I have a friend who is a 26 year old single guy who makes a good amount of money, not six figures but a close amount. He bought a 3 bedroom house and has a solid career, and on top of his apps and open source projects he is branching out socially.

But his parents, who gave everything for his private school education, have been underemployed for a few years and financially struggled. He has helped them here and there with money but did it selectively and carefully, as he learned the hard way they can get too dependent on him. But finally his Dad got a fulltime job, making a modest white collar salary again. They're short on cash, but their house valuation nearly doubled.

Coincidentally, his Dad is moving to the same city as his son. The son gave a few thousand to help his cash strapped parents get the house on the market, and the parents promise to pay him back. But while the house gets sold, the son reluctantly agrees to let his parents and younger brother move in temporarily. His only worry is the sellers market is so competitive that his parents may struggle to buy a house. Not to mention, he despises the petty family drama and more than once told his Dad to stop the attitude or find somewhere else to live.

I only post this because I'm close to this guy and can relate to his experiences. Its so backwards to the typical narrative nowadays. Most kids in their 20s live with their parents and rely on them for help, not the other way around. He came to me for advice and I do not know what to say.

What rules and boundaries should be established in this kind of situation? Financially and socially, What can he do to balance his own life and seeking his own family while helping his parents? Is there things he should have done differently to balance expectations more optimally?

  • 4
    Welcome to Parenting! This is an interesting question (and tough situation!) but it's likely to attract a lot of opinions, rather than productive answers. ("You're being a great son!" may be nice for him to hear now, but won't necessarily help him feel better when drama inevitably arises.) Do you think it could be rephrased to perhaps focus on just concrete advice -- appropriate boundaries and house rules to establish so everyone's sanity and dignity stays intact, for example?
    – Acire
    Jun 1, 2015 at 3:07
  • I will see if I can revise slightly to do just that. And yes, he is tired of being told he is a great son. He wants more objective affirmation as he is internally very frustrated right now.
    – tmn
    Jun 1, 2015 at 3:13
  • "Is he a chump or a good guy?" People are not either one thing or another, but a mixture of many things. Framing your question this way will tend to polarize the answers, not give you constructive advice. Please focus on helpful questions that are not divisive. Jun 1, 2015 at 18:59

4 Answers 4


Its so backwards to the typical narrative nowadays.

This is a very one-sided sort of question but is also very specific to the type of culture you were grown up in. When I was a kid, my friend had a three/four generation household. I currently live in a three-generational household where I am the main provider for my household and never ask my parents for rent.

For some cultures, specifically Hispanic and Asian cultures, while it's not norm in this country, it's not uncommon or 'backwards.' My mother takes care of my toddler while I work and most of the household chores while my father, husband, and I work.

My parents give me space when I have friends over and vice verse. This is about the idea of managing expectations. If your friend expected this to be temporary, he should tell his father to leave. If this was never the expectation, it could be seen as both culturally rude and disrespectful for deciding after the fact that the behavior of a man he's known his entire life was just then 'not up to standard.' If he is the only one suffering from disrespect, he is still in his right to tell them to go.

Also, what needs to be decided is if the house is a two household situation or one. Are the parents 'roommates' or are they a familial unit? If the parents are 'roommates', boundaries need to be written down and either formalized in a lease or at the very least a collective agreement of house rules. If the household is a single familial unit, he needs to not be surprised that his parents are treating their child like their child, regardless of age, and be as sensitive to their needs as he expects it of them.

  • 1
    Good answer. One minor note: I believe the OP meant "it's the reverse of the typical narrative nowadays", rather than a value judgment about the arrangement.
    – Acire
    Jun 1, 2015 at 20:39
  • It's possible, but it's still very specific to a given culture. There are even some European cultures where multi-generational households where the eldest generation is Retired or otherwise Semi- or Under-employed. The idea of 'typical narrative' is very subjective and without any details on the OP's friend's household dynamic, there's nothing to assume that Parents supporting 20 year olds with no return is considered socially standard.
    – Amy Codes
    Jun 1, 2015 at 20:44
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    Yeah I meant no judgment on the arrangement. I was just commenting it is unusual as more millennials in America are moving in with their parents, not the other way around. But anyway, I talked to a good friend with a bit more experience and wisdom on these kinds of matters. She pretty much said what you said regarding other cultures and how not abnormal it is. She made a good point that retirement is a new concept, and if families were not so estranged nowadays retirement would hardly be necessary, and the economy probably would be more stable. So I passed that on to my friend.
    – tmn
    Jun 2, 2015 at 2:14
  • @Erica - I agree. I can't be sure but seems the OP was referring to the typical "American kids sponging off their parents while in their 20s" narrative, popular in US culture/media since 2000 and especially 2008. The emphasis being on sponging off of, not merely living together.
    – user3143
    Jun 3, 2015 at 14:19

Most children who are older and have bad feeling towards their parents have it due to malformed boundaries. It's likely that the issues with finance and moving house etc are actually surface symptoms. The real issues are more likely to be around the personal relationship he has with his family, since I know that if I have a close and positive relationship with someone, then I'll do anything for them and it's not a chore.

How much should he help them? It's very difficult to answer questions with a 'should'. Ultimately his parents are his parents and they should not be relying on him, but in balance they are his family. So it really depends on actually whether he can sort out the root personal issues he has with them. If he feels resentful at doing things for them at this time he should actually sort this out before helping them more, or swallow his anger. But that's all very easy for me to say without knowing about the personal relationship he has with them and the history. If they've been consistently unreliable and dependant on him throughout his adult life then that's dysfunctional and really he is parenting them, and needs to take a step back and put some distance in. If this is the only thing historically of this nature then it may be a case of put up or shut up.

  • He said its an accumulation of all their problems that bother him... the dog spills food all over the floor when he eats. They never clean up after themselves because they are so busy and in over their heads. They keep demanding his time to help them move things to storage. Clutter and chaos follow them everywhere, and he worked so hard to distance himself from that only to have it follow him. He's mad that they can't handle their own adult affairs and he now is the go-to person for every problem since he has stability and resources. He feels like he is missing his best years helping family.
    – tmn
    Aug 2, 2015 at 17:11
  • So it sounds like it's a full on role reversal and he really needs to establish some major boundaries like completely getting out. I get he may feel guilty for the private tuition, but ultimately his parents are his parents and unless they gave him that for the express purpose of providing for them once he's finished (which would be really twisted and he needs to just leave if that's the case) then they in reality have no hold on him. He can't be parenting his parents. Aug 3, 2015 at 10:56

I'm the father of three and I would say that it should be the same thing he probably heard a thousand times growing up. "My house, my rules."

He is being kind and generous letting his family stay with him, but that doesn't mean he needs to be a door mat. If they don't want to live under his rules, they can find an apartment to live in until they find a house.


A lot of this is obviously opinion based; although he has done much, he should not forget that without them he would not be here in the first place. They have been there for 3 months, what is that in a life time? Yes, it is inconvenient that he has to help them, and it is hard.

But now that they may have found another place he doesn't want to move them? That does not seem reasonable, if I was in his position I would help them move one more time and help them get settled, and then talk to them in honesty. Tell them that he needs his privacy and his own time. Be nice but be clear.

That is what I would say and do really.

  • Something vague like "privacy" and "my own time" may not be well understood by parents who are used to not having boundaries besides geographic distance. Are there more detailed ideas that the OP's friend could use to make things very clear (e.g. "call before coming over" or "I cannot drive you somewhere without 24 hours notice")?
    – Acire
    Jul 30, 2015 at 14:46

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