Written by Doctor G

House Rules for Kids Over 18

My son finished high school last spring, and is putting off college and working. He wants to treat our house like it’s his own apartment. But it isn’t, and we have younger kids at home. He seems to think that curfews and rules and chores no longer apply to him. I do agree that he deserves more freedom, but we don’t want chaos and worry. What can we do?

Dan, in NYC

It is often really hard to figure out how to parent an adult child still living in your home.

One way to think about this is to break your concerns into 2 categories. What happens while your son is physically in the house, and what happens when he isn’t.

In the house, your rules apply. So if everyone pitches in to help, he still needs to do so. He can’t choose to have friends over without checking in with you. He can’t drink, or allow his friends to. He needs to keep common areas clean. He needs to continue to keep in mind the example he is setting for his younger siblings. Most people do better with clear expectations, so sit with him and any other adults in the house, and make a list of these rules so you’re all understanding the situation. Listen to his ideas as well and include them when you can.

He is an adult and needs to be treated as one. That means letting him handle himself outside the house as he decides, and letting him handle the consequences. Curfews are probably no longer appropriate. Neither is waking him up for work. Or doing his laundry for him. Ask him to let you know if he will be eating dinner with the family each night; if you haven’t heard from him by 5, you’ll assume he is not coming.

Courtesy is an important skill, and in this situation that means letting you know when, or if, he will be home. The more you treat him as an adult, the more he will have the opportunity to become a responsible one. If he fails at parts of this, well… better now than in ten years. Give him room to grow and surprise you – and himself.

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