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Ask Dave

Ridiculous Behavior

Sue has a 25-year-old son who's living paycheck to paycheck and beyond his means. What can Sue do to get him to stop this ridiculous behavior?

QUESTION: Sue in Indianapolis has a 25-year-old son who’s living paycheck to paycheck and beyond his means. He borrowed $500 from an internet company and now owes another $1,050 to them on top of the $500. What can Sue do to get him to stop this ridiculous behavior?

ANSWER: You’re not going to disown him, you are going to disown his ridiculous behavior. You can love him and hate what he does. And I’m not going to fund what I hate. Tell him you love him and you’ll feed him and pray for him and hug him anytime, but you’re not giving him any money.

If you want to engage in a proper way of handling money, you can offer him a couple of things. One is you can offer him advice and coaching with money, because you know how to do that. The second is you might offer to help when he’s already making progress. But you won’t be bailing him out. In other words, if you want to pay this $1,500 mess off, and he pays off $1,000, you might put $500 with it. But you aren’t going to write a check anytime he’s stupid—nobody has that much money.

My kids are grown too, and they’re doing pretty good and I’m proud of all of them. But I have decided that possibly the most difficult phase of parenting is the last phase where you can’t make them behave. You just have to watch them do things you don’t agree with and smile. Mine aren’t doing a bunch of stuff that I disagree with, but you just have to let them have their life. That’s hard, especially when you are watching people you love do stupid things that are destroying their lives.

Your son could decide to start doing smart things tomorrow, but even then you’re not going to agree with everything he does. It’s just an interesting time of life, I think. It’s very hard to watch people you love do stupid things. In this case, he borrowed money from an online payday loan store to go on a New Year’s Eve date! That’s classic! That’s so dumb it’s funny. Just stand back and be entertained by him.