Parenting --Teens/Adult son still so childish


Hello there...I have a son who is 23 and quite a challenge as he really is a poster child for the adult who won't grow up.
  He's a really bright boy who by a combination of mine and my husband's loving but mistake-ridden parenting and his own indiscipline and weaknesses is slowly but surely throwing his life away. He is a true sanguine, full of good intentions and sweetness but without the discipline to realize them and I fear is growing into a man of little character. His life seems to be in constant chaos because fun seems to be his primary value and goal, not bettering himself or preparing for his future.
  He became rebellious and and belligerent in his teen years and my husband and I lost it with him many times. Many arguments, much rage, so many tears.
   But we know he still loved us and he knew we still loved him. It's just that we saw him headed down the wrong path and try as we might, could not persuade him to make wiser choices. This led to  many fights. Still, each outburst was ultimately settled with hugs and apologies (from both sides).
   He was raised in a Christian home and was very happy in church and had many personal encounters with God. Sadly, he has left the church for all the usual reasons/excuses.
 My husband and I parented him out of fear many times and I guess became quite suffocating because we never trusted that he would make the right choices.
  Long story short, he found a girlfriend and against our wishes, allowed her to sleep overnight.
  We also found out that he had stopped going to university and never told us; in fact lied to us that he was still going. Perhaps he was afraid of the fallout.
  He lives a lifestyle of parties, drinking, possibly drugs. He does work though, almost full-time and after discovering his uni deception my husband and I told him that the gravy train had dried up. We also told him that he was free to leave the house if he couldn't submit to our rules regarding his girlfriend sleeping over. He accepted our terms without fuss and has all but moved out.
  I believe he is trying very hard to grow up but lacks the discipline or the strength of character to do so. He works, pays his own bills, is very loving and supportive of his sister and is now much more respectful and helpful to my husband and me. He also is a lot more reliable for things like appointments than he used to be.
  Please don't get me wrong - we all really do love each other, but there is this tension between us. He knows we don't approve of his lifestyle but won't change. We get exasperated with him because of that but obviously can't force him to change.
  My question is this: how do I help him grow up faster? Like I said, he is trying but still forgets to pay his bills and has credit card debt. How much I don't know. I've been advised to take my hands completely off him and let life teach him, but I really find that hard because I fear dire consequences - no car insurance, no compulsory third party insurance.
  He has sooo much potential and he is wasting it. He told my husband that he would go back to uni in February, but of course, has done nothing about that.
  He also hardly comes home to visit. I think it's possibly because he's afraid of being nagged, or perhaps coming home makes him feel like a child again and he doesn't want that anymore. When he is home, it's only for half an hour if we're lucky, then a hug a kiss and 'bye mom, bye dad'. I intend to text him more regularly though, just to keep in touch, and to be more conversational. Most of my texts end up with: 'Have you done such-and-such yet'? I'm such a helicopter mom and I really hate myself for being so needy. I really think I'm the biggest obstacle to his growing up simply because I'm so fearful of dire consequences.
  Can you please help me to see things from a different perspective? This is causing me much anguish as I see him growing older and fear time is running out. He's not in a good job and while there are opportunities to advance he's not going to get anywhere without a degree or at least some kind of industry training, I don't think.
  Still, I've been told, and I agree, that it's his life and he must rise or fall on his own merits. Help me please to learn how to do that. Even when I'm not harassing him over unpaid bills etc I find myself anxious about him all the time and wondering where and how my husband and I went so very wrong.
  Thank you!

Dear Janice,

Breathe Mom! You did not go so very wrong. It sure sound like you did a great job raising your son. What he does with that after he leaves the nest is his responsibility. It is time for a reality check. He is on his own, he is working, he made the decision to leave the university and  is spending a lot of time doing what young people do, having fun. Part of growing up is to learn to become responsible for themselves. He will never learn that lesson if you rescue him. I would reserve your rescue efforts for those time when he asks you for assistance. Otherwise, you can nicely let your opinion be known and then back off.

If you continue to have problems separating from his affairs, you might look into going to Alonon. It is the 12 Step program that is for significant others in the life of substance abusers, who are having trouble letting them go and are almost addictively being rescuers. The ladies of Alonon have black belt in dealing with what you are going through. Here is the link to your local Alonon

It is one of the hardest things for parents to walk through the feelings of being powerless alter the course of their adult children's behavior. You can be of great assistance to him if you understand that you can only do parenting stuff with his permission and requests. The rest of the time, you can state your opinion, ONCE, and then back off and wait for any requests, if any, from him. Of course, emergency situation are not what I am talking about. Emergency situations require emergency responses. I ought to say, true emergencies. His electric being cut off in only an emergency if he will freeze to death. Being cold for a while will teach a lesson in responsibly paying bills that you can never teach.

I hope this all helped. You can always reply with follow up questions if you want or need to. If you go to my website, There are a bunch of useful parenting tips on my blog. There is also a parents resource page with recommended books. My favorite one, which is required reading for all my clients, is "Parent As Coach." It is low price, a quick read, and it transforms even pretty good parent/son relationships. You absolutely need to buy and read this book. If you click on the title it will take you right to the page to order it. But you already know this. I hope you have read the "Parent as Coach" book by now.

Jason Wittman, MPS

Parenting --Teens

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Jason Wittman, MPS


I can answer most question regarding the raising of teens. Since my personal experience has been raising 13 foster sons and an adopted son, I am stronger talking about parenting male teens and young adults. When it comes to teen problems and how to parent them, I am equally well versed with male and female issues. I am also very strong answering substance abuse and addiction issues, teen dating drama, questions about sex and questions relating to same sex issues and concerns.


I have a master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Cornell University. I am certified as a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner and as a Hypnotherapist. I have been a Life & Mentor Coach for over twenty years. I have been running youth programs and working with teens and young adults for over 35 years and have personally raised 14 teens.

International Coach Federation International Association for Coaches

My Parenting Blog I recently published an autobiographical novel, "The Street Shrink Chronicles" Articles in The American Journal

Master's in Counseling Psychology from Cornell University B.S. in Bus. Mgt from Cornell University Certified N.L.P. Practitioner from Grinder-DeLozier Institute Certified Hypnotherapist from Gil Boyne Institute

Past/Present Clients
My clients are very private people who do not wish to be public about their personal business.

©2016 All rights reserved.