My adult son, who is 21, expects me to do everything he wants. He takes no responsibility for his actions, instead always finding a way to put the blame on me and or others.

For example, he brought a dog with him when he moved back in "for a few weeks" (right). Recently I asked him to clean up his pup's poop from our hallway (his pup is house trained but was ignored.) His response: "Can't you do it? You saw it first." Then he followed this by saying he would after he finished his cigarette and game.

I explained to him when he moved back home (completely free) that he had to tend to his dog when he's not at work. Oh, he was fine with it then.

All my son's childhood was a struggle for me. A struggle for respect which I never got (he says I must earn it.) And he says not to piss him off because if I do, be prepared for his rage; he will stop at nothing to bury me.

He will tell lies and make it all about me, and in the end he will move out and all of it will be my fault.

Edited to add:

I will admit I've become a push over, but in the past I was not. I've had him arrested at 16 for shoving me into the wall outside of our house. When caught doing wrong by the police, I was told it wasn't bad enough to arrest (though he was cuffed at the time!)

I have called the cops for him setting fires in my garage; they just told me to beat his a##. I did the whole "if you do this you will lose (example his games)", so he walked in his room, bagged it up, and handed it to me, saying, "You're gonna eventually take them so here."

He's very intelligent and plays the polite role in front of others. The last time I called the cops in June, he immediately called them as well, stating I was suicidal and that he feared for my life. They came and spoke to us and did nothing, so I left the family member's house where we were and the cops asked, "Are you just gonna leave him here?" I said, yes he's 21 and an adult, and you can't force me take him with me.

I know I have to stand up to him but it's exhausting. Also my husband (not his father) finally had enough and put him out for his disrespect and abusive attitude towards me.

I guess I need to be the one to change and stop trying to apologize for things I didn't do even if he believes I did. For example, he blames me for being an "absent parent". I had a normal job, was gone during school hours.

He acts very entitled and dosen't respect boundaries at all. He has treated his ex wife this way as well. It seems to be towards women mostly.

I just want him to grow up and have a happy and healthy life. I'm not here to place all the blame on my son. I'm here to gain knowledge about what I can do to change myself, and hopefully help my son help himself.

A little background information: I was 15 when my son was born he was conceived through non-consensual sex (just once). His father was 21 and not a nice person. He was violent towards me physically, mentally, and emotionally through my 13 to 16. He has not been involved in my son's life since his first year. My son had no knowledge about how he was conceived; I hid that from him because I thought it might hurt him. My son was diagnosed at age 5 with ADHD.

I notice that my safety has been mentioned a lot in comments and need to clarify that he is no longer in my home. My husband had enough; my son left but not before pushing my husband (well trying to anyway.) My son's leaving never goes smoothly; it's always a 2 hour or more event full of verbal attacks, usually all towards me unless someone speaks up for me (then they become part of his attack as well.) I'm afraid one day he won't know when to stop.

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    There seems to be something of a disconnect between the title and the question. The title is eye-catching, to be sure, but the description of your son's behaviour seems more like apathy than hate. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 21:04
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    @WillihamTotland "he says not to piss him off because if I do, be prepared for his rage; he will stop at nothing to bury me." doesn't sound apathetic to me o_O
    – Doktor J
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 1:40
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    Can you clarify your position? Single mother? Besieged father? Your age? Work status? Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 9:30
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    Just a point of clarification. When you've experienced his rage in the past what sorts of behaviors are you seeing? A tantrum out of a preschooler is a headache, a tantrum out of a full grown adult has potential for harm.
    – Myles
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 14:01
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    I have a friend with a son like that. But the friend and son are much older. The friend has sold his house and is moving into a nursing home b/c he is no longer able to take care of himself. The son must leave the house and has nowhere to go. It is very sad. Do not be an enabler. You are not helping him.
    – emory
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 16:55

8 Answers 8


This is a situation in which you cannot change your son's behavior; you need to either adjust your expectations (i.e. change yourself, the only person you really have control over), or let him suffer the consequences of his bad behavior (i.e. ask him to respect his agreement or to leave.)

You have struggled with your son's attitude for a long time. He's an adult now; you shouldn't still have to be struggling with rebellion.

The vast majority of parents love their children dearly, and when they don't turn out to be kind, compassionate, honest and possessing integrity, parents often wonder if they did something wrong; they feel guilty. This guilt can sometimes override their better judgement, and being a compassionate person puts the parent at an even greater risk of being taken advantage of by an immature offspring.

