How can we stop bullying in our lives by our toxic adult children? These adult bullies blame you for everything in their past and for all their problems now.  You were not really a bad parent; you didn’t do anything particularly wrong.

But when you’re with them for a while, a seemingly good visit turns ugly because they blow up and verbally or physically attack you.  No matter what you do, you’re wrong.  You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Sometimes, your child has married a controlling bully who hates you or wants you to bribe them with money with sucking up to them in order to get what you want – like seeing your child or grandchildren.  And your child goes along with their arrogant spouse’s harassment and abuse.  I’m sorry – that’s the worst kind of pain and emotional blackmail.

Sometimes they’re nice in public and only attack you in private, so you look bad if you say anything critical about them.

Even when you do what they want, later they change their mind and they attack you for having done the wrong thing.

They trigger your guilt for every little parenting mistake and your wishful thinking that if only you said the right thing or gave them enough, they’d finally forgive you and straighten their miserable lives out.

You’ve tried to do everything they want.  You’ve accepted all the blame.  You’ve given them all you have.  But they still blow up and abuse you.  They’re always right and you’re always wrong.

Now you have to face the bitter truth.  You’ll never say the right thing that they’ll accept; you’ll never do enough; they’ll never forgive you and act nice.  They’re still trying to get what they want by beating you into submission.

You keep trying to prove that your intent and behavior was caring, but you can’t prove it to them.  They always twist everything.

You’ll never stop their attacks by begging, bribery, appeasement or the Golden Rule.

You have to protect and defend your personal space from pollution by toxic predators and bullies who dump their toxic waste on you.  Think of your personal space – including your car and home – as an isle of song; your own precious island.  You have to keep narcissistic, righteous, nasty, hateful bullies off your island.

Even if the toxic polluters are your own flesh and blood, you can’t allow them to trash your environment by abusing you – in public or in private.

I know it’s painful and scary.  If you protect yourself, they’ll withhold your grandchildren, while they tell them how rotten you are.

It’s also very hard if you’re the second spouse and the grown kids are from first marriage.  Even if you were great to them before, now they abuse your spouse and maybe you also.  But the spouse you want to protect, insists that you stand by and watch them being abused.  How painful is that?

If you continue to accept abuse, even just to see the grandchildren, your child or their spouse will still never forgive or like you.  But as your grandchildren grow, they’ll learn by the example you set in taking the abuse.  They’ll learn from their parents that the best way to get what they want is to beat someone into submission, to blackmail them emotionally or to withhold what they want most.

Don’t teach your grandchildren that lesson.

What you let be poured into your life, you must deal with.  Be careful.  Guard your personal ecology.  Don't allow anyone to poison your life – even your children.

Demand quality from yourself and others.  You'll get what you put up with, so put up only with quality.

What’s the price of tolerating bullies, even for a good cause; slow erosion of your soul.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Many comments are similar on the articles:

Abused, bullied and battered women often end their comments with some version of:

  • But I still love him.
  • Sometimes he’s nice to me and I still think I can change him, if only I was good enough.
  • He still says that he loves me.
  • I’m afraid to leave because I’m worthless and won’t be able to make it without him.
  • I’m afraid to leave because he’ll kill me.

Today, let’s focus on the idea that woman can’t dump him because they love him.  Of course the same reasons are true for men facing negative, critical, harassing, manipulative, abusive, bullying, battering women.

For a moment, forget what we were taught about love, especially the importance and moral value of unconditional love, when we were young – what it is, what it feels like, how we know we’re really in love and what we’re supposed to do when we feel that way.

Now that we’re adults, we can decide for ourselves what we want to call “love” and how we’ll act when we “love.”  Is love merely lust, or feeling complete or whole, or feeling that we can’t live without the other person?  Do those feelings mean that we’ll be happy because we’re mad for the other person or that we can work out how to live together?  If we feel those feelings, must we move in together and maybe get married?  When we love, must we believe what he says or accept whatever he does, must we be submissive and obey him, must we accept his reasons, excuses, justifications and promises, must we forgive or appease him endlessly, must we debate until he accepts our point of view..

