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Parenting --Teens/19yr old not motivated to supply his own needs


I have a 19 year old son who is add, was on meds until age 14 when he refused to take them anymore. He is in his last year of high school, has poor grades in any classes that do not interest him, and has attendance issues in those classes. The school has bent over backwards to get him into a votec program to try and get him some job skills training, as it's unlikely that he'll get a high school diploma before he ages out of the K-12 system. If he can manage to keep his attendance and grades acceptable to the votec program, they'll see him through to completing that, so he'll have a marketable job skill. the problem there is getting him to understand that things like attendance and punctuality in school are carryovers into the workplace.

I've been telling him that once he stops going to school and starts working full time, he will pay me rent or he will have to move out, and I plan on sticking to that. I've told him that he'll pay 30 percent of his income as said rent. He does not want to accept that he will be taking over responsibility for all his own expenses once he's employed. I've been sounding like a broken record, telling him over and over that when he's working and paying rent, he pays his own bills - he gets to pay me for his living space, buy his own food, pay his own cell phone bill, etc. He doesn't want to accept that what he earns isn't going to be "play money" to go spend as he wishes... that he will be paying his own upkeep. He thinks that if he pays me the 30 percent rent.. that that includes food... which it does NOT.

What else do I do to get this message across, besides kick him out if he doesn't pay up once he's working? Trying to get him to go from me providing to him buying his own is going to be a painful transition it seems.... how do I get him to take over his own groceries etc yet not kick him out unless it really comes to that?

It seems that he has intentions of incorrectly prioritizing spending his earnings on "wants" vs "needs" and he needs a serious reality check... he has got to see that he has to cover his housing, food, phone, etc before he considers 'play money'... and what I say seems to go in one ear and out the other.... frustrating for me, for sure. He has a while before he gets to the point of any meaningful earnings... but when he does... I almost dread what I feel I'll be forced to do to make him pay his way.

Hello Donna,
It is very frustrating trying to get messages across to a child who just does not focus very well.
It might help if you put things in graphic terms. That is, if you are talking to him, he may tune you out. But if you created colorful charts or graphs on the computer, you may be able to give those to him to look at and that may help him accept the future in a more meaningful way. You could say the same things you have been saying in conversation in a one-page graphic that he could take with him and look at several times. For instance, once he gets a job and you expect him to start paying, you could create a graphic that shows his gross income, his net income, and what he has to pay you, and what is left over for "fun money."
But, for a young person who hasn't grasped the importance of grades and attendance at school, I don't think anything you say will help him to come to terms with what could happen if he fails to meet his financial obligations to you in the future after he is employed. He is a person who probably needs to experience the harsh and bitter consequences before he fully understands that you have meant what you have been saying. That perhaps means he may have to be kicked out before he sees the "light."
James Windell

Parenting --Teens

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James Windell


I am a parent trainer, psychotherapist, and author specializing in parenting issues.During the past 40 years I`ve worked with parents with discipline problems and challenging children. I give frequent lectures and workshops related to discipline, social skills, and aggressive children. I consult with various agencies and schools where there are child behavior problems. I am listed in the American Psychological Associations` media panel as an expert on parenting and am frequently quoted in leading magazines and newspapers.


I have worked in a juvenile court as a clinical psychologist and as a psychotherapist in private practice. In the Oakland County (MI) Juvenile Court, I developed an award-winning parent training program for parents of adolescent delinquents. In addition I have done group therapy with adolescent delinquents using a social skills-building model. I have consulted with courts, schools, churches, preschools, and domestic violence shelters in areas of parenting.

I received my BA with a major in Psychology in 1963 from Wayne State University. I got my MA in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University in 1972.

I am a member of the American Psychological Association and the Michigan Psychological Association. I have written pamplets, newspaper articles, and professional journal articles. I have been the Coping With Kids columnist for several newspapers for 26 years, and my columns appear weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been the author or co-author of 16 books. My books include, 8 WEEKS to A WELL-BEHAVED CHILD, CHILDREN WHO SAY NO WHEN YOU WANT THEM TO SAY YES, 6 STEPS TO AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT TEENAGER, and THE FATHERSTYLE ADVANTAGE. My most recent parenting book (2012) is THE EVETYTHING CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT BOOK. I have appeared on over 180 radio and TV shows related to my books and parenting. For more information about me, my books and columns, go to my website at

I have an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University.

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