My son is now 20 years old, still living with us at home and goes to University three days a week. He has never had a job. Since he was a child I have tried to encourage him to do tasks for pocket money but he just wasn't interested and he hasn't changed his attitude since.

At junior school he was one of the brightest in his year and showed such promise with leadership skills. He became quieter at secondary school but still did well with his gcse's. By the time he was at college we started having problems with him, getting phone calls from his tutors saying he wasn't turning in for his lessons.

We managed to get him to stick it out although he lied to us constantly, he even lied to us about getting accepted into Manchester university when he hadn't and let his dad look for accommodation for him knowing that he hadn't been accepted. We were gob smacked when we found out he was lying and he only told us the truth because he found out that he had been accepted into another university which is local.

Last year he was only turning up to uni one day a week as he said he didn't need to go in the other two days as he could do his work at home. I have trouble believing him with this as he has lied to us so many times, but I think as uni is costing him so much in loans and that he is hardly there, that he should get a job alongside uni as otherwise he just sits in his room all day playing games and constantly making a mess in the kitchen.

I cook his meals, wash his clothes and don't charge board. I'm getting so depressed about this because I feel like I'm working so hard to earn money to keep the roof over my family's heads but I get no thanks for it. I feel like I'm the bad guy for bringing it up time and time again that I want my son to contribute and get a job. I'm horrified that my other 18 year old son seems to be showing the same lack of responsibility in regards to getting a job. Though he has applied for many jobs he just thinks he tried and failed, so what? And it's a constant headache trying to get him to try a bit harder and to keep on looking. What can I do?


I cook for him as I cook in large quantities for all our family. It would seem awful for the rest of us to sit around the table eating a nice meal and to tell him that he has to buy and make his own food separately to the rest of us. I wash his clothes as this takes no extra time or effort on my part, and he is expected to bring his laundry down to the utility room and to iron his clothes. He will do, and does do daily chores but only when asked. I can't expect him to take the dog out every day as his duty for example, he has to be asked every day. He doesn't put up a fight or argue, but does the task in whichever way takes the least thought or effort and then goes back to his room.

He is an intelligent boy academically, his teachers used to describe him as being a sponge, soaking up knowledge easily. The problem is in his social skills. He is introverted and likes his own company, dislikes and avoids talking to people if he can help it, and I've tried to encourage him to be more sociable with some improvements but he's very stubborn about it.

This is one of the reasons behind why I'm so worried about him never having had a job yet. When I was young I was also shy and lacked confidence but I'd still managed to find myself several jobs starting when I was 12 and did babysitting. I was motivated to do this as I wanted to earn the money. My son lacks this motivation. When he was at college I stopped giving him money or buying him clothes hoping this would make him desire money and give him the motivation to get a job, but he just made his bit of Xmas money last all year and wore the same old clothes all year.

When he started uni he spent his student loan on a computer, a holiday and the rest covered his travelling fares so there wasn't any left to charge him rent. I was feeling annoyed about the holiday but also thought as he doesn't mix with friends often that the experience might be good for him socially, and I also hoped that having the student loan as a contrast to having no money while he was at college might make him learn to appreciate the difference some money makes, and to give him a desire to earn some for himself.

He has applied for jobs but half heatedly as he is only doing it to appease me and his father, and in the current climate I don't think this is going to land him a job any time soon.

I can't tell you just how relieved I would feel if he just got a job, anything, even just a temp job over Xmas or stacking shelves in a supermarket, just for him to take that first step.

I've tried everything and where I'm going wrong is probably not being tough enough on him. The next thing for me to do is maybe taking away all his games, TV and devices so that his comfort zone is a little less comfortable, and last resort would be to kick him out, which I know I haven't got the heart to do as just the fact that he has made it as far as university is an achievement, (I dropped out of college after one year and ended up in a dead end job working unsociable hours for next to nothing for most of my life so far), so I don't want to do anything that causes him to drop uni, which I'm sure he will if he's pushed too hard as it was difficult enough getting him to complete college.

Instead I think I may have a chat and work out some rent while he's living with us, and then in his next year tell him that I expect him to move into student accommodation unless he has by then managed to find himself a part time job, in which case I'd be more than happy for him to continue living with us. I like him living with us in any case, despite him being messy and unsociable he is still my son and I love him. I just want him to take some responsibility and get a job for his own sake and to ease my worried mind.

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    Can you clarify why you aren't charging him board? Also, presumably, why you're still buying him clothes and funding his leisure activities?
    – Sparr
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 17:07
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    Why are you cooking for him, doing his laundry and not charging him rent? (or at least asking for him to pay his share of the bills and food shopping).
    – A E
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 19:10
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    I'm not a parent - rather, 4 years ago I was in a similar situation to your son. Not showing up for uni, spending hours gaming and being a burden. I don't mean to sound sympathetic towards your son here, because I'm not - ultimately, he needs to sort himself out. However, it sounds like he may have social anxieties or depression, and it may be worth discussing this with him. How is he socially? Is he regularly in touch with friends? Is he comfortable talking to peers about problems, or even to yourselves? How does he feel about his course and future prospects? Is he struggling at uni? ...
    – Kai
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 10:38
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    It's not hugely uncommon for social anxieties of this nature to not manifest until late teens / early adulthood. A lot of social pressures from many angles (academic success, social success, finding a partner, etc) can make you feel like you've missed the boat if any of them start to slip, and can be inflated to feel like bigger problems than they are. Failing to turn up to uni or find a job may be down to lack of confidence in himself, whilst the gaming is pure escapism. Frame getting a job as a way to solve his anxieties, because it really is a fantastic way to do exactly that.
    – Kai
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 11:00
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    @Nicholas: It's pretty widely recognised that part-time work while at university can impact your studies negatively. Oxford recommends no more than 8 hours per week. Edinburgh and LSE set a limit of 15 hours per week. Cambridge discourages part-time work entirely. Whether or not the advantages of having a job outweigh the effect on study depends greatly on the kind of part-time jobs you're able to find, and what you're studying. Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 14:51

22 Answers 22


TL;DR: You are not the bad guy; it's time for him to start building up strength to fly on his own.