As long as the answers don’t affect our lives, we might have fun speculating about those questions.  But even though love is usually accompanied by real feelings, it’s still an abstract concept that really isn’t a tangible noun, like a physical object is.

A more useful path is to choose how we want to be loved.  That is; what kind of behavior will we allow in our personal space, whether the actions are called “love” or “bullying” or “abuse.”

Also more useful is to choose which of our thoughts and feelings we want to follow in our lives.  Or, which feelings, if any, do we want to let blow us over or sweep us away.

Now that we’re adults with more experience, we can see that when we let some feelings sweep us away, we’re like a sail boat without a rudder or keel.  We’re blown whichever way the wind and current takes us.  We’ve lost control and we’ll never get where we want to sail to.  We’re at the mercy of external forces – his whims and actions at the moment.  Do we want to continue letting ourselves get blown away?

It’s even worse after kids come.  So many women make mistakes about which values are most important.  For example, they think that it’s most important that their kids have a father even if that father abuses and bullies them or only their mother.  Or they think that they most important value is never to say anything bad about their children’s father, even though their observations are accurate and especially necessary to reinforce what their children see and think.  People are being beaten and that’s being called “love.” Children must learn that they are seeing reality and they can trust their perceptions.  Covering up the truth or lying creates self-doubt and undermines their confidence and self-esteem.

I think that it comes down to knowing, in our heart-of-hearts, that we can’t let whatever feeling we call “love” take over our lives when that feeling keeps putting us and our children in harm’s way.  There are higher standards of behavior than that feeling we call “love.”  And that the word “love” doesn’t remove all the pain caused when narcissistic, righteous predators attack their targets.

If “love” means that we’ll never stop the perpetrator and never leave him, he’ll never stop bullying.  Why should he; he’s in control and gets what he wants.  If “love” means that the victim must follow the Golden Rule, never confront or upset the bully and only beg him to change, but never have serious consequences, we’ll never stop bullies.

On the other hand, if we love our spirits, our children and our high standards of behavior that are required in our personal space, then we can stop bullies or get away from their bullying.  The number one factor in changing the behavior of relentless bullies is serious consequences.

We know we must live up to our best aspirations and standards, we must demand only the best for ourselves and our children.  Don’t suffer in silenceWe must say, “No. That’s enough.  I won’t let our lives be ruined for that kind of love.”

Of course, it may be scary, dangerous and difficult to get away.  Of course, we may be poor and suffer at first.  But it’s the only chance we have to clear our personal space so that someone wonderful can come into it; someone who treats us good.  We must not be defeated by defeats.

Three steps are necessary:

  1. Taking power for ourselves, and counting on the strength and determination that will come to us when we keep making good decisions by dumping the jerk.
  2. Getting help to create a plan and carry it out with determination, perseverance, strength, courage and resilience.
  3. Having a wiser and more mature sense of love and which feelings to pay attention to.  That means straightening ourselves out so we’ll love better people who treat us well.

Feelings and thoughts are like the bubbles of carbonation on a soda.  They’re always, always, endlessly bubbling up to the surface and then drifting away.  Some of those bubbles can smell pretty bad.  Pardon the crudity, but we’ve all had brain farts.  And like the other kind, we know that if we wait a minute, the stinky, scary, self-bullying fears, put-downs and “shoulds” will drift off on their own.  We can decide not to act on them and simply let them go.  We can throw ourselves into other thoughts or activities to speed the process.

I’ve focused on bullying spouses, but the same can be said about demanding, bullying, toxic family members, like parents, siblings and extended family.  They bully and say that we should accept the bad treatment because we’re “family.”  But requiring good behavior is a better standard than tolerating bad blood.

