Jul 022013 121 Responses

Parenting Adult Children Who Make Bad Choices

Parenting adult children differs from parenting small children.

As the father of a 5 year-old and 8 year-old, my job is not easy, but it is simple. I am always involved in their lives.

  • Many times I must prevent bad decisions before they take action.
  • Other times I allow the child to make a bad decision but them make sure they experience the negative consequences of those decisions.
  • On occasion, I have to invent negative consequences to clearly communicate the decision they made was not wise.

Rarely do I have to wonder:

With small children, it is always my business.

This is not true with adult children.

As children grow into adulthood, the role of a parent changes. This leads to one of the great joys of parenting—being the friend of an adult child.

Yet it leads to one of the great frustrations of parenting—having to mind your own business.

When it comes to parenting an adult child, a parent no longer has the authority or responsibility to make decisions for a child, ensure they experience the negative consequences of their bad choices, or to prevent them from making bad choices.

A parent of an adult child does not even have the guaranteed right of giving their opinion without being asked.

As children grow, responsibilities change. Embracing the new responsibilities as a parent of an adult child is vital for the child’s development, the well-being of the parent/child relationship, and the mental health and satisfaction of the parent. (See: What Every Mother-in-Law Should Know)

When a parent fails to understand their new role and continues to parent as they always have:

  • the child may fail to mature
  • the child can be enabled to continue bad behavior
  • the child will often grow resentful of their parent
  • the child’s marriage/relationships will suffer
  • the parent/child relationship will fail to grow as it is should
  • the parent can become too enmeshed with the child
  • the parent can lose their own identity
  • the parent can miss a fulfilling season of life

So what can a parent of an adult child do?

Parents of adult children can:

Model correct behavior. The most powerful tool for any parent is often overlooked. Modeling look behavior is the best thing a parent can do whether their child is 2 years-old or 62 years-old. Nothing is more influential than a good example. Make good choices. Exhibit good behavior. Do the things which you hope your child will do. (See: How Parents Influence Their Children)

Give your opinion when asked. If a healthy relationship has been established with the child and trust is proven, children will often ask their parents for advice. Many parents are never asked, because they rush to give their opinions. In so doing, they miss the chance to influence their children. An opinion given without invitation is often wasted. Wait until they ask and then gently share what you think. (See: Everyone Has a Right to Ignore Your Opinion)

Ensure they aren’t enabling bad behavior. The worst thing a parent can do for an adult child is to enable their bad behavior. By always removing the consequences of their choices or continually bailing them out of trouble, well-intended could be doing great harm to their kids. While a parent never has to add negative consequences to their adult children, they should allow their children to experience the natural outcomes of their choices. Part of being an adult is taking care of yourself. Parents of adult children must allow their children to take care of themselves. (See: A Parent’s Most Effective Tool in Discipline)

Love them. No matter what choice a child makes, they are always your child. Clearly communicate to your child that you will always love them. Work harder to communicate your love than your opinion about a particular issue. Most of the time, a child knows when they have disappointed their parent. What they often question is not your opinion, but your love. Make sure they never have a reason to question whether or not you love them. It is important to make sure love is not confused with enabling. Remember: Love Doesn’t Always Feel Loving.

Parents often fall for the deception that parenting gets easier with time. Rarely is that the case. Parenting is difficult at every age, yet is also rewarding. In each season of life, a parent needs to discover what their responsibilities are and do their best to do what they are supposed to do.



121 Responses to Parenting Adult Children Who Make Bad Choices
  1. Angie Reply

    What if your adult child is addicted to drugs and alcohol?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Angie, This will lead to another blog post, but my first thought is: I would work hard to figure out what the most loving action I could take toward them with a special emphasis on never enabling their activity. Loving without enabling would go a long way.

    • Angela Niskey Reply

      What if your daughter is throwing her life away and changing who she is over a boy?

  2. Jordan Cross Reply

    What about when the father (or step father, in this case) is a non-Christian and feels no moral or spiritual obligation to continue loving an adult child in lieu of their decisions and the mother is a Christian who is claiming that to honor her husband the way the Bible commands, she cannot continue loving her child in lieu of those decisions?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I have a difficult time believing the Bible would call you not to love your children. I would seek a way to honor your husband and love your child.

      • dennyneff Reply

        My dad was a mean drunk. Our home life was very abusive and cause me many challenges. My dad is dead, but my mom stood by and did nothing to stop the abuse and often contributed to it. I love both parents. I didn’t to too good a job reaching out to my dad, but I have reached out to by mom. I call her, I’ve let her know that I have forgiven them both. through maintaining that relationship with my mom, she has accepted Christ as her personal Savior, was baptized about 10 years ago. I tell her that I need to honor her and that I love her. That she is and always be my mother. Our relationship is now wonderful all because God is faithful and His Word is True. Love is the answer and as the Bible says, “God is love…”

        I want to echo what many have expressed, thanks for being my Pastor. I know that it’s God who is at work in all of my life and He’s working it out for His Glory.

    • Matt Pankiw Reply

      You know the answer to this dilemma. Your husband is worthless. Love your children no matter what. Live your life, not theirs. Please revaluate what honor truly means… Because it does not mean follow your husband into his hole of stupid.

      • Cricket Reply

        You sure know all about everything, huh?

        How about when a bio parent coddles a grown kid who is bringing misery to their doorstep and the step parent gets sick of there being no consequences for the actions of someone who is the age of majority?

        I am the partner of a man who claims to love his adult son while having never given the kid solid rules or consequences and now that boy is making really bad decisions, breaking the law on a regular basis, and tracking his drama into my house and causing upheaval in an otherwise peaceful house. Oh, and he has a bio mom, but she kicked him out. Because apparently bio parents are never worthless, it is just the rest of us who want consequences and rules. You know, the kind the rest of the world operates on.

        When you have a lazy kid who wants to do nothing all the time and you put that kid above your partner, you are the worthless one. Make no mistake. Thanks to all the people who made kids (not a miracle, often just a series of bad choices) and then fail at actually raising them to be decent people.

        • Angela E Hogan Reply

          Cricket, you bring up a very important reality. Glad you described it so well and I hope your thoughts are seriously considered. We should try to love our children, but love is not passivity or just feelings, but accountability and showing the adult child that they will honor their relationship with their spouse over that of a misbehaving (to put it very mildly), adult child. Adult children should not be allowed to cause long-term tension in a home but this will continue as long as irresponsibility is rewarded with enabling.

  3. lori-ann drew Reply

    Ok pastor,
    I get it,, but,,what do you do when your daughter is an addict, a mother, and a codependant in a horrible relationship? She then calls you often to cry about how horrible and hopeless her life is. You the parent tries to be supportive in telling her that only she has the power to change it, then you afford her with brochures on meetings, counselors etc. She seems to do well for a short time and you try to praise her better choices and continued success,,,then she takes leaps backwards and the cycle repeats itself. You the parent, then come to terms with enabling and cut them off financial,,,with the exception of providing for your grandchild, you even move 1200 miles away to enjoy your, ” seasoned years.” But your child still calls with fits of anger,rage and despair,,,as a parent you are crushed at the constant derailment. It’s like running a train down a track with no turning capabilities,,,it’s bound to run the same track,,until the conductor fixes the steering. It’s so frustrating!!! I just want to hop on the train, rattle the conductor and scream in her face to fix the damn thing first before the next trip!

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Lori-Ann, those are great questions. I can’t fathom what it must be like as a parent. By no means do I believe their are simple answers and unfortunately, you can do very little to change your child–that is their choice. I think your last line states it well. The one thing I think you can do is to do everything in your power to love your child without being ruled by them. That’s probably a lesson which every parents takes a life time to learn.

    • Angela E Hogan Reply

      I know this is old and wish I could have said it in 2013, though perhaps you are still dealing with this. I would say turn your child over into God’s hands and refuse to worry about them anymore, as you seem to recognize that their cries for help are still simply attempts at manipulation. If they say something that makes you worry about the safety of the grandchildren, do not feel bad making a CPS report. This is the LOVING thing to do, both for the children and bc your own child may not hit “bottom” until everything is taken from them and more serious repercussions of their own actions are experienced.

  4. Deanna Reply

    My soon to be 21 year old son is dating a 16 year old girl. Both are Christians and really good kids. I have no issue with the girl except the age difference. I worries me that he could end up in trouble if she got mad at him for some reason. All she has to say is that he touched her. He would be headed to jail. Our family has shared our worries and concerns with him. He says she is not like that and feels he is doing nothing wrong. I am just so worried. Her mother is encouraging the relationship which makes it even harder to convince him it is not a good idea. How do you handle this?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Deanna, thanks for the question. A few thoughts: I’m not sure how much you can do since your son is 21. You can love and encourage but he is responsible for his own decisions. I do know a few relationships like this which have ended up working. I would do everything you can to assist your son and his girlfriend to make wise choices. Love them and see what happens. If the relationship ends, don’t say I told you so. With any relationship your son might have, always ask, “what can I control and what can I not control?” Focus on what you can control and pray that he will make wise choices.

