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Ask The Good Enough Guy: Is It Time To Evict Our Slacker Son?

Hey Good Enough Guy!

Our son, Michael, is 26, unemployed and still living at home.

Mike used to work as a cashier at our local Walmart but was let go 12 months ago and since then hasn’t been able to find a job. At this point he’s essentially given up on looking for work and spends his days sleeping in, watching the TV and playing video games.

Both my husband and I are worried for his future but disagree on what to do next.

I think we should be supporting our son and helping him find a job but my husband thinks it’s time for some tough love and that Mike has to move out.

What do you think Will? If our son moves out where will he go?

Yours truly,

Cindy, Ohio

Hey Cindy,

The next time you’re washing your son’s clothes, find his favorite pair of jeans and use a lipstick to draw a nice, big, bull’s eye right between the back pockets. Then, buy your husband a pair of steel-toed boots so he doesn’t hurt his foot. And finally, have your son stand on the front porch with all of his belongings, and ask him to bend over…

I’m joking of course, but only partially. Maybe it’s because, like all of my brothers and sisters, I had moved out long before I turned 26. I can’t even imagine closing in on 30 and still lying around my parent’s house like I was on some endless summer vacation. You say that you and your husband are both worried about Mike’s future but you don’t mention anything about the other grown man that really should be worried about it. Here’s what I think:

WHAT YOU’RE DOING WRONG: By enabling your son, you’re actually cheating him out of a lot more than you’re protecting him from. Our late teens and early twenties are the best times in our lives for making mistakes, picking our paths, discovering who we are, figuring out what we want, screwing things up, re-picking our paths, etc. Experience is the way we learn some of life’s most important lessons:

-Partying away a whole paycheck and then spending a week eating Ramen Noodles teaches us to budget.

-Flicking a light switch and having nothing happen teaches us to pay our bills on time.

-Running our car out of gas teaches us to plan ahead.

-Uttering the phrase, “Would you like fries with that?” a few thousand times teaches us that we want more from life.

-And a locked door and a couple of unanswered phone calls teaches us that we can’t go running to mommy every time we make a mess.

How do you expect Mike to learn to be responsible if you feed him, clothe him, shelter him, find him a job, and then wake him up and drive him to work for the rest of his life? Will it be a little scary for him at first? Of course! That’s the part that will make him feel like he’s really doing it on his own; the part that he’ll tell stories about to his kids one day, stories that he’ll take great pride in later on. You owe him those stories.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO NOW: A lot of people rescue cats from trees, but in all of my years, I have never seen a single cat skeleton stuck between two branches. That’s because, once a cat gets hungry and figures out that he has to make it on his own, he finds his way. Now I guess someone could keep putting food up in the tree for the cat, but they’d only be prolonging the inevitable.

-Tell Mike that he has six months to find a job or he’s out on his butt (and mean it!)

-Tell Mike that if he finds a job, you’ll “consider” letting him stay longer to save for an apartment (maybe another six months, if your husband agrees to wait that long before he puts those new boots on.)

-Tell Mike that his life is now his own to make of himself what he will. You can’t live it for him, you can’t protect him from it, and you won’t keep footing the bill for him to live in Never-Never-Land. It’s time he put on his big-boy pants.

-Now tell YOURSELF that you’ve done a good-enough job raising him to trust that he’ll be OK. Whether or not he knows it, he’s a man now. He has to try his wings. He’ll probably bum around for a while, staying with friends or relatives for as long as they’ll have him (usually not very long). It may be a little rough on him at first, and he’ll come home for a free meal now and then, which is fine, but don’t let him stay. Eventually he’ll figure it out, just like the rest of us had to.

Your husband is right on this one but you already know that. You may still feel like Mike’s your baby, but it’s time to let go, mommy; your apron strings are choking him.

Either way, I hope it all works out. Good luck to you, your hubby, and your son!

Will Jones

William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.



  1. Tiffany

    June 25, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Well said. Neither my parents nor my in-laws would have dreamt of letting their kids live at home until they were 26 with no real responsibilities, and we are all much better off for it. Great response, Will!

