How to Motivate Adult Children

Paying Bills image by ne_fall_photos from

Whether your adult child still lives at home or constantly calls you for loans, motivating her to take care of herself can be a challenge. You don't want to leave your child out on the street or in a dire financial situation, but you also can't be a personal bank or put up with a messy houseguest forever. Reclaim your empty nest years by encouraging your adult child to take more responsibility.

Evaluate the Situation

It's a good idea to evaluate what's going in with your adult child before you offer advice or encouragement to help her take control of her life. Is she still living at home? Does she live on her own but constantly ask you for help? Is her job search not really going anywhere because she isn't trying? Think about the areas where she lacks motivation and things she needs to change. You might also consider boundaries she's crossing that you aren't okay with. For example, some parents don't mind their adult kids living at home as long as they help out around the house, while others want their kids to move out as soon as possible. Figure out where you stand on the issues before making your move.

Set Ground Rules

Whether your child lives at home or on his own, you need to set ground rules if he's taking advantage of your kindness. For an adult child living at home, that might include rules about curfew, chores and having friends over. Putting those ground rules and expectations into writing makes the situation clear for everyone, making it easier to stick to the plan. You might also set boundaries for things like borrowing money. For example, if your child lives on his own, you might be willing to buy him groceries but not pay his cellphone bill or give him spending money.

Make Your Child Work for Things

If your child still lives with you, don't provide a free ride with no responsibilities. Making her life easy at your house doesn't give her any incentive to change what she's doing. Consider charging her rent, even if it's just a small amount. You might also ask her to pay a portion of the utilities or help with the groceries.

Whether or not she contributes financially, make sure she helps around the house. Make her do her own laundry and clean up after herself. Ask her to help with shared chores like cleaning bathrooms or mowing the lawn. Making her work at home might encourage her to move out on her own faster.

Limit Your Financial Contributions

You don't want to see your child go without, but being an endless source of money teaches your child he doesn't have to be responsible because he always has a security net. He never learns the consequences of his actions. If you cover him after he blows his entire paycheck going out or buying new things he doesn't need and comes up short on his rent or car payment, he doesn't learn a lesson. Limit how you support your child financially. If he knows he can't get a lot of money from you, he might work harder to find a better-paying job for himself.

Another consideration is your own financial future. You want to help your child, but you also need to think about your security. Avoid cosigning on a loan or lease that could hurt your credit if your child defaults. You should also avoid using your retirement savings to help your adult child.

Share Advice

Your child might not realize she needs it, but your experience can help her take better control of her situation. Teach her things like how to rent her own apartment and how to save for retirement or other future expenses. You might teach her the art of negotiating when buying a vehicle, so she can score a deal on a used vehicle. Sharing your wisdom can help her make better decisions that get her off on the right foot.

Be Supportive of Small Steps

You might have big ideas for your adult child, but don't be too critical of his smaller steps. That constant criticism can hurt his motivation to try for something better. He might not get the best possible job right away. However, securing a job is a big first step if he's been unemployed. He might not live in a fancy apartment, but if he's in a safe area and pays his own rent, he's making strides in the right direction. Encourage your adult child to continue working for things by acknowledging even the small achievements.