How to Deal with an Irresponsible 18 Year Old ?

Updated on October 16, 2015
J.R. asks from San Jose, CA
11 answers

He doesn't want us involved with his freedom or choices he makes but then again we need to solve his problems.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

18 year old step son graduated from high school in June dad and I encouraged the military but bio mom encouraged work, he left our home to stay with bio mom because she didn't give him restrictions and she let him borrow her car , we didn't hear from him in 2 months then a fight broke out between mom , step son and moms boyfriend, step son called us to pick him up plus he wanted dad to fight moms boyfriend,(dad didn't) he came back home with us and he expected us to provide transportation to and from school also pay for his laundry and food and let him borrow the cars (no license) then he decided he was not going to school anymore, dad said it was ok but he had to help out at home and that was the last day we saw him for 3 weeks, he's been staying back and forth at friends house and bio moms house because he's borrowing her car again, yesterday calls dad tells him he needs him to take him get his license, dad picks him up and this morning I get completely ignored by step son (me the mom who raised him) and just wants to deal with dad.

More Answers



answers from San Francisco on

Q: When do you know it's time for your 18 year old to deal with their own problems?

A: When he's 18.

This problem is between you and your husband. If dad is unable to unwilling to help his son grow up, then stepson won't grow up. Kids remain immature as long as we enable them.

If he wants to work instead of go to school, that's fine! If he wants to go stay with friends, that's fine! Kids that age should be with their peers anyway. It's one of the best ways for them to mature. If you have requested that he pay for his phone, and he won't pay for his part of the phone bill, then take his phone out of your plan, and then he will be forced to pay for his own phone. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Good luck convincing your husband.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

He's an adult. It's time for him to put on the big boy pants and act like one.
Either he lives with you or he doesn't. This back and forth bullshtt is ridiculous.
If he lives with you, he has to get a job and pay his fair share of household expenses. He is now your roommate.
That applies whether he is in school or not. I worked two jobs while going to school and living on my own. My daughter worked two jobs while going to school and living on her own.
He does not get to use your car unless he has a license, and if he does use your car, he has to pay for the increase in insurance to add him as a driver. If he does not have a license, he needs to have a bus pass (paid for by HIM) for times when it is not convenient for you to give him a ride, and he needs to pay for gas when you do drive him.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

ETA: I did not see your SWA. You raised him?? did you not teach him financial responsibility? Did you NOT teach him how to care for himself??? Drivers license?? My son is 15.5 and counting the days until he can get his permit...and saving money for his first car (unfortunately cash for clunkers ruined a "cheap" car for him!!) long as people come to his rescue - he will NEVER grow up!!


How did you parent him?
How did you raise him?
I ask because in your last post, you state he was a step son. So how long have you been in the picture and in his life??

Your step-son is NOW an adult. He has to live with the consequences of his actions. It's a tough lesson to learn.

Stop enabling him. Give him a book from Dave Ramsey or Suz Orman and have him learn about finances that way. Sorry - but the more you bail him out ? The easier it will be for him to NOT be responsible.

He will whine.
He will cry.
He will get mad.
He might talk with you.
That's life. You and your husband MUST be on the same page. This will be HARD for the biological dad and if you are new to their lives? Might be a huge THORN in your marriage. If you are NOT on the same page?? Your husband will do things behind your back and when you find out about it? Your marriage will be too far gone to fix....

This is your step-son...not your biological son. So your husband, his biological dad MUST be on-board if you want your marriage to survive.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

This is a tough age - they are legally adults, but many are so, so immature that it's like dealing with a 13-year-old.

I'm glad that your husband took him for his license, as that's a step towards responsibility and independence, and partially removes a big barrier, which is transportation. That said, your husband and his son need to sit down and map out his next steps. He's had a few months to blow off some steam and bounce around, and now it's time to settle into a semblance of a routine as an adult, which means going to work, paying some of his own bills, saving money towards specific goals (school, an apartment) and helping him chart out his next steps. Having the "fun mom" for him to fall back on definitely interferes with your husband's leverage,but it is what it is. He controls what is allowable in your home and if you SS doesn't like the rules, he's free to go elsewhere.

As for SS and you, just be the bigger person. I know it's hard - my SD (17) has been a snotty little brat to me since June and was the deciding factor in my husband moving out of our house and into an apartment (with her). I'm trying to be nice and be the bigger person, even when she's totally rude to me and has contributed heavily to the literal breakup of my family. I have to constantly remind myself that at the end of the day, she's just a kid and in time, will probably understand and regret her words and actions (or not). It's a hard spot for your husband to be in as well. Know that this, too, shall pass and be patient with him as he navigates this tricky time with his son and his ex.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

FYI - letting someone use your car when you know they don't have a license is a misdemeanor in California. So, if hubby is willing to risk a criminal charge/conviction, then by all means, give the kid the keys.