This is one of the hardest, most distressing parts of parenting. We want to be wise, just and loving towards our children; we don't want to feel that we're being unloving. Many of us also feel some guilt as well, thinking Where have I failed in teaching my child a good work-ethic? If your husband is involved, you need to provide a united front here. You will need to support each other. A support system of friends, or a group-meeting type of thing might help, too.

It's normal in most societies to expect a 20 year old man to pull his own weight. Many expect a 20 yr old to be out of the house by now (except, perhaps, during summer breaks if attending university). You should have no guilt (i.e. you're not the bad guy) in expecting the same of your son.

This situation didn't happen overnight and it won't go away overnight. The following is one of many possible scenarios (alter as you see fit).

Since your son hasn't had a job yet, he's not likely to get one tomorrow, so he'll need some time. Decide how much longer you can reasonably tolerate his behavior, and set this up as a starting point for your new expectations. Sit down and have a talk with him as soon as possible outlining your new expectations; know he's likely to test them and be ready to hear a lot of blame-shifting. It doesn't matter what anyone else is doing; these are your expectations. Tell him that in n months (say, 3-6), he needs to have a job working at least x number of hours (40 hours - [verifiable hours spent in class X 3]) a week - even if that means two part-time jobs - and he needs to pay you x pounds per month for rent, and pay for half of his food. Set a reasonable (bare bones) clothing allowance, and tell him this will be all the money he gets. In (6-12?) months, his room and board will be (full, decent and fair rent and utilities, all food), and his gas and part of the insurance (whatever) for the car, and no more clothing allowance.

Next, tell him he's old enough to appreciate all you do for him, and that while you will always love him and be his mother, your days of serving him are over starting now. He needs to do his own cleaning up after himself, his laundry, etc. If he doesn't do his dishes, put them aside, and tell him he can use them in whatever condition they're in for his next meal. Offer to teach him how to do laundry and how to cook. Preparing yourself ahead of time for his balking will help when he complains.

Discuss what his options are if he doesn't clean up his act: he can rent a flat with some friends, he can try to see if any of his friends or relatives will take him in, he can panhandle for the money, he can work for you for (minimum?) wage, he can apply for welfare, backpack across Europe, whatever. But mean it. He needs to be pulling all his weight or he needs to be somewhere else.

A necessary part of raising a child is letting him learn to fly on his own. You're giving him 6 - 12 months to get his act together. I think this is fair.

Also, sit down with your 18 year old and tell him there is no law (neither man's nor God's) that states all children must be treated equally, and that you've learned from your mistakes with the eldest. Start setting some limits for him as well.

This will be a hard time for you. Gather strength from the fact that this is a difficult but necessary part of your sons' growing up, and that you're doing this for them, not for your convenience.

The only caveat I would make for this is in the case of documented mental illness. In that case, I would consult my son's therapist(s) and look into options as agreed upon by us and the therapist.

Edited for update: You sound like a really lovely mom, the kind of mom a lot of us would have loved to have had, and it's clear that you love your son very much. This is so important for someone who feels overwhelmed and doesn't have a lot of friends or self confidence. Your continued love is very necessary for his well being.

At the same time, though, it sounds like you don't expect enough from your son and that you make excuses for behaviors which are ultimately bad for him. Just isolating a few lines from your update, you say:

It would seem awful for the rest of us to sit around the table eating a nice meal and to tell him that he has to buy/make his own food separately... I wash his clothes as this takes no extra time or effort on my part... I cant expect him to take the dog out every day... He is an intelligent boy academically...[t]he problem is He is introverted... When I was young I was also shy... I stopped giving him money or buying him clothes, but he just wore the same old clothes all year...when he started uni he spent his student loan on a computer, a holiday and the rest covered his travelling fares so there wasn't any left to charge him rent....he's applied for jobs but half heatedly as he is only doing it to appease [us] and in the current climate I don't think this is going to land him a job any time soon...[H]ow relieved I would feel if he just got a job, anything...just...that first step....maybe taking away his..comfort zone...I don't want to do anything that causes him to drop uni, which I'm sure he will if he's pushed too hard... I like him living with us in any case, despite him being messy and unsociable I just want him to take some responsibility and get a job for his own sake and to ease my worried mind.

If you expect so little from him, why should he believe in himself? Yes, he had to wear the same old clothes. That's called a natural consequence. If that (and the rest) pains you too much, you aren't doing him any favors.

You learned early that to work was to survive. It was hard for you and you gave up a lot. You want your son to have a better life that you had/have. All parents who love their kids want that. But I am pretty confident in saying that if you don't (lovingly, but truly and confidently) expect anything more from him, he will not gain confidence in himself. He will not be able to support a wife or family.

This is your son and his life, and you get to choose what to do, but you are not helping him to become a successful adult, and that's a big part of your job. When will you give him a chance (also known as lighting a fire under his tush) to learn to live without you, to eat, cook, clean, take responsibility, with a uni degree and a job?

You have a lot of thinking to do here. Please, for your son's sake, change your expectations of him. He won't and probably can't do it for himself. And if he drops out of uni, he can always go back. If you think he's depressed or anxious, have him see a therapist, but move forward.

Life isn't black or white, yes or no; it's a thousand paths of grey. Stop expecting him to fail if you push him. He might end up soaring one day.

