Topic: My 18 year old is trashing his life and driving me crazy. What do I do?

Happy Valentine’s Day sweet friends,

I hope you’re doing something fun or special today to show someone that you love him or her. It’s so much easier to criticize than encourage, easier to be lazy than work hard at our relationships, easier to be careless with our words than think through something constructively before we say it.

Today friends, commit with me that you will intentionally encourage someone, work hard at your relationships and be mindful with your words. If you can throw in a smile or two in the process that always helps. Life is hard but when you have close and loving connections it makes life bearable and even enjoyable.

Sorry I didn’t post a new blog question last week. I was behind in sending out my newsletter and the blog post went with the content of the newsletter so I left it the same for last week.

But last Friday I was rushing through my day. I was stressed out, trying to get more done than was possible in the limited amount of time I allotted and of course, I was feeling it in my body and my mood. Right then the Lord reminded me again of those five simple words, I am with you always. Why it that we so easily forget what is true? Share with me what you are doing to remember!

Saturday I had a wonderful day speaking at Grace Fellowship EF Church in Milford, New Jersey. We talked about what makes our relationships better and I felt so encouraged by the sweet teachable spirits of the women who attended. Although it was Valentine’s weekend, a recent widow came up to me afterward and said, “I didn’t think I would like this talk. I’m not married and I didn’t know what you would have to say that applied to me. But I see that I am still in many relationships and what you said has everything to do with how I handle my part of those relationships.” I came home happy (love serving Jesus and others) and exhausted. I promptly took a nap.

This Tuesday, I’d appreciate your prayers. I fly out to Grand Rapids to speak at Ada Bible Church on Depression Proofing Your Life. Please pray for me as I have a very early flight and want to have enough energy left at the end of the day to speak well.

I do covet your prayers. Right now I feel a little bit exhausted. I have a heavy speaking/writing schedule for the next few weeks I want to finish it well.

Today’s Question: I am a single mom of an 18 year old son who just dropped out of school. He is ADHD and refuses therapy and ADHD medication since becoming an adult. He is very angry all the time and verbally and physically abusive towards me when I try to talk to him about school. He is not working and becoming very lazy around the house, does no chores and expects me to clean up after him.

I am very tired of this situation and am contemplating putting him out of the home but worry about his welfare if I do this. I am so torn with making the right decision that would be pleasing to God.

I don’t see the situation getting better. He hangs out with friends day and night, coming in and out of the house as he pleases. He also started smoking and not just cigarettes. I’m in dire straits. Help!

Answer: You are in a very difficult situation that has no easy answers. If you continue to allow your son to stay home and be lazy, abusive, and irresponsible toward you and his own life, you are not really helping him grow up and mature even if you are allowing him to receive food and shelter. On the other hand, if you kick him out of the house, you’re afraid he might escalate his poor choices and that could result in more serious consequences like jail time, getting injured, or even killed.

First, let me tell you I have never seen a situation like this turn itself around all by itself. In other words, if your son is allowed to continue to live as he does with no painful consequences, he will continue to live as he does. The painful consequences are falling on you. You feel afraid, you are walking on eggshells in your own home, you’re tired and don’t like being the mother/maid of a grown child.

What might happen next is that he meets a girl who is willing to assume the mother/maid role in his life. She won’t know that’s what she’s agreeing to when she meets him but that’s eventually what will happen. He will move out of your house and live with her. However, if he continues his lazy, abusive, and irresponsible ways, she will probably kick him out and then he’ll be back with you.

So you do need a plan and here is what I suggest. You need to start by having a heart to heart talk about your life with your son. Don’t talk about him, school, etc. You already know that approach doesn’t work.

So here’s what you’re going to try to say or write if he won’t listen.

“I realize that you are not an adult and I have very little say in what you do with your life. But I do have a say about how my life goes and right now I’m not happy with my life. I love you but I’m weary. I cannot afford to keep paying your bills, taking care of your laundry, and cleaning up after your messes. You are a man now and you need to assume those responsibilities and take care of yourself. Today is February 14th. Starting tomorrow, I am not going to clean up after your messes or do your laundry. I expect you to assume those responsibilities as an adult who lives here.

