Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kids.... Teenagers... Young Adults

Friday night, I attended a fundraiser for an educational scholarship program. The basic idea is to create a fund that students can use to continue to attend college. There were five or six students who were ready to graduate and had benefited from the program. They all acknowledged that without the fund, they would have been unable to attend college.

As always, there was excellent food, wonderful music and great company.

Something came up in our discussion that night. There were probably ten of us to a table and the conversation gradually warmed up as we got comfortable with each other and stopped talking only with the people we knew.

We got on the topic of kids, how they have a drive and motivation and how some seem to bloom very late.

One of the people at the table was a 24-year-old woman who never opened her mouth once through the entire program and sat sullenly with an iPod stuck in her ears, tuning all of us out.

Her situation, in short, is that she lives with her mother, has only had one job in her life and has not gone to college. She basically spends all day at home on the Internet. She's snarly and disrespectful to her mother who, by the way, paid for her to be there.

Later I had a private conversation with someone about what we each would do if we had a kid like that.

Here's my plan: I would disconnect the Internet. First thing. She would not be able to sit on the Internet all day. I would make it very clear that she is expected to get a job. At 24, she's already past the point where I would provide an education for her. She'd need to do it another way. Grants, scholarships, loans ~ whatever she decided. I'd provide housing only.

One thing is clear. I would not totally support an able-bodied 24-year-old.

I'll grant you that I lean more toward "tough love" when it comes to those kinds of things. I would have been a very strict parent. Compassionate and caring, of course ~ but there are certain standards of behavior I would expect. Cultural considerations aside, I believe kids need to develop something on their own. If they want to continue living at home, that's great ~ but they need to be contributing to the family.

If she has a medical or psychological problem, of course I wouldn't toss her out on her ear ~ but she would be expected to follow medical directions or see a counselor regularly. Hopefully, those needs would be apparent before she got to that age though.

As for the iPod, there's no way in pluperfect hell any kid of mine would have one at that age if she didn't have a job. And she wouldn't have been listening to it at a public event. I would have told her to take it out and put it away. There were people her age at the table ~ so it's not that she didn't have any company in her own age range.

Parental laziness does a kid no favors. Providing everything they might want so they have no motivation to contribute to the family income is called enabling and it will never serve the kid well. I wonder about that sometimes because I've met so many parents who allow their kids to remain adolescent until their mid-20s. It might be the easier road but there are karmic implications for not giving a child what he or she needs to provide for themselves and their families. When we have children, we are expected to teach them and guide them. No kid should have to leave home without benefit of an education, an understanding of household finances, how to use credit, how to manage a bank account, how to cook and how to take care of basic life issues. I would also hope they have some foundational values to make choices and decisions. Ultimately they might choose values different than mine. As impossible as it is to believe, not every human being has an attraction to Thai culture (ahem) ~ but they need something. When we get hit in the head with the big stuff, we need something to fall back on and guide us.

What do you think? What would you do with such a 24-year-old as I've described?



Catherine said...

I'm having a hard time even comprehending the question.

At 18, I attended and paid for (am still paying for) college on my own, and haven't lived with my parents or really gotten any money from them since.

At 24, I had already lived in, found jobs in, and returned home from, two different foreign countries. Nearly all of my friends were parents themselves with the full range of grown up responsibilites at 24.

I honestly can't imagine how this person is living apparently at 10 years less maturity than her age so - I don't think I can begin to imagine what I would do if I were her parents.

Richard said...

I would definitely shut down the internet If I were paying the bill. Then I would cut off the money supply, except for food.
She may wake up when she cannot buy any more toys and clothing.

Anonymous said...

THis is a huge peeve of mine. Parents try to let their little children "express" themselves and set few limits so as not to stifle them. And then, when the kids are older, they have no control over them. Well, the time to give kids a work ethic is when they are little. You can't start suddenly when they turn 17.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. My mother supports an able-bodied 31-year-old son and I have told her that he is going ot be sunk when she dies. And I see a lot of it in my practice - people who have histily dependent adult kids at home. I love my kids insanely, but I wouldn't just let them sponge off me indefinitely.

Leann said...

I would definetly set some boundaries as to what was expected of them. I certainly would not be supporting their habits. I had a 22 yr old daughter living with me and she was expected to work and pay half the bills. If you live in a household, you are expected to contribute to it.

Olivia said...

Chani, I agree with you 100% on everything. 100%!

xxoo, O

Suki said...