For some examples, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

During the typical arguing and fighting leading up to deciding to divorce and during the divorce process itself, what should and shouldn’t you tell the kids?  When you think there’s still a chance to salvage the marriage, should you tell them nothing is wrong so they don’t worry?  Should you re-assure them that you and your spouse will be together forever?  In a nasty divorce, should you tell them what a rat your soon-to-be ex-spouse really is?  How can you protect the kids from being scarred and totally messed up later? Whatever you decide, you must deal with each child and situation as unique and design your answer to deal with each child’s questions in an age appropriate way.  And keep adjusting as they grow older.

Think of the process as your needing to peel layers off the children’s concerns.  One concern will lead to another or maybe you’ll return to a previous one.  Saying something one time will not be enough.  You’ll have to return to some issues, depending on the individual, many times.  But don’t make a problem where the child isn’t.

You’ll think very differently if the divorce is amicable or if it’s a nasty, vicious, vindictive power-struggle to the death.  In one case, you’ll probably say “We” a lot while in the other you’ll probably say “I” a lot,.

If it’s an ugly situation, don’t pretend that your ex is perfect.  Be truthful and distinguish between what behavior the kids can count on and what’s just your opinion.  Always ask them to check things out for themselves; like little scientists.  Help them think of reasonable tests; who keeps promises, who’s on time, who are they afraid of, who can they rely on, who blames, shames and guilt-trips?

Some guidelines, not rigid rules:

  1. Don’t allow the “Big Lie.” When the children sense that there’s frustration and tension that sometimes boils over into anger, bullying, abuse or violence don’t deny their kid-radar.  Don’t tell them everything’s fine and that they’re wrong.  The most important verification they need is that they’re sensing and seeing reality.  They must know that there is trouble and that they can sense it.  For example, “Yes, you’re very smart, you can sense what’s going on and your radar is accurate.  That skill will help you the rest of your life.  Sometimes, I don’t tell you what’s happening or why, because I want to keep it private or maybe you’re too young to understand yet or I don’t want to upset you unduly.  But I want you to ask me if you worry about anything.”
  2. The most important assurance they need is that they can be fine. For example, “I know this can be scary and hard and you’ll have lots of questions.  Over time, I’ll answer them as best I can as we work out our new living arrangements.  But the most important thing is that you dedicate yourselves to having great lives.  Never let anything get in the way of that.  No matter how scared or upset you might get, overcome it.  Make sure that you’ll look back on this tough time as just a speed bump in your lives.  Make sure that you’re not bothered much by it.  Your parents’ fights have nothing to do with you.  You’re not the cause of them.  You’re fine.  We just don’t get along.  Your job is to grow up and get independent and find someone you will get along with.  And that this tough time isn’t a big deal in your life.”
  3. Help them overcome uncertainty, insecurity, anxiety, fear and panic. Assure them that you’ll always care for them and take care of them, in whatever way you can.  For example, “We’ll figure out how to be together and be safe and have good times.  I’ll always see that you have the things and the opportunities you really need.  It’s always hard when we’re in a transition or in limbo waiting to see what will happen and you don’t have control.  Your job is to focus on what’s most important for you right now and that’s not the emotional turmoil you’re living in.  The turmoil isn’t your doing.  Your job is to take charge of what you have control over; your moods and attitudes and efforts, which means school.  Make this turmoil as small and colorless in your life as you can.  Don’t step into it; stay outside of it.  This is good training for you in mental and emotional-control.  These are the number one skills you need to learn in order to be successful later in life.”
  4. Help them deal with mean, nasty kids who taunt, harass or cut them out. For example, begin with developing their inner strength, “Not having as much money as we did or having some other kids act mean because your parents are divorcing is not really important.  You can be invulnerable.  You may feel like you need to be liked or be friends with those kids now, but when you’re out of school, with 70 years of life ahead of you, you won’t care what those kids think.  You won’t want to be friends with those kids.  More important, you’ll see that they’re acting like jerks and you’ll decide never to care what jerks think.  You’ll have the freedom to go anywhere and be with anyone so, of course, you’ll choose to be with people who love and like you, appreciate and respect you, and who treat you better.”  Follow up by making sure the school principal stops this bullying.
  5. Some other questions they might have are: Are all marriages doomed, will I choose the wrong person just like you did, will we kids be split up, can I stay at the same school, will my other parent move far away so I never see them again, whose fault is it, do I have to take sides, will I still have grandparents, will I still get birthday and Christmas presents, can I use guilt or my temper tantrums to manipulate you, will I still have to brush my teeth?  Don’t give into them or give them everything they want because you feel guilty, want them to like you more or think their lives are too hard.
  6. Don’t use your kids as your best friends, confidants or therapists. Don’t use them to comfort yourself or as pawns in a vicious struggle.  They’re your kids; they’re not adults or lovers.  Take your emotional pain and baggage somewhere else.  You have to be a responsible adult, no matter how difficult that is.  If you can’t, you should consider making safer arrangements for them.  For example, “This is too painful for me to talk about.  Sometimes I get tired and stressed out, and I blow up or lose it.  I don’t mean to.  When I’m like that, don’t take anything I say seriously.  Suggest that I need a time out.   Your job, children, is to look away and focus on your own tasks so you can have great lives as you grow up.  No matter how hard it is, you have to focus on school and getting skills so you can take care of yourselves when you’re adults.  That’s what’s important.  Your future is what’s most important to me.”