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  7. Lauren Reply

    This article helped me to be able to sleep. My 23-year old daughter, her boyfriend, and my 7-month old granddaughter are being evicted and will be homeless next week. After being enabled by well-meaning relatives, they have squandered all their resources, including jobs and now their home. My daughters answer is to run to Florida to live with two extremely dysfunctional half-sisters and their collective eight children, many of whom have problems. It is a nightmare I never expected from a series of poor choices on my daughters part, as her father never showed her love or attention. Now he throws money at every situation, and she absorbs it like a sponge. All I can do is release myself from the bondage of the pain. I have nowhere to turn, but Jesus.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Lauren, I’m so sorry for your pain, but it sounds like you are on the right track.

  8. Rebecca Reply

    I have done everything i can for my adult daughter. Her being the baby we let her get away with alot we wouldnt the other two. now its biting us in the butt so to speak. she is constantly making bad choices regarding men, taking care of her two girls and just life in general. If we try to talk to her about the problems screams and cusses and basically tells us to get out of her business. She makes it our business when she is constantly moving back home and moving out, constantly getting evicted and always in some sort of distress. Never a peaceful moment, Im at the point where i dread the phone ringing. She has now left husband number 3 and is back living with us yet still continuing to mess with him. He’s a convicted felon, habitual thief, drug addict but thats the kind of people she has around her children. The kids are acting out due to their circumstances and are totally disrespectful to us as well. I can handle them but Im tired of the disrespect from my adult daughter. Im at my wits end and looking for answers…I know that i have to let go but its easier said than done. She disrespects my home too. If anyone wants to weigh in on this i would appreciate it. Thank you for your time

  9. Cindy F. Reply

    I don’t have all the answers, but want you to know that we are in a similar predicament. I do think that she (also our daughter) should not live with you. My question would be what does one do about the children?

  10. MJ Reply

    I too, am going through the same situation, and it is hell.
    “Adult,” daughter has started to see a 21 year old felon, she is 36 and has a son that is 13.
    They are planning to move in together. Breaks my heart to know she is headed down the wrong road, and taking her son with her. How do you save a child from his own mother?

  11. patricia Reply

    There is a time when parents need to do the hard love hand with their kids even if they are adults.
    To ignore is not to fix but is to neglect ones child and job as a parent.
    To pay debts of your child because of their carelessness as an adult teaches them to do it more as they know you will continue to pay their mistakes.
    To ignore the lies, abuse verbal and physical, the attention seeking and guilt trips, is to prolong the behavior not fix it.
    Always remember if as a parent you do all the above and expect a meraculous positive change is the wrong approach. All this will do is pave the way for the next generation becoming and doing all the above because that is all they will see and learn.
    This will breed resentment, disgust, neglect, and dishonesty within any child that is born into a life of a person whos parents never taught the meaning of hard love.
    To me the meaning of hard love is:
    I will not bail you out, but i will show you the right steps to take to better yourself.
    I will not pay money for your carelessness but i will make sure that you will pay the money with giving you my guidance.
    I will not take your abuse physical or verbal any longer , 
    But i will get the help you need to control your outbursts.
    I will not be made to feel guilty because it makes you feel better for things you may have done,
    But i will get someone with qualifications to help you and you can attention seek with them.
    I will not listen to your lies as a parent i am not a fool, but i will make you accountable for every lie that passed your lips.
    This is hard love, in my eyes if a parent fails to teach this and use it they neglect their duty as a parent to show their children what is right, what is just and what is fair.
    To not do th3 above paves the way for all,
    Addicts, abusers, liars, rapists and murderers because all the above breed hatred, resentment, violence, stealing, lies, and untrustworthyness on all levels.
    I am a parent and i have made mistakes but i have taught my children tough love and i can say that i am proud of who they are, how they live and who they have become because they are decent and good role models for their children and for anyone else that may need help or guidance because of the faults that others have inflicted.

    • Angela E Hogan Reply

      What a wonderful reply–You are RIGHT ON!!

  12. Glory to God Reply

    Pastor my 20 almost 21 year old young adult son got in trouble with the law for dating an underage girl, he tells me, he meant to harm and that he loved her. Also told me, by dating a younger girl, he felt he was still a child and refused to feel like an adult. I had to flight to the state to where he got in trouble. my question to you is: I`ve been by his side for 3 weeks and put everything on hold for him. Do I stay with him? do I go back to my partner and my life back home? should I just stick around until I know what is going to happen? I`m so confused. Please help me.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I’m sorry but I do not know enough about the situation to comment. It might be wise to contact a counselor in order for you to put together a game plan.

  13. Glory to God Reply

    I meant to say He meant No harm.

  14. Hilda Reply

    Thank you for the great article. We have a 23 yr old daughter that asked if she could move home after deciding to leave her SSA lifestyle and partner. We were so excited to see answered prayer. She is home, has a job, pays for her car/ins, cell phone and expenses. She does not pay for rent or groceries. She loves to cook and will sometimes come in with groceries because she wants to cook for the family. Sometimes she will call to ask if we need anything from the store and will pick it up on her way home.
    Our issue is that on average, she spends 3-4 nights of the week out till 3, 4 or 5am. On 2 occasions she stayed out all night. After the first incident we wrote out a list of house rules addressing not only some things we wanted to bring to her attention but also some for our 16 yr old daughter and for myself and my husband in an effort to make the house rules about the whole family. We didn’t want her to feel like we were picking on her. We explained that these were not rules with consequences but more guidelines by which we could show consideration for each other since we all lived together. And we pointed out that our hope was that we would all be respectful of each other by following the house rules.
    Well as I said she stayed out all night a 2nd night after calling us to say she and her friends were having a sleepover at a friend’s house. We explained that we felt it was a bad idea knowing her struggle with SSA to participate in sleepovers and wasn’t that a bit inappropriate for their age anyway? This week she called at 4:30am to say the she had left her car keys in the car of a friend and didn’t have a way home. Not sure if that was really the case or if it was a ploy to stay out all night with another friend. My husband went to pick her up. Our concern is what she may (or may not) be doing at those hours of the night/morning. That she may either be working to cultivate another SSA relationship or maybe already in one and is hiding it.
    The therapist suggested we add consequences to the house rules. But how do we discipline her? We can’t ground her from her car, phone or friends? At least I don’t feel like we can when she pays for her own car and phone. Anyway, short of giving an ultimatum, which I fear would certainly make her run into another SSA relationship if she isn’t doing that already, what sort of consequences would be appropriate?

    Thanks you,

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  16. Carmen R Reply

    I have a 25 year old daughter who has never picked a proper boyfriend. It’s been 8 years of a roller coaster ride with her. Her last boy friend had mental health issues she never picked up on. A few days after she broke up with him he committed suicide. Which he had planned out. I know his suicide is not my daughters fault however I do believe she played with his emotions since that is a pattern of hers over the years. The suicide affected our entire family. We were devastated that this young man would take her life and to know that my daughter could have been on his mind. Was so painful. Days after her last boy friends burial I was told she was talking to a new boy friend. Turns out it’s true and he now lives with her and his two children also spend certain weekends there. This has all become to much to bare. We barely speak she does not want to hear how her choices and decisions have made us all feel as a family. I have come to the conclusion that I really need to forgive my daughter for the past eight years I feel so hurt and just don’t know how to like her and can’t understand why she is like this. I know I need to love her but God has to help me do that. I’m so angry with her.

  17. Heather Reply

    Thank you for your article. I try hard to read every article and take something from it. It’s hard to know that you are a parent of young children, are young yourself, and yet you give advice about parenting adult children….I mean no disrespect, but I feel that you don’t have life experience to back you up. But…I admit…I haven’t read your bio, maybe you are well educated on the subject – and therefore, I read intently with an open mind and heart. Because lets face it…when you get to a point like I have , you will take ANY advice you can get.

    But what about when you raise your children the best you possibly can, you have been a great role model (no drugs/alcohol, home at night to read and have one on one time…you were active in school activities…enrolled them in extracurricular sports…..managed their basketball team and soccer teams….was firm…but fun. Hugged them regularily….told them you loved them….didn’t enable…provided consequences……did everything that you were “supposed” to do……..and ….at 17 yrs old….just before their 18th birthday……..they run away. To their girlfriends home…..where they tell her mom that they are not understood at home….where they say that they are verbally abused and neglected………where they swear that if they can’t stay there, they are going to the streets. And that mom……believes them. And although keeping open communication with us because we are worried out of our minds…..tells us that they are protecting our child from “whatever is going on in that house”………and after 3 months…….when my child is now 18yrs old…..has graduated highschool without us involved……has now smoked weed and drinks and is more consumed with his friends than ever…………now comes home. …. a different person. How do you reconcile that?

