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Should You Support a Lazy Kid?

Lazy TeenagerAs a parent, I try really hard to never judge other parents because I hate when people tell me what I should or shouldn’t be doing to raise a child. You never know someone else’s personal situation, so it’s best never to make assumptions about how awesome or poor parenting skills might be. However, I can’t help but notice a seemingly alarming number of teens or young adults recently that really have no goals and pretty much do nothing, relying on Mom and Dad to support them long after Mom and Dad should be enjoying an empty nest. My daughter is only six, so I’ve got a few years, but I’m already wondering how does a kid end up with no motivation? How far should parents go to support their children when the kid puts forth no effort of their own?

Lazy Kids

I have a neat job where I get to see many families annually over the course of several years. In a small town, you kind of get to know people and what their kids are involved with and hope to become. Sometimes, though it’s disappointing.

A few months ago, I had a teenager who came in with his Mom for an exam. My tech does some pre-testing before I see the patient, and we’ve seen just about everything over the years. However, this kid was maybe the most rude person we’ve ever had. When asked how he was, he said he thought it was stupid he had to be here. When asked what grade he was in, he said he didn’t go to school. When asked where he worked, he said he didn’t. Seeing a pattern, my tech asked him what he did with his time if he didn’t work or go to school. The kid said his Mom was trying to get him sent to juvenile detention, but couldn’t.

After some investigating, I found that he had been expelled from one school, so his Mom moved to another district. He was about to be expelled from that school when she threatened to sue for discrimination if they kicked him out. As a result, the school assigned a special education teacher who sits with this kid all day because he is too disruptive to be in a classroom. I guess they will keep him until he’s old enough to drop out or age out.

The other case is a sweet girl I’ve seen for over a decade. She is now 21. Her Mom and Dad are hard workers and good people. Mom came in a while back, and I asked about the daughter. She said that she had tried school, but dropped out and now lives at home. She refuses to get a job and has no idea what she wants to do with her life. The daughter came in this week. I asked her what she had been doing lately, and she said, “Nothing.” I asked if she had any plans. “No.” I said that must get boring sometimes. “Yeah, I guess.”

What Happened in a Generation?

I am not saying that my generation works any harder or is more motivated than anyone else. You can look at all the millennials and Gen X’ers in the blogosphere and see that is not the case, but when I was young, one of two things happened. You either finished school and went on to college then got a job, or you got a job right out of school. I’ve know people who have lived with their parents, but they got a job. Do you see a common theme here? J-O-B

I realize that the job market has not been amazing over the last few years, but I know there are various service industry type jobs, at least in our town, that are always hiring. The wages might not be much, but at least you aren’t sitting on the couch watching the Kardashians  or playing Angry Birds all day. Even if you have no idea what you want to do with your life, you can at least participate in society and help out Mom and Dad in the process.

What’s a Parent To Do?

Again, not trying to judge, but if you complain about your kid’s laziness while you feed, clothe, house, and basically take care of all their needs, how do you expect they will ever have a desire to support themselves? I believe if I were ever faced with that situation, this is what I’d do. If my kiddo wants to live with me after the age when she should be trying to make it on her own, I doubt I’d kick her to the curb, but I’d have a few rules.

1) Pay for Rent and/or Utilities-She could pay us rent to live at home. If she was working toward a degree or earnestly looking for a job and needed to save up money, I wouldn’t make her pay, but if she just wanted to be lazy, there would be no free ride.

2) Pay for Transportation– She could pay for gas and upkeep on our car if she wanted to use it.

3) Be Productive– I would not let my grown child sit around and do nothing all day. If she wanted to live with me and didn’t have a job, she’d have to spend the days looking for one, helping me with house hold jobs, and/or improving  her skills in some way. If she didn’t want to go to school, then she could start learning a foreign language or how to use whatever technology is available then. She could volunteer for a charity. Anything besides being a lazy couch potato.

4) Be Ready to Evict– I can’t imagine having to tell your child to get out, but I think if there is never that treat, the kid might not ever develop any motivation. You have to practice what you preach. I bet the kids in my examples would not last two seconds on their own, and being in the real world might motivate them really quickly.

Hopefully, we will set high expectations and good examples so our daughter will never know the option of being lazy, but if we fail, I hope to look back on these ideas someday so that I’m not supporting a lazy adult/child.

How far should parents go to support kids who don’t want to support themselves? Could you kick out your child if they refused to become and adult? Any young people care to comment in defense of their generation?