The big message is about the wonderful future they can have.  The big message is that they can/should/must decide to let this roll off their backs.  Even though it’s happening to them, they can be resilient. They can move beyond it and create wonderful lives for themselves.

We adults make a mistake if we worry that when bad things happen, the children are automatically guaranteed to have huge problems later in life.  Looking at them as too fragile and helpless to resist the effects of a difficulty, divorce or trauma is like giving them a terrible thought virus.  It’s easy for them to catch that virus.

Actually, our responsibility is to protect them from that too common virus.  For example, they might tend to worry that since a classmate is so traumatized because their parents are divorcing they’ll be messed up also.  You might say, “No.  You’re strong and wise and brave and you have me to keep reminding you that you’ll be fine.  Stop bullying yourselfTake power over yourself.  So choose to be fine; dedicate and discipline yourself.  Choose to be successful, no matter what.  That’s my wish for you.”

Tell them stories about ancestors or great people who overcame the same or even worse situations in childhood.  For example, “Don’t be victims of what happens to you.  Be one of the ‘Invulnerables.’  Did you know that a study of 400 great people born in the 19th and early 20th centuries found that most of these people had absolutely horrible childhoods?  Yet they were not destroyed by what had happened; they were invulnerable.  They became much stronger.  They had great lives – including wonderful marriages.  You too, my beloved children, can choose that path for yourselves.  Please do.”

Since all tactics are situational, you’ll need expert coaching rather than just guidelines.  We’ll have to go into the details of specific situations in order to design tactics that fit you and the other people involved.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” have many examples of kids growing up under very difficult situations and learning to take command of themselves.  For personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

Sometimes toxic parents think they have us over a barrel even after we’ve grown up, gotten physically and financially independent, and started our own family.  They count on our loyalty to some ideal of “family” no matter how badly they treated and still treat us.  They count on our self-bullying and guilt.  They count on us still trying to jump through their hoops to win their love and approval...  They count on our fear that they’ll manipulate the rest of the family into thinking we’re ungrateful and bad.  And they often count on our enduring the verbal and emotional abuse so we can inherit our share of their fortune. Of course, I’m talking about those toxic parents who are still blaming everything on us and abusing us because “It’s your fault” or “You are selfish, ungrateful and don’t deserve any better” or “It’s your duty to do what they want in their old age.”  They’re the toxic parents who know our every weakness and sensitivity, and still poke them hard when they want too; still find fault with every little thing we do; still compare us unfavorably to someone else or to their standards; still criticize, belittle and harass us and our spouse and our children in public or they’re the sneaky ones who criticize, demean and denigrate us in private but pretend they love us in public so everyone thinks they’re wonderful, loving parents.

