Rules for Adult Children Living at Home Regarding Boyfriend/girlfriend

Updated on March 02, 2017
C.J. asks from Vancouver, WA
19 answers

My daughter is 20 years old living at home and working part time while attending college. I won't let her and her new boyfriend (22 years old) hang out in her bedroom (bedroom is upstairs) because I know what a bad habit that can turn Into. My mom let me and my sisters do this and our boyfriends practically moved in after that comfort level was allowed, and even with the door open things happen, if you know what I mean? I don't want to think about my children having sex in my house even if they are 20! They can save that for when they get their own place, or rent a room! So my husband and I told her she could use the family room downstairs to hang out with him and we'd stay out of their hair as much as possible. He was coming over more than I like, but I haven't said much about that, choose your battles, right? He came over (unexpectedly) a few days ago so I went upstairs to do laundry so they could watch what they wanted on tv. I came down to prep for dinner and they were all laid out on the couch (like it was a bed) with covers over them sleeping. I have a ten year old son at home and on top of that I have only known this guy for two months (they've been seeing each other for five months, but only met him when they got serious). When he left I brought it up to my daughter. I said I don't mind cuddling and reclining, but to full blown lay down with covers at this point I'm not comfortable with. Maybe if I had a bond with him or have known him longer I'd feel different. In my opinion it was just a little disrespectful. Well, my daughter freaked out and said she's thinking about quitting school and getting another job so she can move out and that all of her friends parents let their boyfriends hang out in their rooms and I'm being absolutely ridiculous and she's tired of it. Since the argument she has spent the night at his house twice and won't hang out here at all. I don't have any other strict rules, clean up after yourself, call if you're going to be very late (yes, she parties/drinks with friends) work, take classes.. As far as boyfriend rules go they've pretty much stayed the same. She dated her high school sweet heart up until she was 18. She doesn't contribute anything financially and we pay 70 percent of her schooling!! Should I tell her to move out if she doesn't want to follow rules? I'd hate for her to screw up her future over this. I feel like I pushed her away, but do I just let her control our home? She won't talk to me. It's so hard because she's not a bad kid. Ugh... I think parenting adult kids is more difficult than when they're young!! Why do I feel so bad about this?

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So What Happened?

Thank you for all of your advise and support! We calmly talked and I went over the house rules for as long as she's under our roof. I told her I thought it would be in her best interest to live at home until she finishes college, but if she feels that she can not follow the rules that I would support her decision to move out. I even told her I would help her with a budget and organization. Her reply was that she is going to see about taking classes online so that she can get a full time job and move out. She still thinks the rules are ridiculous in regards to boyfriends being over and not being able to be in her bedroom or sleep on couch under covers (fully laying down). The boyfriend rule seems to be the only rule we can't agree on. She argued this rule when she was dating her high school sweet heart, but since she was young she knew we wouldn't budge. I guess she thinks the rule shouldn't apply now that she is an "adult". I told her that I love her and will help her in any way I can and I'll always be here if she needs me. So I guess my daughter will be moving out. I think this will be good for her. I just don't think she is really ready, but live and learn, right?

More Answers



answers from New York on

I have 3 adult children living in my home. My college sons, 20 and 22 and my niece 28.

We do not entertain guests in the bedrooms. When guests are in the common areas of the house open to guests they are expected to be sitting up not reclined. This is not up for debate. My house, my rules. She is free to make her own rules in her own house or go and hang out at his house where the rules are not the same.

My 28 year old niece does pay rent however the same rules apply to her. So when she wants to be alone and sexy with her beau they either go to his home or a hotel but they certainly do not lay up in my house.

I say stand your ground. Maintain the rules in your house but make certain she knows why there is this kind of standard in your home. I have told my kids and they know from their youth that I could care less about the standard in a home that is not mine. This is they way we do it in my house. Obey or you can't stay. It is not negotiable.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Let her move out. She's 20 and an adult.

So what if other people are letting their kids do it. They don't care if they become grandparents. YOU DO.