I also expect you to pay your own bills and contribute some room and board to your living expenses. (specify what you want in exact dollar amount). That will mean that you’ll need to get a job. I will give you 30 days to get some kind of job and begin to pay your own bills. If you decide this is unacceptable to you, then you must find someplace else to live.”

And here’s where you throw in a bonus, “Son, my personal opinion is that you need medication to function at your best. If you agree to go back on your medication, I’ll give you an extra 30 days to get on your feet with these things. If not, then you have 30 days to get a job and take care of your responsibilities or you’ll need to find another place to live. I’ll always love you but I do not think it’s my place to take care of you anymore. That is your job.”

What does God think of tough love? Remember biblical love always acts in the best interests of the beloved. What is in your son’s best interest? I think it is to grow up, be responsible, and take care of himself. When we continue to allow our child to be habitually irresponsible and lazy with no consequences, that’s not called biblical love, it’s called fear and co-dependency.

The apostle Paul rebukes laziness and says that if someone won’t work, he shouldn’t eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10). A great book on this whole subject is Setting Boundaries with your Adult Children by Allison Bottke.

If you’ve been in this kind of situation, please share what you’ve done that has helped you stay sane and how you’ve dealt with your anxiety about what your child might do if you stopped enabling him or her?


  1. Warren Baldwin on February 18, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    You write some very interesting articles. Haven't been able to read much right now, but I want to come back and spend more time.

    Have you thought about putting up a follow gadget? I'd follow.

    Family Fountain

  2. Leslei Vernick on February 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Warrn, I think there is a follow gadget in the blog spot but I will investigate and put the information into Monday's' blog. Thanks for the tip. Leslie

  3. Warren Baldwin on February 20, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    God to design (upper right hand on your page) then "add a gadget").

  4. Anita on February 22, 2011 at 5:54 am

    Hi Leslie, I just listened to your Adachurch talk on Depression Proofing Your Life and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm happy to say that I have been following most of your advice, just as a stressed mom (not necessarily depressed, but feeling overwhelmed sometimes)of a 20 yo son who is unemployed right now and living at home. We are trying to figure out if he is depressed or just overwhelmed with life's decisions (no drugs or drinking involved here..he's a 'good kid'). Trying to do the best to help him. It's been a long, slow process, but at least he has agreed to talk to our family doctor (gone twice so far). Long story. One day at a time. Hard to know the right thing to do to help him.

  5. Dorothy on February 6, 2014 at 3:24 am

    My 39 year old daughter, Jennifer and I are going through a stage where she discounts me and makes me feel like I’m “less than”!! She hurts my feelings over things she thinks are insignificant, but to me are monumental, then calls me a “drama queen”, “having a pity party”, “doesn’t have time for acting stupid” etc.

    She and her husband Kyle have two adorable sons, Grant (6) and Gavin (3) that I love so much. Jennifer and I seem to go through this at least a couple of times per year and usually don’t speak to each other for a couple of months each time. I worry about what if something would happen to me or her and then we would have the guilt and regret that we didn’t make things right with each other. I am just tired of her disrespecting me so therefore I pull away and won’t call because I want her to stop doing this to me.

    I divorced her dad when she was around 7 years old, and I wasn’t the Mother of the Year, but I certainly grew my children up in a stable, Christian home. I also have a daughter 41 and son who is 36 and we have a fairly close relationship.

    I pray that God will do a mighty work in Jennifer and my life to bring us to the closeness that we can share other than these difficult times. I know I wear my feelings on my shirt sleeve, but I treat people the way I want to be treated, and when it’s your kids it really hurts more.

    I am very giving and helpful to my kids and friends so when someone acts ungrateful and it becomes all about “them” it really hurts my feelings and I feel used up and like I’m not worthy of being treated nicely.

    Do you have any suggestions to heal this relationship? I appreciate your kindness and all the wonderful work you do to help others find the true and right way.

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