    He is now 19 yrs old. He is not allowed to smoke in our house (absolutely no drugs!!!)….but will go to the front porch to smoke cigarettes……..to, what seems, rub it in our face.

    He is a different person. He has attempted suicide 3 times. He is depressed. I won’t turn him away….he needs me. I love him to pieces…..and I think he loves me….and I think he knows that I love him……but how do you get him to change his ways ….without interfering?

    I believe he is home because he does know the error of his ways…..and I believe deep down he WANTS to change………but he is so head strong and so determined …..that I fear that he is is own worst enemy.

    It seems like everything changed in one weekend. I’m told to just provide him with a good role model……..I’ve done that………I’m told don’t enable him……….I don’t do that………….I feel like I do everything that I am supposed to do……..and all I want is proof that the person that we raised is in there somewhere. What do you do when the innocence is lost….and you start to feel resentment?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Sadly, you can’t make the decisions for him. One thought–when you start to feel resentment for the good you have done, it can be a sign of codependency. Maybe read Co-Dependent No More just to see if that describes you or not.

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  19. Lisa Reply

    My 21 year old daughter is married and her husband just asked her for a divorce. I just found out that she admitted that she recently cheated on him. I am beyond disappointed with her actions…i am pissed of at her actions. Her bio-dad cheated on me…her uncle (her dad’s brother) cheated…her grandfather (her dad’s dad) cheated….I know how much it caused pain for her and all of those involved…..I don’t have the right words right now for her…

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I’m sorry Lisa. Maybe during this time you focus on supporting her and not giving her your opinion. Chances are, she knows your thoughts.

  20. Lisa Reply

    This is the approach I have taken. I am abiding by the “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all” rule. I don’t want my anger to spew out…

  21. Anna Irvin Reply

    I have a thirty six yrs. old daughter and a twenty six yrs. old son. My daughter has her master’s degrees. Psychology.But choices to take care of her was boyfriend /now husband they’ve been together 11yrs.Out of the 11yrs he may be worked 3yrs. off &on. Hasn’t worked now in about the last 3yrs. She takes care of him like a baby, buying him everything, now they have a baby SON 9 mos. old, now she’s taking care of both of them. My son went to school for culinary arts school.Didn’t like that field of work so he does waiter work, he decided to move to California to be homeless, first living on the streets, now he lives in his car. He says this is his dream to make it in California, he’s had some bad things happen to him health wise but still refuses to come home. I’ve helped him out with money a few times. I’m worried about his health mental & physical, my hair is white as snow. My Son does continue to work, but remains living in his car.

  22. Jacquelyn Reply

    My son now 19 managed to get himself kicked out of a service academy at the end of his first year.
    His attitude has been negative there since day one. His behavior is concerning because he had a choice to leave in good terms. My husband and I told him after the first year it is his decision to stay or go. So why would he sabotage himself and continually disrespect the rules and restrictions given to them by his superiors?
    He will be coming home soon and I have other children at home to care for. I am starting to write up new house rules that I have to enforce. I am fearful of the negativity that will be entering my home when he arrives. He now smokes cigarettes which I highly loathe and has Been disrespectful to me and his father. Does not foster a relationship with his siblings. And acts like he does not care about anything. However I know he does, I know he feels like a failure. But prole that di not know him do not see it. He shows bad character. Why would he continue to break the rules once he was caught?
    I am not sure how to handle this and the effects it will have on my family.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      It sounds like you are on the right track–make clear house rules and be stern with them. Anyone who doesn’t live by them, doesn’t live in the house.

  23. x Reply

    There is no such thing as an “adult child.” If they are legal age, you unfortunately have no say in their decisions, nor should you. If they are an adult, stop treating them like a child, and let them screw up and make their own mistakes. (And accept that just because they don’t do things the way you do, doesn’t mean they are doing them wrong.) Stop enabling them, and push them out of the nest….”adult children” are made by parents who can’t let go.

  24. Patty Reply

    So glad I found this website! My 22 year old son, the youngest of five has suffered from depression and anxiety, along with panic disorder. Before he moved out last year, he was hospitalized 3 times for threatening suicide, arrested once for battery (picked a fight with a stranger in a restaurant), started selling marijuana (which his dad and I had put to a stop by telling him he’d have to move out and return his cell phone and car we pay for) and on and on. He moved out last summer to share an apartment with some friends, got a lifeguarding job, and enrolled in college. He started going to the gym to help him manage his anger issues and regularly took his anti-anxiety meds. He’d call regularly and during visits, he looked great and sounded great. But 8 weeks ago he visited me to let me know that he had fallen for a girl – but she was a recovering heroin addict and felon who is still on probation. In 2 short months, our son has lost 20 pounds, stopped going to the gym, dropping out of college, stopped seeing friends, etc. because he’s spending days and nights shuttling this girl to methodone clinics and N.A. groups and taking care of her. He tells me he feels like he’s “helping her”. Last weekend she relapsed and our son completely fell apart (hysterical crying, angry out-burtsts, beat up the guy who gave her the drugs,etc.). Thank God the girl’s mom shipped her off to a 90 day rehab far away. In the meantime, he seems determined to wait for her. His former girlfriend of 3 years was a stunning lady (think Kardasian), super-smart and ambitious. This one has been in and out of jail since she was 16 (she’s 21), an addict since she was 14, and pierced, tattooed, purple hair – you get the picture. So my question is, how do I support our son? What do I say when he calls? I am dying a little inside with grief over the choices he’s making.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Not sure what you can do other than love him as he makes his own decisions. It might come to a point where you have made your opinion about the relationship known to where you just no longer talk about it. Maybe just focus on your relationship with him. I wish I had more.

  25. vicki Reply

    Hi Kevin. My 26 yr old son continued to use drugs while on probation and now has been caught. (3rd time) he is looking at possible jail/prison time. Money for a good attorney is the only hope for him when it comes to doing the time. possibly 5 years without an attorney or 1 year with one. He is trying to come up with the money himself. He has a 4 yr old daughter and the thought of being gone that long is devastating. my question is, if he falls short of coming up with the money, do I help him?

  26. Caz Reply

    I’m sorry Kevin. You can’t possibly understand what it’s like to have adult children. Knowing the theory is one thing, feeling the emotional pain of actually living through it is quite another.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I don’t doubt it Caz. I wouldn’t claim to know what it’s like.

  27. Magyar Lany Reply

    My 27 year old son collected money for community work he intended to do the work I think but has not actully done it very disorganized person.Spent money on his ow n needs. I support him and wife and child mostly financially tho she is studying to be a teacher. I feel he decieved relatives but is this my business? Several hundred dollars.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Might be something that you never take part of something like this until he proves he has changed?

  28. LB Reply

    I am 21, almost 22 and have adult child tendencies. I grew up basically raising myself with the great influence of my nana and uncle. My birth mother was and still is, a very sick alcoholic. Most of my childhood memories with her include violence and neglect. I took care of her majority of the time and had to grow up early. It has always been me looking out for me and my mom, not the other way around.

    I am a great person. I love hard, I care a lot and I am very self sufficient. I don’t drink at all really, and have not ever touched drugs. I have evolved a lot from my situation and am proud to not be the statistic stating I too will suffer the same fate of my birth mother. I simply won’t allow it. However, a strange chain of events took place in my life at age 20. I became extremely close with a dance teacher of mine and she began to take on the role of a mother to me.

    Well, circumstances happened soon after to where it was necessary for me to live with her. She has two daughters that are relatively young (one is now an early teen) so motherhood wasn’t exactly unfamiliar territory for her. Throughout our relationship and my time living with her, she began parenting me almost as if I was a teenager. And I let her. In fact, I welcomed it with open arms and loved every second of it even though most of the time it meant me not getting to do something that I wanted. Despite my age and being a legal adult, I welcomed the structure and guidance that was being forced upon me. I even acted out on purpose at times just to see what she would do because the reality of having someone give firm consequences for something I had done was new to me. I had heard tales of being told “no” by my friends but never had I encountered it myself. I’d always done what I wanted without anyone telling me otherwise whether it was good or not.

    It is hard for me to accept that I am getting older. I don’t want this woman who I’ve grown to call mom to stop parenting me because I still feel like there is so much that is necessary for me to learn and experience that I didn’t get to before. I am a stubborn individual that at times need force behind words. And to be honest, I crave the structure.

    I know I cannot dwell or change the past. I know this but it is still hard for me to accept that I cannot get time back. I feel like I got the mom I always wanted and needed too late. She is saying now; “You’re almost 22, I can’t keep parenting you like you’re a teenager because you’re not. That is not how the world views you and if I continue to treat you like that then I would be doing you a huge disservice.” It just hurts. It hurts because through the structure, through the consequences I felt truly loved. I felt put first and cared for. I felt….safe.

