How to Motivate a 20 Yr Old Couchsurfer

Updated on May 29, 2008
F.L. asks from Littleton, CO
4 answers

So I'm sitting here, frustrated again, with the fact that my little brother, age 20, is living on my couch. I don't know who to talk to about this, so I thought I'd post it here. Our mom has had a very rough life and the way she sees things when we approach her for advice is unfortunately muddied by her bad experiences and negative outlook on life in general. My other sibling is a very angry person and extremely negative if I try to talk to him about anything that's going on. My ex husband, previously the one whom I relied on for advise, is also very negative.

So I'm bringing this to the moms board here. Moms are by nature more compassionate, and the response I've gotten in the past here has been very positive and encouraging.

So here it is: he's 20. He's been on my couch since mid-March. He got hired on with THE company he wanted to work for here, and subsequently was fired for being late twice in the 1st 30 days. Since then he has taken a VERY lackadazicle approach to looking for another job. He did pay for his part in the rent and bills we agreed on, and does not owe me anything again until the 15th of June, however, he's living off of his credit card now...and totally overdrawn on his bank account. Major bad choices in finances, of which he gives me zero respect when I encourage him towards better choices...because I made some really poor financial choices when I got divorced, of which I am still paying.

We are 13 years apart, so we did not grow up in the same household. So we are pretty new at forming our sibling relationship. But the way he acts goes from behaving like one of my children, to this ridiculous puffed out chest thing where he assumes he's the man of the house.

Then there's the media addiction. I don't watch television. I own one that comes out in the winter for movies. Since he's been here, it's been on almost 24/7. I have to actually walk over to it and turn it off to interrupt the 700th time he's watched "Transformers" many times can YOU watch a movie back to back? It's driving me nuts...and he's on the couch; which is in the middle of the living room; which is the center of my home.

Between the cell phone that's welded to his hand 24/7 (yes, he sleeps with it in his hand), to the myspace page logged on, to the of these media is on at all times.

I've been working very hard to create a calm peaceful home where music is on, the lighting is nice, the food is good, and the house is clean. The things that allow me to be at peace and be kind to my kids.

The stress of having a 6'4" unemployed media addicted rude 20 year old male sibling in my home is too much. I don't know what to do, or who to talk to. He does not have the finances to get out on his own, nor do I have the $ to hand him and put him into a place of his own. He's gotten really comfy here, and I'm not at all comfortable.


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So What Happened?

First, thank you all for your responses. It is sometimes hard to make the right choices when you are overwhelmed with the emotions of a situation. Yes, there is much desire to be the guide for the younger generation...but when they spit in your face (proverbially), well, you gotta do what's best for your children...always!

I took the cell phone and hid it before he woke up (yes, sneaky, but it worked). Then I woke him up (at noon!!!) and told him he had to get up, get showered, get dressed for interviewing, and walk his butt to the restaurants in the area and get a job. He balked, put the covers over his head, and went back to sleep. I took the covers and repeated my demand. He got up and headed straight for the computer and sat down to log in. I walked over, turned off the screen, and repeated my request. He asked where his phone was and I told him he could have it when he was dressed and ready to go. He stood up in my face (well, towering at 6'4"...) and said the following: "don't fuck with me." I didn't really know how to react, so I stepped back and as he stomped to the bathroom and screamed at him that there was no fucking was I was going to let him treat me like this.

I went outside, called my ex husband and asked if he'd stop by after work and have a chat with my brother. Yes, of course, he said. Followed by: just boot him out! So by the time my brother was out of the shower and was dressed, I handed him his phone and told him it was over. He tried to step up, like he was actually going to smack me, and I just stared at him, told him no one treats me like this and told him to get out.

Jeebus what a freakin' way to spend a beautiful summer day! The kids were in the room the whole time. I am so glad they saw it all. I want them to see what can be done in these situations. That they have the power to stand up to someone and state what they will and won't accept. And to tell someone to get out, even if it's family.

It hurt to see him leave. He spent the last 3 hours sitting in the parking lot calling people to come get him. I packed all his stuff and put it out for him.

Whew. The house is ours again. We've have a nice relaxing TV free afternoon. Thanks again everyone for your responses. It's nice to get the community opinion and see that it matches my own.

More Answers



answers from Philadelphia on

You could TRY to talk to him about how you feel, but it probably won't work. If he doesn't respect HIMSELF enough to keep his dream job, he won't respect YOU at all. Right now, his life is just great...he's living with his big sister, doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants, why change anything? He's able to pay you now, but what are you going to do when the credit runs out and he is flat broke? He's counting on you feeling too guilty to kick him out. Maybe if the threat of being homeless is an actuality, he'll shape up. It must be so hard for you, being in this situation. I couldn't even imagine if my brother showed up and wanted to move in, I have a hard enough time with people coming for a short visit and messing up my house and schedule. At least they eventually your case, he will be there as long as you let him. First things first, remove the TV from your home, if he's using your computer make it so you have to log him on with your password at times you see fit. If he insists on acting like a teenager, treat him like one. Eventually his cell phone won't work because he won't be able to pay the bill. When it all comes crashing down on him, the worst thing you could do is start paying his bills...please, please don't fall into that black hole. He's still really young so he can make these mistakes. The last thing you want is your 35yr old unemployed brother crashing on your couch. The most compassionate thing you can do for him is to NOT be his enabler. Show him kindness and concern, help him the best you can, but if he starts taking advantage of your generosity, it's time to kick him out. He needs to find that job and it's totally your right to give him an ultimatum: you have 2 months to find a job or you're out. It's your house, your rules. Don't let him sabotage all your hard work and bring stress to your family. I really, really sympathize with you and I hope you're able to work it out. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

If there is a time you can ever catch him gone out of the house, I would take the TV out and say it's getting fixed. Just an idea.

Otherwise, I would lay down a firm rule about the TV especially around the kids. It's not his house, you make the rules. I would sit down after the kids are asleep and have a good long talk with him about what you expect out of him, since it's you thats helping out a hand.



answers from Denver on

So I take it no man in the house to kick him out. I would give him a deadline to get out and inforce it anyway possible. Call the police if you have too. He is setting a bad example for the kids.
C. B



answers from Denver on

Wow F.. It sounds like you have extended yourself to help your brother but have put yourself and your daughters out on a limb, therefor not respecting yourself or your daughters for this disruption in your lives. Do you need the extra income from him to make ends meet or are you doing him a favor? The way it sounds to me is that you are enabling him to continue this path a while. There are many shelters in the area and with summer coming, living on the streets will not be so rough. Okay, no I am not that cold hearted and understand I have had similar situations. The most loving thing is to kick the baby bird out of the nest and let them fly. They learn from their mistakes and as you probably well know, it is the BEST way to learn! Take it for what it is worth.

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