't drive more responsibly he'll end up standing in front of a judge and will loose his drivers licence...making life even more difficut for him.

I would not pay the fines for him....he has made bad choices and he has to learn from them. He also has to learn that he can't continue making bad choices with the attitude..."oh well, Mom will fix it...she fixes everything". He's got to learn that he has choices and from all choices there are consequences he has to be responsible for.
Suggestion: Offer to talk to him about his choices but the bottom line is, whatever road he takes, it's his choice and he has to suffer the consequences, so he can learn from his mistakes. "Son, how are you planning to deal with this...Ya know, it's not gonna go away by itself....How about we sit and talk about your options". If it's a go, Listen to him, and then make sure he understands all the facts....then make suggestions...but let the choice be his own. In other words try to give him direction in terms of the facts but don't tell him what to do.
If he asks, "Mom what should I do"....Tell him, You can tell him what you think but you can't tell you what to do and then ask him if he's interested in what you think and if's its a go...talk to him in a loving, respective way....

Not easy to be a Mom...but do stand strong and hang in there.



answers from Albany on

you not failing as a prant or mom
sometimes kids have to fine ouit how hard it can git
all we can do be there try to halp them pic the peices up and put them where thay go
i hope you know what i meen

from jim



answers from New York on

being a single mother is terribly difficult and raising teenagers is difficult, so keep the faith and keep a smile on your face, you must be a strong person. I would go to the police and explain that you acknowledge the violations but cant pay them right now for financial reasons. Hopefully they will stop adding late fees which can really up. Secondly, school is a great place for mentors for children. Teachers, coaches, art teacher, guidance counselors, librarians, any adult that your child likes can be a mentor. Go to the children's school and ask a guidance counselor for help if you cant figure out who to choose. The big brother program can also provide mentors for younger children.

It sounds like your 20 year old is out of school, so church or the YMCA may be places to look for mentors. Any colleague that you might have at work (who is a responsible man) can take your son out for a coffee and give him some advice about his life. Call big brother and ask their advice, they may have some ideas, too.

Dont be discouraged. If you're asking for help you are obviously a mother who cares. We all feel like failures so much of the time, but dont give up. Keep being thoughtful and involved and you're already giving your children more than many children have. Good luck!



answers from New York on

i agree with pp. at your son's age (20) tough love is the best approach. whether or not the job he lost would've been perfect for him... there are many "easy to get jobs" (restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores) that he can get in the mean-time while he looks for a job he really wants. do NOT pay even PART of his tickets. he will not learn anything if you help him out. you would be doing him a great disservice and enabling him to be dependent on you when he really needs to be developing the skills to live INDEPENDENT of you...

IF he's living with you, once he's employed, I would also suggest you require him to pay some rent to you (whatever is reasonable) to make sure it's not a "free ride" situation. my uncle is 55 and STILL lives in his parents basement. they never had him pay rent or anything... it is so sad that he never moved on with his life.

I'm not saying that would happen with you, but just an example of what happens with some.

good luck!




answers from Syracuse on

My oldest quit school as soon as he could. Thought he could do everything on his own...(he had a great male role model it really makes no difference in my opinion.) He went off and ended up moving in with a girl. Never wanted to get a drivers license or GED. He is now 25 and still the same. But now he has girlfriend and a baby that he needs to support. (she is unable to work due to health reasons) About 3 years ago (before the baby) He ask If they could move in with his grandparents. My mother told him he needed to talk to me. (Yup Im the bully of the family, any problems always end up on my plate) Then she called me and told me. I explain then to her and then to him that at the age of 22 he was an adult and He could not move in with any of us. They were more than welcome to visit or to stay for a week or so while job or apartment hunting in our area, but no the family was not going to support him. He was upset and threw it in my face that he could not get a decent job because he didn't have a high school education or transportation. I explain that those were the choices he had made and I was sorry. He didn't speak to me for awhile but then got a farm job with housing. He says I was right and Thank you. He ask a few months back if he could spend his week vacation at my house and check out the job market. I told him yes my spare bedroom was always there. I truly beleave you can let them stay in the nest. You arent failing as a parent. Parents teach their kids wrong from right. And if the make a mistake, understand that as a parent you aren't perfect. But your love is. Good Luck

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