Of course, we’ve tried everything we can think of, but the negativity, harassment, criticism, blame, shame, bullying and abuse haven’t stopped.  We’ve tried to do exactly what they want, but it’s never enough.  We’ve apologized and pleaded with them to stop, but that just makes them act nastier.  We’ve gotten angry and threatened not to see them, but they broke down in such tears of distress we felt guilty or they blamed on us even more or they acted nice for a few minutes but, when we relaxed, they attacked us more about something different they didn’t like.

So what can we do now?

  1. For the sake of peace and quiet in the whole family, we could keep trying to endure the abuse while begging them to stop.  After all, we never know; if we only kept trying, if we only did enough, they might change.  Also, they might leave us in the will.  And it’d be our fault if we quit too soon.  Many people fly low until they have children and see their toxic parents either criticizing and emotionally abusing their children or belittling and criticizing them while being sweet to the grandchildren.
  2. We might continue objecting and arguing; enduring our frustration and anger.  Usually this tactic repeats endlessly and often spirals out of control.  Relentlessly toxic parents won’t admit they’re wrong and give up.  Eventually they’ll escalate and cut us out of the will.
  3. We might try withdrawing for a while; not seeing them, telling them we won’t return emails and calls, and then carrying through.  People usually shift from the first two tactics to this one when they see the effect of their toxic parents on their own children.  This tactic sometimes convinces nasty, mean, bullying parents that they’d better change their ways or they’ll lose contact with their grandchildren.  But the relentlessly toxic parents don’t care.  They’re sure they’re fine and they’re sure they’ll win if they push hard enough, like they’ve always won in the past.  So they don’t change and we go back to arguing or we give up or we finally respond more firmly.
  4. The next step is to withdraw for a long time, maybe forever – no contact.  It’s sad but we have to protect the family we’re creating from our own predatory parents.  It’s usually both scary and very exciting.  Most people, despite any guilt they feel, also feel a huge surge of relief, as if a giant weight or a fire-breathing dragon has been removed from their shoulders.  Our spouse and children may celebrate.  Get out of town, go on a vacation, turn the phones and email off.

What to expect and how to respond?

  1. They’ll attack when we withdraw.  Expect them to make angry calls and send hostile emails.  Save these on an external drive or a cheap recorder before deleting them.  They want to engage us, so do not engage endlessly and fruitlessly; no return calls or emails, no hateful or vindictive responses.  We’ve only gotten to this point because they haven’t changed after many approaches and warnings.  We might have to change our phone numbers to unlisted ones and change our email addresses.
  2. They’ll rally the extended family.  Prepare by making cue cards of what to say; no excuses or justifications.  Just tell the family what you said and did, and what you plan.  Ask them not to intervene.  Tell them we’d like to see them but only if our toxic parents are not present.  We’re sorry they’re caught in the middle but that’s life.  They do have to choose who to believe and what behavior to support.  Be prepared to withdraw from anyone who attacks or interferes.
  3. They’ll disinherit us.  When they can’t manipulate us through love, blame, shame and guilt, they’ll try greed.  If we don’t do what our toxic parents want right now, they’ll cut us out of the will.  Don’t be a slave to greed; it’s a deadly sin.  If we want to have a bully-free family life, we’ll have to make it on our own.  The real benefit is not merely ending the brutality, it’s the strength of character and the skills we gain when we make decisions for ourselves and chart our own course in the world.  We’ll end the negativity, stress, anxiety and depression usually caused by toxic parents.  We’ll develop the strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience we all need to make wonderful lives.  We’ll be able to express our passion and joy without cringing, waiting for the next blow to fall.
  4. We’ll have an empty space in our lives.  Even more than the empty physical space we’ll now have at the times when we used to get together with our toxic parents, we’ll have a huge mental and emotional space.  How many hours have we wasted thinking about our parents, worrying about the next episode, dreading what might happen next, agonizing over what to do.  We don’t have to do that any more.  Of course, being weaned from an old habit takes a little time.  We must be gentle with ourselves.  Focus on the freedom we now have.  Now we can think about the things we want to think about; not about pain and suffering, not about past failures.  Now we have space to bring into our lives people who will be part of the tribe of our heart and spirit.
  5. Our children will wonder why.  Tell the kids in a way that’s age appropriate.  Are we protecting them from the verbal abuse of their toxic grandparents or from lies that paint us as bad people?  They’ll want to know what’s going to stay the same.  Will they have fun, celebrate holidays, get presents, have extended family?