  2. Dawn Brady

    June 25, 2011 at 9:59 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your response Will. As a mother of a 19 year old daughter who is headed down the same path as Michael, I am scared all my coddling is doing a disservice. She works, but not a lot, she didn’t do well in college and lost her scholarship, she pays for her phone and her insurance, but blows the rest and has no savings. She does absolutely NOTHING around the house…it’s very frustrating, but I am at fault…I waffle too much and am too much of a softy for her own good.

  3. Crystal Gray-Wilburn

    June 25, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Great story but it usually happens long before the age of 26. I recently (Tuesday) told my 18 year old recent BE graduate to “kick rocks” (I’m a bit dramatic). This was probably the second hardest thing I’ve had to do. But I realized if I don’t tighten up u will be aiding in his decline into the abyss. What I mean is this…..I had to struggle with him in his last semester of HS because “he became lazy”. He would rather play than take care if business. He fanned near refuses to get a job but waits for his friends to get off work so they can hang. He has not enrolled in school yet….keeps procrastinating. I even filled out an application online, took the test mind you and he still didn’t go and get it. The problem I feel is that he has a false sense of entitlement. I’ve been blessed to have been able to afford him certain luxuries in life and I feel I’ve made a grave error in doing so. Like Bill Cosby once said……I’m rich (not really but you know what u mean) and you have nothing. How many times have I uttered this? His friends and their parents enable him. I mean really!!!! My philosophy is……All kids have a “stupid gene” You had it, I had it. At what point and time does one grow out of it? When does the maturity gene replace the stupid gene? That’s a very value question. We all know adults that still have that gene….even at the tender age of 40. Yes, 40! I do agree with the author above regarding making your mistakes while you’re in your early adulthood. Eighteen to twenty-one is still tout enough where one can do a complete 180 but I digress. So I guess my question playing off of Rene’s question is….what age is too young to put your child out?

  4. m.e. johnson

    June 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Great answer Will, as usual. My mom would have let me stay home forever as long as she could control every aspect of my life. So you know I left at 18 (and I was a girl). Yep, scary and hard for a while but when I finally blossomed, I was a big ‘ol cabbage rose. And I can still tell stories about those scary hard times.

    If Cindy follows your excellent advice, Mike will thank her someday.

  5. Janet

    June 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    YES! Great answer. I moved out right after college and made so many mistakes – and learned so many things! Now I have a house of my own, a husband, a child, a career. My parents kept my brother at home until he was 29, coddling him and doing everything for him and now he’s just lost – he has no idea what to do with his life because no one has forced him to make that decision. It’s sad to see him flounder because he didn’t get that chance to grow up.

  6. Irene

    June 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Great to see ya good enough guy…..I think by george you rapped this one up…..I am going to tuck it away too…

  7. Will Jones

    June 29, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Tiffany- Exactly right. We grow up when we have to. But if we never have to… when do we?

    Dawn- Don’t fall into that trap! It’s not your fault! We were all too hard at some points and too soft at other points: it’s called “being human”. Blaming ourselves because our kids aren’t perfect only makes us fold and coddle to them more which hurts them in the long run. If you were to soft, it’s time to get hard! Kick her butt out! LOL

    Crystal-The best cure for the stupid gene is 100cc’s of uncut reality. Looking for shelter and food kicks us into survival mode and reminds us that we have to take care of ourselves. I’m not saying toss a teenager out onto the curb, but at eighteen, she should be looking for an address of her own, and a life of her own. If your teen graduates high school, is actively going to college, is preparing for her future, etc, than by all means help as much as you can even into their EARLY 20’s. But if a teen is lying around, wasting time, wasting money, not doing anything productive and basically floundering, then they should definitely be receiving luggage for their 20th birthday.

    M.E.- A cabbage rose, huh? LOL I always love your comments, and thanks for the compliments.
    Janet-You brother was still come at 29?!!! Incredible. I always feel sorry for folks when I hear this sort of thing. People that stay home miss out on some truly wonderful and terrifying times that would have turned them into some great grown-ups. Then they have to play catch-up forever. PARENTS: PUT THESE KIDS OUT!!! LOL

    Irene-Thanks for the compliments. By all means, tuck this away for when the time comes. Or just give me a call, and because you’re a personal friend of mine, I’ll come over and toss your kids out personally! 🙂

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