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How to Make Your Adult Child Responsible With Tough Love

Updated on March 26, 2014

You Know You Want to Sing....

Set a Good Example

The lessons of responsibility begin during childhood. The best thing you can do for your children is to set a good example. This is true throughout their entire lives, including adulthood. If you make them aware of your responsible behavior, chances are they will emulate you in childhood and adulthood.

Abide by the rules you set for them, for the most part. For example, finish all the food on your plate before you have dessert. Be sure your household chores are completed before you enjoy your weekend. See to it that your bills are paid before you spend money on unnecessary items. It’s not a bad idea to set up an allowance program for your children. Assign each child a set of chores and pay them accordingly. Instill good morals, values, and a responsible lifestyle from the beginning. It will save you and your children much heartache and frustration throughout years to come.

Always reward good behavior and good grades but not with food or money (if they are receiving an allowance). Take them to a movie, roller skating, or bowling. You can also give them extra privileges as rewards as well. Emphasize their positive behavior, and exercise discipline when needed, then try not to mention the issue again unless it becomes a recurring problem.

Raising a Child is Much Different This Century


Adult Communication, Mutual Respect and Tough Love

If are unhappy with your adult child, calmly discuss the issue privately as adults. Respect isn’t just given automatically. They have to earn yours and you theirs. If you treat them like adults they are more likely to behave like adults.

Question them. At an early age, begin questioning their plans and dreams for the future. Ask them how they are going to get where they want to be. Ask them about alternate plans if the first choice should fail. When your children become adults, it isn’t always wise to offer your help or your opinion unless it is solicited. You can ask your adult children questions, but a bombardment of interrogation isn’t recommended. Your children will be more receptive to the advice of other people, for the most part. This can wax and wane throughout their lives. However, if they really need you, they will ask. They will appreciate you for letting them make their own mistakes and experiences. That being said, there are exceptions to the rule. If you discover your adult child is in a dangerous situation, you must intervene.


When to Help and When Not to Help

The natural reaction for any parent is to make their child’s life easy, or better than their own. Even as they become adults, the thought of your children suffering could be unbearable; even if they’ve brought the situation on themselves. What we need to learn is how to implement tough love, and when to do it.

Since our current economy isn’t very promising, there should be some wiggle room in your expectations of your adult child at this time. If your child is unemployed and needs shelter or money, there is nothing wrong with helping them. Most of us, at some point in our lives, need help. However, if this becomes the normal behavior, not the exception to the rule, you may need to practice tough love. You may need to set a deadline for that child to move out, or limit the amount of money you lend him or her. You may choose to charge rent after they reach the age of eighteen. However, if your adult child really does need financial help, it is your responsibility to encourage them to try alternatives to borrowing money. For example, cutting back on luxuries may help pay bills that otherwise are not affordable. If you are the one to help, encourage your adult child to budget their finances and pay bills on time and before luxuries are purchased. Savings accounts should be recommended also.

Once your child is an adult, treat them so. Allow them to behave as an adult experiencing both good and bad consequences. Allow them the self respect and pride of taking care of themselves. Do not do their laundry. Do not clean their home. Do not pay their bills. These things should only be done for them if they pay someone, or need your help in the event they cannot do it for themselves for some legitimate reason.

Obviously, if you suspect your adult child is addicted to alcohol or drugs, DO NOT encourage this behavior by contributing to the problem. DO NOT give him or her money, but calmly discuss your concerns with your adult child. Encourage treatment as your form of love and support.

As always, I hope you have learned something and enjoyed the read.

"Be kind to one another" ~ Ellen

God Bless You ~ Margaret Sullivan


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    • profile image

      Kara V. 2 years ago

      Thank you for this. I'm a first time mom to a 4 mo old and wanted great tips. I have a brother who is 28 and my mom still does his laundry and cleans his room. He lives rent free and doesn't have the ability to care for himself because I feel he wasn't given the chance to figure life out for himself. I hope for my parents peace of mind, they will stop enabling him.

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Thank you so much, Cre8tor. I appreciate your kindness. Great job on your parenting practices!

    • Cre8tor profile image

      Dan Robbins 5 years ago from Ohio

      There are so many good points brought up here. I raise 3 boys that I love more than anything but know I'm not helping them if I don't let them experience life for what it is. Of course I never let anything go too far but do often let them wallow in their mistakes before offering to bail them out. Luckily, my boys aren't making many mistakes and I feel this style of parenting has contributed to this. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Why thank you, gmwilliams! I appreciate the compliment.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Preach on my sister. You have elucidate intelligent points. Parents must implement steps to assure their children's independence from an early stage. The duty of parents are to raise adults, not infantilize children to the point of utter dependence.

      Parents who are overprotective are doing their children a total disservice. The plethora of overprotective parents is the reason why we see the increase of noncommital adults who are socially and emotional arrested to say the least. These are the adults who are risk aversive and are fearful to venture out into the adult world. You have presented an excellent hub!