Mama Is Enabling

Roger has two adult children living at home. He hasn't been able to get them to nail down their budgets. His wife refuses to allow them to live in their cars.

QUESTION: Roger in Boise has two adult children living at home. He hasn’t been able to get them to nail down their budgets. His wife refuses to allow them to live in their cars. Dave suggests getting their marriage disagreement settled first.

ANSWER: That’s how they pay rent. That’s what rent costs. If they live there under your roof, they’re going to do what you say. I don’t care if they’re 64 or 14. You own the freaking roof.

They won’t sleep in cars. They’ll figure it out. It’s called roommates and three jobs. It’s what you and I did, brother. Your wife is not helping her children. She’s harming her children. You guys have to go back to the marriage part of this and get on the same page there.

I don’t think you’re going to be able to move the needle with any program with them until you and your wife are on the same page, and for the good of these young people, they have some ground rules that are established. It’s not just you being military or me being a control freak. That’s not what this is about. It’s for their good. What is good for them? That’s what you’ve got to look at.

This is a safety net for them to bounce on, but it’s your net. It’s your rules, and your rules are you’re going to do things that are good for them and require things just like when they were 10, you required them to brush their teeth and take a shower. You’re going to require them to tool up, get their education going so they can go earn some money, and you’re going to require them to do these budgets and attend this class. If they aren’t going to do that, they need to make plans to leave because you’re not going to participate in their failure. You’re only going to participate in their success. You love them too much to participate in their failure. That’s how the conversation sounds. That only works if Mama gets that enabling is harmful to people. It is not helpful to people. Then yeah, I would put them in class.

We can’t get them to do a budget. You can’t get them to go to class. You can’t get them to … is a pattern in the conversation. It might be that if you and your wife are not on the same page about this, you’re not going to be able to help them win. What steps are you taking that are going to cause them to be a great 30-year-old because they suck as a 22-year-old? You and your wife need to get on the same page on what that looks like. You’re not on the same page. We need to start there. Just providing them shelter is not the answer.

Let’s talk this through. I think you guys spend some more time on the agreement and the unity of your decision-making, and then that’s going to lead you to the other stuff. The problem is you’re going to get the knock—and I get it and anybody who takes a stand—that you’re being controlling, or in your case, you came out of the military, so you’re being a military dad. That’s not true. This is not about military. This is about enabling. Too many rules is legalism. Too few rules is enabling. What we have to do is strike this balance of love that is in the middle that has some grace to it, which allows them to live in your house. That’s grace. And it allows them to not be perfect people, but they’re going to engage in behaviors that cause them to win when they’re 30, 40 and 50. We’re going to get on a track there just like you made them do their homework, just like you made them brush their teeth and take a shower. These are the things you made them do then, and these are the things you’re going to make them do now. Mom wouldn’t have agreed to them not bathing. It’s not beneficial.

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