The problem may be you

Dear Maggie,

I canít get my kids to move out and itís ruining my life!

All right, they are a boy and a girl, both have finished high school, and my daughter went to college for two years, but neither of them have any ambition at all. They arenít working. Oh, they get jobs, but donít keep them long. I keep two cars on the roadóI canít afford threeóand we share, but itís hard to divide two cars by three people and Iím often stranded without wheels, even having to carpool into my own job as a legal aid.

Iím not wealthy, but Iíd be in fairly good shape financially, if they would only start supporting themselves, or at least contributing to the family finances. But they just canít hold down jobs long enough to amount to anything, and canít even find decent jobs that pay anything anyway.

I love my kids, and I donít want them to hate me, but they are twenty-two and twenty-four now, and Iíve reached the end of my rope. Iím ready to make a change. So tell me how.


Desperate and Done

Dear D&D,

Did you ever watch Itís Me or the Dog on Animal Planet? The dog expert, Victoria Stillwell is always being called into homes of desperate pet owners whose dogs are out of control, and sheís always having to tell them, ďthereís nothing wrong with your dog. The problem is you.Ē

I hate to have to say this, but thatís the same situation youíre in.

In life, every time you do something for someone that they should reasonably be doing for themselves, youíre sort of telling them, ďIím handling this because youíre incapable of it.Ē (Before the opposing opinions begin, I donít mean that doing a favor or a kindness or pampering a spouse or lover is harmful. I mean a consistent pattern of babying, which creates dependent, needy babies.)

So thatís first. Youíve done too much for them, out of love Iím sure, and now they donít see any other way. Itís up to you to create the life you want, and you can only do that by reversing the damage here. By beginning to expect, and demand, that they do things for themselves, you will show them that they are indeed capable, productive, adults. They may not like it at first, but keep in mind that it took you a while to make them this needy, so it may take some time to wean them from the breast too. So start small, but be consistent, and keep adding responsibility week by week, more and more, and watch the way theyíre going to grow and blossom once they get over the shock of it. And if you act from love and keep on loving, itíll be fine.

Use this media-hyped ďeconomic crisisĒ as an excuse if you want. Tell them in this economy, you canít afford to support all three of you, and that really, since theyíre adults, you shouldnít have to. Tell them they need to pull their own weight, and give them a deadline to find jobs. Make it clear that this is not optional. Anyone without a job at monthís end, will no longer have a car to drive, because youíll be forced to take the extra vehicle off the road. Make it dire. Make it loving, too. Tell them youíre sorry youíve made them into helpless wimps, but now youíve seen the damage your coddling has done and youíre terrified of what will become of them when youíre gone, and determined to be sure theyíll be okay.

Once theyíre employed, keep pushing. Take turns with meals, with household chores. Assign them their own bills to pay. Stop doing their laundry, paying their bills, making their beds, whatever. Unless they make your bed, or do your laundry or pay your bills once in awhile, that is. Gradually, youíll be able to point out that as well as theyíre doing, they could look for their own apartment. They can share and get by just fine.

Help only when absolutely necessary. Start doing away with extras that they want and you donít, unless they pay for them. Like their cell phones, their internet, their pay TV, and so on. Make them pay their share, or shut it off.

Within a year, they should be feeling far more empowered, far more adult, far more confident. And then theyíll be ready for life on their own.

Now that youíve identified what you want (independent adult offspring, not needy children) youíre halfway to getting it. Every time you look at them, see the productive, responsible adult you want to see, rather than whatís there now, and know itís real. Thatís who theyíre becoming. Point out every positive step they take, and donít dwell on the negative. Itíll help things come together more quickly.

No one can get the ball rolling but you. But in the end, no one can live their lives for them, either. And some kids just wonít budge until really forced. Youíre going to need to be strong and stubborn, consistent and steady, but above all, loving and encouraging. And never doubt that this is the best thing you can possibly do for your adult children. You only make them impotent by taking care of them as you have been. Empower them instead, and all will be well!

Good luck!


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