Image:Freedigitalphotos.net/Feelart

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

43 comments

  1. I wonder what things were like at home when these kids were younger. I can’t help but think that if you “set the stage” for personal responsibility by asking/requiring certain things of your children when they are young (such as doing chores for allowance money instead of just receiving it for being alive), that it may be easier to require an older child to take personal responsibility. But if you’ve never required anything of them, I can see why it would be hard to start when he/she becomes a moody teenager.

  2. I actually have some pretty large views on the whole inter generational thing, but for the purposes of being succinct and not hijacking your post I will just say this – I think kids (regardless of generation) need to learn to stand up on their own two feet, and if they can’t motivate themselves, then they soon will when they are fending for themselves on their own.

  3. Mr PoP and I each have a sibling that we’ve considered a “failure to launch” and is still living at home, largely supported by parents even though they are 33 and 29 years old working menial jobs. Parents say things like, “They can’t support themselves on what they earn!” But we tend to be of the belief that if you stopped paying their iPhone bill and started charging them rent they’d figure out how to get better paying jobs.

    • I guess it would be like staying in high school forever. I felt rich because I had no expenses other than for fun money. It doesn’t take much to live when you don’t have any responsibilities.

  4. I think it depends on the situation, but I’m praying I don’t have to deal with this situation. My siblings and myself were (and are) hard-working and want to make it on our own (and have for the most part). I hope that my kids desire to have an independent life, but I certainly won’t enable them if they don’t have that desire! I have friends who are 25 who have jobs but won’t move out of their parents house because their meals are cooked, groceries are bought, and laundry is done by their moms.

    • I think sometimes the parents make their whole lives about taking care of kids. Not that that’s a bad thing, but you can’t mother them forever. I think it’s important for parents to be involved with their kids lives, but also have other interests to let the kids become independent and not expect mom or dad to be there every second.

  5. I think about this a lot too, Kim. It seems to me that so very many parents work so hard to make sure their kids have “comfortable” lives that the kids are then angry, disappointed and insecure when they’re told they have to start making the transition out on their own. I also see an incredible lack of proper and loving discipline, along with kids being given absolutely no expectations of their duty within the family, which both need to start at a very young age. You can’t coddle and cater to your kid for 18 years, and then be surprised when they have no motivation or desire to be responsible. A mom was complaining to me once that her younger teen kids never helped with housework. She’d ask them, and they’d just blow her off. “What can I do?” she said. “I can’t make them do chores”. HUH??? You’re damn right you can make them!! Just say “You WILL do what’s required of you in this house, based on the rules of this house, or you’ll spend the next week in the house without friends, video games, tv, etc.”. YOU are the boss, not the kid. But again, it would take an awful lot of effort to start doing that when your kid is 14 or whatever, but it should start with an apology from the parents for teaching them incorrectly about these things in the first place. That’ll make a kid a lot more open to hearing what you have to say. Awesome post, Kim.

    • I’m sure I had my moments of being a surly teenager, but I can’t imagine ever blowing my mother off. I still can’t to this day. If she told me to vacuum the floor, I would. I hope my daughter feels the same way.

      • If I would’ve blown my parents off, you can bet your tail I wouldn’t have done it a second time. I was no angel when I was a teen, but my parents set strict rules about what happens when you don’t do what you’re told.

  6. I know a lot of people who mooch off of their parents or have in the past. Personally, I couldn’t live with myself if I did that! I truly hope that I will raise my kids to be motivated people and not too lazy. So far so good. At this point, it’s all about making them pick up their toys and brush their teeth! =)

    • I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve seen in my office who completely let a 6 or 7 year old child rule the roost. It’s unbelievable.

  7. I think most behavior is tied up with self esteem. Either a child is neglected to the point where absolutely nothing was expected of them. To the point of feeling like they don’t matter. Or the child was over directed by his parent to the point of all decisions were made for them. If the child came up with an idea the parent would be the devils advocate but in reality this demeans and the child begins to doubt himself because every time he has an idea the over directing parent would nicely cancel it out with something or some better idea. This can create a child that thinks what’s the use whether consciously or unconsciously. This is parenting out of fear. Fear parenting in disabling. Then there is the parent who is to busy to grow a child. Out of impatience they make all the decisions for the child. The child never learns to trust himself thus becomes a fearful person masked by anger or depression. Most of us try to do our best based on how we were raised.

