Thursday, January 31, 2008

Do Not Let Your Children Grow Into This (long post)

I'm on a Love and Logic board. A lady wrote in today, and I wanted to scream in horror at her neglectful job of parenting. I rarely participate in yahoo board/chat board chatting, and mostly lurk. But today I thought this lady needed a wakeup call. Here's what she wrote:

"Hello group,I am a newbie. I have ordered the book, but have not gotten ityet. I have a 21 year old son who is taking four classes at a localjunior college and is working 20-30 hours a week. He is amiable andeasy long as we don't ask him to do anything to helparound the house. For the last six or seven years, his only job hasbeen to take out the trash once a week. He always procrastinates andwaits until the last minute to take it out. There is usually yellinginvolved to get him to do it at all. If my husband and I want to goto sleep before he takes it out, we gather up the garbage from ourbedroom, bathroom, and office and leave it outside our door for him.Otherwise, he would have to come in and wake us up to get it. Hisroom is like a pigsty. He hasn't changed his sheets in over a year.It smells horrible. He has always lacked interest in his appearanceand hygiene, in spite of private comments of encouragement from me,and teasing from siblings and friends. His schedule is ratherunusual since he takes his classes in the evenings. He mostly worksfrom home and e-mails it to his boss on his own schedule. He staysup until 3am or later, then sleeps until 3 pm. He is responsible fordoing his own laundry, but he doesn't do it until he runs out ofclean clothes. Then it takes several full days to get it all done.I am considering throwing away or giving away most of his clothes, inorder to force him to do it more often. It would also keep his roomneater if there were fewer clothes on the floor.How would a love & logic parent phrase advice to this child?Thanks in advance for your help.Charlotte"

My response:
"I'm going to say something strong here. It's due to the fact that my husband and myself discuss this sort of thing and our children's futures quite often.You could give him two options:
1-Pay rent, give him renter's rules, fees for breaking renter'srules, a contract (that you can find online). If he can't handle it,he is out that month (as stated in the contract). You can give him notice. If he tries a pissing contest with you, you will need to put all his things outside and change the locks one day when he is not home.I'm saying this from my husband's experience as well. My husband was the third child (of four), and rather the "Man of the House". He went thru this scenario when he was 17 & his older sister was 19. It did have to come to putting her things on the front lawn & changing thelocks one day when she was at work. On top of all you write about regarding your son, my SIL was verbally abusive to those who lived in the house. She thought she was entitled to act that way seeing as she was burdened with waiting around to "marry well", since college would be work and all. (ROFL). She cleaned up her act within 24hrs, found an apartment, and never moved home again. She did just fine with her salary from the pizza restaurant.
2-You could cut to the chase now, and tell your son he has 24 hours to move out. It's your house and you can live the way you want. As adults, our names are on the mortgage, and what we say goes. Your son is old enough to make good choices, and it sadly seems like he doesn't care. If he can't clean up his mess and take out the trash within 24hrs, kick his stuff out and change the locks. This is actually the route that was taken with my SIL. No warning (other than years of fighting and discussing her problems with her). One morning my MIL and husband had enough, and moved her out. Changing the locks too.I wish you luck here. I'm sure it's painful to deal with this. And you obviously love your son dearly. Best of luck to you and I wish you well."

