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Advice Needed: Unmotivated Adult Children


A friend of mine has one her adult children living at home while attending college (like my twins are.) She recently confided in me some challenges she is having with him. And wanted my advice, I know, go figure!?!

The Situation

Her son seems to have little in the way of self-motivation or drive. But is taking a full load at college and doing well (As and Bs.) He is responsible as far as getting to class and so forth.

But he lost his job after the holidays and quickly burned through any savings he may have had. Like me, she has made him responsible for his own cell phone bill which includes the cost of his phone and his part of the plan (her contract,) his own car insurance (his own plan,) and his day to day expenses like gas, entertainment, etc. She essentially provides room and board, like I do.

Here’s her issue. Now that he has run out of money, he cannot afford his bills. She will have to pay his cell phone bill because it is tied to hers. But in the end she is not legally responsible for any other bills for him.

My Advice

She asked what I would do. I am not sure what I would do, but these are my thoughts:

  • Make him stop driving as soon as he couldn’t pay his insurance. I would assume he has some grace before its cancelled. But maybe this “kick in the butt” might inspire him to get a job. This would be a burden for her because she would have to drive him for a while, but it is doable. I don’t think I would pay this bill, but I would be tempted to because I know that a gap in insurance can hurt in the long run. But I still wouldn’t let him drive until he could pay the bill.
  • Take away his phone as soon as he is not able to pay it. Because it’s under contract and on her plan, I would pay this bill so as not to adversely affect her standing. But again, I would keep the phone until he can pay the bill.
  • Finally, I guess I would give him some sort of time frame to get on his feet. (Especially since he has not been self-motivated to get a job or earn money.) For instance, if you haven’t gotten a job by the end of this semester and caught up with your bills. You will have to leave school and work full time or move out?

Do I sound too harsh? I guess I’m coming at it from my “things are tight and hard” perspective.

My Young Adults

I’ve been very blessed that Sea Cadet especially has really taken ownership of the responsibilities I have given him and is working hard to make good decisions. And really talks alot about it and asks alot of questions.

History Buff is getting it, and during a conversation last night asked “if I got this job could I buy a truck and a house?” My response is it all comes down to how you manage your money. And that’s something you have to work on. His response “I’m just going to keep giving you my paycheck and you can handle that.” To which I replied “NO WAY!” But I had to laugh that he thought so much of my management skills. At least the knowledge I am teaching them makes it seem like I have it all together. (And yes, they are well aware of the struggles we have had.)

So what would you advise my friend? How would you handle an adult child at home would wasn’t self-motivated to make responsible decisions and work?


  • Reply Megan |

    Maybe you already know they have spoken about it, but nothing you shared says they have had any sort of conversation about this situation and the consequences. I think your friend needs to decide what she is willing to do and then lay that all out in a concrete way to her son. I will pay for the cell phone until the end of the contract but you will need to pay me back. Or I will cancel it and pay the fee to do so after x months etc.

    Her son might be legally an adult, but clearly he isn’t used to considering the long term consequences of his actions. She can be as harsh or easy as she is comfortable with, but that all starts with the clear communication of her expectations and efforts to her son.

  • Reply Laura |

    If you haven’t gotten a job by the end of this semester and caught up with your bills You will have to leave school and work full time or move out makes no sense. If he hasn’t found a job he has to find a full time job? I would also never tell someone making A’s and B’s to drop out of school. The natural consequences of no phone or car should be enough to give him a kick in the pants. And if they aren’t he probably has something else going on, like depression.

  • Reply Cwaltz |

    It’s really hard with the information given to give advice. School can be considered a full time job in my opinion and while some can juggle working part time with that experience some struggle with it. It may be this young person falls in group b. Quite a few do which is why people end up with student loan debt not just for school but living expenses while in school. Maybe if she wants him working part time than he next semester adjusts to a smaller course load? In the interim she should have a conversation with her child on the phone and insurance and how he intends to cover the costs of he is not earning income. If it were me I might “loan” the cost of these things with the thought that next semester when he was working he be required to pay that money back(and put it in writing). You really can’t job hunt without a phone and he will likely need the car to get back and forth to school. So essentially punishing him by taking the phone or car is probably going to be punishing herself.