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    This is a fantastic answer, especially the part about giving him a reasonable time and setting expectations. I would suggest exerting every ounce of control you can over your emotions in this conversation. State these as things that have already been decided for his best interest, and then act the role of the supporting parent who is going to help him achieve these goals. Just kicking him out is setting him up for failure; this answer sets him up for success.
    – Nicholas
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 14:39
  • I also think it's worth stressing "Next, tell him he's old enough to appreciate all you do for him." I think it worth setting up some repurcussions if he ever doesn't say thank you or please, or says it with an attitude (same with other forms of appreciation). You would deserve this even from a pre-teen, and should feel no guild at all refusing to assist a full grown adult who isn't showing and understanding of, and appreciation for, the sacrifices you are making.
    – Nicholas
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 14:41
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    Was it really necessary to bring up the old canard about the man "supporting" his "wife and family"? This is 2014, for Heaven's sake, and this model is obsolete, both in theory and in practice, in virtually all of the developed world. Heck, even in Japan, of all places, a majority now opposes it.
    – user7953
    Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 12:51

I'm a little older, but I can see what's happening to people a few years younger than me and it's depressing.

When I was his age there were jobs for people without experience. It wasn't too hard if you wanted to find some job for pocket money. People a little older than me who grew up in that environment and don't have younger peers don't see it, so, logically they think they just need to kick the person hard enough to motivate them.

Older people often have a hard time understanding just how terrible it is for people in the 16-25 bracket right now. The jobs they would have taken are being filled by older people who laid-off during the bust. McDonalds are being staffed by 40 year olds.

It's still not impossible but when you've got nothing to counter it it doesn't take more than a few dozen PFO replies when you're looking for work to make you start thinking of yourself as defective and unemployable. Trying more might lead to a job but the most likely outcome is just another rejection. Many of his peers are likely in the same situation and humans eventually give up when they're convinced trying more is futile.

Every path visible seems to lead to failure one way or another.

A lot of these suggestions are as likely to just add one more item to his personal list of reasons why he thinks he's worthless and useless and why it's not worth even trying.

Helping him find a job genuinely would help in many many ways but that's a non trivial problem.

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    He won't try if no one expects him to. He won't gain any confidence if he never tries anything and overcomes his fears. I know what a bad job market it is out there, I have four adult kids, two of whom graduated with a degree in art (try earning a living with that!) I wouldn't take away their college experiences, but I'll admit, that degree was my mistake for one of them. He worked at a low paying service job until he went back to school; he's an employed nurse now. It's better for him all around. He now feels like a professional, loves his new paycheck and respects hard work. Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 18:29
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    Absolutely but equally if literally everyone around him is confirming his belief that he's a useless inept sack of scum (including his parents) then the most likely outcome is that he just withdraws more or signs out completely, not that he suddenly transforms into a motivated model worker. It's fine for people to expect him to try but the problem is that half the posters here are in a dream world from 20 years ago where jobs grow on little jobbies and want to just beat him into going out and getting one because they think it's really really easy and the only barrier is trying hard enough.
    – Murphy
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 19:49
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    True, all of that. It's a hard world out there, there's no doubt about that. It's not anything like it was when I graduated; lots of studies show that people who have "made it" think it's because they worked hard, not because they were born in the right place at the right time, so they don't realize how hard it is for others in this bad economy without middle level lobs. Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 20:24
  • @anongoodnurse Another thing to add here is to emphasize the note you added in your post: "The only caveat I would make for this is in the case of documented mental illness. In that case, I would consult my son's therapist(s) and look into options as agreed upon by us and the therapist." Perhaps this needs to be stressed more. There are signs this child might have a mental difficulty, and even if it hasn't been documented yet perhaps now is the time to start looking into it. People with even mild mental difficulties have a lot harder time getting a job than the average person. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 20:44

Speaking from someone who's been on the other side of this coin, I lived with my parents through college (It was a local college, so it just made sense as opposed to me living in the dorms). I had held a part time (<10 hours weekly) job for a bit of spending money, as opposed to receiving it on Christmas or birthday. Slowly through college my parents started adding things they expected me to pay for more things. First I believe was university things (lunch, books, etc, they covered tuition for the first two semesters but after that I had to pay), then my own gas, then car insurance. Finally, when my first car they had bought me bit the dust, they helped me with the down payment, but monthly payments were all on me. It slowly forced me to take on more hours at my job, and eventually find a job that compensated better (Auto mechanic as opposed to McWorker).

The one thing I may caution against is forcing too much responsibility on him. While it doesn't sound like it, if he is a full time student you shouldn't force him to take a full time job. I noticed in my last semester (when I did accept a full time position at the shop), my GPA suffered for it.

  • 1
    Maybe good GPA isn't worth the effort? Experience trumps paper. Take a look at this post: the guy graduated with excellent grades and can't land a job for 5 years, even though he was academically stellar. Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 8:25
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    My brother went through Uni with no job and when he came out was unemployed for a long time before finally landing his first job, which paid pittance as he was taken on under an employment scheme called "New Deal". He is older than me and the job market was arguably "better" for job-seekers then. However, I worked part time during University and whilst my grades did suffer a little, I came out of University and straight into a job doing exactly what my degree was aimed at. I believe this had a lot do with my experience in the working world and the confidence I had built up.
    – LauraJ
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 16:56

[Note: I am not a parent, the below is based on my personal experience working my way through school while jealous of my peers whose parents did not make them get jobs during the semesters or summers, and now watching the experiences of my nieces in a very different world.]

If you haven't taught your son how to cook meals for the family or do laundry, now is the time, before he moves out and has to learn these things without help. Don't frame it as making him do work around the house, frame it as "this is part of your personal education we realize we have neglected." (For example, it is MUCH harder to make ends meet on an entry-level salary if you don't know how to cook tasty (or at least edible) meals from cheap ingredients.)

I know that jobs are much harder to find for young people these days than when their parents were similar ages, but there may be work he can find through his University -- student jobs on campus, unpaid internships in his field of study, work-study arrangements (i.e. interleaving semesters of study with semesters of related work.) It's not necessary that he find a job at all related to his fields of interest -- having had a job, any job at all, will set him apart from his peers when it comes time to look for a "real" job, and having good references from his supervisor or co-workers will help even more. Even volunteer work will get him out of the house, meeting people, and learning practical skills that he can highlight on his resume. The problem is that, in many places, jobs are in such short supply that the effort of looking for them does not seem worth the likely payoff.