Tell her too bad, so sad. MY HOME. MY RULES. Don't like the rules? Move out. You're a legal adult. Make it on your own.

You feel bad because you are allowing her to guilt you into feeling some way you shouldn't. Stand firm mama. You are being played. They wanna play house at your expense. I say no. Don't allow it. Really simple.

When my kids give me the line "all the other kids parents are doing it" - I say that's great for THEM...**I** AM NOT the other parents. I care about what happens to you.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Binghamton on

I lived at home a while before graduate school. I was about 25. I'd have never considered acting like that with my boyfriend. I was hyper sensitive to my parents. I'd tell her if she doesn't like it, fine. Move out and be an adult. You're not asking a lot. Don't let her hold you hostage by threatening to quit school. I've told my kids already they don't want to study for a career, that's going to be their problem. They won't have any money or stability. Outline her financial prospects and then at 20, she should have enough sense. If not, let her learn the hard way. She needs to respect your house and your rules.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Reading on

If she wants to play at being an adult, then she can live like she's an adult - get a job, pay rent, go to school part time, the whole nine yards. If she doesn't want to respect your rules, she doesn't have to live there.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

"Dear Daughter: I will not allow you to emotionally blackmail me into changing the rules of my home by threatening to quit school, move out or change jobs. Those are all life choices that affect YOU, not me, and by making those kinds of empty threats, all you do is show your level of immaturity. I love you very much, but please know that from the day that you were born, it was ALWAYS planned that you move out when you reach adulthood. That is true for all children. When you move out is ultimately up to you, as we have graciously offered to keep our home open to you as long as you follow OUR rules. You see, after you leave, we still need to live our lives here, raise your younger siblings, and have a happy marriage. We will not let your refusal to follow our rules disrupt these things as no matter WHAT, eventually it will be time for you to move out of the nest. While it would be nice if you were able to take advantage of our generous offer to allow you to live here as an adult while going to school, if you simply do not want to follow our rules, we are more than happy to help you pack and even find a new place if you would like that help. If you would like to stay, you will follow the rules of our home . . . Please let us know which you choose - as the choice is yours to make."

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

For me this would be about the impression and precedence she and you are setting for your 10 year old son.

She's not of age to drink, yet you allow her to drink. You are sending her mixed messages.

Clear the air. Sit down with her and tell her your expectations. Set rules and boundaries. If she can't abide by those rules and boundaries? She is welcome to find her own apartment to rent and make her own rules.

I see the response about if she was married. Even if she was married? She should still respect your home and your rules. She's not. I don't go to my parents house with my husband and vagrantly disrespect them. That's not acceptable.

Stand your ground.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

ETA: Sounds like you did the right thing and she will have some decisions to make. Continue to play it cool and let her know that you support her. If she does move out and finds that it's not all it's cracked up to be or she and the boyfriend break up and she can't find a roommate, etc. you don't want her to feel backed into a corner. Give her room for a course correction if she needs to make one to stay on her long-term track. FWIW I disagree with Gamma G on work and school. I worked 50+ hours a week between two part-time jobs and an internship in college, took 5 classes a semester to earn 2 degrees in 4 years and graduated with highest honors. I was exhausted LOL but it was doable and worth it. My son has learning disabilities and ADHD and works 30-40 hours a week and takes 3 classes. So far he's earning A and B grades. There's no time like the college years to test your limits with hard work - this is when people have the most energy and focus. If she wants the degree, she'll figure out how to earn it while supporting herself if she also wants that freedom badly enough.

I agree with you. My oldest is turning 19 this month and graduated from HS last year. He works FT and takes classes at community college. After two years of credits, he'll move away to a bigger school and finish a Bachelor's degree in the field in which he currently works. He doesn't pay rent or for school but covers his own expenses in terms of his car, buying things, clothing, eating out, etc. It's a great arrangement for us in terms of him easing into college (he was a struggling student through high school) and saving me some money. His girlfriend is two years older than him and goes to a college in our town and lives with her parents. They hang out here a lot and I probably see his girlfriend for at least a few minutes most days.