    I know it sounds crazy and maybe it is. An adult wanting to be treated and guided like a teen, not because she is not self sufficient…(oh contrair)…but because she still craves the nurturing and structure that she missed out on. It literally is an ache in my heart. Because I am not a teen, because I didn’t meet this woman sooner, because my birth mom is an alcoholic. It just isn’t fair and time can be so cruel. I am grateful for the time I have had having a mom to parent me and show me what I missed out on…but I am sorry if I admit that I am not ready to let it go yet. I got a taste of the childhood I missed out on that I’ve always wanted….who would want to let that go?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I would speak to a counselor about these issues and have them help you figure out how to have the structure and love you desire.

  29. Bethany Reply

    I can share, from my own experiences with my young adult son, that rushing to rescue an adult child from poor choices is extremely unwise; it generally leads to more poor choices and further requests for assistance. While I love my son, I truly dislike his behavior and his lifestyle. He is a complete stranger to me. Always “the victim,” he fails to connect the dots between his actions and their negative consequences. Currently he is unemployed due to a stint in jail followed by a serious injury – resulting from more poor choices – facing surgery with an extensive recovery time. He believes it’s our responsibility to take him in and care for him through his ordeal. It will be a struggle, but I believe it’s best for my husband and I not to assist him. Just typing those words makes me feel heartless. Please comment.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I think you are right. Not to help is probably the most loving thing to do at this point.

  30. Liza Reply

    I have 3 adult children , which only my two sons have contact with me until of late….My daughter cut me out of her life 9 years ago and I have no contact with her what so ever ,it took a long time for me to get over that but I learned to respect her decision and stay away…..I was a single mother in which their father had no contact with them( his choice) . I wasn’t the greatest mother , I had issues and my children suffered from my bad decisions . I did not do drugs and I wasn’t an alcoholic . I looked for a partner in life in all the wrong places …and they turned out to be all disastrous , we moved a lot . I did not abuse them nor did I tolerate anyone abusing my children . I did discipline them and in some ways was strict , we were poor but did the best I could with what I had.I began to go to church and the Lord changed me which changed my life. I left a bad marriage and began to repair some of the damage I had caused ,by asking for forgiveness and rebuilding relationships with my son’s .For the last 10 to 11 years I thought we were all good and everything was going well, My youngest son is 28 and after my husband and I have done everything we could to help him in all areas of life has decided that his bad decision and bad choices that he has made in the last year is now all my fault , and has now cut me out of his life. We have paid bills for him and his family ,we have moved him three different times because they had no other help,we have supplemented his income at times just to help out. I have been at their house for at least a week after each of the births of his three children.Every Wednesday I would keep his children to help out his wife and babysit as much as they needed me to ,now they are not allowed to speak to me. I have gone to their house just to help her clean because she was overwhelmed had numerous dinners and lunches together with me doing cleanup after all of it . So that it would not cause her to have more put on her plate .Just on and on but now he will not speak to me or talk anything out.So what should I do ?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I would make sure you’ve done everything on your end to repair the relationship and then pray that one day they will do the same.

  31. Jill Reply

    Kevin, my adult
    Military son, who is 19, got a tattoo against my wishes and I was able to move past it. But now he has gotten another one and I am so angry!!!! I can’t even be around him. I don’t know how I’m ever going to past this! This is so against everything I have taught him and I feel completely disrespected and irrelevant.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Why can’t you be around him? It’s his choice. I understand you wish he wouldn’t make that choice, but it is his to make. Respect him for that and love him well.

  32. Janine mowat Reply

    So my first search into this bought me to you….
    I have a 19 years girl. She pushes everything I have and the sadness and frustration I have are huge. She hit 13 and things went south. We have moments of closeness… but her choices are frankly unbelievably. We have tried to guide her to making good choices but it doesn’t sink in and she flip flops on things so much I get whiplash. She is 3rd year in a hairdressing apprentiship and is looking at throwing it away to go to university whichbsge just won’t do or like… which means debt… and her boyfriend of 2 years doesn’t help. He doesn’t work.. never will as he’s not motivated to… we just can’t stand him. He has isolated her to the point she has no girlfriends. Last week… she wanted to have 4 babies to him starting next year… she’s still at home by the way… this week it’s university so she can work for dept of conservation… I just don’t know how to deal with her. I don’t want to see her make huge mistakes where she’ll pay for them for years… I just can’t cope and don’t know what to do….
    I don’t want to see her fall… because babies are forever… and debt is a huge issue in this day and age. She won’t talk. She ‘loves’ the loser… help… just help

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      At 19 there isn’t much you can do. However, if she wants to make the decisions for her own life, she should start experiencing all the responsibilities/consequences for those decisions.

  33. Millie Dobie Reply

    Hi Kevin. My just 20yr old daughter has been making terrible decsions since her GCSEs. She started smoking and thinks she has a book to write which will change the world….shes moved in with a 33 yr old man and hes not working so they are broke…They live in a slum and she just beleives that her faith will make everything ok….do you have any ideas for further help or reading for me Im really at the end of my tether here…she is incredibly bright but refuses to live in the real world..

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I would read about co-dependency. Your challenge at this point is transitioning from where you have authority over your daughter to where she gets to make her own decisions. As long as she is making poor decisions, it will be a struggle for you to allow her to do so.

  34. Karen Reply

    I have a situation that is really hard. My boyfriend has three children . He is divorced and his ex wife kept his kids away from him. It broke his heart and in the 10 years I’ve been with him he has always wanted to get to know his children more especially the youngest. Well his youngest is now 18. He has burned his bridges where he lives now with his mother. He smokes a lot of weed and he got kicked out of school, still don’t know why. He has asked his dad if he could live with us. Mind u my boyfriend doesn’t work full time he works when he can get jobs he’s a handyman. I pay the bills and basically support us. I told my boyfriend that I do not want to raise an adult child. He has no education and no job. I explained to him it’s hard enough to pay everything myself that I can’t afford to take care of someone else. I explained to him that I understand the need to get to know ur son and that he had my blessing to live with his son at his dads house. I explained that if he was a young boy and had no where to go that would be a different story but that’s not the case. They both feel he needs to get out of there and have a new start here. I told him ok but I’m not going to support ur son. He doesn’t get it and feels I’m being unfair. He wants me to talk to his son and tell him why I don’t want him to move in. I told my boyfriend that was not my job and that he needed to explain to his son. How do I make him understand am I wrong for not letting him move in?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I think the two of you need to go to a counselor to get help with this situation so you can make sure you are loving the son well and not enabling him.

  35. Distraught Reply

    Parenting advice please. My husbands 25 year old daughter had two babies less than a year apart with a drug addict. After two years, the baby daddy is out of the picture. The daughter has always lived with her mother and has full custody of the two kids. She started dating again (and sneaking out at night until 5 in the morning) in April and is on boyfriend #3 and pregnant by boyfriend #2 who supposedly has mental problems. The family is devastated, embarrassed, and ashamed. They say, “How can you discipline a 25 yr old?” Her dad (my husband) is so depressed over this. What should they do (I try to stay out of it)? Her mother is angry at her, but then takes up for her. My husband’s mother is ashamed to show her face in the community and church. It’s constant drama with this girl. She is constantly finding some health issue with the kids and calling in the middle of the night that she’s taking one to Urgent Care or ER and needs a babysitter for the other. etc etc Please help us. We are all praying but it’s just always something…some drama.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I would find a good counselor and go, you and your husband. If the mom will come that would be great as well. The family has to learn how to best handle the situation.

      • Distraught Reply

        thank you
        All I can do is suggest. I can foresee the answers from all being, No.

  36. estelie corniffe Reply

    my son is 24 years old he droped out of high school made a mess of his life due to not listening in the pass and making wrong choices and following friends now he realizes this what should I do should I help him I don’t mind helping him he has no one to turn to and the other family member really don’t care I now live in another state Massachusetts

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      My first thought–I would love and listen, but not offer any monetary help. You help him by allowing him to figure it out on his own all while you cheerlead for him.