Only you know why you allowed your son to move back in. Maybe that was the right thing to do back then; maybe it wasn't. But it's done. What do you do now?

Your son seems to use blame shifting like a pro. Blame shifting is normal when you're 5 years old, but it isn't in an adult. In fact, when it's done all the time, it's a form of emotional abuse (and I do not use the word abuse lightly.) The problem is that while we all blame-shift sometimes (that's what makes the "Thanks, Obama" meme so funny), if the behavior is not confronted and corrected by the person doing it (in this case, your son), we will never really improve ourselves. Giving your son consequences is an opportunity to improve himself; you can look at it as not only your parental duty, but a gift.

Here are some things you might think about to help you cope with blame-shifting:

  • Refuse to feel guilty.
  • Refuse to become defensive.
  • Refuse to react (don't get angry or feel hurt when he is in the wrong).
  • Refuse to help someone who refuses to help himself.
  • Refuse to live in misery in your own home (recognize you have a right to a certain decree of peace and harmony.)

I would recommend that you pick a quiet time to have a sit-down talk with your son. (If he refuses, reread the above.) During your talk, ask not only about his expectations of you, but about his feelings as well. Tell him about your expectations and feelings as well.

Then, as childish as it might seem, draw up a contract outlining what you believe are reasonable expectations. They might include things like

  • You clean up after your own dog even when I'm free.
  • You never threaten me in any way (no "Watchout, or I'll get mad.")
  • You expect to be treated with courtesy and a normal amount of respect.
  • (Optional) You help me around the house by doing x, y, and z.
  • If you refuse to meet these conditions, you have exactly 30 days to find another place to live.

Have him sign it, and hang it on the refrigerator. If he refuses to sign it, tell him he has exactly 30 days to find someplace else to live.

In the US, you have to give 30 days notice before you can evict someone, so this is a serious affair. Please remember that letting your son mistreat you without accepting responsibility for his actions is not doing him any kind of favor at all, let alone what it does to you.

When you've given him notice, call a lawyer to let him know (lawyers practicing solo in family law are usually quite affordable. The bigger the firm, the greater the cost.) Then stick to your guns if you have to move his stuff out to the curb yourself and change the locks.

Always repeat to yourself that you're doing this for him, too.

It's time to stop the crazy-making. You have my best wishes for achieving a peaceful home and life. You deserve it. Everyone does.

Edited to add:

If your son is no longer in your house, the legalities of putting him out are no longer relevant, so what's left is

I just want him to grow up and have a happy and healthy life. I'm not here to place all the blame on my son. I'm here to gain knowledge about what I can do to change myself, and hopefully help my son help himself.

There is nothing you can do to change others, but you can have a better relationship with your son by learning more about boundaries, how to set realistic ones and how to enforce them. Your son might learn from you how to respect boundaries, and hopefully, if you set good, healthy boundaries, he might learn one aspect of what it takes to establish and maintain healthy relationships. But that's about the extent of any influence you might have in shaping your son unless you want to spring for therapy for him, if he would even agree to it.

There is a lot of turmoil and more than a few issues here; if you are very serious about learning about yourself, why you've become more of a "push-over", and what would be most helpful in self care and caring for others, I would suggest getting into therapy.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Especially relevant since most concerned the legalities of forcing someone out, which has been made obsolete by OP's edit. Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 17:45

I have never posted on this exchange before - but I read this and couldn't help myself.

Let me first say I have no background in parenting other than raising my 2 children. I have read no parenting books nor think I am the best parent in the world.

If I was in your situation I would kick him out. Simple and plain. He is an adult and you are no longer responsive for raising him. Your job is over. When I say kick out I do not mean give him time to find a place, help him with rent, or any of that bull s***. I mean get him out that day. But it sounds like you have a history of letting him walk all over you so you probably won't do that. The reason I say "have a history of getting walked on" is because if he has the gall to speak to you like that - it didn't develop overnight. Also the fact that he speaks to you like that reflects on your parenting...You need to grow a pair and be hard on the little ******.

If he needs help then he needs to learn how to treat those who help him with respect. I bet if he treated anyone else the way he treats you - especially in their respective houses - not one person in their right mind would put up with it. It is your job as a parent to prepare him for the harsh reality of the world - and coddling him will not do that.

Don't worry about him liking you - either he will grow up or he will not. Plus he will always love you despite what you may think.