I have the same rules about not hanging out in his room. Often when they're here it's late at night after a long day and they just crash on the couch and watch TV and nap (she goes home at midnight at the latest). While I don't mind if they snuggle on the couch with a throw blanket, if they start to look too comfortable I'll plop myself on the couch with them (a big sectional) and start a conversation or watch what they're watching. It sends the "don't get too comfy you are not in the privacy of your own place" message.

I too have younger kids and don't need to worry about them walking in on something inappropriate. At the end of the day they're welcome to hang out here, but this is still a family home and we're all here too and I expect them to be respectful. I do try to give him the same freedom that my SD, who is the same age and away at school has, but that means that I don't need to know where he is all the time and if he says he's staying at a friend's house, I don't check to make sure he's there, etc. He comes and goes as he pleases, with a reasonable level of courtesy. I figure that not having complete run of the house will motivate him to want to stick to his goals so that he can afford his own place after he graduates and not want to come back here for years and years.

I would stick to your very reasonable rules. Try to stay neutral and not engage and let this become bigger than it needs to. If she has a tantrum and decides to move out, try to be neutral about that too. You don't want to motivate her to quit school and run off with her boyfriend, but your rules are very reasonable and you can't let her manipulate you into just rolling over and letting her pretend your house is an apartment. Hopefully she'll come to her senses. And I agree, it is hard! It's a bit easier when kids this age are out of the house but the financial benefits of not paying thousands a year for room and board for a kid who isn't ready to be away at school are worth the awkwardness, IMO.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

In many cases in the wild - the alpha pair breed and everyone else in the group isn't permitted to.
You and your husband are the alpha female and male in your house.
When your daughter wants to be alpha - she needs to move out and establish her own home where she can do as she pleases.
She should be planning her exit from your home already.
What does she expect will happen when she graduates?
She'll get a job. move out and pay rent for an apartment - possibly with some room mates at first.
I think she needs to focus on her immediate future for the next few years and be prepared.
Whether the boyfriend will be in the picture long term or not is not yet certain.
He could be 'the one' or maybe he's a flash in the pan.
They can play house on their own dime under their own roof.

Slap the want ads and apartments listings down in front of her and she can move out at the end of this school term.
She's playing you - she wants to party like she has no cares and she's enjoying having Mom and Dad fund her lifestyle.

At 20 - she's too old to 'freak out', she's too old for the 'well everybody else is doing it' argument and she has ZERO appreciation for all that you do/pay for her.
She just thinks 'you owe her', she's entitled to it and she's trying to manipulate you into keeping her on her princess throne.
Time for some cold harsh reality to splash her in the face.
It's a wake up call she's going to hate you for for a few years but she needs this for her growing/maturing process.

Parenting at this age IS hard - because now the more you 'help' them - it's really hurting them and keeping them from growing beyond being a dependent child.
Let's see how long the boyfriend lasts when she's running out of money and she asks him to help pay her rent.
Maybe he will and maybe he won't.
She might quit school or never get a degree.
So what?
This isn't on you.
She's making her choices and she's going to have to live with the consequences.
When she moves out - change the locks.
You have one more kid to raise and retirement to save up for.
Get on with that.
You've done all you can for the 20 yr old.
The rest of her growing up has to happen on her own steam.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I agree with Nervy.

You have a daughter who is ready to spread her wings. You cannot undo this.

First I think you need to be united with your husband on this. Where is he in all of this? He needs to be more active.

Second, you need to cool off and detach from the emotions. This is a normal want of a 20 year old.

Third, address her as the adult she wants to be: these are your wants, these are our wants..let's meet in the middle.

Options are: 1) move out
- here is how much it costs (break down all cost of living, including hidden expenses)

2) pay rent contract
-under these rules
-outline what freedoms she has
-consequences of not following rules

3) lives at home
-clearly define expectations
-hear her out
-you and husband be very clear on setting expectations for her that will help her grow, but still respect your boundaries.

Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I allowed my daughter to sleep with her boyfriend in my home when she was 20. But I'm not you. If you're not comfortable with it, then you're not, and your daughter will just have to adjust.

You have every right to set whatever rules you choose in your home, and your daughter should be mature enough at 20 that she doesn't freak out on you and make immature threats. I don't think you should cave into her emotional blackmail of not talking to you. She's way too old for such behavior, and she can certainly survive not sleeping with her boyfriend for a few hours, when she's in your home.

Tell her, okay then, if you must move out, then move out. Moving out on her own, if she does it, will not screw up her future. Don't feel bad mom, stick to your guns, your daughter will grow up in time.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

Great advice here. I just want to ask, was this freak out behavior par for the course in how she communicates when she's angry or frustrated? If so, that needs to be addressed first. She needs to apologise, after receiving a short rebuke about it. I agree that your job is to stay calm through this storm. If it's out of character for her, scold less and listen more.
I have three at home, 22, 17, & 15. My constant goal is to be calmer than they are when communicating with them about house rules and such. It's so easy to get caught up in the various emotions involved. My rules are pretty lax compared to some, but that doesn't mean that I think you should cave. It's your house, your rules, but there might be a compromise. Nervy Girl and Elayne J. have great advice on how to have that conversation.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Please do not escalate this situation by telling her that if she doesn't want to follow your rules, she can move out (as I think some folks suggested). Snap decisions are often made at this age when our children feel challenged. You are the adult. Be the calm one.

I think you need to clearly establish what you want. Perhaps you can list your ideas for yourself. Make sure you are comfortable with what you expect. Then do not second guess yourself. Schedule a conversation with your daughter (as soon as she is speaking again, just wait, it will happen), sit down at the kitchen table, and calmly outline what you expect of her. Do it with love. State your expectations. Do not beg, plea, cajole, explain, bargain or threaten. If she decides to move out, know that you did not make this decision for her. She did.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Edited to add: I've thought about this more, and I do think everyone is right in saying "your house, your rules". Please know that the below answer wasn't given in conflict of that. Just more of a "what do you think?" food for thought.If she is threatening to leave, sit down sometime and just talk about what that is going to look like. What's her plan? Will she be willing to finish the semester so she doesn't lose this term's credits? Try to guide and offer information instead of telling her what to do. This might end up making her realize that A. she isn't ready to really move and can live with your rules or B. she is ready to move and can manage on her own and that you are *okay* with her testing her wings and choosing her own path forward. Either way, it will improve your relationship.


Given this question as well as your last post, I think you have to decide: do you want her to behave like an adult, or like a child? I can see why this is frustrating and confusing for her.

She's twenty. The time for policing her has long gone by. She's old enough to make her own decisions, and you hope that they are good ones, but can you see why this might be frustrating for her? You are allowing her to party and drink with friends, which is a highly risky behavior for a young person, but have you actually spoken with her about birth control, sexual health and how not to contract STIs? Personally, I think being out drinking is far more risky and detrimental to her health than sex is.

Try to see this from a more objective perspective here.... how is it that you want to have control over the sexual part of her morality but not her safety and welfare concerning alcohol?

It sounds like it would be wise to help ease her out into her own living situation. It's easy to perceive this as a power/control issue, and that can negatively affect relationships. I understand your concern, you want to have a house where your son only sees what you are comfortable with. My son is only 10 right now, so I'm not going to say "I would do x, y or z in this situation". But I do hope that I would know, when he's old enough to be going to college or work or what have you, that I had a kid I *trusted* to make good decisions, even if I am not always comfortable with them. I think you feel bad about this because you are realizing she's not your little girl any more, she's an adult. Sometimes it's hard to have adult roommates, period. Do you want to control her or do you want her to have a safety net of a roof over her head?