The most important lessons we offer our children are not through books and lectures.  Those are important, but the most important ones are the ones they see in our behavior when we’re models of behavior we want them to learn.

Be a model for them of someone who protects himself and them from anyone who would target them, even someone who’s close by blood.  Being close by behavior counts more than blood.  Show them not to be victimized even by blood relations.

Show them to how to be the hero of their lives.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.  We can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.  We can overcome childhood rules to endure whatever bullying and abuse our toxic parents dish out simply because they’re our parents.  We can become strong and skilled enough to stop bullies in their tracks – even if those bullies are blood relatives. “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of children and adults getting over their early training and freeing themselves from toxic relationships.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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Parents who bully children, and parents who bully and abuse each other are all too common, but an often unrecognized bullying situation is teenagers who bully their parents, especially their single parents. Of course, teenage girls can be manipulative bullies, but for a typical example, let’s focus on a 19 year-old boy who is mentally and physically capable of being independent but who’d rather sponge off his mother and lead an easy life at home.  He’s not working enough to support himself, he’s not succeeding in full-time school and he’s not struggling sixteen hours a day to become an Olympic champion.  He’s merely hanging out trying to have a good time every moment.

These adults can become physically as well as verbally abusive.  Their simmering rage when they’re thwarted can be frightening.  Usually they’re selfish, narcissistic control-freaks, lazy, demanding and surly, and feel entitled to whatever makes their life work most easily.

They’re good at arguing.  They want to convince you that “love” and “support” mean that you give them money.  You have to love and give to them, but they don’t have to give anything in return.  Their hidden assumption is that if you can’t make them agree with any changes, they don’t have to change.  They’re masters of whining, complaining and blaming others, especially you, for their problems.

They’re great emotional blackmailers: “A good, loving mother would take care of me while I’m getting it together.  A caring mom would help me.”  They’re also master manipulators of your fear that, if you don’t cater to them, they’ll fail in life and it’ll be your fault, not theirs: “I need your love to keep me away from bad company.  If you kick me out, I’ll be emotionally damaged.”  They’ll subtly hint that they’ll commit suicide if you don’t coddle them.  They always have a friend who has a “good mother” taking care of him.

Your caring and fear make their arguments seductive.  No matter how much you had to struggle on your own to be successful, it’s easy to think that if you only give them one more chance, they’ll finally wake up and get it.  So you give him one more chance – over and over and over.

Popular culture also makes their arguments seductive.  Most people have been raised to think that loving your child (“mother’s love”) means giving them what they want.

In my experience, one path in dealing with healthy, intelligent teenage boys almost guarantees failure.  That’s the path of giving them what they want.  The more you let them leech off your energy, wallet and good will, the softer they’ll become, the harder it will be for them to become strong and independent, the greater the chances that they’ll fall in with other lazy losers.  The more you give them, the more lazy, entitled and spoiled they’ll become.

In my experience, the path that has the greatest probability of success is to kick those little birds out of the nest before they grow too big for their fledgling wings.  They’ve already grown too big for the nest.  In order to fly, they need to strengthen their wings by use under pressure and stress.

Of course there’s a risk.  They might fail and turn to drugs, booze or burglary to support themselves.  They might give in to depression.  But, in my experience, staying home wouldn’t prevent that.  Leeching off you will only make them weaker.

Confidence and self-esteem are developed by succeeding at real and difficult challenges in which there’s a chance of failing.  Staying at home avoids important, meaningful challenges.