  37. Concerned Momma Reply

    Advice please, my daughter just turned 19 and was accepted into a Christian college a little over 5 hours away. She has always been a very strong Christian young lady with goals. During her high school years she held down a job (her choice) kept a 3.8 GPA and was very active in our church. During the summer she volunteered at Camp Dream and as the school athletic trainers assistant. All of these things led her major in nursing in college. She has contacted us like a normal teenager would with an occasional text or phone call since August and we have been happy for her up until about 3weeks ago. The texts became less frequent and the phone calls ceased. We told ourselves that as she made more friends communication would back off some. She had also mentioned in a couple of her texted that a young man had asked her out. She said he was a Christian and they went to church together. She had also put a couple of photos on her FB in dress clothes. When the first FB picture was posted I asked where it was taken and was told his parents house. We thought it was early to meet his family but she said they also went to the church there and he was from a town about an hour from the college. Last Sunday I texted her with an “I love you”. Her response was a line of emojis. Usually it would have been an “I love you” in return. I replied ok? And still received no response for sometime. While at lunch she sent a text that said Will had replied not her. I was not happy that he had her phone AND that he was replying to my text. Sunday night my extended family got together fo celebrate October birthdays. We have been holding this tradition since before she was born. Since she was away we FaceTime her to sing to her. She answered, we sang and when we were finished I asked where she was. She said she was at his house. Visiting his family and studying for a test. We hung up but I was concerned. He is a senior, lives an hour from campus and she needed to drive back on unfamiliar roads. She wears glasses and does not see as well at night. I asked her to call me when she got back to her room. She did and we talked for a little while and i assured her that we were not angry just concerned because we had not heard her voice and then the odd response to my text earlier in the day. She then tells me she is struggling in school and she thinks is doing poorly in chemistry. In high school she had a 99 and loved it. I told her I would come up thw next weekend, her actual birthday, and spend the weekend with her. The next day we talk for a few minutes and it’s more of the same and added into she is taling of changing her major. (Giving up a dream she has had for the last 4 years) this continues all week. I went up Saturday with her sister and aunt. She was in good spirits. He had to work so we shopped all day. On Sunday we drove to the church. I’m told after sitting down, don’t get into a conversation with his dad they don’t get along and we never know what he might say. After hutch we drove to his house to pick the clothes his mom had washed for him. Over lunch the young man tells different stories about antics he has gotten into trouble for on campus as his mom smiles at him. He chews tobacco. The boy was very controlling of my daughter all during the day as we visited. He was extremely touchy-feely. He even has my daughter giving him multiple wake up calls in the mornings. I know this seems like a long email and I apologize. I have not even touched all of the things I observed this weekend. She has lost her ambition and he seems to have none. She seems like someone else entirely. If she doea not keep her grades up she will loose her scholarship. ANY advice would be greatly appreciated. I have been in prayer and have asked for prayers from my family.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      At 19, you can only help her if she wants help. I’m not sure what else you can do other than to be there for her as she makes her own decisions. You can voice your concern, but after that it’s up to her.

  38. Beyond Worry Mom Reply

    Greetings Mr. Kevin. My question to you is, “what do you do when you feel that your adult children are not mentally ready or responsible enough to move out and live on their own?”.
    My reason? My daughter is 23 years old. She recently graduated from college and went out to celebrate with some classmates. Let me tell you, I have never been so petrified for her safety as I was that night. Long story short, my little girl got herself in such a stupor that she forgot her address and ended up in a strangers home. The person whose home she was in directed me to the house. After seeing my baby in that condition, my enthusiasm for her independency was shot. I told her how irresponsible that was and that she is not ready. I said that I didn’t even want to see her with a 5 hour drink. Certain issues were raised during our talk and I’m in the process of finding her a counselor/psychologist. But I am truly afraid and I don’t think she is ready to live on her own. Your opinion, as a man, a father, will be appreciated.

  39. April Williamson Reply

    My husband and I have been married one year. I don’t have my own children, so I don’t want anyone to think I am a professional mom or dad. The one thing that I can share and maybe help someone is the fact that I was one of these “adult children”. I made a career out of it from 13-till about 20 years old. I am 42 now. The choices we make as children and adults offer valuable lessons. The harder we fall,less likely we will make that choice again. My husband has a 20 year old daughter who he continues to bail out. Being a step mom (which is weird as heck), I don’t have any right to parent her,nor do I want to. We have had many conversations and I feel like I can be a friend to her if she wants it. She is lovable and I want her to be happy. My husband thinks that he has to fix every problem she has. When her and her boyfriend fight, they both call on my husband to fix them. Recently lost her job for calling in sick too many times, my husband thinks he has to give her money until she gets another job. As a former punk ass brat myself….let me advise you, giving your adult children money or bailing them out of jail, paying court costs, parking tickets, whatever the case is, DOES NOT HELP. You are actually robbing them of a life experience and a chance to learn.You are stunting their growth.I have an excellent relationship with my mother now. It has taken 20 years. Just remember parents are not perfect, they make mistakes. It is ok to make mistakes with your children. Fight the guilt, because chances are your kids know you feel guilty and will use that to their advantage. I did.

    • TL Reply

      Thank you April, bless you. I desperately needed this today.

  40. Janice Reply

    My question is this: When do I get to be angry? When do I get to say that I’m tired of this carousel and roller coaster ride? My adult alcoholic daughter is living with a man who is abusive to her. She has two autistic children that I do not believe he has abused yet, but I am afraid it will happen. She gets mad at him and it seems that there are always outstanding warrants against him, so he gets thrown in jail and she is very smug and calls me bragging about how she has finally gotten him out of her life, and then as soon as he gets out she takes him back in. Then, I get long texts from her saying that she knows she is an idiot and after all the guy bought new tires for her car and he is human and deserves her respect, blah blah. I have done the “loving mom” thing and tried very hard to listen and be understanding, but I’m so over it! I want to get mad and tell her she is putting this man above her children! It happened again today and all I could do was cry until my tears were all gone. So when do I get to be angry and tell her how I really feel? Why is she the only one who gets to express her feelings to me? I do have a supportive husband who is holding his tongue as well because all of the books and literature say we have to be “understanding”. My husband is 65 and I am 62 and we are tired of her crap.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I think you have every right to be angry. Look up the book “Co-Dependent No More,” it might be helpful.

  41. Angela Reply

    My oldest son is 22 with a 3 year old daughter and a girlfriend for the past 5 years. Her mother dropped her off at my house and I also raised her too for three years I was there for them when she got pregnant. They all lived with me till the baby was almost two at that time I made him move out and start on his own I helped them as much as I could. But they resented me for making them move I felt it was the best to let them grow up and move own as there own family. Since then I have tried and tried to make an effort to see them and the baby and I keep getting shot down. My son periodically text me to tell me how bad of a mother I am and cussed me with really bad language to the point of I don’t want to speak to him. Then his girlfriend after all these years texted me the other day and blames me for the way my son is today saying that I’m the reason he doesn’t have respect for anyone and has no morals. My son was a wonderful kid honestly until he met her and then he just became vicious. I love them all regardless of what they say or do. I just don’t know which way to turn anymore. His dad and I are divorced after 17 years and I am remarried and my son hates my new husband since they moved out my son is so disrespectful and none of them have god in there life if they did they would surely be better. Any suggestions

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I don’t have much. Seems like you have to allow them to live as they wish and pray they will return. Welcome conversation but refuse it if they aren’t respectful.

  42. Amy Reply

    Our 28 yr old daughter has been married for 4 years to a son-in-law we love and respect. Two years ago she decided to go to law school. Everyone was very supportive, including her husband. They had to move to a very expensive city. We offered money to help with rent. She did not work the first year. This really caused her a lot of anxiety. She did not like being dependent on someone. She became very argumentative. Two months ago, she asked him to leave so he could have space. He slept on people’s floors and Now is back with his parents. He is devastated. Now she wants a divorce. Initially, I offered the advice that all marriages hit rough spots, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Now, I am keeping my opinions to myself. She is very confusing. She talks very warmly about her husband, but she does not want to see him. Her sister saw her texting an old boyfriend and is furious. She feels like the marriage was a sham, and she doesn’t understand how her sister could be so unappreciative of her husband. She thinks we should stop giving her rent money. Her younger brother is also very angry. The husband is like a big brother to him. He feels betrayed. I can accept we just need to let everything play out. MY issue is with the siblings white hot anger. Do I encourage them to love their sister and let her live her life? Or is dealing with their anger part of owning her decisions?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Amy, my first thought is since they are adults you allow them to work through their own relationships. Their siblings’ anger is something each will have to deal with and work through.

  43. Maria Wright Reply

    What do you do if your child is choosing to move away to another city (approx 100 miles away) but you know it is completely the wrong decision? You also know that thsi child will be moving in with a partner, unmarried at that, and living in sin, as you would put it. They ar very intent and stubborn on this idea. Shall you just continue to love them?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Assuming they are old enough to be on their own, yes, you watch as they go. You hope and pray.

  44. None needed Reply

    Father of 5(two sons & 3 step daughters)keeps supporting youngest son who is addicted to Meth. The son has a good job and is always broke bc of his choices. The son has been bailed out by the Father Time after time. Now the father is going to hand the son 60000 to put down on the deceased Father/grandfathers place.
    Out of the 5 kids the three oldest (one boy & two girls) are doing well and none of them have had to ask for help since leaving the nest. The oldest son and his wife have found a property to purchase and the father offered to help. When the father found out they needed 20% down or $32000 he said he couldn’t help with that amount.
    How do you tell the father that what he is doing is wrong? This situation is ripping the family apart

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      It depends on your relationship with him. Without credibility, it won’t matter what you say. If you are directly impacted, you have a right to speak. If you aren’t, then you sadly have to wait and watch unless your opinion is asked.