If he spent his student loan on a holiday and is now broke, then I'm sure he is aware that a job would help him have a better time (even if it's just money to buy more video games.)

Did you have to co-sign for his student loan? If so, you may want to put conditions on his behavior before co-signing the next installment. (It is also possible that his academic progress may be slow enough that he will find it more difficult to get future loans, although in my country that is rare, as the government guarantees them even at low-quality institutions.)

Demanding rent while he has no ability to pay it may backfire - what will you do if you set an ultimatum and he is unable to comply?

What you may want to do is approach the situation backwards -- what kind of job does your son want to get when he graduates, and what kind of experience does he need to have to make himself attractive to an employer? (If his course of study does not lead naturally to any sort of job then you have another problem on your hands -- these days a university education is far too expensive to undertake just for self-improvement.)

These days a lot of university graduates have trouble finding a job in their field or any job at all, many parents are dealing with "failure to launch", but if your son sits in his room playing video games all day you may have a deeper problem than usual.

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    Excellent point about the resume-building value of a job, especially given the tough job market. Pointing out such additional benefits will help cast any discussion in terms of why this is good for the her son, and hopefully make it feel less like a "I'm throwing you out" conversation for him.
    – Acire
    Commented Nov 1, 2014 at 12:45

It sounds like there are several things at play here. If your son typically doesn't spend any time with friends, it's likely he has social problems and a lack of confidence. Few young adults actually want to spend all their time at home playing video games, and I think it's very likely that he's completely aware of his situation but doesn't know how or doesn't feel he is able to change it. If he lacks the confidence to make friends, he will also lack motivation to find a job, or do just about anything else. Clearly he has academic potential, but without any motivation, that will be slipping as well. He doesn't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

There is a lot of pressure society puts on a 20 year old. He is expected to suddenly know what he wants to have a career in and earn a degree, he needs to find a partner and become successful, and he sees many of his peers achieving all of this, and thinks he missed his chance and doesn't have what it takes. These are not his personal goals, but rather ones that have been thrust upon him and every other young person. He doesn't know what his own goals would be. In addition, he probably knows you're losing your patience with him. I think his lie about Manchester is evidence of this. If he truly didn't care, he wouldn't have even bothered lying. He lied because he knows how you feel and feels bad himself about being a disappointment, and didn't know what else to do.

This is a difficult situation for you because there's very little you can do that will actually change how he feels. You are his mother, so he's naturally not going to fully believe anything you tell him. Charging rent or making him sign a contract is only going to pile on to the guilt and self loathing he's probably already feeling. You can at least ask him to do chores. If he only does specifically what you ask, then specifically ask him "can you walk the dog every day please," or whatever else.

The age of maturity has been pushed back in society, I think. Young people don't become fully realized now until quite a bit later than they used to, so at 20, he still has a good few years before you should really start worrying. He has things to figure out. Be encouraging but try not to be pushy. Make him do chores, but don't sound like you're disappointed in his failures. I also think it would be much easier for him to interact with people if he had room and board at university instead of living at home, but I understand how expensive that can be and if it's not an option for you.


The following presumes there are no real mental issues with your child.

As long as you are enabling this behavior it will continue. Preparing his meals and doing his laundry are NOT doing him any favors. He should be responsible for all of those things. If he chooses not to do his own laundry and instead wear clothes that are dirty, that's his choice.

I have several children ranging from elementary school up to college. The oldest (19) doesn't currently have a job, although he did have one in high school. His job gave him money to see movies, go on dates etc. Upon starting college I made a deal with him. As long as his grade point average is above a 2.5 then I'll continue sending him money for minor living expenses. If it falls below that then he is on his own. Thus far this has been a decent motivator.

At 10, my kids were responsible for their own laundry. At 8 they were responsible for keepin their rooms clean. The consequences at those ages for failure were pretty simple: no play time, no electronics, until the tasks were complete.

If you want your son to get a job, then it's time to cut him off from any type of allowance. He wants to go see a movie? let him pay for it. He wants to go out with friends? he'll pay. In order to help the transition give him a deadline such as, "3 weeks from now, you're paying your own way." Make the deadline fairly soon but reasonable. They key here is that you will have to stick to it. He will test you because at this point he doesn't believe your threats and he won't have a job when that deadline hits... So when he comes to you shortly after asking for money, don't give it to him. He'll likely fight with you until he realizes that this is the new reality and adjusts.

Regarding whether he's actually in college or not, well, he's an adult so you need to treat him as such. The tutors shouldn't be calling you when he fails to appear. All that matters is when the semester results are out that he shows those to you. If they are below the requirements that you set (or even non-existent) then you need to follow through with the consequences.

I'd probably go so far as to have him sign a contract with you on this. Something very clear showing what his responsibilities are, what yours are, and what the consequences will be if he fails. The sad thing is that I suspect that he will fail out of college. So make sure whatever those consequences are that you are willing to follow through.

--- update ---

Based on the update, I do want to clarify a few things. I'm not suggesting that he makes his own food when eating with the family. However, in that case he should take a turn making a meal for everyone a couple times a week. Maybe every Tuesday night he's responsible for cooking, that's just part of being in a community.

Regarding laundry, sure it doesn't take any more time for you to handle it if he brings his clothes down. That's not the point. The point is that he needs to learn to handle it himself. Quite frankly, this will introduce a scheduling conflict as the two of you will have to work out when the laundry machine is available. Another option is that you trade off whose turn it is to do laundry. Maybe every other week is his week.

Regarding having to remind him about chores. I wouldn't do that anymore. If he doesn't do the chores, then he loses access to the games, tv, etc. I'm sure that people would complain if he failed cooking when it was his turn or "forgot" to do laundry when it was his week.

The point is: he needs to be a contributing member of the household. More than that, his contribution needs to grow until he decides it's time to be independent, which is the goal...right?

