How to stop your grown kids from sponging and mooching
It’s generally a good thing when our children start earning their own money. Research and experience show that money gives our children freedom to pay for personal choices around entertainment, clothes and meals out with friends. And that means less pressure on parents to cover costs.
There is a downside though. Things become challenging when the mooching on Mum and Dad continues for longer than parents feel it should.
Sure, the kids are paying their own way – at least in terms of personal, fun priorities. But helping around the house usually drops off. Plus there’s that issue of ‘sponging’. They still use our electricity, eat our food, and drive our car … and it costs money to maintain grown adult children!
How and when should they pay their own way?
By the time our kids are out of high school, whether they’re ‘learning or earning’, some of our young adult offspring are living in an extended adolescence where they have all the perks of adulthood and none of the responsibilities.
Like most parenting conundrums, this situation is best dealt with through effective communication. But this can be hard. Conversations about contribution and finances are usually sensitive. And both we and our kids can get ultra defensive – even angry.
Our children may be adults, but they often still feel entitled to our ongoing support. After all, we’ve provided it for the best part of two decades or more.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
Start talking about expectations early
Let your kids know several years ahead of time what you expect. What will you happily provide past age 18? What will your children be expected to do for themselves?
Tell your 16-year-old that you’re happy to do x or y for them now, but they’ll be responsible for it in a couple of years.
Have regular family meetings
Once your children are either earning money and blowing it, or not doing enough at home (or both) it is time to start having regular family meetings to chat through – and expand upon – your expectations around contribution.
These conversations will likely be negotiations about:
- other housework
- car maintenance
- fuel contributions
- car cleaning
- attendance and participation in family events
- expectations around work and study
Discuss the consequences
There should also be discussion around what might occur should your kids choose not to contribute. If they fail to do their studies and pass their courses, or maintain employment, or if they choose not to help at home, they should be aware of what you will and will not do for them as a consequence.
If they won’t clean up or cook an occasional meal, perhaps you’ll stop cooking for them until they pull their weight. If they won’t refill the car, they don’t drive it. If they refuse to do their laundry it will sit in a pile and stink. This is imperative or you may find that you will be taken advantage of.
You might even discuss the concept of that old-school idea of paying board or rent. Note that some kids may feel that paying board entitles them to not have to do any other housework. Let them know the board is to assist with costs of living, not to pay you to be the maid.
In our family, our kids pay board once they start earning. It’s five percent of their income – a token amount. And we save it. They don’t know it, but come wedding day or other major life milestone, we’ll give it back to them as a gift.
Lives get busy, commitments get overlooked, and kids get lazy.
These ideas can help keep things on track:
- Keep up the regular meetings
- Give gentle reminders when children don’t do what they committed to
- Leave notes (and humour is always appreciated).
Ultimately, this process works best when communication is central to our efforts to keep everyone working as part of a team. If we work through these processes effectively, and our children act like the adults they’ve become, we won’t need to make drastic threats. Instead, we can enjoy our time developing friendships with our kids as they move into their independent phase of life.
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This article was written by Dr Justin Coulson for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz