My 17 yr old son thinks he owns me

Dear Suzie, i am 43 yrs old and one hell of a dilemma my fiancee has had to move out of our home because of alcaholic problems and stealing money ive told him we should have 3 months apart until he sorts his head out i dont want to lose him as i love him so very much i have tried helping him myself but it did not work. i also have a 17 yr old son who thinks he owns me he is so lazy we argue about it all of the time and im at the end of my tether with him he wont do anything for himself and expects me to run aound after him 24 7 he would rather spend time at his friends house than at home with me he spends 95%of his time at friends houses and sleeping out and he knows i am very nervous about staying in the house on my own because of bad experiances ive had in the past but he still does it anyway im hoping to move to scotland to be with my daughter next yr my son wont come and expects me to keep yhe house on just for him and me pay the mortgage for it asweell please help me sort this out before i go insain

You’ve realized, with your fiancé, that real love has to be tough love. You’ve seen that only he can help himself and that your being patient or kind while he drinks and steals gives him no incentive to change. In fact, it not only condones but encourages his taking advantage of you.

Well, it’s the much the same with your son. He’s 17. If he was 7 I’d still say you have to draw a line and say “This far and no further” Children need and indeed welcome boundaries – they want us to put limits on their behaviour and to help them do better by refusing to put up with their doing any less.

But he’s an adolescent. That means he will push those boundaries but it also means he is perfectly capable of looking after himself in many ways and of suffering the consequences of his actions.

If he were in full time education, going to college or school and working towards gaining the qualifications that would get him a job and make him independent, I might say he still needs your day-to-day support. He would need, and be right to expect, that you allow him to live with you and pick up some of the bills. But not all of them, since he could be receiving some help from the state towards further education.

But in return I’d expect him to behave as any member of a household should behave; pay their way and pull their weight by doing chores, and be courteous about letting you know when he’ll be there and where he will be.

Now – having said all that I do think you need to consider why your son may be kicking out at the world in general and you in particular. His Dad is obviously no longer living with you and that may be a cause of some grief, anger or confusion to him. How did your son feel about having your fiancé around, and seeing him mistreat you? His behaviour may be about some very sad feelings that need to be talked over and dealt with.

I don’t think it’s his job to be a partner to you and keep you company. Of course, a loving and caring son might make a point of being there for you, but that may be why he does what he does; he’s upset and angry at your asking something of him which is inappropriate. I suggest the two of you seek a counsellor or mediator to get some help with talking through the things that might have made him sad and angry. Ring Parentline for some ideas on what may be available in your area.

However, your moving to Scotland is your choice and your right. At 17 he has a clear choice too – to come with you and continue living at home, with all home comforts (though, as I said, if I were you I’d make a new rule from tomorrow and most certainly after the move which says if he stays he pays!) or to stay where he is. In which case, he’s on his own. He should get a job, get a place of his own and get a life! If he wants to spend time with his mates, fine. Go and get a place with them.

You’ve exerted tough love over your fiancé – well done for that. Do the same with your son. Tell him you love him but from tomorrow, you won’t put up with his behaviour. Explain, calmly and quietly, how upset you are and how you can’t go on like this. Say you’ll listen to what he has to say too. But tell him if you move, he can come or he can stay but you can’t keep him as you would a child in either place. He’ll be 18. If he hasn’t a job or a college place, it’s time he got one.

But that’s his responsibility, not yours. Of course you’ll give him emotional support to set himself on his feet but unless he starts talking over what really worries him, begins appreciating what you’re doing for him and giving something back, you won’t pay anymore.

If that all sounds rather tough – it is. But I suspect your son is simply crying out for you to hear what he really feels, and to make a stand. Do, please, contact Parentline. They really will help you move through all this. I do wish you the best!

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