    • I agree that kids who never had any sort of direction or ability to make choices would have no idea about how to behave in the real world, but there has to be some sort of desire to try I would think. My parents didn’t give me much freedom growing up, but they did expect me to do well in school and participate in life, which gave me opportunities and desires to make my own way.

  8. Very thoughtful post Kim. I think, generally speaking, it depends on the situation but largely should be along the lines you described. I think so much of it boils down to giving and expecting children to be responsible and go in to society to be productive adults. That’ll look different for everyone, but think supporting that ends up enabling the laziness is likely only going to do more harm than good in many cases.

    • I guess it’s easy to say what I would do never having had to face that situation, but I think I’d never be an enabler.

  9. I think maybe I’ve talked to you about my brother before but there are a lot of similarities here. He didn’t drop out of school, but did flunk a grade so was technically in the same grade as me, although I still graduated before him. Still, my parents enabled him FAR too long…I mean FAR too long. It’s a disservice to themselves and my brother. I could so go on and on about this subject so I’ll cut it short. Long story short, if you have a lazy kid, you need to be proactive about not letting that happen, at least under your roof (by you I don’t mean you Kim). 🙂

    • I know the younger kid gets coddled a bit more, but I’ve never understood that type dynamic either when you let one sibling get away with anything. I think it would be much harder to have to get cut off as an adult who has no ambition or skills rather than just expecting and requiring more from a very young age.

  10. In some senses, I would really like to be able to support my child as he starts off in the working world, because I hope it would put him in a better financial position later on. But if he wasn’t using the opportunity to save money or develop new job skills, I would require a rent payment. I honestly don’t think that I could evict him, though, if he didn’t pay! I don’t envy parents in this situation.

  11. I am not so kind when it comes to how this is handled. If you are old enough to get a job or go to school, you better do either one or both. When you allow your children to mooch off of you when they are capable of making their own decisions, getting a job, or an education, then you are doing them no favors. If my son grows up with no ambition, then he will be finding his own way. While I love my son and will do what I can to give him the best framework, we can’t support him throughout his entire life. I was brought up to work hard and strive for everything that I wanted. There are many young kids now that are given everything and coddled when they fail. It’s time to grow up!

    • It really does nothing for the child if you don’t make them earn their place. I don’t think it’s ever a kid’s job to take care of parents, but there is nothing wrong with having kids who are old enough start finding ways to earn money and be responsible for their things.

  12. This is exactly why I wrote “Dear Parents, Charge Your Kids Rent.” Once a kid hits 18 or goes off to college they start be weaned (or cut off) parental welfare so when college graduation comes they’re their own. If circumstances mean they move back in with Mom & Dad, I still think they should 100% pay rent — even if their parents don’t technically need it to be financially stable. Parents could turn it into a “401k” or savings account to give the money back when the kid leaves (just don’t tell the kid that while he or she is paying rent). Frankly, I blame a lot of the attitude on parents coddling their children. I knew the expectations when I graduated college so I was motivated to save all through college so I could live on my own or kick back money to my parents while I was looking for a job. Parents should also require kids living at home to have PT jobs while searching for a career job.

    • Thank you for giving me faith in the younger generation. It would have never occurred to me to be lazy because my parents would not have supported me at all. They were great at helping when I needed help with various things, but I almost always had a job from age 16 on or was in school or residency.

  13. I know of too many people my age who mooch off their parents. It really shocks me because I have been supporting myself since high school (and completely supporting myself since 18). I think many parents are enablers though – I know a group of guys who are all 28/29 and all live at home. Their parents all pay for EVERYTHING and always have.

  14. Here in Hawaii due to the high cost of living and Asian culture a lot of kids live at home. A lot of them however barely pay neccessities, instead use it to go out. We have the highest number of multigenerational homes, a lot of these kids take things for granted.

  15. I see this a lot too, Kim. Many parents have supported their kids for years and are at their wit’s end. They don’ know how to stop. There is a fine line between creating a good life for your children and creating entitled kids who expect to have everything handed to them. We do our kids a terrible disservice when we create that expectation within them. I absolutely want to give my girls the best life possible but I always want them to have a desire to succeed on their own and a strong work ethic.

  16. My parents started every other sentence from age 12 to 18 with “when you are 18 and move out” so there was little room for laziness. I would put a deadline for eviction, I get that a kid can have a tough time at school but there is no reason for not working a minimum wage job while they figure life out.

  17. I suspect the stage was set for this attitude/behavior by the parents themselves. Too many parents make excuses for their kids failures because it actually reflects poorly on them as parents. They didn’t to their job of raising their kids right. The kids have been coddled and provided for their whole life so the kid resists change. Being a responsible, self supporting adult is hard work. Why would the kids ever want to do that?

  18. Unfortunately, my youngest brother (22), who I love but has some serious issues, completely relies on my Dad. As kids we were never ever made to do chores or get jobs. I was always into school and learning and my middle brother loved to work (didn’t have to be told) so we sort of instilled responsibility in ourselves. My youngest brother however didn’t like school, didn’t like working, didn’t like sports, and wasn’t made to do anything. Then when he was 12 my parents divorced and my Dad has felt guilty ever since. So now, out of my Dad’s guilt he pays for EVERYTHING for my brother. My brother works for my Dad but only show up 30 percent of the time. My mom’s husband hasn’t let him come to her house in over 3 years. So, now my Dad feels obligated to take care of him because he has no where to go. Of course the story is really much more complicated than this. But, what’s a parent to do?

    I am trying to raise my kids with their own sets of responsibility and instill confidence within them. But if I was in my Dad’s situation what would I do? I don’t think I could ever put one of my kids on the streets. It’s tough. And, I completely agree with you – you cannot be quick to judge a parent without knowing their story.

  19. Wow, the teenager in your office just makes me really sad. Once a kid gets to that point it is so hard to turn him around. All I can really add to this discussion at this point is to say that my 3 kids have strict boundaries and expectations. Without either, bad things are going to happen.

  20. I’m sure it’s much easier said than done, but I would hold my kids accountable and make sure the take some responsibility as they grow older by asking for them to pay for the cell phone bill or a portion of groceries.

  21. Lazy kids won’t stay in my house. Period. Obviously I would try and work with them and see if I can motivate them-but, if it’s obvious that they are mooching off of me, then I’m kicking them out of the house…with LOVE. Because by the time my kids are old enough to be young adults I’ll be too old for that sh$t. Also, I will have worked hard as hell to be successful. It will be my success and they will benefit from it but there are no free rides in my house. Period.

  22. I remember hearing a news story about parents in Italy that had to get the law involved to evict their 41-year-old son. I guess tenant protection laws unfortunately make it difficult to get rid of an ungrateful child!

    I have an aunt who is going broke enabling her 34-year-old daughter and it drives me bananas. You don’t have to let your kid take advantage of you! I think in the case of my aunt she feels she failed as a parent so she has to keep letting her daughter (and grandson) live with her rent free.

    I am not a parent yet but I am a believer in teaching your kid personal financial responsibility and making them responsible for paying for things themselves. That means that unless my future kid was heavily involved in extra-cirriculars AND maintaining an excellent GPA, I would not be paying for car insurance or any cell phone plan above a basic voice plan. I had to get a job to pay for things and I would pass that same tradition onto my future kids.

  23. I was an active kid, I liked to play outside, I liked to be out with friends. However I was kind of a lazy teenager. I liked to sleep until noon and it drove my mother crazy. She would try to lure me downstairs early in the morning with her chocolate chip pancakes.

  24. This is an interesting debate, especially because I have found my older brother to be similar to the children you’ve described above. I think parents are doing their children a disservice by giving them everything, but they want to give them those things to “help them” find work and motivation. I think it’s important to instill the concept of working for something at an early age to make sure that attitude never develops.

  25. I moved out of my mom’s house when I was 18 and started covering my expenses immediately. In fact, I covered all my gas and entertainment expenses since the age of 16. I NEVER asked for money from my parents and just managed to get by the lean times.

    Then there is my brother — 17, works on and off, demands my mother do everything for him and pay for everything. I truly don’t understand how the two of us came from the same household and have such wildly different levels of motivation.

    My opinion is a bit harsh. Kids should be out of the house and paying for their own stuff by the age of 21. There is nothing wrong with being a little broke in your first few years of adulthood, mommy and daddy don’t need to support you.

  26. I see this all the time, and I have mixed feelings. A large part of me just wants to say “don’t be an enabler” and teach them some life lessons, the hard way.

    But I love my kids so much.. I can’t imagine ever letting them go hungry or experience true hardship. Luckily I have a few years and hopefully my influence will permeate to the point to where they want to be self sufficient.

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