Some of the things to say to them when you tell them they’re moving out, depending on the circumstances, are:

  • “I know that inside you, you have this great one of you struggling to take charge of your life.  Now’s your chance for that ‘you’ to take over.  Struggle and succeed.  I’d rather you struggle and prove me wrong while hating me, than that you love me and stay here as a whining, complaining loser.”  Use the word “loser” a lot.  Challenge them to prove you wrong.
  • “This is not a discussion or a debate; you don’t get to vote.  This is definitely not fair according to you.  I know you think I don’t understand your side of it or how hard it is in today’s economy, but that’s the way it is.  I’m protecting myself from my own flesh and blood, who’d suck me dry if I let him.  You can try to argue but it won’t change anything.  It’ll just waste your time.  If you threaten me or damage the house, I’ll call the police and there’ll be no going back.”  Don’t engage in debate.  Walk away.
  • “I love you and this is scary for me, but that fear won’t stop me.  If you become a loser, just like (fill in the blank), I’ll be sad and cry that you wasted your life, but I won’t feel guilty.  I won’t regret what I’m doing.”  Then walk away.
  • “I’m going to have a joyous, good time in my life.  After you move out, if you make it fun for me, I’ll take you out to a restaurant sometimes or have you over for a good meal.  But if you nag at me and make it a rotten time, I won’t want to waste my time with you.  Your job is to make it fun for me to be with you.  Yes, that’s blackmail.  You pay for my attention, kindness and money.  Be the nicest to people who are closest.  Be nicer and sweeter to me than you would be to a stranger.  Suck up to me as if you want something from me.  You do.  Even if you can prove to me logically that it’s not fair, that’s the way it is.”
  • “You, my beloved son, are now facing the choice we all face in life at this age.  Will you settle for being a loser with a good excuse – your mother didn’t love or suckle you enough – or will you be a winner despite your mother?  Every one of your ancestors faced this.  Your ancestors lived through plague, famine, flood, war and slavery.  They lived through worse than you.  I know you have the stuff of a hero in you.  Your choice is whether you bring that out and succeed, or to be a whining, petulant, blaming loser.”
  • You have the body and mind of an adult.  You want to make adult choices in living the life you want.  Now you’re being tested.  Being an adult means taking care of yourself financially and physically.  You probably didn’t prepare yourself.  That’s your problem.  I could never teach you anything because you never listened to me when I gave you good advice.  We both know that.  You think you know everything.  You think you know what’s best for you.  Now prove it.  The less you learned useful skills, the more you’ll have to struggle now.  So what?  That’s just struggle.  I hope you’ll grow strong by struggling.”
  • Mom, make a specific plan.  For example, “You must be out by (date).  If not, I’ll throw your stuff out the window and call the police if I have to.  No negotiation.  No promises.  We allow little children to get by on promises and potential.  When they’re 13 or so, we start demanding performance.  Now that you’re 19, I demand performance.  Your performance earns what you get.”  Mom, don’t give in to satisfy one more promise.  Think through what you’ll give, if anything, and under what conditions.  My bottom line is, “Make me enjoy it and I’ll consider it.  Beat me up, physically or verbally, and you get nothing.”  The more calm you are, the better.  If he can get you upset, he’ll think he can win again…as usual.

Your teenager will be sneaky and manipulative in pushing your buttons and boundaries.  He’s mastered manipulating you for years.

Single parents are often easier to bully than couples.  For example, see the case study of Paula bullied by her daughter, Stacy, in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks.”

Stepchildren can jerk your chain more.  A couple that disagrees strongly (one stern and one permissive) can be the worst case scenario.

This is a start.  Because all solutions depend on the specifics of the situation, you will need coaching.  Some circumstances that might alter your plans are if your teenager is not physically or mentally competent or needs extensive mental health counseling or is 13-16 or is a girl or there are drugs or alcohol involved or there are younger children at home?

Stay strong and firm.  Don’t let him move back in even for a just week or month.  It’ll reinforce the laziest in them and it’ll become permanent.