Her response, which makes me want to punch her for allowing her son to be such an ASS!:
"Thank you for your reply. DS21 is certainly old enough torealize that there is more to life than computer games. I wonder ifhe may be addicted to playing games. Tough love may be the onlyoption, but DH does not want DS21 to move out until he finishescollege.I saw a T-shirt in a store recently that said "Genius by birth,Slacker by choice"....that describes our son to a "T" (pun intended)!He is witty and brilliant (high IQ and ACT/SAT test scores.) He wasa beautiful baby/child, but due to bad acne combined with his lackofcare, his face is now pitted. He only showers and washes his hairbecause we make him do it. When he doesn't shower, his body odornearly knocks us out.He has three good friends who have married since high school.He sees them as henpecked. He is not looking for a girlfriend yet.DH and I agree that he needs to finish college and get a better job,so we are not pushing him to find a girlfriend. (He may be like DH'snephew who is getting married next month at age 30, after college,good job, purchased a home and several vehicles.)Besides playing computer games and watching NASCAR, heparticipates in local short-track auto racing. He has a race cardonated by a local junkyard. His other vehicle is an '81 Volkswagenpick-up truck. His friends tease him that everyone knows his truckbecause it sticks-out. It has white doors on a tan truck body. Somehave even called it a "ghetto buggy". He and his dad converted itfrom burning "diesel only" to burning diesel fuel and veggie oil tosave money. WE offered to get his truck painted for him as a rewardfor earning his EAGLE SCOUT award, but he prefers to keep it "asis". He really does not care at all what anybody thinks about HIMor his truck.I am going to look on-line for those age-level chores. I ama "list-maker", so I think I need to make a list of all of thehousehold chores and discuss them with each of the five children wholive in our home (ages 15-21; 3 bio, 2 foster). My husband and Iwork full-time and are active in church activities. We still do thebulk of the chores, too.DS21 is very capable of articulating anything he chooses to,but every conversation on the topics you mentioned feels like we arenagging him. We have to ask him several times to give us his classschedules and his grades. He conveniently forgets to do thosethings that he doesn't really want to do anyway.I know I have been too vague about some of my expectations. Iam learning to ask for specific things done within a reasonableamount of time.I know that I cannot live with garbage piled up in our house,so the logical consequence of not taking out the trash is not anoption.We do not give him an allowance, just meals at home and a roofover his head. He works for fuel money, insurance, cell phone,meals out, movies, cable and internet. He helps pay for his collegetuition and books. He also pays for parts and fuel for his racecar. He scours junkyards to find cheap parts.He is our oldest child and was spoiled more than the others.His health has always been delicate. He breaks out in hives when hegets stressed out. He even had shingles in the sixth-grade. Heoften has stomach-aches, head-aches, and he has always slept for 10-12 hours every night. He went to counseling for help dealing withhis ADD (without hyperactivity) during high school. He took Ritalinbut hated it and no longer takes it. He really needs time-management skills, but that is another topic that he refuses todiscuss.He is sweet, loving, and generous, but he really needs to "growup" in certain areas.Thank you all for your suggestions. I will try to keep youposted.Charlotte"

I responded with a more stern direct post this time:
"You wrote: "I am going to look on-line for those age-level chores".You won't find age appropriate chores for a 21yr old. He is old enough to run his own home, job, life, and pay rent/mortgage. He is choosing to get by doing as little as possible, because you let him. He is motivated enough to do and get what he wants (from what you write). And he will continue to do as much for himself and as little as possible for you as long as you let him. It's called "enabling".

I am 37 yrs old. I moved out when I was 20yrs old, put myself thru a four year degree in Accounting (age18-22). I graduated from college, got married, and became a home owner all at age 22. In that same year I also dealt with the death of a loved one, and I got hit on the freeway by a semi-truck, leaving me with neck injuries and lawsuits. I muddled thru just fine. All at age 22. I have "delicate health" myself, and I've gotten on A-OK. If your son is smart enough to do all that you say he does, he is capable of doing anything.

You really have lots of options. He can be on your health insurance and you can pay for college, etc. He can also move out if he can't deal with normal expectations. I would not let an animal, let alone a human being stink up my home with BO, sheets that are not changed, dirty clothing, whatnot. For example, I tell my teenager, "when you are clean and smell nice, you may join us for dinner." He'd rather shower than starve. And my son has mental disabilities to boot. He still "gets it" though, and hits the shower. By the way, I have five kids (3bio, 2adopted). Four of my children have special needs/disabilities. I don't think that gives them a free-card to get out of age appropriate responsibility. To let our kids out of responsibility is derelict in our duty as parents, neglect on the parental part, and we are robbing our children of "getting wings", flying on their own, having self-esteem, life skills, social skills, relationship skills, etc.