He's an adult which means you need to start treating him like the rest of the world did. If he had a job and his manager had to constantly remind him of his duties then he would lose the job. Same principle applies here. If you have to constantly remind him to do the chores, then he needs to both lose access to things as well as feel the community pressure of his failure.

Currently he has exactly zero motivation to change. Some minor changes will start to kick in his motivation.

All of that said, I completely understand that you love him and like having him around. Sending my oldest off to college with the knowledge that I'll likely only see him around holidays for the foreseeable future was very very hard. However, by giving him the tools and encouragement (sometimes in a not so friendly way) to expand and run off into the world is the best possible thing for their own growth. Sure, he'll fall down and he may even end up coming home for a short time for help, but at the end of the day my goal is to raise an independent person fully capable of dealing with life.


I was in a similar position as your son not too many years ago. I think what it comes down to is that he needs to move out, more so for his own sake than yours.

Parents may not realize it, but it's very difficult for your children to become independent when they live at home. Everything is done for them and they're treated like children. Moving out at 17 (when I was off to uni) was one of the best things I ever did.

Whenever I visit home or my in-laws, we become "lazy" while we're there. It's a completely different environment, and not a very healthy one in my opinion. For example, there's no desk at my in-laws, the television is always on, we're always expected to socialize, when we try to get work done on our laptops they think we're "playing on our computers". They tell us to go to bed and to wake up, they cook for us, we have to eat supper with them as soon as it's ready, and so on. It's like we're children again with no responsibilities.

I don't think that him getting a job at 20 is what you should be worried about, instead you should be worried about giving him his independence.


I'm probably of the other view that we should never pressure people into things. I remember hearing a story about a young 22 year old who felt pressured by his parents to get a job, Later on his dad found out he took his own life, that's very sad and he blames himself every day as he admits that he may of been part of the problem on putting pressure on his son. (Please I urge you don't go this way with your son, let him finish university) University is not a walk in the park it's hard work. The media does make it sound like a walk in the park these days.

The lad who was 22 was still in education and most 22 year olds are still in education full time, maybe some of them have a job on the side but not everyone. I feel upset when I read about parents who charge their son or daughter to live with them, we were the ones who brought them into the world. It could end turning into resentment and if we do find ourself in that scenario and feel we can't turn to our parents that's very sad. My parents borrow money from me and I borrow from my parents, we are in this one together which makes it good I feel.

I suffer from a mental health condition and have supported others who have suffered a mental health condition who have expressed things in relation to feeling like a failue which also brings on a feeling of being suicidal. We never know what could be happening in someones mind, everything might seem okay on the outside but it might be that it he just wants to talk to his parents without being judged.

Hoping everything is okay with yourself and your son, Please don't put pressure on him.

  • Hi and welcome to the site! Thanks for the good answer and the personal touch, that can be very helpful in dealing with topics like these.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 15:50

Put together s list of what people in the real world pay. Tell him he can either pay that or pay reasonable board. Tell him that if he wants to continue living in your home he will have to either get a job, or do many chores at home.



These two links give some context for the UK but they might be out of date.

But certainly not paying anything and not doing chores is not an option.

Obviously, you'll need to have a plan if he just turns round and says "no" - most parents would find it very hard to evict their own child. But you need to show a bit of spine now. You're not doing him any favours otherwise.

Of course: do check there's no underlying mental health problems. Men are pretty good at hiding these and you don't want to pile on if he's going through a time of illness.

  • 1
    My son will do chores when asked, but this is not really solving the problem. What I want is for him to get a job. He's not argumentative or trouble in any other way other than being lazy and lacking in any motivation to get a job. I thought about asking him to pay board but as he doesn't have a job, he doesn't have earnings to pay it to me. I could ask him to pay me it out of his student loan I suppose. Do you think this would be fair? If I made him pay rent to me from his student loan I still would feel worried that he still hasn't got a job, and still won't make enough effort to get one.
    – Hedgehog
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 20:59
  • At the very least you need to be making him do his own laundry if he's got free accommodation. If he refuses, well, I'm sure he'll soon get tired of dirty underwear. This will be a humbling lesson. I do worry that you've left it several years too late, though. Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 23:11

The entire point of university is that it's an education and a transition to adulthood.

He needs to start picking up bills, chores, responsibility and organisation (calling utility companies etc) in order to learn how to do these things.

Don't tell him to get a job, tell him you're starting to charge board - do it at a reasonable rate, say 60% of the going rate if he had to rent&pay bills. Whether he gets a job is up to him

The important thing is not to make decisions for him, only to put him in a situation where he has to make decisions himself and take responsibility. He might make a mess of it, but that's how we learn. He can decide whether to pay for the rent out of his loan (at the price of having less disposable money) or whether to get a job, lose some time but have the money.

For the record, at 18 I went to uni and essentially became independent, other than holidays at home and the fact that renting from the university is simpler (one bill) than private renting. I consider this one of the most important things in my life in terms of preparing me for adulthood. At 20, it's time your son started taking things on himself, or he'll never learn to until it's too late and he has problems

Life is about compromise and balancing time against money, but by letting him do nothing now, he's not learning to do that and will be in for a real shock when he enters the world and has to budget.

And finally, it's certainly possible to survive off a student loan while paying £450 a month in rent and feeding yourself, the job just gives you more beer money...


But why do you want him to do job if he isnt interested now? Some people may not like to do any job or go to office early in their lives. Example : ME I never worked or tried for a job before completing my Post Graduation. I was a very studious teen and wanted to focus only on studying. So, my parents completely supported my decision and even funded for my education. I was staying with them in their house and they were very supporting of the fact. After I completed my studies, then I joined Teaching profession and worked for two years. Again, I stopped working after my marraige and am a stay at home mom. So, Does that make me Lazy and inactive? If NO, then doesnt the same apply to your son?