If this was limited to "24 and still doesn't have a job", I wouldn't mind so much. I'm from India, and it's perfectly acceptable for people to find jobs at 25 or even a little later in the case of med students. At 24, I expect to be earning, but only because I have to. If i had able-bodied parents, I would probably be lulled into going full-time into a PhD, and bringing home only the stipend. Lots of women here have done that.
But for a 24-year old to act like a brattish 13-yr old is just NOT acceptable. Period. Earning money is only one side of it. Contributing towards housework, a stable family, social life(that's called "good manners"!) et al is necessary after a certain age. I can't say what i'd do when faced with this person, because if I were her parent or even her sister - she wouldn't get away with being this way in the first place! It would probably be what you're suggesting in this post :)

Anonymous said...

She sounds like a terribly unhappy person. I don't know why she's stuck at home, or why she's so antisocial, but I don't think this is the life she wanted or envisioned for herself.

Stacia said...

I believe in even tougher love than you do! At 18 I was told I would go to college (which my parents did pay for, as long as I maintained a 3.0 or higher and finished in 4 years) and my husband was told to either get a full time job or join the military (he joined the military and it was a great decision). We both agree that a parents primary purpose is to raise a child who becomes an adult (something very few parents seem to think these days). I feel bad for kids whose parents don't teach them anything or make them do anything: all the parents are doing is setting their kids up for failure.

Amy Y said...

Oh wow ~ what indeed? I'm only 7 years older than that girl... at her age I'd been married for 3 years and had one child. I wasn't working outside the home because I was raising our son.

It's hard for me to imagine my sons at that age but I'd like to think I'd done a better job of raising them that they wouldn't be bumming off me at that age. My hope is that my boys will either be performing civil service of some sort or have completed their college educations by that age. Hopefully they'd be well on their way to being contributing members of our society!

Amy Y said...

Oh wow ~ what indeed? I'm only 7 years older than that girl... at her age I'd been married for 3 years and had one child. I wasn't working outside the home because I was raising our son.

It's hard for me to imagine my sons at that age but I'd like to think I'd done a better job of raising them that they wouldn't be bumming off me at that age. My hope is that my boys will either be performing civil service of some sort or have completed their college educations by that age. Hopefully they'd be well on their way to being contributing members of our society!

Cecilieaux said...

I did not meet this 24-year-old, but she sounds troubled, not lazy, to me. A little on the autistic side.

And it's fine and dandy for me to speak of what I would do in her parents' place, but I'm sure I don't really know the inner reality of the family.

Can one take away the iPod of a 24-year-old? Do you disconnect everyone in the household?

I can evict a 24-year-old. I can decline to give this person money. How can I rebuild the bridges after that?

Moreover, the job market at this moment is not precisely welcoming. They're laying off people with perfectly good skills and experience by the thousands. Not finding a job is credible.

Sorry, but I don't agree at all. I think the question needs rethinking.

niobe said...

I completely agree with you. But I wonder if there's something about being in that situation that makes it hard to follow through -- at least for some people.

My sister is 31, single, no kids. At 18 she decided not to go to college (though my parents would have paid). My parents let her live at home for many years without working. Then they bought her a condo in another city and she's lived there for many years without working, financially dependent on my parents and my stepbrother.

For some reason, they just can't bring themselves to cut her off.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I would never throw out a child of any age who was living under my roof, but I would try to get her into counseling because she sounds terribly unhappy.

Ideally, parenting teaches unconditional love; you don't stop loving your child because he/she has screwed up. I think that "tough love" in this case would be an excuse for a lazy parent who has not done a good job of training her child for independence to get out from under the burden.

This could have been avoided if the young woman had been raised as a person with value and also been given increasing responsibility as she matured. She is a case of arrested development because of bad parenting.

Shutting out the world with her private music is her way of escaping herself and her unhappiness. She badly needs help, not further condemnation.

Ian Lidster said...

When I was her age I was English department chair at a large high school. I wasn't an anomaly for those days, either. I was a grown up and grown ups did grown up things, like work.
If she were mine I'd tell her she was an adult, and I would give her a month to get activated, to at least try to find a job. If she chose not to, then I would show her the door and suggest she use it since this was no longer her home. I would tell her that she had only 30 days right at the beginning of that month.

we_be_toys said...