I have to say, at 16 I was working, at 18, I'd moved out. I didn't have college as an option. I don't sit around and lament about what might have been at this point in my life, but I think I always knew what my goal was, which was to leave the chaos and turmoil of my family home. I made a choice to survive. What is your endgame for your daughter? If she's fortunate enough to have good support, that's great-- but I think she's right in that you are going to have to stop treating her like a child and trust her. Decide if it's more important to you that she finished her education or if she needs to always be setting a great example.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I think that a bigger part of this issue is that your daughter doesn't contribute anything financially, and that her college is basically paid for, and that she apparently has lots of time to lie down and watch tv, and have meals cooked for her by a boyfriend. That's a pretty comfy life, and one that isn't very realistic.

If your daughter had her own place, there would be precious little time for cuddling, tv watching and entertaining. When my ds got his first apartment, he worked two jobs and went to school and only returned to the apartment to throw some clothes in the washer or try to sleep for a short time. Oh, there occasionally was some time for his buddies or a date, but the expenses, apartment upkeep, grocery buying, jobs and school took up most of his time.

It sounds to me as though less emphasis should be placed on your daughter's boyfriend activity, and more on preparing her for the real world. One does not leave college and all that college entails (preparing for a career and financial stability) just so there's time for boyfriends. That's immature and unrealistic.

I notice in your post that you mentioned you were going to prepare dinner and they were lying on the couch. Then you said you went to do laundry so they could watch tv. I would hope HOPE HOPE that while these two able-bodied adults were cuddling and watching tv that you were not doing any of their meal prep or your daughter's laundry. I would hope that not one bite of that food could be consumed by them. I cook for my adult daughter and do her laundry, but she's medically disabled and literally in too much pain to stand and prepare food, and she's at risk for sudden falls, so carrying laundry up the steps to the laundry room is dangerous. And of course, all moms occasionally do things for their kids, like bring them cookies or mail them a care package,or come over and clean when they're sick in bed, but it's not the norm when the kids are competent and grown.

Your daughter sounds woefully unprepared - financially, realistically, and every other way - to live an independent life. She should be working and figuring out how to pay expenses, what it's like to go to school and do her own chores and prepare her own food that she shopped and paid for. Just moving her out and offering to help her with a budget and organization is doing her no favors. How will she pay for this apartment and all the related expenses? Online classes still require tuition and books and a computer. And if she drops out of school altogether, she limits her earning potential and career choices and won't be able to afford the lifestyle she seems to enjoy. She needs to start now by realizing how much the phone costs, what the electric and cable and insurance bills are, what your mortgage costs, and how adults manage these things.

Talk to her about the cost of independence, and the freedoms that come with working hard and having an education. Stop providing food and laundry services and tell anyone who's physically able who's lying on a couch that there's towels to fold and an oven that needs cleaning and a sidewalk to sweep. When they're lying on a couch, unless they both just got back from a complete day of classes and their homework is done and they both got off a shift from work, start piling laundry on top of them that needs folding, and toss a few brooms and mops and shovels on top of them. When they want to watch tv and you actually leave the room to do chores, next time bring the loudest vacuum cleaner you have into the room where the tv is and start vacuuming. Follow them around with an extension cord if need be.

Your daughter, in my opinion, needs a wake up call. Her life sounds unrealistically cushy.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think it is time for your daughter to get her own apartment. Would you be willing to help pay for it? That might sound strange to some, but when I was in college, I lived on campus and so of course my parents paid for my housing. I had a part-time job, and I paid for all my own 'extras' (including books) and as long as I kept my grades up, they covered tuition and housing. Does her college have campus housing where she could do this? Does she have any friends in college who she could find an apartment with to cut down on costs? This sounds like a better option to me than ongoing battles between you and her about house rules. I would hate to see this transition period, which is hard for both of you, ruin your relationship long-term.

ETA: I would like to add that I am NOT suggesting that you frame this as "follow my rules or move out". I'm suggesting that once you are all calm again, you have a conversation about the rules in your house, and how, from your perspective, it seems that she's outgrowing your rules. You can't change the rules because you have a younger child who needs to see those rules enforced consistently, so maybe it's time to talk about other options.

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answers from Boston on

I agree that it's your house, your rules. I think that's particularly true because there is a 10 year old.