ASK him , if he isnt interested in job, what is he planning to do? Does he have some plans regarding his career, future, marraige etc?

Basically, what I am trying to say is, each child is different and unique in their own way and being a parent, its our responsibility to identify their strengths and interest and motivate them in the right direction.

Good Luck.

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    I was a very studious teen and wanted to focus only on studying. This is a major difference. :) We, too, supported our children while they pursued their educations. My parents, on the other hand, did not pay for my college or graduate education, and that was ok with me. The thing here is, the OP wants her son to do more for himself. It's not the OP's obligation to support her son. Also, you have a job: taking care of your children (an enormous job)! He does not. Apples to apples. Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 8:48
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    Yes, completely agree. Its not OP's obligation to support her son. But may be her son is NOT at all interested in doing a job right now. May be his interests lies in something else, which OP needs to find out . ( Just my personal opinion and I did understand what you meant to say and i do agree :) but whats wrong in supporting kid's education)
    – Tiffany
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 9:55

I like @anongoodnurses answer. It goes into good detail, but I kind of skimmed it.

My shorter and blunter answer is, you are enabling him quite a bit. No charging of room and board, cooking his meals, providing for his needs. Hey, if I had that kind of situation, where would be the motivation for me to get out and take responsibility for myself.

It's a tough job being a parent and part of it means knowing when to start with the tough love.

A famous talk radio personality psychologist (Dr. Joy Brown) used to always suggest telling them you will pay for their first months rent in a new place, but it's time for them to get on with living on their own. You give them a full month (or maybe two if you must), help them get somewhat set up and then say, "You have to learn how to fly on your own. Next month and the months after that are on you."

If he's smart, and capable, he will figure it out, and you'll both be happier for it in the end.

Best of luck. If it starts to feel awful to you, hang in there. It's not usually easy, but don't give in.


I was reading some of the (much) earlier posts and something someone said about social anxiety struck a chord with me. This really reminds me of my situation years ago - before I had a clue what social anxiety was and how it affected my life.

Social Anxiety (for me, at least) is an error in the triggering of fight-or-flight response. Normally this kicks in when something terrifying and life threatening happens. In a Social Anxiety sufferer it kicks in at the thought of interacting with people. Imagine your biggest fear, really think about it until it scares you, and then imagine you feel that every time you have to pick up a phone or go and see someone about something. Double it if there's even the slightest change the conversation may lead to any form of conflict/disagreement. It is more than just a lack of confidence, it is blind fear and panic.

This would explain (but not excuse!) why he lied to you about getting in to Manchester Uni. The thought of the possible conflict from letting you down was worse, in the moment, than the lie.

I ended up getting involved with drugs, cannabis at first - which calmed me down for a few years until it started making me paranoid - and then ecstasy/MDMA - which made me able to talk without fear for the whole evening. But eventually I realised I was masking the problem and decided to sort my life out. I've been clean & sober for almost 10 years. I ended up taking an emergency CBT intervention a few years ago after a panic attack in a restaurant on holiday, and that was the best thing I ever did. I was lucky and had a good, understanding counsellor who helped me work through my issues and give me the tools I needed to help myself.

My Social Anxiety will never be totally gone. I still get that twinge of panic when the phone rings or I have an appointment with an authority figure, but now I have the tools to deal with it in a rational and calm way. This has opened up my life to new possibilities I would have shied away from years ago. I now run my own business, have a wife and beautiful daughter and could not be happier.

I know this isn't really answering the question but it may help with what I perceive to be your son's main issues.


He is over two years into adulthood and, unless we are missing information, fully capable of supporting his own basic needs if necessary. Many college students work part (or even full) time to put themselves through school, so your support is not a matter of survival. I think this is important to discuss with your partner. As is the fact that loving someone involves doing what is best for them and not what is most comfortable, so that you can both be on the exact same page. You must present a united front or nothing you do will be successful.

The Conversation: Phase 1

Sit your son down together and present a united front at all times. Explain that you are happy to help him with some of his necessities. Lay out what you are currently willing to pay for and establish a budget. In this phase I would recommend that you have a budget of necessities only (rent, tuition if you want, groceries, maybe basic clothing). Explain that he is welcome to spend any money he earns on his own any way he wants. Be supportive and offer to help him every step of the way in finding a job. Perhaps even consider offering an earnings match up to a point.

During that first phase be explicit about agency. If he is using your money then it will be very limited and you will get to decide how it is spent. If he is using his money then he gets to decide how it is spent (on anything he wants, without any nagging or negative comments from parents...which is something you must be willing to do). This is an important point. We began using this with our pre-teen daughters and it worked very well to help them see money as a positive thing (something that gives agency) instead of a negative thing (something that limits). Your situation is a little different as your son has already established certain associations with money in the latter sense and seems to see it as an entitlement, but I think this could still help to provide a positive counter-point. Everyone wants control over their own life; help him see this as a way to gain something he doesn't have.

I have concentrated heavily on the word 'money' here but mean it as a generalized identifier for wealth in any form. Shelter, food, labor (doing laundry or dishes) are all forms of transferring wealth from you to him.

The Conversation: Phase 2

Now you need to discuss the living arrangements. Explain that you will allow him to continue to live with you for x months (or years). Even if you don't necessarily want him out right now if he changes, he does need to move out eventually. At an upper limit, his 23rd birthday should make a good cutoff, though in the rest of this answer I'm assuming you wish it to be more like 3-6 months. When discussing this try to remove any negative emotion from your tone, and avoid any sort of accusatory wording. Instead concentrate on helping him plan for and build a successful future.

Discuss exact dates with your partner before sitting down with your son. You need to set firm cutoffs. If you want to provide some sort of grace period in case of extreme circumstances, then define that here as well. Otherwise, when he gets an extension it can make the rules feel very flexible.

