After I was thrown out of North Park University in the middle of my sophomore year, I returned to Tucson to live with my Mom and Dad. My older brother Jack, who was a graduate student at the University of Arizona, also lived at home. In all the years we lived together with good ole mom and Dad, we never had a ripple. We got along great! We helped out our parents, painted the house, did yard work, took out the garbage, and all the rest. It was a great experience and you sure couldn’t beat the rent!
But someone once said, “Fish and company smell after three days.” And I’ve heard enough horror stories to know that my experience is NOT the norm.
Do you remember the milestone years in your life? Remember turning 18 and thinking that you were on your own? Remember turning 21 and telling yourself that you are legal? The problem is most of us, especially guys, are not grown up until we’re 25 or older.
Now, if you are going to have your adult kids living in your home for any reason, you would be very smart to set up basic guidelines. Another old saying is that “good fences make good neighbors.” And when it comes to this issue, I guarantee you need a fence.
Although your home might be rent free, it is not duty free! It’s a home, not a hotel, and your child cannot just come and go as they please (no matter how grown up they think they are).
If you could walk the halls of the average college dorm at 2 in the morning, you’d see many kids are not home yet. And many of them are still awake! While your son or daughter sees coming home at 3 in the morning at your house completely normal, you must set the expectation that this is not a dorm, but a home.
Your kid thinks,”Hey, I’m 21, you can’t tell me when to be home!”
But the truth is, “You are right. You are 21 and I can’t tell you when to come home. But if you come home at 3 in the morning and wake us up when you come through the door and the dog is barking… your seemingly innocent behavior now is impeding on the rights of us old folks that live in this home and pay the mortgage.”
Am I saying that on occasion a kid cannot stay out late? Absolutely not. But it would need to be agreed on by both parent and child.
I know that college-aged kids living at home can easily turn into a nightmare. Before you agree to this, as a couple you should agree to the “fences” that you need to put in place. If you’re not on the same page, forget it. It’s doomed before you even start!
These agreements should be revisited every semester and during the summer. You might discover (or your son or daughter!) that living together at home is all it’s cracked up to be. They might want to strike out on their own. That is a real good experience for young adults to understand that REAL landlords require cash up front, security deposits, and many other expectations that are part of the real world.
Here’s some ideas for how you can build “good fences” with your young adult living at home.
1. Clean up after yourself
2 Help around the house
3. Every day ask, “What can I do to help?”
4. Respect your family members
These things mean different things to each family, so YOU have to color in that picture. Your son may think cleaning up means dropping the dirty dishes in the sink for someone else to clean. Be clearer than a kindergarten teacher on what your expectations are for living in YOUR home.
Now, many parents want to provide a free place to their children as a way of helping them get started or to help with their education. That’s all well and good, but I know other parents that say, “If my adult child is living here, especially if they working, they should be paying rent!”
If that is the case, the rent needs to be agreed to and it needs to be paid on a specific day of the month. Cash only, no checks please! As I saw in the store the other day “No checks please, we have a good supply from last year!
If things go awry, it’s time for reality discipline. You have to say, “Honey, things obviously aren’t working out, as your Mom and Dad we are giving you 30 days notice to remove what you need from our home because this clear is not working.”
Realize that you child might be shocked that you are taking such action. After all, they probably think its “their” home. But reiterate the many reasons why this is not working. Ideally these will be things you’ve already shared and given fair warning that they need to change in order for the arrangement to continue.
But if you’ve asked for improvement, and you are still getting woken up in the wee hours in the morning you have to act. If you are still cleaning dirty dishes and laundry, it’s time for an intervention.
Be firm, and you will soon realize that you will probably get along better with your son or daughter once they are out on their own, living in an apartment, and and having the rights and responsibilities of young adulthood squarely on their shoulders.
Remember it’s a house…not a hotel! It’s up to you to follow through if is not being treated like one.