Why I'm posting this here: My roommate moved out of his mother's and step dad's home at 17, lived in a social house for a few months, then moved in with me. He has very loose contact with them and I feel like I'm the only person who can have an immediate effect on him.

I (mid 20s male) am living together with a 17yo guy for about 3 months now. He had some (light, I assume) trouble at home and was living in a social house with drunken people. He seemed like a normal, if a bit shy, 17yo and was the most favorable candidate for the open room I had.

Now he is getting from the front door right to his computer and rarely comes out. The rest of the flat barely exists to him, so not making things dirty, let alone cleaning does not enter his mind.

Additionally concepts like, not having the window open in autumn, while also turning on heating seem to be foreign to him.

He even put a pan full of burned pasta into the dish washer, not thinking about, where the pasta would go.

I'm getting tired of having to point out obvious things to him, since I have to address every little thing. Today I found him wrapped in blankets in front of his computer, while having his window open.

What can I do to make a lasting change on his behavior, other than tell him 3 different things, that he is obviously doing wrong every day.

I know I'm not a parent or relative, but I feel like I am forced to do some parenting on their behalf, that's why I hope this question is not too off-topic.


I should also mention, that I'm not a great communicator. I have trouble bringing up problems, that I feel are obvious, because I have the feeling, that if they are obvious, but are not getting done, why should my intervention change anything about that?

I also rather avoid confrontation. The fact, that I did bring up a few of the obvious problems, his response being to change exactly these but no more, or not for long makes me feel powerless even more.

My current plan is to keep a list of things I don't like, take him away from the computer to list them off and tell him, that he needs to work on them and his attitude, otherwise I'll throw him out (which is in my power).

Heating cost aside. I feel like I brought in a pre-teen, not a budding adult.

  • I'm curious about the downvotes. Hopefully not just because I'm not the parent.
    – Minix
    Oct 30 '16 at 17:56
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is not about parenting. A roommate, however well-meaning, does not have a parental role. As an aside, it seems presumptuous to assume that your perspective on your roommate's lifestyle is right, and his is wrong. Yes, opening the window while the heat is on impacts everyone who is paying the bills, but none of the other things you mentioned seem to be reason to lecture him or feel you have some sort of moral highground, let alone evict him. The pasta incident merits a "hey, don't do that", but you're going way overboard, imho.
    – user420
    Oct 30 '16 at 21:22
  • 1
    Sorry, I misread the part about the rest of the flat barely existing as he didn't leave to make messes. Yes, cleaning up after himself should be a requirement. Communal chores should be a requirement, but need to be clearly communicated before you should really expect him to do what you want. None of this involves parenting, though, even your hypothetical cousin situation. Dealing with a messy roommate is not parenting, no matter how you spin it. It's either a friendship relationship, or a landlord relationship. In your case, you can at least choose which takes precedent.
    – user420
    Oct 30 '16 at 23:16
  • 1
    I think a lot of people (myself included) see a need for a SE site that covers this type of stuff. There was a relationships.se at one point, which imho this would have been perfect for, but unfortunately it didn't make it out of private beta :(
    – user420
    Oct 31 '16 at 12:22
  • 1
    Community Building might be the closest, but I don't know if they'd consider your collection of roommates a small enough community (read their FAQ!). Sorry we couldn't be of more help!
    – Acire
    Oct 31 '16 at 13:35

I think you are beginning to see why he had problems with his family.

At this point I think you have three choices, and you need to make a clear decision about which way to go, and a commitment to yourself to follow through with it.

  1. Put up with him.

  2. Chuck him out and find a flatmate you can live with.

  3. Start acting like a parent.

The problem you have is with discipline. Inculcating discipline isn't about punishment, its about setting clear expectations with some kind of sanction if they aren't met. So I suggest you proceed as follows:

  1. Set the ground rules. Keeping the place tidy, vacuuming, washing up etc. It can help to write them down and post them on a board.

  2. Set some kind of sanction. This is a problem given that he is 17 and you are not a parent, but do you control the internet access to the house? If so, cutting off his net access might be effective.

  3. Don't give up. Be consistent. He probably got into these bad habits because of lack of effective parenting at home. 17 is late to start, but you might be able to manage it.

Find a time when you can have a conversation, and use it to make clear statements about how things are going to be. If he responds in a confrontational manner ("Stop nagging me, your not my mum!") then tell him he can either get with the programme or move out. Tell him "Welcome to the real world". "No I'm not your mum. Your mum obviously put up with this, but I'm not, and nobody else is going to."

When you find something wrong (e.g. the burned pasta) then go and tell him to come and sort it out now. If he won't, cut his net access until he does. Be firm, but don't get angry. Just keep repeating what needs to be done. I understand you don't like confrontation, but dealing with such situations is a skill that can be learned. If you practice then it will get easier in time. Think of "dealing with confrontation" as a skill you want to learn, and look at your room-mate as someone to practice on.

It would also be a good idea to teach him basic life skills. If he can't cook, then prepare meals together. Wash up together. Afterwards go down the pub together (tell him yes, he is coming, and you'll buy him a soft drink).


This is definitely a challenge, but there isn't really very much you can do at this point other than encourage him to do activities with you, and show him what chores you need done, by doing them together.

It sounds like what he really needs is professional help, so if you can get him along to see a therapist, that could help him adjust from his current behavioural cycle to something more positive.

  • I talked to him before he moved in about wanting to do stuff together, play video or board games and while he was enthusiastic at first, now he spends all his time in front of his games. The way he ignores everything else in the household also does not make me want to spend time with him either. I don't know about professional help. A sense of cleanliness would be enough for me. I also added some information to my question about me not being confrontational.
    – Minix
    Oct 30 '16 at 16:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.