  45. Berta Reply

    Hello I’m a mother of a 21yr old son I really don’t know what to do he’s a good kid, he works and go to school but recently I found out he smokes marijuana. He says he do it occasionally only because he’s to stress about school and sometimes he can’t go to sleep. He says it helps him to come down and that he went a saw a doctor and got a medical marijuana card. I felt so disappointed because I never thought he was doing this, also he amd his dad don’t get along well because both have tempers and crash with each other living me heartbroken and in the middle of both of them. Lately I have been feeling sad and depressed because I feel I failed as a mom. My hiusband also blames me because I was a stay at home mom while he worked as a truck driver and was home mostly on the weekends. I know my son is hurting too from not having a relationship with his dad even though he says he doesn’t care. he doesn’t have many friends and doesn’t have a girlfriend and most of he’s free time he spends in his room. I don’t want to give up on him because I know God has a purpose for him I had pray so much but I feel very worry for him, and if my husband kicks him out the house I will be heartbroken because he doesn’t have no where to go.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Berta, I would get with a counselor so they can help you process what is happening and make good choices in response to the circumstances.

  46. Curtis Robinson Reply

    Thank you for the post. What really hit me in your article was to not offer an opinion without being asked. What I worry about is my daughter making mistakes and wishing I would have warned her, spoken up or provided advice. I fear as the scripture says, “blood being on my hands.” I fear her look at me one day and saying, “Dad, why didn’t you step in, warn me or advise me…you know I was too naive to no better…why?” This is my greatest fear.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      That’s a fair fear. I would have that conversation with your daughter. Tell her about your fear and let her know that unless the situation is drastic, you will not give your opinion unless asked. This will put the responsibility on her to ask your opinion.

  47. Mary Smith Reply

    Thank you very much for this. I have a 21 year old daughter that moved out but she is always in a bad mood and not motivated at all to do much for herself. She has a boyfriend that is good to her and his mom is also good and she still always in a bad mood. Problem is she jumps and wants to give me attitude all the time. There is no right way to speak to her. I really wish you would understand that she needs to be a positive person and not always so negative.

  48. Betty Reply

    My daughter is now 44. Left a 19 year marriage and left her 2 kids with former husband. Within weeks was involved with a man 13 years older. The man never had children so treats her like a child. My daughter did not take care of her kids. She claims to be bipolar. Now everfew weeks she’s calling me saying she can’t take it any longer as he’s addicted to porno. She just quit her job. The ONLY reason she wasn’t fired already is because her husband has worked at the same place for years. My former husband and I have given them money on more occasions than I can count. My daughter as temper tantrums when things don’t go her way and she calls me a bitch. I know she has mental issues but she feels sorry for hersef, wont work is not concerned about her future because i feel the marriage wont last. Shes lazy and will just find another looser to take care of her. There was an incident 2 weeks ago and now she says she wants nothing more to do with me and that I’ve turned her father and brother against her. The incident became heated when she asked her brother for money to pay her child support and I make the comment that she should not have quit her job and her brother was not responsible for her kids. We’ve given in too long and felt sorry for her and enabled too long. I’m 77 years old, I’m tired of Mr daughter and her problems and to the point where I don’t really care that she wants nothing to do with me. She’s been on meds and seeing doctors for years and no chance. Every time she has a runny nose she’s off to the doctor claiming a sinus infection. I want to stop this cycle but the only way I know how is to stay out of her life. I want peace in what little live I have left.

  49. Ivy Reply

    Laugh at the silliness. Not them. Now that they are adults you can offer support in the way of just listening and not judging. Don’t let the adult children take advantage and don’t bail them out. But listen listen listen and validate their experiences. Relate to them and share your experiences.

  50. Deborah Reply

    29 year old daughter with intellectual special needs. She does not have good social skills therefore does not make good choices with friends male or female. She has been involved with a 29 year old guy for the past 4 years. This is not a suitable relationship for her and I fear she’s being verbally abused and just doesn’t see it as well as fearing being alone. People say to me “ she’s 29 and I get that but shes 29 in chronological years and that’s not her mental age. I have tried to talk to her and will not allow him in my home. Nothing seems to work. I’m worn out from it. Any suggestions? I’m not sure there’s anything one can do:(

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Deborah, I wish I had more advice, but I don’t. The only thing that comes to mind is to get a counselor and talk with them in order to come up with a good game plan.

  51. Deborah Reply

    By the way my daughter has been deemed disabled and is on SSD

  52. Deborah Reply

    One more thing. This guy has broken her heart and left her 3 times already. She’s goes back for more with broken promises

  53. Karin Reply

    My son is 27. He’s been diagnosed with ADD but chooses to self medicate with Pot. He received his Associates degree but can’t hold down a job. He has trouble waking up and making it there on time if at all and therefore, has lost the last four or five jobs he’s had. He’s discouraged easily and I’ve supported him through all this. But I am at the end of my finances and now must say no. It breaks my heart he will lose his car but he’s been out of work five months now and always has an excuse for not following through with the job search. Your article helped me to realize I am not helping him at all. Until I let him go…and suffer for his mistakes, bad choices…why should he really try? It’s so hard. He is the baby of the family and has a Father with mental illness that I have over compensated for all his life. I feel I have done him more harm than good. Breaks my heart. I always give in to him…it’s so hard. I do feel his resentment because I am the parent that offers my opinion much too much. Am I abusive by nagging him all the time? I feel that is so. I blame myself that he never matured now more than ever because I didn’t let go. Is it too late?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Karin, I’m sorry for your pain. My suggestion is to find a trusted counselor and have them help you to figure out the most loving way to treat your son so not to enable him.

  54. Bobbie Reply

    I think you still need to give your opinion and correction to the adult child. Wouldn’t you do it for your close adult friend? Of course you would. It’s our obligation even if they are grown up….even if they are ‘prodigal’. In the course, the adult child will have to decide, but you did caringly offer some instruction.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I agree if it’s requested. But I would not give my opinion to a close friend unless they have invited me to do so.

  55. Robert Reply

    My daughter is 59 years old. She is the child of a divorce between me and her mother at 13. My second wife helps her with monetary handouts, Recently, the bank foreclosed on her house, forcing her to live with a “friend”. I feel that I have been a failure to her and am depressed because of it. I wanted the best for her, but she brings me misery when I think of what she could have become.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I believe all you can do is own what you failings, seek her forgiveness, and then allow her to take responsibility for her own life.

  56. Blanca Gutierrez Reply

    I have a 21 year daughter who is a mom now to a 10 month baby. she recently ended the relationship with the father because of domestic violence as well as verbal abuse. But it doesn’t end there her and I helped her file for a retraining order against. Once that was resolved she started see her ex boyfriend who was incarcerated for 2 and half years for selling drugs. I was aware that he was supported and a good friend to her thru it all. I only shared that she needed to be careful and take things slow. He has been on parole for 5 months and is in trouble again for the same thing. He is locked up again. Now she has said she waiting for him because we all make mistakes and he forgave her and she is going to be there for him. When he was incarcerated during the 2 and half years she ended the relationship abruptly and started dating the father of her baby. So she has said that she will never date another guy again because she was treated so badly. I have had discussions with her about taking time for herself but she refuses to listen. She becomes upset and tells me all the mistakes i have made. That i treat her like a child. I am so upset and worried for her and now for my grandson. Please help me understand how I accept her decisions. I have two younger teenage children who are seeing all this and sadly seeing me be so upset.

  57. John Reply

    I have an adult daughter whose soon to be 22 year old daughter has graduated from an elite college, and is engaged to a young man who just graduated from a military academy. As grand parents we are very proud of our grand daughter and see that she has a bright future. These two young Christian adults have stated that they are committed to each other but could not bet married due to the young man being at a military academy. Therefore they feel it has been ok for them to travel together in their time off and enjoy a physical relationship as they are “committed” to one another. This part of their relationship has been extremely hard for our daughter to take and has caused a problem with her relationship with her daughter (our grand daughter). To the point that the upcoming wedding my daughter is attending but NOT allowing her other children to be in the wedding or even allow her husband to walk their daughter down the aisle. Both sides of the family feel our daughter is over reacting. Her actions seem to be coming from a place of hurt and anger, not love. The wedding date is quickly approaching. My prayer is that my daughter’s heart will soften and she will be able to show some grace and see the wedding as a joyful occasion.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      John, I’m sorry for this frustration. Hopefully, as the date approaches, your daughter will recognize that she is concerned with some things that aren’t her business.

