22 yr old refuses any topic related to what it takes for him to be on his own. He will ignore, be sarcastic, and do nothing.

Has a job but not enough money to be on his own. He has a car, a phone, health insurance and pays for phone & car insurance. He pays no rent to us.

He has ulcerative colitis and is on meds but still has problems presented by the disease. He refuses to discuss options with us or other relatives. He refuses to acknowledge he might need assistance. He refuses to fill out assistance forms from county.

When he has a problem, won't seek guidance and refuses counselling. This type of resistance has been in place for years.

Edited to add: Thank you for responses. Yes, fear could be a factor. I do go to a recovery group for relational struggles which helps. Today another relative stepped up to spend time with son and whatever they discussed seems to have been useful. One day at a time. I feel guilt for having not taken steps sooner to cause a wake up call.

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    Hello Lynn, and welcome to the site! Could you maybe give us some insight? What are you asking? How to motivate the adult child to prepare himself for life on his own? May 4, 2015 at 21:16
  • Welcome to Parenting.SE. I assume (like Brian) that you're asking for advice on how to help your son through the process of moving out on his own -- can you clarify if that's the case, or if you have additional questions or details?
    – Acire
    May 5, 2015 at 1:56
  • Yes, and thank you for comments; mostly my struggle is with myself & boundaries- knowing how to deal with someone who refuses to respond. I am sure I feel guilty over having not implemented a better plan with greater requirements; so we are where we are, and I am seeing whether near or far, I cannot control or correct- it has to come from him yet I am over concerned for his welfare when I ought to recognize he has the ability to help himself. That said, I am asking late since the move date is May 09, and he has known for months of the likeliness of moving.
    – Lynn
    May 5, 2015 at 22:57
  • @Lynn, is bringing him with you an option? May 6, 2015 at 11:36
  • Our son was welcomed to be part of the move (from the city to the coast) which is less than 2 hours, to which he adamantly refused to even consider because he has friends, job, familiarity, church, etc. We said, "OK," and I have already stated what happened thereafter. As of today, he seems to have some plan in mind and is working g on another. He has become more approachable so we have been keeping open minded towards him, inviting conversation. I still feel insecure but am getting good counsel. It is just hard when I want to know he will be OK, and I don't.
    – Lynn
    May 7, 2015 at 6:36

3 Answers 3


I will hazard a guess and say that perhaps you are asking for suggestions about how to handle this.

When one family member refuses to go to family therapy, the standard advice I've heard is, go by yourself. I think that advice would apply here.

Two little ideas, though -- perhaps you could give him something in writing that lays out the basic options, along with a deadline for a decision. You could included something like this: If you haven't made a choice by May 12, Dad and I will decide for you.

And perhaps you could get him started on his way out of the nest by filling out the forms for him.

  • The forms - yes, I can ask if he needs help then let it be. Thxx
    – Lynn
    May 5, 2015 at 22:58

It seems to be the case that he's refusing to acknowledge anything about his future. This kind of thing can be due to a combination of fear and trauma, since after all, laziness is generally rooted in fear.

Since he'll accept no help at all, it's probably time to give him a wake-up call. Write down all the things he needs to do as well as all the offers of help he's been given and then treat him as a lodger -- no assistance with anything at all and he needs to pay rent, starting with a small sum incrementally increasing to market rates coincident with your moving day. A month or so of that and he should wake up enough to realise that he has to overcome his fear of stepping out. The point is that he's still close to you so can come to you for advice, yet it's no longer comfortable to keep the status quo.

  • Yes, agreed fear is a factor. This information does help. Thank you.
    – Lynn
    May 5, 2015 at 22:59

One of the challenges that you will have to face is accepting that there is going to be pain generated by this separation. Either he is so full of anxiety that he is unable to even deal with the thought of separation, or he is taking advantage, knowing that he can defy you without consequences. Or maybe both. It may be difficult for you to know what is going on without help from a professional. Definitely seek help for yourself (don't count on getting him in at first) and your counselor should help you take the steps that you need to start moving toward a healthy separation from your adult child. It may be that will need to be on anti-anxiety treatments before he is strong enough to stand on his own feet, but it doesn't sound like he will be able to move in that direction without strong motivation from you.

But either way, if he is so openly defiant as your account suggests, it sounds like you may have had trouble in the past in delivering on promised consequences. (Forgive me if I am making bad guesses, it is only a guess and I do not mean this to sound judgmental) Punishment is a word that leaves a bad taste in many parents' minds, as it brings to mind abuse and harm, but properly applied discipline is essential for creating a healthy relationship with a child.

Society has consequences. Children who were not consistently punished for misbehavior can grow up not understanding (or not believing) that there will be consequences when they break the rules.

David Boshton's suggestions about laying out the rules is a good one. To this I will add that you need to set consequences for his not following the rules, and MOST important, you need to prepare yourselves to enforce those consequences. It will be difficult, even painful, for everyone, but it must be done if he is to achieve the independence that he needs.

What are you prepared to do if he refuses to pay rent? You may have to go so far as change the locks and not give him a key. That means if you have left the house and he gets back from work he will have to sit outside in his car waiting for you to get home. He needs to be made to understand that the place you live can no longer be his home, it is your home and he is a house guest. This will be easier once you move and he no longer has memories and a sense of entitlement attached to the house.

We all love our children, and it is painful (sometimes even more for us than for them) when we must make them unhappy. We take away something they want and believe they deserve, and they cry or they rage. I will always remember the look on my best friend's face the first time her child threw a full-on tantrum, screaming "I hate you, I hate you, you're MEAN!" and ran into her room, slamming the door. It stabs us through the heart for so many reasons. But every parent has to go through it.

Most vital of all is understanding what expectations and consequences are appropriate, hence the counseling. Personally, I think a couple of months of counseling should be mandatory for every new parent, and that occasional refreshers are healthy and beneficial. Not only will counseling help you to find the right path in this relationship, it will give you the peace of mind to know that you are doing the right thing.

  • Francine, yes, this third child has kept us busy with his high level of resistance. This last several months we have been working on our responses to this behavior, and as you say, delivering consequences has not been simple. We are where we are, and we have no desire to keep him from growing up, even if we have made mistakes which seem to have helped cause the opposite. I believe in change - mine first - and I have noticed I can't monitor anyone else's. Our son is very resourceful, he has shown he wants limited input, and I am just going to have to accept it while at the same time assuring hi
    – Lynn
    May 7, 2015 at 6:55

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