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    This is plainly correct. The OP should give the kid 24 hours to find other quarters. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 22:13
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    24 hours seems really aggressively short, and also potentially illegal (see another answer -- the adult child may be considered a renter/lodger, and therefore gets a certain minimum notification to find another place to live).
    – Acire
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 22:41
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    That is a question for a lawyer, and unless you are one, don't give advice like that.
    – Acire
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 9:13
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    'Also the fact that he speaks to you like that reflects on your parenting' this is victim-blaming, pure and simple.
    – jwg
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 8:06
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    @jwg - just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. Or, in this case, just because someone is a victim, doesn't necessarily mean they did NOT make bad choices in the past to enable the victimizer or victimhood situation. It's not a question of finding blame, but of finding correct solution - and looking into the history of the issue is important for that. (separately, "victim blaming" typically implies shifting responsibility/fault off the offender, which the comment your found objectionable does not do at all)
    – user3143
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 16:30

he says not to piss him off because if I do, be prepared for his rage; he will stop at nothing to bury me.

That is a threat, and you should call the police to report it.

For your son to respect you, first you have to respect yourself.

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    I was wondering about that, too. I guess it depends on the OP's relationship with the son. But if the OP has even a faint hint of danger from the son, then yes, this should be a call to the police.
    – Robert
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 20:17
  • 1
    @Robert - Well, even if not, I think it would be helpful to respond to what he said. (And I have to say, that the son's specific actions described don't do much to promote a feeling of safety for the parent.) Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 1:54
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    OP's mentioned that the police don't seem particular responsive. Even if they are, what does she do after she calls? If he's not carted away and jailed indefinitely (seems unlikely regardless), what does she do? Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 20:17
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    @chistinagg - I'm getting a little confused, but will try to make some suggestions regarding the parts of your update that I understood. - If your son is living in your house and decides it's time to move out but stage two hours of theatrics, go to the movies. - Try to find a support group. This might actually be even more helpful than therapy, at least in the short term. - If you are concerned for your physical or emotional well-being as a result of contact between you, please get an order of protection as another commenter suggested. - With regard to your local police not responding ... Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 0:44
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    ... appropriately, please (1) call anyway; (2) ask how to get them to take more appropriate action on law.stackexchange.com - Under 30s these days often have a hard time transitioning into responsible adulthood; don't take it personally. Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 1:01

"What can i do?"

Well it depends on what responses from him you're willing to put up with. Are you willing to get in a fight over this? Are you willing to have him be mad at you? Are you willing to have him say unloving things to you and leave? It seems as though you're not:

"he moved back home (completely free)"

"respect....he says I must earn it."

"he says not to piss him off"

"in the end he will move out and all of it will be my fault"

He sounds to me like the one in charge of your house, not you. It's clear that you love him and you don't want to lose him, but he is an adult now, not a child. And your relationship with him is now between two adults, not an adult and a child. He's past the age where you can just make him do what you want.

So it sounds like it's time for you to do two hard things: treat him like an adult and act like one yourself. Your house is your house. You make the rules and you follow through with consequences if those rules aren't followed. This may sound harsh and unloving but this is exactly what your son needs. It's clear he left his previous living situation confidently knowing that your house was available. You're his safety net. He doesn't have to try very hard in life or take responsibility for his actions because he knows that mom will always bail him out.

So stop bailing him out. Lovingly tell him that he's an adult and you expect him to act like one. Adults put responsibility before privilege. Bring up the incident with the dog poop in the hallway and tell him that in the future you expect him to pick up his own mess. If he refuses, then tell him you expect him to find a new place to live within two weeks. If he refuses to budge after two weeks, tell him that you love him and will always do what's best for him, and then say that you will call the police to have him forcefully removed. You might think this is overdoing it, but it's not. It's exactly what he needs.

And after all of this he may still blame you and try to push your buttons to make you feel as bad as possible. But again, he is an adult and that is now his choice, and there are no guarantees here. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is to let them suffer a bit. If you never let him suffer he will never learn.


And he says not to piss him off because if I do, be prepared for his rage; he will stop at nothing to bury me.

This is a serious threat. And he has shown he will not shy away from physical violence:

(...) had him arrested at 16 for shoving me into the wall (...)

You are in an abusive relationship with your son. Get out.

You and your husband need to get your son out of the house and — I'm sorry to say this — preferably arrested. He has gotten physical in the past, he has threatened you now. There is no reason to believe this to be an empty threat.

You and your husband will need to plan how to maximise your safety while doing this, but this needs to be done. You may still love your son but I don't see any evidence he loves you back.