  58. Sheila Reply

    I have a 22 year old daughter. She’s always been an easy child, and always had wonderful morals. January of this year, everything changed. She quit college, quit her wonderful job, and moved to Austin. The worst part, she didn’t even tell us she was leaving, and that she was moving in with her girlfriend. We were so shocked!!!! My first reaction to her was that I love her no matter what. Inside I was dying. I never thought this would happen. I truly was shocked by it. She ended up coming back a few months later, and is now with a new girl. I refuse to meet her, and I know this hurts my daughter, but I feel that I respect her feelings and she should respect mine. I’m so confused these days, but I just keep praying for the Lord to deliver her.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Consider the questions: what’s mine? what’s her’s? what’s God’s? She gets to make the choices regarding her relationship. Your job is to love your daughter and allow her to make her own decisions. Personally, I would meet and interact with people she chooses to be in her life.

  59. Estella Reply

    I have a 21 year daughter who is a mom now to a 10 month baby. she recently ended the relationship with the father because of domestic violence as well as verbal abuse. But it doesn’t end there her and I helped her file for a retraining order against. Once that was resolved she started see her ex boyfriend who was incarcerated for 2 and half years for selling drugs. I was aware that he was supported and a good friend to her thru it all. I only shared that she needed to be careful and take things slow. He has been on parole for 5 months and is in trouble again for the same thing. He is locked up again. Now she has said she waiting for him because we all make mistakes and he forgave her and she is going to be there for him. When he was incarcerated during the 2 and half years she ended the relationship abruptly and started dating the father of her baby. So she has said that she will never date another guy again because she was treated so badly. I have had discussions with her about taking time for herself but she refuses to listen. She becomes upset and tells me all the mistakes i have made. That i treat her like a child. I am so upset and worried for her and now for my grandson. Please help me understand how I accept her decisions. I have two younger teenage children who are seeing all this and sadly seeing me be so upset.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I would go to a counselor and have them help you process what is happening. It sounds like your daughter is old enough that she gets to make her own decisions even though they are wrong. You have to find a way to respect her freedom to do so.

  60. Arraiya Reply

    What about parents who constantly bring their adult children down for how they are acting or living? There is a difference between loving comments of concern and extreme verbal abuse. I know I’m having current difficulties and my actions have landed my family and I in a certain financial delimma. I also recently went through an ectopic pregnancy and have been slacking on my hously duties. My mother has been very insensitive to this and constantly hateful but using the phrase that she’s just “being truthful where nobody else will”. Then when I get fed up and tell her to back off and leave me alone, she says that “the devil has a foothold on me and I need to cast off my pride and anger and get off my high horse”. I get called irresponsible, living in a disgusting environment, a bitch (excuse my language) and basically insinuates my role as a mother is terrible and has said before she would do a better job. All lies…. I am a 28 years old Stay at Home Mom with a husband who has a full time job studying to be an IT Specialist. We have a fixer upper trailer, 3 cats, and a dog we are currently debating on surrendering, sadly. My chooses and decisions are just that… MINE. We are both Christian but she somehow feels the need to overlook God’s words and twist them to her benefit. When she enables by helping with food, it’s appreciative. Sometimes though, I have to tell her no, we are fine 2 or 3 times and she still comes over with food. THEN, when I say or do something she does not like or agree with, she will bring up ALL the times she has “helped” me like I owe her to listen and change myself and my life habits and choices bc she says so. And apparently by not doing so.. I am not “honoring thy mother”. Then, when I try to explain that’s not what the verse means… she will start back up with the name calling and tell me how ignorant I am and how I will learn when I’m older and wise. When I have gently set up boundaries or ask her not to say something on social media, she reacts like I just stabbed her in the back. All of a sudden I’m hateful and mean and a terrible person for treating my elderly mother like a dog. If I don’t accept her advice or don’t change a habit, I am unappreciative of her. When she is there for me when I need it, I am VERY appreciative. But if I’m not continually allowing her to do what she wants in my life or give her different results… then I’m automatically a hateful, mean, witch, that cares nothing about anyone but myself. She pushes her way through and tells “the truth” like my feelings don’t matter and tells “the truth” in an extremely over exaggerated form. Everyone else can see how crazy she is. But somehow I let her get to me and convince me that Im the problem and the one with issues. I don’t understand how a Christian women can act this way and act as though her daughter is some kind of monster for living her life a different way. She doesn’t treat her other daughter this way and he response to that is bc “your sister doesn’t treat me the way you do”. Such a childish response and yet I’m the childish one?? Lastly, she ALWAYS uses what she says about my house upkeep, (which is mainly just clutter and smell bc of the animals), the “condition” I allow my child to live in is just her “helping” me. She has come over before and helped me clean but then gets angry at me later that day saying that she is just helping me and that’s love and that me telling her no and not changing is me being un-appreciative and disrespecting her!!

    So I guess my question is this… Even if my family and I make a bad decision, how do we respond with a toxic parent who pushes her way through the boundaries?? How do I explain to her that she is in the wrong no matter what she feels is a bad decision in my life?? She arouses me to anger. I try to be the best Christian I can be, but Idk how to deal with this anymore. I have blocked her phone # and not talked with her for quite awhile before. I usually have to wait a couple days for her to calm down after a typical breakdown… then we just go about like nothing happened. If I try to bring it up, she throws a fit again. I can never “work” anything out bc I don’t “admit” my fautls according to her but it’s the complete opposite. HOW DO I DEAL?? WHAT VERSES CAN I SHOW HER TO HELP HER UNDERSTAND MY P.O.V.??

  61. reluctant identity Reply

    So, I have a step-daughter that sits in jail waiting for her mother to bail her out with my finances (my money as usual). But then we find out there are additional fines that doubles the amount needed to get her out of jail. My wife is emphatic that we need to get her out of that “horrible place”.

    Yet, I am feeling like we are continuing to enable her to “get out of jail free” by paying her fines and bail. If we don’t pay her fines, she must stay in jail 28 days for serve it off – and still come up with bail bond money. I hesitantly agreed to finance her bail, but not her fines.

    She still needs to go to court in a month to find out if they revoke her probation that she violated. She may wind up serving her full sentence of 10 years in prison.

    Her crime? Lying to police about the whereabouts of her boyfriend who was also wanted for a parole violation for a serious crime. They had a warrant and found him hiding in a closet while she stood at the front door telling them she didn’t know where he was.

    Am I wrong to take this position of not paying her fines? My step-daughter will NEVER pay me back. This is on top of stealing my car, stealing her mom’s credit card and charging up $5000, and duping me out of $1000’s more from her lies and misdirection schemes.

    The behaviors of my step-daughter is severely stressing the relationship with my wife who I adore and she adores me.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      These situations can be very difficult on couples. It’s important to get an outside perspective. As an adult, your step-daughter needs to be accountable for her own actions.

  62. Amber Reply

    My adult son, age 25, has wanted a street bike for a couple years as a means of cheaper transportation to and from work. He was told under no circumstances would I allow him to ride a street bike while living in my home. I would worry tirelessly at night waiting for him to arrive home safe each night and I can’t take that stress. He instead bought a cheaper vehicle and I thought that was the end of it. Until he recently bought a street bike. All while saying he’s trying to better his financial situation and get out of debt to move out. I see this decision as irresponsible and a blatant disregard for our wishes while still living at home and a total lack of respect. He contributes nothing towards the household but does pay his own bills. Now I am struggling with the guilt of making him leave. He made this decision KNOWING the consequences and I feel like the bad guy. Calm conversations immediately turn into arguments so we have hardly spoken. I’m heartbroken that he would make this decision knowing the consequences and what position it puts me in with having to make him leave.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      In my opinion (and it’s only that) while allowing a 25 year-old to live in your house does give you some authority to have some household rules that everyone lives by for the sake of harmony, it doesn’t allow you to dictate what type of transportation he has. It would be a fair discussion if he was wasting money on an expensive vehicle and failing to pay for his needs. Yet it seems like he is trying to go a cheaper direction. While you don’t have to like it, in my opinion, that’s not your right to dictate to him.

  63. Lorie Johnston Reply

    I am having a really hard time knowing my boundaries to an adult 29 year old daughter, when it comes to her relationship with her 28 year old boyfriend who has maybe worked a few months during their relationship. They have dated since high school so they have been together 13 years. He moved in with her when she went away to college but he did not go to school or worked to help their situation. We paid for her apartment rent but he was living down there with her doing nothing. I know my husband and I should have shown her tough love and say that he could not stay in the apartment unless he was attending school or working but we didn’t and I so wish we would have. Today she is an accountant and he is attending college but he had to change his major again because he has difficulties in Math. He wanted to be a teacher but the other day he said, ” I do not want to teach a bunch of bratty kids and I said, “Well if you are not going to use your degree then what are you going to do?” I have given suggestions for careers based off of what he liked to do when he was younger such as an IT specialist for Apple because he loved working on computers, CNC machinist because they are in demand and other suggestions. I have watched his behavior around my daughter and he often cusses her out which angers me for all the things she has helped him with but I call it enabling him. She does so much and he rarely helps her and now she has purchased her first house to take care of. I know this is wrong but everytime I see her I express my concern for her choice of a man and it just causes us to fight. Her father and I want the best for her but she doesn’t not see what we see. I don’t know how to be supportive of her when I see him treat her like crap when she helps him with his homework, she pays for everything and he just goes around cussing her out. It breaks my heart because I envisioned her to be with a nice educated young man who speaks to her nicely, who helps keep the home clean, who is independent and employed. Please give me any advice you can so I don’t push her away from us but make her see the warning signs. She was so smart in school but I just can’t understand why she does not see these warning flags as well. Thank you very much for any advice anyone can give me on how to handle this.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      My first thought is that since you have voiced your concern and communicated your feelings to your daughter, you don’t bring it up again. You respect her right to make her own decisions and you refuse to badger her about it. I don’t pretend that this is easy advice, but i think it is where you are at. She gets to make her decisions. Your job is to love her and support her.