Oh girl - you said a mouthful! I often feel like the only parent on the planet who sets limits and bedtimes, expects responsibility and gives out repercussions when there isn't any. I see it all the time and it drives me crazy, because those parents who think they're being "nice" and "nurturing" are in fact completely out of control. Examples: since when does a toddler know what's best for them? What kind of idiot plugs a pre-schooler into a Game Boy just to keep them quiet? And if you think they're a brat at 6, just wait until they steal your car and wreck it.
I have a nephew whose parents are exactly this kind of parent and he's currently a HS dropout with a police record. I warned them when he was 3 but what did I know?
Ask me if my kids get away with ANYTHING - I think you know the answer!

Carol said...

I wonder what the whole story is here. I don't know about the mother's life and what needs of hers are being met by supporting her daughter.

Defiantmuse said...

they would have been shown the door at some point before reaching 24. Personally, I find it strange when I meet people who still lived at home into their 20s. I left home when I was 17. Not because I had a bad home life, quite the opposite, but I was ready to be on my own. I had an ex-boyfriend who, to this day, still lives at home (he's 32) and has never moved out and every single time I speak with his mother I ask if she's kicked him out yet. I just don't get it. There needs to be that point where a child realizes they are an adult and that should coincide with entering college or the workforce (or both) after high school. I dropped out of high school at 16 years old but I also began college and got a job that same year. And by the next year was out on my own and have not looked back since. And even if I had wanted to stick around I'm sure my parents would have (gently) nudged me to get out there in the world and take responsibility for myself. It's what you do as a parent. In my opinion, of course :)

ewe are here said...

My children will not be that girl.

I don't understand what parents are thinking when they allow their children to do absolutely nothing for themselves, and have no responsibilities ... just rights. Funny how so many people who grow up like this are blank when it comes to their responsibilities but are the first to tell you (loudly) about their rights.

Brandi said...

I started working full time at 16. when I was 24, I had graduated, was buried in student loan debt and working my ass off to try to pay rent.

granted I'm a bleeding heart-but to those that cannot support themselves or are in bad situations (abuse, etc) or are children or animals that are dependant on others.

I find it hard to be empathetic for those that have plenty-capabilities, options, money-and don't use them in positive ways in their life.

Carla said...

I'd certainly like to know the story behind the story on this one. I can't imagine a 24-year old being such a lump unless something was seriously wrong. But the parent will not be doing her child any favours by not putting her foot down at some point.

Deodand said...

I agree with you about the tough love - but something else is going on here. This kid's got issues if she can't function at the minimum required level of social discourse.

jstele said...

How did you get all this information with her being so quiet? You said that she never opened her mouth, so you must have gotten it secondhand. I would be skeptical of any secondhand information.

I can understand you disagreeing with her lifestyle, but I think you are getting too worked up about it.

Maybe she was dragged to the event. Who knows? Doesn't excuse how she treated her mother, but everyone has different experiences.

Christy said...

I kind of agree.

I take a selfish route. I always put my theoretical oxygen mask on first. We all must.

So the child will not take away my life. And I DO have children.

I was not strict, but I did not hover, or enable. Logical consequences were seen.

This girl, though.....she might need some mental help.

Or she might be a lost cause. A future criminal, homeless person, no matter WHAT is done now.

Christy said...

And yes.....we don't know if she was dragged here.

I made more than one scene like that in my life, even as a pissed off wife.

Maybe I should be ashamed of that, but in other venues I was "normal".

womaninawindow said...

24? One year away from when I was married.

At 16 I was whacked in the feet with a newspaper and that was that. Take care of yourself. Sure, I'd do a little more nurturing of spirit than my mother did, but I'm not that patient. Sounds like codependency to me.

PeterAtLarge said...

Yes, okay... AND I'd like to know whether this particular 23-year-old was suffering from some medical or psychological condition before I got too harsh on her or her mother. I know from personal experience in our own family that depression--to cite but one example--can cause the kind of symptoms you describe. And thinking back to my own 23, I was still struggling in so many ways to grow up. Just a slightly contrarian point of view... while we're all ganging up.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Barring extreme medical or psych issues which would have allowed for that behavior, I would:

a. have her paying rent if she lived at home and also contribute for groceries
b. pulled the plug on the internet
c. given her a deadline for getting a life.

I DO feel that children can continue to live at home - in many societies that's the norm until marriage, but then they are ADULT children living at home and need to act as such. Also, it's still my home and my rules and if said child doesn't like the way things are run, then he/she needs to find their own home.