  • 2
    Whilst I generally agree, I think that last line is a bit too far. Abusive relationships tend to form from anxiety based dependency; i.e. the son depends on his mother so much that he feels the need to use threats to keep that dependency and his lifestyle going. It's not uncommon to hear "I just love [the victim] so much" and similar in domestic violence cases. Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 16:54

This seems to me analogous to living with an alcoholic: you go along with their behaviour, and eventually you're living in a situation with someone else's 'rules'.

"... be prepared for his rage; he will stop at nothing to bury me" sounds threatening. I'm not sure what you can do; I recommend you get some counseling (advice) from someone with experience: maybe a lawyer; police; women's shelter; maybe your doctor; people like that. He appears to be claiming that his uncontrolled rage would be your fault: that's unacceptable, IMO.

Another possibility might be (together with your son) a relationship counsellor: who (I imagine) might provide an environment (e.g. in their office) where you can explain your needs and motives, maybe define a plan or agree to some contract, without being threatened.

"He will tell lies and make it all about me" sounds to me like "guilt-tripping" and "gaslighting".

"... all of it will be my fault" is difficult to unpack in this format. Dare I say though that its being your fault might be, seen from another perspective, a good thing: in that maybe you should want to be "responsible", maybe you should do whatever the proper thing is, given the circumstance.

Also you could be advised to prepare a plan, to use in any emergency i.e. if and when you feel unsafe. You might not want to use that plan, but it's better (for everyone) than allowing or rewarding abuse. You might need to prepare a plan in advance because you can't plan well when you're being stressed. An example of a plan is to get out of the house (with or without your keys, ID, money, and phone), and go to a neighbour, friend, hotel, or shelter.

Assuming it's an unhealthy relationship, you should probably keep your other healthy relationships if you have any: work, friends, people with whom you share a hobby, family, professionals, self-help groups. It's typical that people in an abusive relationship become isolated; and it's easier to stay sane, and keep a sense of proportion, and of what's normal, and to set a good example (of having healthy relationships) if you're not isolated.

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    "maybe you should do whatever the proper thing is" +1. The word for the problem is placating, which is not a parent's prerogative.
    – Mazura
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 4:35
  • You are advised to NOT go to counselling with an abusive partner
    – WendyG
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 12:31

The first thing you need to do, is deal with his rage threat. You need to let him know that it is never acceptable to blow up at you and he cannot live with you if he does. If you aren't comfortable having that conversation with him, you should have him move out (a restraining order might be in order if it were really bad). I'm hoping it isn't that bad and he just uses it as a threat to get you to back down. My feeling is if it is used as a tool, he can control it. If he can't control it, you aren't in a good situation and need to have him move out. Once that is taken care of, I'd have a very serious talk with him laying out the situation. I'd say something like this...

You are living here, because I am a loving and generous mother. If you can't respect that, you can't live here. I expect you to help out and carry your weight. If I am asking you to do something, it's something you need to take care of. I shouldn't have to remind you to help out. I will always love you and help you out when I can, but will not allow you to be abusive towards me.

That's the basis, a lot more should go with it, based on your expectations. Do you mind him living with you for an undetermined time or do you expect him to be finding his own place. I wouldn't make a list of things he needs to do, based on his current actions I'd expect him to use it against you, if you want him to do something not on the list. If you want, keep a private list of things you have talked to him about. Consistency is very important, you can't let him chip away at you trying to get you to lower your expectations. I wouldn't expect things to change immediately, but I would come up with some criteria and timeline to evaluate the situation (and write it down). You may want to change it and that may be appropriate. Just make sure to hold onto all of it, as a record of how things are going. If you get to the point you feel it isn't working, you need to have him move out. I hope this helps a little.


For the short term, I'd simply put all agreements in writing, which contain three items each per agreement:

  1. It is "measurable/quantitative" ... e.g. empty all the trash bins (kitchen, bathroom, and den) and not just "take out the trash".

  2. A "by when" ... e.g. empty all the trash bins (kitchen, bathroom, and den) between 5PM and Midnight on each Thursday and not just "take out the trash, now".

  3. A "measurable/quantitative" consequence in the failure to fulfill the commitment ... e.g. empty all the trash bins (kitchen, bathroom, and den) between 5PM and Midnight on each Thursday or you will be assessed a penalty of $25 per calendar day and not just "take out the trash, now, or else!"

In the long-term, I recommend a program called The Landmark Forum, and request he attend with you. If he decides not to initially, you can revisit the topic as you work to complete the curriculum. It's a six-month collection of 4 courses that might transform your life, and that of those around you.

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    Clear boundaries with consequences are an essential part of any relationship.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 21:16

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