Is it fair to charge our son rent?
Inspired by George Clooney’s latest film, The Descendents, which features a difficult father-daughter relationship, family expert Sue Atkins has been answering your questions and making suggestions about how members who have posted on our Parents of Teens message board may find a way forward. The following message was posted by community member notsonice:
"My son is 19 and lives at home - we've given him an annexe so he has his independence. He is having a "year out" and goes to uni in Sept (will still live at home). He works part-time at local supermarket. He runs his own car and spends all his spare time with his friends in a haze of cannabis smoke. His friends come and go as they please to the annexe - I've no problem with that.
"I have asked him for £20 a week housekeeping - he earns around £500 pcm. He has managed to 'forget' to pay rent 99% of the time. A couple of weeks ago we said he needed to pay his rent or we'd disconnect his electricity. He hasn't, so yesterday we cut of the electricity supply. Needless to say he's furious, came in at 10pm stoned and ranted about how broke he is (yet he's doing up his car, has an iPhone, new Apple laptop...). I told him if he couldn't pay he could do a couple of jobs for me, which he said he wouldn't do.
"He stormed off and I've not seen him since. Is it fair to expect him to pay rent?"
Sue Atkins says...
Of course! Growing up is all about taking responsibility for yourself and becoming autonomous and independent. Perhaps it’s time for a Team Talk. As kids become more assertive, confident and confrontational it’s a natural reaction of some parents to match the behaviour and to become more assertive, more confrontational and more controlling but that is where, in my opinion things can go wrong.
It’s about NOT matching that behaviour, it’s about recognising what’s happening and trying the new strategies and techniques of negotiating, discussing, and talking – the time for telling is over.
One useful technique to adopt is the:
- I feel...
- When you...
- I would like...
- I would like… you to pay your rent on Friday’s at 6.30pm as we agreed (being very specific means it will become a habit!).
- Because… I need to have some contribution for the lighting, heating and electricity as well as for the food bill. I am also preparing you for the big wide world where you have to pay your way.
- I feel… worried, anxious, stressed and concerned about your drug taking.
- When you… don’t listen to me or respect me I feel disappointed in you as we brought you up to be more considerate, respectful and aware of your responsibilities as being part of our family.
As this is very clear about how you feel and what you would like to see happen and opens up the lines of communication. Start to encourage both of you to adopt this simple but really effective technique as it is very successful in families I have worked with. Write down what you do expect and stick to your guns over this – you are teaching him some very important life skills.
Get grounded, centred and clear about what you expect – stay calm and detached and not angry or over emotional – speak slowly, clearly and confidently and just stick to the facts and don’t get drawn in to the emotional finger pointing or blame game. Hope that helps.
Watch a clip from The Descendents