If a child had disabilities/handicaps, they would still need to become independant at some point (unless they were retarded or had some severe medical condition requiring hospice). Even retarded children can function often independantly. Obviously your son is far more able and capable than that. This will probably not be the popular post, but he's not coming around because he doesn't have to. You've set up the system at yourhouse, and he goes by it. There's no incentive for him to change because the only consequence is "nagging". Well, a key Love and Logic principle is to not try to control our kids. BUT, we have to be strong enough and mature enough to pull the "here's what I'm going to do.................." and run your house accordingly by "if X happens, Y is what I do". And follow thru and be consistent. Parenting is the hardest job in the world. Like I said, I have fivekids, 4 with disabilities. So, I do have experience in all this.

Best wishes to you. You sound like a smart lady. Change will occur when you make changes yourself. Good luck on this venture. You will be giving a gift to your son by having expectations, rules, and order in your home. I truly wish you the best as it sounds like a really painful situation that you choose to live with."

That is the nicest version I could stomache to write her........
And her son doesn't want to date? What a joke. No one would want to stand near him, let alone DATE him! Good God. They are living in the land of denial.
What do you think about this sort of thing?


Spencer Family said...

That mom is SO enabling her son it is ridiculous! Even if by "personality" that kid doesn't care his mom at least needs to do her part as his mother and stop enabling him by letting him live at home and contribute nothing. Clearly by her response she's not looking for a solution b/c she's not ready to listen. Good job for trying to help her see what a mess her son is and how she is just making it worse!

Epiphany Alone said...

Yikes. Isn't this exactly the sort of nightmare that we're all trying to avoid? Wow. I think your answers were patient.

The line "so we are not pushing him to find a girlfriend." and the bit about his cousin sort of clue me in that this woman and I wouldn't agree on much.

3boys1girl said...

Age appropriate chores for a 21 year old??? WOW...

One of my sons is what you would call unmotivated and lazy a lot of the time. I have no problem reminding him that he will NOT be a 30 year old living in my house! I have big plans for his bedroom when he moves! :)

I believe in the love and logic approach. It can seem harsh at first, but it works. There are several things my boys do not do anymore because of the "consequences" THEY chose when they decided to participate in the bad behavior. I doubt this woman has the balls (for lack of a better word at the moment) to even go through with the L&L program. She should just save her money and send the book back...

Her son just sounds really creepy to me...and the really sad part is that I blame much of it on the parents' LACK of good parenting.

Anonymous said...

I have a cousin who is now 49 years old. When she was a kid and teenager, her parents did the same things this lady is doing. The end result is that my cousin lives with her mother, does nothing around the house, doesn't work, and complains and whines until Mom forks over the money for whatever she wants. My aunt is 74, in very poor health, and broke due to her medical expenses, but she continues to enable her daughter (and even the daughter's kids) to be leeches. If you don't stop enabling, the situation will NEVER change.

MyGirlElena said...

There is so much I have to say, but that would be a post in itself. But I can't help myself from wanting to scream to this lady to wake up from her denial. It's not that he is not interested in women. It's more like what woman would want to date a stinky, smelly, slob who has no money nor desire to improve his current situation. And "he's sweet!" Give me a break!! If he's so sweet, why do they have to harass him to do something as simple as take out the garbage when he's 21 years old.
BTW: I just had to LOL at the 21 year old chores. Geez!!!

Tereasa said...

Since when does acne fall under "delicate health?" The poor boy was probably coddled his whole childhood and is screaming to be set free, but has no idea how to even start. This is very sad. And this is a foster parent? This is very frightening.

Adrienne and Jim said...

I just found your blog through Melissa's and love your response to this mother. What an enabler! At 21, I had put myself through college and earned a degree in Speech-Language Pathology, gotten married, and started graduate school while working 20-40 hours/week in addition to my classes and clinical work. I never had the choice to not shower, to not get up for school or work, to not wash my own clothes, etc. I agree with Tereasa that it is frightening this is a foster parent.... Good for you for giving her a little wake-up call. Even though she responded the way she did, she at least heard you, and those thoughts will resonate in her mind until something changes.

A 5 time mom said...

You offered help....she has to want to do it, and it does not sound like she does. Some people like to complain. You gave practical, helpful she has to decide.