    • Reply amy |

      I agree with this. I was definately not one that could handle fulltime school and working anything more than minimal hours. Perhaps options as far as alternative money making ideas need to be considered. His needs are very low, can he donate plasma, hoouse sit, babysit, dogwalk? all things he wont get rich off of, but can be low stress and work around a school schedule easily.

  • Reply jj |

    She has to keep encouraging him to job hunt, and give him a timeline. Perhaps he is feeling depressed as he lost his job, it sucks. And school is stressful. If she can afford his insurance and phone for 3 months? Then maybe she can set that as a timeline to get a new job.

  • Reply Bobbie |

    How old is her son? (If he’s over 22, I would agree he needs to find a job.)

    Was he fired from his job, or did he lose his job because it was seasonal, or something to that effect? My kids had jobs while they were full time students (also getting A’s and B’s), but we did not require it.

    Can your friend afford to pay his bills?

  • Reply Sheila Abbott |

    I have adult child and this is a hard situation. But you have to go with expectations. Both of my adult children are on my phone bill however if they pay late or not at all, I call and have the line suspended. Easy no questions asked. I still am responsible for paying the bill but they can’t use the phone until it is paid. One of my daughter decided to take the easy way out and get her own plan, leaving me with 12 months on a contract to pay. She now is pleading to join my plan again. Expectations are 2 months up front and no new phone unless you pay yourself.

    As for the driving, if he has no insurance no driving and it is his responsibility to find a way to and from college.
    Adults have to be expected to behavior as adults so no give on my part.

  • Reply Walnut |

    Has the kid looked into part time on campus jobs? They’re usually easy to come by and super flexible around class schedules, needed study time, etc.

    I worked two jobs while attending school on an accelerated schedule and generally argue that working requires you to be more organized during college and a better student.

    The Mom should check to see if she can suspend the cell phone. Sometimes that cost is just $5/month or something nominal.

    • Reply Hope |

      I would agree with this. I don’t know if he looked for on campus jobs.
      The good news is that after she sat him down and gave him some deadlines, he got a bit more motivated and as of today has been hired at the local Home Depot.
      But I really appreciate all the BAD feedback.

  • Reply Shanna |

    She needs to contact her insurance, if he is living under her roof and she is supporting him, she is likely legally responsible if something happens when he is driving. If he lets his insurance lapse, that could have legal consequences for her if there is an accident. The rules on this are weird, at least in California. She should definitely look into what her legal liability is on that front before she lets it go unpaid.

  • Reply Jen |

    That is phenomenally bad advice. Kid loses job for unspecified reason, but is still doing great in school. Doing that well in college does require drive and desire. We (the reader) know nothing about the job market in the area where this kid attends school–sometimes you can look and look for a job, and not find one. I applied tirelessly for jobs during both my freshman year of college, and my first year of graduate school. Nothing was offered. I concentrated on my schoolwork instead, and volunteered a bit when I had time.

    So, with these huge gaps in knowledge, the advice is to make him stop going to school if he can’t find a job within a few months. So…we’re tell someone to stop training for a career and get what will probably be a minimum wage job (and those rarely give FT hours).

    It’s one thing to advise this if the kid is just generally pretty aimless–isn’t doing well in school, doesn’t know what he wants to do, etc. In that case, taking a time out to work, and evaluate where they want to go is probably advisable so you don’t waste tuition. But sounds like this kid is pretty darn hard working and motivated to me.

    If he’s simply unmotivated to find work, losing the phone and car should be enough of a kick in the seat of his pants. But this may be a much deeper issue of depression, or lack of jobs being offered.

  • Reply Laura |

    Yep, I said almost the same thing too. Dropping out of school when you are doing well makes no sense.

  • Reply CookieMonster |

    Hope, you are a nice person who likes to help people. But I think you should stay out of this one.

    P.S. Me love cookie

    • Reply Hope |

      You are probably right. But I am glad I asked here.
      And my friend can read the responses here.
      That’s as far as I will go 🙂

  • Reply Gail |

    As a parent, I think you have to make the sacrifices. If that means paying your childs cellphone bill or insurance while they are doing great in college, you do it. I think the greatest gift you can give your child is to have them come out of post secondary education without any debt, or very little. For sure, this person knows they are relying on mom/dad for assistance. And they also know they need to have a job. Someone making good grades in college, doesn’t need to be hounded to get a job. They know.

So, what do you think ?