The Conversation: Phase 3

As a final part of the conversation, explain that the amount of support that you provide to him will decrease by 30% per year (or whatever number you feel is tenable). Explain why you are doing this. He must learn to support himself. You're willing to help by providing assistance as he slowly weans off of your support. Depending on his point of view, and your relationship, you could make a point that any support you give is no longer required of you and is, in fact, a favor. Were my 19 year old to act like any money or support or board I gave them was anything other than a treasured gift, they would not receive it, but every parent/child relationship is different. Whatever your plan is, make sure it is clearly communicated so he has expectations and can plan.

The Response

Your son will be angry. Your son will likely yell and likely storm off. Prepare for this. Do not show anger; maintain a position of love and support, as if you were forcing a baby to swallow a pill they needed but did not want. If he storms off let him cool down a bit, but in your very next interaction pick up the conversation exactly where you left off; do not let him make it go away. Refuse to discuss or do anything else until the conversation is finished, even if it takes days.

If he asks good questions (as opposed to rhetorical ones out of anger) answer them, but immediately return to the topic. Don't get sidetracked into a tangential point. Most importantly, if he refuses to have the conversation go through with the plan exactly as you would have otherwise. The conversation is not to hammer out an agreement, but rather notification to him of what you have already decided to do. He will come back to get that explanation eventually.

Again, never disagree with your partner during this conversation. The moment you show the slightest crack in that united front he will find a way to drive a chisel in there and pry it into a chasm. It's just what kids are good at.

Other Points

Feeling guilty, or like you're failing him, or like your bad parents, or like you're putting him in danger are all normal feelings. They will not be comfortable. But you are doing no favors by teaching him to be financially reliant on you for the rest of his life. Uncomfortable as it is, teaching him self-sufficiency is the only real option.

All children are different. All parents are different. All parent/child relationships are different. How you handle this will have serious repercussions both in his life and in your relationship with him. Don't try to follow any advice given in any answer word for word; take it an modify it to fit your situation.

As a parent I know how easy it is to always see our children as our 'little kids'. But he is an adult now and clearly has not yet learned to act like one in terms of finances. This puts him at a disadvantage, and if he is going to compete and succeed in the world he needs to not just start doing as well as his peers, but going above and beyond so that he can catch up.

The personal and financial responsibility he gains will make this more than worth it, but any job experience also goes onto a resume and will help immensely in a job search. There are a lot of graduates out there, and he wants to get more than entry level wages (or even find a job at all) he'll need to set himself apart. As someone who has conducted interviews and made joint hiring decisions for multiple companies I will tell you that there is nothing more valuable than experience. I will also say that someone who worked to put themselves through college shows the kind of veracity and strength of character I want in my office; the last thing I want is an employee that leans on me for every little thing.


Parenting aside, as a life strategy I would recommend your child completing multiple internships before graduating into the real world. often simply getting a degree is not enough to get a job these days. Also the experience could guide the direction of his future studies. Getting paid is not exactly the issue at this point. It is the experience that is important.


Since you seem to be well off (by British standards) you could do an attic conversion or similar and make a self-contained flat for him. Then he would have to start looking after himself. You could slowly work up to charging the standard rent for your area, expecting him to pay his own bills and so on.

Surely if your kid is not working at uni this will become clear at the next round of exams? My son did exactly this, after telling us all along how well he was doing, bombed out on all exams. He is now at poly. At poly they have attendance lists for lectures, and obligatory coursework. He chose to do this. We said, you can do anything you like, but if you want money from us you have to continue studying, and prove it. He can stop anytime he wants.

After leaving uni so abruptly we stopped giving him money. He did 6 months at McDo, did him a world of good.


I appreciate you posting this. I have younger kids but this situation is definitely a fear of mine as a parent. I don't have the answer but it's obvious you love your son and are proud of him going to uni. Maybe you picked the path of Nurture vs. Nature and figured he would get a job if he needed it, and you don't want to push him away from uni to get a job. It makes sense. I don't think you can make him get a job if he doesn't want to. You can only show him the best/easiest way. He will be motivated when he has the proper motivation and it's not your job to motivate him and push him down his path.


I'm going to come at this from the point of view of a student, and someone who moved from home when he was ready.

I moved from home when I was 20, because I felt the desire to be independent and self-sufficient. That was a result of my personality and preferences. This choice lead to some tough times over the next couple years, but the times I lived on my own were the only times I ever had to be responsible for much of anything, let alone everything. It forced me to learn how to manage what I had, in order to be comfortable. I learned to cook, clean, become handy, pay bills, budget for entertainment. Much of what I learned on my own would have been easier if I'd just been able to YouTube it back then!

Fast forward several years, and I'm an adult, married, non-traditional student at a university. I spent 5 semesters at a community college, during which time my son was born. I've had to have some work during that time, but I've been very privileged to not have to work much, and sometimes not at all. This is ideal.

I believe education is paramount. I want to focus as much as my time on school as I can, and still have enough time for family, and relaxation. Having to work during school adds another layer of stress that isn't necessary. It can certainly provide valuable experience interacting with others, but work is not the only place to learn work-related skills such as being a team member and being a leader.

Education is also incredibly expensive. Having to work while going to school actually makes it more expensive, presuming the student is the one who is going to be paying off the loans in the end. Every bill that you have to pay means increasing the minimum amount of time you can't focus on your education.

If you can financially and emotionally afford to continue housing him while he's in school, and he's making an effort to succeed in school, then I recommend continuing to support him. The key here is that he has to know he's able to take advantage of what being a member of the household offers so long as he is in school.

Trying to give him daily chores, at this point in his life, is a lost cause. If he doesn't have those habits from childhood, he's not likely to get into that mindset as a young adult. Especially since he is an adult now, whatever his level of maturity and independence. How I would see it, and how he may see it, is that the status quo has not changed. He's never had to perform daily chores without request. He's never had to pay rent, or buy his own clothes. He's been in school for as long as he can probably remember. Saying that chores, or rent are necessary because he's reached a certain age feels like an arbitrary condition. It would feel especially arbitrary if, during his upbringing, he was never given any indication that not only would more be expected of him as he reached specific age, but that expectation would be enforced!