There is a question of how you present it to her, though - 20 year olds don't deal with with ultimatums, with all-or-nothing "you're-an-adult-or-you're-a-child" divisions. I do think a calm sit-down would be best.

As others have said, she's still doing juvenile things (basically having a tantrum and the silent treatment). She's also giving him a "help yourself" invitation to the family home, which means you can't hang around in your pajamas because he might just show up and head for the kitchen. So she's showing a lack of manners with a brand new boyfriend. You might use the example that you and your husband don't have any friends who just drop in and help themselves to food or cook for you, and neither does your 10 year old. And she's underage yet drinking/partying with friends, so she's not showing much regard for the law or even, perhaps, her safety (is she driving home, for example?). If she knows that you are "okay" with that, she may feel you accept her as an adult and therefore this newly exciting relationship should be fully accepted by you as well. I realize it's completely unrealistic to think that no one drinks alcohol before the age of 21, just as it's unrealistic to think they never have sex before marriage. But your daughter seems to like being a protected kid in some ways while having adult freedoms in others.

Assuming you have, all along, had sensible and mature conversations with her regarding birth control and sexually transmitted infections, about valuing herself and her body, and about self-esteem, I think you have to let go of what she does with her body.

I think a calm sit-down discussion among you 3 adults (you, her father, and her) with a lot of Military Moms points would be good. She's an adult, legally, in many ways, so she's old enough to understand economics and costs if they are presented to her. I wouldn't do it as an ultimatum, but as a "let's plan for your future" helpful session. It would be great if she had a dollar figure for what you are providing - not to guilt trip her, but to educate her. The emotional blackmail of "I'll quit school and move out" is unacceptable, but if she understood what her employment prospects are without an education and understands what rent/insurance/car/food cost, she can make some more plans.

I think the ground rules for the boyfriend can be based on the 10 year old and not so much on "what makes Mom feel comfortable." I understand that you aren't, but I wouldn't make that the basis of the discussions with your daughter. And yes, get your husband involved here. She must see a united front.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Well I guess I am the one with a different perspective -

Look, these days people are marrying later. You would feel differently if he was her husband? But what if she is still unmarried with a great career and a great boyfriend at age 35?

You need to "define your rules" better. They must close the door? She has to graduate from college first?

I suggest that you recalibrate your thinking for parenting an adult daughter.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

If they're going to have sex, I would rather know that she is on reliable birth control and that they are both disease-free, and have them doing it in the safety and privacy of her bedroom than in the back seat of a Buick parked gods-know-where.

ETA: Gamma, working while going to school is totally doable. I was married, worked , and stayed on the dean's list when I got my first degree.
When I went back for a second degree, I was the single parent of a toddler, worked, and stayed on the dean's list.



answers from Oklahoma City on


Please know that having her move out wasn't my initial response, staying home and behaving is my first choice.

If she goes to work full time she's not going to be able to do her full time job, getting her education. She will have to put her school work second, you get that, right?

Going to college and getting a top notch education is the most important part of her life right now. She needs to focus and spend all her time on her classwork. Even having a part time job is a lot in my opinion, if she's taking at least 12 hours. I took 15/16 sometimes depending on what they were and there is no way I could have worked a job too. My grades would have been C's and D's instead of A's and B's.


I would have a talk with her and explain that you wouldn't lay down like that in the family area with your husband and go to sleep. That what she is allowing isn't acceptable.

I have a friend who had a huge basement with a pool table and juke box and everything to entertain as many teenagers as possible. Guess how many of them were pregnant by age 16...a bunch. So mom and dad started being down there with them.

These were under age kids of course but you shouldn't have to limit yourself to certain areas of your home. She is living in her home, it's not just your home, it's the family's home. It will always be home to her. So she is going to be relaxed and not think sometimes.

From on you need to stay in the area and not allow these things to go on.

They are more than likely having sex anytime they can so you do need to make sure she is up to date on her birth control.

Another thought, if she can qualify for any financial aid or scholarships she could just move into a studio or 1 bedroom apartment. Then she can have him as a roommate or whatever.

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