  64. Kimberly Reply

    My 32 yr.old son, married with a young child has been making bad choices for quiet awhile. Head resently stollen money from his grandmother, by stealing one of her checks and filling in an amount and singing her name. He also used her checking account to pay one of his bills ( could be more that we don’t know about). I believe most of these bad decisions are based on financial issues ?? He’s a good husband and a great father to my grandson but he’s got himself in a mess and I don’t know how to help him other than praying for him and letting him know I love him !!He was a great kid growing up ! Never in trouble, no drugs, doesn’t drink or smoke. He professes to be a Christian but I’m afraid he’s if he does not right his wrongs, stops his bad/wrong decisions/doings, something really bad will happen and he’ll loose everything, including his wife and little so !! This Mama would lay my life down for my son, I love him so much but I just don’t know how to help him !!

  65. Gordon Loop Reply

    I have three adult sons all living with my wife and I. All raise to know Jesus, and all trusted Him and were baptized by me. We have been in the ministry as either pastor or evangelist all their lives. My almost 20-year-old son has continued to disregard our house rules and we have shown grace for almost 2 years. Vaping, smoking weed in the past, sex outside of marriage, criminal activity in the past, etc….I have never handled this in tempered love, but our confrontations have always turned into a shouting match, I would tell him he needs to leave, we then would forgive each other and the main point became mute because of the blow up and things would be ok for a little while and he would break house rules, for example, stay out all night and sometimes not even communicate. So we suspect drug use by he won’t take a drug test. I recently told him I love him but he continues to demonstrate that he doesn’t want to be a part of the family by not communicating and we can no longer support his lifestyle. I told him that he has one strike on him, and two more and he will have to move out. I guess my question is knowing what I have told you do you think we have gone beyond all we can do to be understanding and are we now doing more harm by keep giving him chance after chance. This has taken a toll on my other kids, my ministry as a pastor, and at times divided my wife and I. Our counselor said we should affirm our love but give him an ultimatum, live by the house rules or we should kick him out. It’s hard because we fail as failures, and we would no longer be able to influence him toward the Lord. Your thoughts, please? Thank you

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I would agree with your counselor. It’s time to honor his decisions. If he chooses to ignore your expectations, that is his right but he should not continue to reap the benefits of living with you.

  66. Amber Reply

    I have been searching all over the internet for help in this burden that hae been heavy on my heart for quite some time.. it seems all I can find is articles based on how we should forgive our parents but I’m looking for something a little different well more like completely opposite.. I had a pretty great childhood siblings parents who loved us tickets on vacation spending time with us gave us a really good upbringing.. being an adult I’ve made some mistakes.. some pretty big ones that have affected my whole family and my parents were devastated and hurt and it made me absolutely the same Xs10, because I knew how bad my actions had broke their heart..it sent me into a depression and heart break because I know I was raised better than that, but I had made the mistake, a few of them, and as much as I wish I could I couldn’t take those mistakes back.. which led to some distance and time spent separate from me and them.. about a year ago me and my five year old daughter finally left an abusive relationship I had been in since she was born.. he was very condescending, manipulating, and controlling and began getting physical, so I had enough. My daughter was not going to be raised having to see that.. my parents kindly welcomed us bsck in because we had no where else to go and they absolutely love my their grandbaby (my daughter) and to this day I’m convinced if I did not have her I would be in a whole different situation and things would have played out different..although they have helped give me a place to stay get away from the bad relationship I’ve never fully feel like they have forgiven me or even been open to the idea that I could possibly be a better person and love me again.. I know that saying love me seems a little harsh but I’m using it because that’s really at the point I’m at and that’s how I feel.. that it’s hard to love me still.. like they’re so ashamed and disappointed and mistakes that I’ve made that a can’t truly forgive me or giving me a chance to even prove myself and change.. things will seem good but the littles thing my dad just jumps to throwing all of my mistakes back in my face making me feel a hundred times worse and bringing it all so fresh again.. well I’m trying to improve my life and become a better person to mend and repair my relationship with the people I love the most I feel like I’m n a losing battle because no matter what I do I really feel like I may have messed up too much ever make things the way they used to be or at least get back the love that they used to have for me. I was so close with my parents.. especially my dad snd ever since I made my mistakes in my adult life while ago he’s never looked at me the same or treated me like his little girl or even gave me the slightest comfort and feeling like he could eventually forget me in fact I think he’s actually told me he would never forgive me in a heated argument we got into and I just sobbed because how am I supposed to have faith and keep trying to better myself to save or get back my family and earn back their love if they are not even open to the idea that people can change.. the I CAN CHANGE. It’s such a awful feeling I live wih very day.. I wish so much I could go back and change the stupid things I did when I was that another place in my life if I would have known it was going to cause to really not love me the same down the road I would have never thrown that away or even risked it. So I guess I’m just asking how do I make my dad believe that I can change and still be his little girl and make him love me the way he used to and bees close as we used to be when he said I’ve done too much and I really feel like he thinks he could never fully forgive me
    Sorry this was so long I didn’t know how to word it all and there is so much to the story but any kind of advice or direction would be so much appreciated and at least a start . Any recommendations or books or anything I dont even know. Please share and help me get my dad yo love me the way he did when i was his little girl, and make him give me a chance to prove myself, because with the way things are right now, it is discouraging to me and sometimes makes me just wanna throw in the towel because whats the point.. if he’s never going to see me any different then what it is now and what’s the use in trying to prove myself :'(

  67. Nikki Reply

    Why aren’t there local counseling groups in Florida and all around?

  68. Marie Reply

    Hi Kevin,
    This is what is happening in my family now. I Left my country when I was 24, I got married to Afro-America man, He is 16 years older than me. At first everything was going ok. But after 1 year I really see his real colors. He has been the entire marriage a very manipulative, controlling and mentally abuser. Pushing me to get pregnant, after six month we got married. I am not only have to suffer with his abuse but also his mother , who can cover everything he does, she is the same as him. For most of the marriage, I tried my best to keep my sanity. I thought many times of divorce but my husband always treated me that he will take away my kid. Now my son is 22 years old and since he was in high school he has change and becoming as bully as his father , plus because I was trying to maintain my distance with my mother in law ( but never stop my son or my husband to stop talking to her), now she is putting things in my son mind , that now he is attacking me. He is so disrespectful and cold. My son thinks that they are the victims and that I am the evil one. Even when he sees his father been so disrespectful to me, he still signs with him.
    Kevin, I don’t know if you know what is living an strange place alone with no family can defend you. Raising your child and mist of so much abusive, and now see that no even that child you love and protectect all these years can still at least sympathize with your pain. I recently lost my dear mother and going through this all alone really hurts
    Now my son graduation from his master is an a year, and his grandmother is pushing him to force me to invite her. Kevin I am very forgiving person, may be that is the reason why I am still in this marriage, I always think that God is seeing all these, and one day my son will see me with compassion.
    I don’t know how to handle this , every time I called him or text him, just to let him know that I care for him, he always answer like he is the offended one. He is so cold . So I don’t know how to approach this situation anymore. I was thinking about divorce his father, I have just one son with this man because I knew that he may not change. And I am not wrong. But if I divorce him , I am afraid my son will blame to for that.
    I am so desperate, I really don’t know what to do . PLEASE HELP MEEE!!!!

  69. Beth Nickles Reply

    I disagree with some of the advice here. Please tell me if I am wrong here. My adult daughter separated from her husband, and moved back home. They have two children; 11 and 8. My daughter has decided to have a relationship with a man who has a very very bad past. He has a drug history. He has 2 felonies, 3 DUI’s, and multiple open lawsuits against him for failure to support his own children. He checked into rehab. this morning. My daughter was living under my roof. The rules were that she could stay here as long as she wasn’t exposing the children to this man. She broke that rule. Accused her 11 year old of “ruining things for her” by telling us that she was seeing him… with them present. As a parent, and as a grand parent, it is my JOB to make sure that this can’t happen. I booted her from the house after making sure that the children are taken care of. Am I wrong??? The children are now safe.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      It sounds like you made good choices, Beth. I’m sorry for your pain.

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