If it's the case that the household can't subsist without his income, then I don't believe it's his responsibility to take care of the household. In this case, it would be reasonable to expect him to provide for his own food, and possibly an amount to cover his utility usage and insurance rates. Unless you'd be moving to a smaller, cheaper home were it not for your son, I don't see the reason in charging him rent. (Again, it's arbitrary.) The times I had to pay rent to different family members were very difficult, because I saw exactly what the money that I had earned was going to. It was worse than paying taxes. I don't feel that charging your child rent for space he's always been given for free is an effective way to engender responsibility.

The types of jobs that a never-employed 20 year old could get are unlikely to be edifying or worthwhile in the end. Having a job, just for the sake of having a job, serves no purpose. It may be better on a resume after he graduates, if the job experience is relevant to his field. An internship or work study, even if unpaid, is arguably of more value.

I have had plenty of jobs, most of them crappy, but none of them are relevant for my desired career, and I will leave as many of them off my resume as I can once I start looking for a position in my field. In my experience, employers have usually not been too concerned about my lengths of unemployment when I've been able to honestly tell them I was living with family and did not need to work.

The most valuable thing I learned at any of these jobs, that I couldn't learn elsewhere, was how awful they are. This helps motivate me to get my next degree. Working a job sucks, to be blunt and coarse. I want a career, not a job.

The most reasonable thing to expect from your son, aside from school performance, is that he purchases all of his luxury items. The obvious ones are new video games, movies, books, eating out at restaurants, the junk food/drinks that only he consumes. The less obvious luxuries are clothes, personal toiletries (body spray, deodorant, special shampoo, toothbrushes, anything that only he uses), bedding. Those things are nice to have, and can make social situations easier, but they're still luxuries. If he wants them, he'll have to rack up the debt or find ways to make money. For my siblings, who still live with my father, it was this desire to buy their own luxury items that finally motivated them to seek employment. It had nothing to do with growing up or desiring responsibility.

I would like to add that I don't think you've been a poor parent, or are doing anything wrong in this situation. I know that my written tone can often come across as harsh, when I don't intend to be, so I hope nothing I wrote came off as judgmental. Your living situation is similar to the situations I've experience, but from your son's perspective. The situation is how it is, regardless of how it got there. I empathize with your son, even though I don't agree with his behavior.

Thrusting expectations of labor and currency on your son, when they haven't been required of him this far into his life, will most definitely have an effect on him in regards to responsibility, independence, stress, and education. Everyone will have a different opinion as to what degree and in which direction these things will be affected. My opinion is that it will be a net negative for him, especially in regards to school. Education is the surest way to rise through the ranks of society, and it's what needs to be the most emphasized.

I would continue to support him with school, and try to aim him towards finding activities, groups, clubs, or work, that fulfills him.

If he drops out of school, then I think it's fine to say all bets are off. Then he can learn, like so many of us, the drudgery of minimum wage work, and maybe decide for himself that school really was the better path.


my son is the same, brilliant, plays most musical instruments, but has horrible social anxiety and severe depression.You must push gently or he will feel overwhelmed, most real life responsibilities already overwhelm them much more than someone who is not sick. keep feeding him and taking care of him, encourage him to do chores for money, slowly work into a part time job, very part time like 2 or 3 hours a few days a week, they do need special care, pushing to much can cause them to be suicidal. Good luck, God bless. Get some good help. Most psychiatrist are pill pushers.

  • 2
    Hi, Donna, and welcome to the site. The OP has tried repeatedly to encourage her son to chores and/or get a job to no avail. It's heartbreaking to have a child with a mental illness and appreciate your concern for the OP's son, but at some point, even mentally ill people should work. It provides structure, social interactions, a sense of accomplishment (of something), and spending money. Expecting this of young adults does not usually result in suicide. While a good therapist is worth their weight in gold, so is a good psychiatrist when a disorder is treatable (not all of them are.) Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 5:02

It can be hard to follow and keep up with university's studies and a work at the same time. Stastistics show that students with a job are far more likely to drop or fail than students that do not need to work for a living.

A middle ground would maybe to tell your son to work during the vacations, after the exams and before the next school year. During vacations, he can work a full time, so it can be a substantial financial gain (and in three/four months at full time he can probably gain as much as working the whole year in part time). But in this case, warn him that this money will be used to cover his costs for the WHOLE next year, this is not to be spent for fun and clubbing!


I would suggest catching him when he is in the mood to have a good talk, have the conversation ready at your finger tips so you are not taken by surprise at his readiness to have the conversation. Ask him "what do you think about finding a part-time job?" Leave space for him to mull this over....he might have an answer or he might walk away and come back a month later with a response....or maybe six months later....but at least the conversation has started. Once he finds a job, everything else will start to come together, that is the need to do laundry, the need to cook etc.


My personal experience with my soon to be 20 year old son: I was fed up with him not enrolling in school or work. I gave him the choice of get a job and contribute or get out.

I've taken video games, computer, phones away forever and it still did not work. He is a very social person. That is why I don't blame his unemployment on lack of confidence. He is a smooth talking person.

He chose to move out and is now having problems with his female roommate that is supporting him. Well I offered him the same deal which is no friends allowed, get a job, and pay bills, and go to school.

He said no and wants nothing to do with the family.

Some people learn the hard way. What I think or know is that our teens are on drugs and would rather be bums.

  • 3
    MANNY, welcome to the site! Has anyone already told you that writing in ALL CAPS is the internet equivalent of yelling at your readers? Sorry for the way your relationship to your child has turned out, but don't you think that especially your last sentence is more of a rant than a helpful answer? This site works differently than many other web forums, we expect solutions (or at least suggestions thereof), not "I have the same problem" statements. Why don't you take the tour of how this site works and read a bit in the help center?
    – Stephie
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 10:01

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