Mary’s 37 year-old son was nasty, demeaning and critical of everything she did.  He harassed, bullied and abused her.  He was toxic.  And she’d allowed him to move back home.

He was bright but, since high school, nothing ever pleased him for long and he’d never succeeded at anything.  He’d changed colleges four times before he graduated.  He refused to stay at his first three jobs.  He had tried two vocational programs before he dropped out of them.

Mary and her husband had paid for all of these efforts as well as for his apartments, cars, insurance and food.  Mary’s son was too busy and too unhappy to support himself.  Now his demands had escalated and paying his expenses was eating into their retirement funds.

After the last failure, he had nowhere to go so Mary and her husband had allowed him to move back in with them.  While her son was civil to his father, he was enraged with Mary.  According to him, all his problems were her fault so he felt justified in treating her anyway he wanted at the moment. Which was almost always demanding and vicious.

Mary knew she and her husband hadn’t done anything wrong to their son except maybe to give him too much of what he wanted and excuse all his bad behavior before he left for college.  She was stuck between hating him and wanting him out, and hoping that with one more chance, he’d finally succeed and become nice to her.

She finally asked herself a sequence of questions:

  1. Was her son physically or mentally incapable of making a living and being independent?  Her answer was “No.”  He was still physically able, still bright and still capable of doing anything he wanted when it suited him.  He was simply selfish and narcissistic, and felt entitled to be taken care of so he could do what he whatever wanted all day.
  2. If he continued the way he was, would she begin to hate his behavior and would her life become thwarted and impoverished?  Her answer was “Yes.”  She’d always love him but she was already disliking his actions.  If the pattern continued, her future would become dark and dreary.  She’d look forward to dying in order to get out the problem.
  3. Should she allow him to continue acting the way he did while she paid for therapy?  She’d already paid for years of therapy he hated and which seemed to give no changes.  He kept blaming his parents and took no responsibility for his own behavior or for his future.  She was done with that approach.
  4. Did she want to continue being a martyr, sacrificing her and her husband’s lives, or did she want to kick him out of the nest?  Of course, she’d have to deal with his recriminations and her guilt but, at least, she and her husband could enjoy the future they’d planned.

I’ve seen many situations like Mary’s and there has been only one method that I’ve seen change the way those toxic, adult children behave.  The way of giving them one more chance, forever, never succeeds.  Kicking them out of the nest often does.

Mary’s son is not an alcoholic or addict yet.   He hasn’t gotten sick or hurt himself so badly that he’s disabled and requires their care, yet.  Those are good signs.  But if she keeps helping him, the chances are he’ll descend lower and lower in order to keep getting a free ride.

Each situation is unique; everyone’s decision is different.  Mary decided to choose the life she wanted to live for the next 30 years, given that she’d probably never have a good relationship with her son nor grandchildren to play with.

She’d kick her little bird out of the nest.  She’d pay his rent directly to a landlord and give him a certain allowance each month for two years as long as he moved across the country, away from them.  That way she could easily avoid communicating with him if he became abusive.

She’d stop paying immediately if he became too toxic to her.  At the end of two years she’d stop paying.  If he got sick or became addicted, he was on his own.

The best way to learn how to deal with toxic, adult children is to hire Dr. Ben for personalized coaching and counseling so you can:

  1. Develop the strength, courage, will and determination to be and to act your best resolutely, diligently and effectively.
  2. Develop a plan and master the skills necessary to deal with the specific situation you’re in.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, call me at 1-877-8Bullies for expert coaching by phone or Skype.

AuthorBen Leichtling