I agree with everyone else. It's time your SS grew up. You and hubby need to sit down and have a discussion on what's going to be expected of him and once you are on the same page, sit down and convey that to SS. The first time he doesn't conform, serve him with eviction papers and force him out of the house.

I know that sounds harsh and it will be hard, but if you don't do something, he's going to treat your house like a hotel with a revolving door for the next 20 years! Ever see the movie "Failure to Launch." You're living it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Well there's the issues with the 18 year old not acting responsibly. You are all enabling him. Bio Mom, Dad, and you - by allowing him to run the show.

He has it great. When someone doesn't agree with what he's doing, he just flips houses. When he can't get what he wants at one house, he goes to the next. Why does he have the say here? I don't get it.

As long as you all let him walk all over you - he will continue to do so. So don't expect that problem to be solved unless you all put your foot down. Maybe dad has to talk to bio mom here. Be on same page.

The bigger problem I see for YOU is that you and hubby are not on same page. Does he not respect your opinions? Do you talk? How is this happening? It can ruin marriages (not to mention severely screw up kids) if you're not on same page.

Decide what you are willing to accept and talk to your husband. Tell him you're upset and feel taken advantage of. Tell him you want things to change (be clear on what you want to have happen). You matter here. If your husband isn't acting like you do - that's a much bigger issue.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

This sounds just awful and I can feel your pain. I'm a stepmother and I understand what it's like to be such a big influence on a stepchild and then have the mother, or father, undermine it.

Your problem is not "an irresponsible 18 year old". Your problem is a husband who gives in.

It doesn't matter if your stepson "expects" you to pay for laundry or food or rides. What matters is that both his bio parents do it. With 2 parents who have no backbone and no willingness to be unpopular, there is little hope for your stepson.

I'm sorry. There is nothing you can do except to move out and refuse to be a party to your husband's caving to the son's demands. Get couples' counseling to work on your marriage.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Nothing is going to change here if your husband won't stand up to him and tell him that he cannot use your house as a crash pad.

This kid actually wanted his father to fight someone? What's wrong with him?

Any 18 year old who won't speak to the step-parent but expects to live with them needs to be out of the house.

Tell your husband that you two need marriage counseling. Insist on it. It's time to hold this 18 year old's feet to the fire.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

He gets to have his freedom when he pays rent and his own bills. An adult child who lives at home must respect household rules and responsibilities. An adult who needs help or favors should ask for them respectfully and only when there is a real need that can't be self-solved.

He is behaving like a dependent child because the people in his life are allowing him to do so. He will continue to be irresponsible as long as he knows that someone will always be there to bail him out, give him a ride, feed him, lend him cars, etc. He has no motivation to change anything.

Your husband holds the real power here. The question is, will he use it? His son disappeared for weeks rather than help out around the house, and yet his dad still swoops in to give him a ride the moment the boy snaps his fingers. It has to stop. The consequence of not respecting the household is that you don't get help from the household.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

He sounds extremely unhappy. As many people are when they are frustrated they aren't quite adults with adult privileges and independence. He's still trying to get things out of people. Which is normal, since that's how he has survived all along.

It's a parent's job to cut the cord for the benefit of the child. I'm a firm believer that if people CAN be lazy and borrow stuff and get stuff for free they will. And if they can't, they'll figure out how to get it on their own. Sometimes college help is a good thing if the student is serious about the career they're pursuing and working hard at their school work AND being good members of household with a solid exit plan in sight. IF the family can afford that kind of help. But all this bad behavior and loaning cars isn't helping anyone.

So. He's out of high school. He's not in the military. You say he is in school so he does need transportation for that. He needs to work his way toward getting some of those friends as roommates, getting a cheap place, getting a cheap car, and getting out of everyone's houses so he can have some pride in himself. The family dramas need to stop.

It will be very tough at first to afford all that stuff...he'll be picking up double and triple shifts, but in the end, he'll value everyone and everything a lot more when he's earned his way out of this slump. He won't do it if you guys don't make him.



answers from Oklahoma City on

If he was my child I'd still do things like this to keep the door open but I'd let him be. He's an adult and needs to learn from his mistakes. He's quite old enough to act like this and learn.

I know it hurt your feelings that he didn't speak to you but he was making his point. If you take the higher road and act nice to him and seem interested in his life, without saying how awful it really is, he'll learn that you do love him and then he'll be able to open up more and finally realize that everything he learned throughout his childhood really is true.

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