How do I Deal With a Son Who Won't Go to School or Get a Job?

African man sleeping on sofa

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Although kids are eager to get out of the house as teenagers, many soon come to the realization that Mom and Dad’s house offers free rent, cable and an unending stash of food, with meals cooked upon request. Why would they ever want to leave? In an attempt to be supportive and encouraging, many parents offer temporary housing to adult children suffering from job loss, relationship issues or other downturns in their lives. The word that some of them fail to hear, however, is "temporary."

House Rules

The first step when a child moves back into the house is to set rules. This isn’t his personal playground, and with Mom and Dad footing the bills, guidelines need to be put in place to prevent him from taking advantage of his loving parents. Set curfews, tack up no-smoking signs and cut off any extra cable channels watched only by your adult child. Without enforcing the rules and providing tough love, parents can quickly become enablers to the maturing bum planted on the couch.


Become your child’s greatest cheerleader, helping her beef up her resume and search for jobs. Help her with interview skills, encourage her to attend job fairs and show her how to network with friends, family and co-workers of friends and family. Although she may sigh with disgust, make sure she understands that any job is better than no job. In a CBS article, “How to Kick Your Kids Out of the Nest,” psychologist Jane Adams suggests encouraging everything “even if it means they have to work a McJob and live with three roommates.”


To help an unmotivated big kid find his niche in the world, expose him to job fairs, school tours and local speakers and career counselors. Lack of motivation may stem from lack of exposure to what’s really out there. A grown child can become demoralized at the prospect of working at the video store forever, but learning of the opportunities available to him can energize and motivate him to pursue a dream.


If your child is genuinely on the hunt and still jobless, consider offering work-for-rent opportunities. The deck needs staining, there’s a leak in the upstairs window, and the grass needs to be mowed once a week. Instead of hiring help, look to your couch to find free labor. Being your free handywoman may encourage your child to find her own lawn to mow.


You’ve been encouraging. You’ve revamped his resume and driven him to numerous job fairs. You’ve even gone out on a limb to set up interviews with colleagues and admission counselors. Still nothing? Give him an ultimatum of finding a job, starting school or moving out. Sometimes it takes a little push (sometimes a hard shove) to open his eyes. Entrepreneurial teen coach Shonika Proctor recommends focusing your energy on “awakening the passions and dreams" of your child. He may become passionate about something once he understands the importance of hard work and persistence.