Updated 23 July 2013

Time to kick out your kids?

Are your adult kids still living with you? Check out these signs that it might be time to kick them out.


Many South African families find themselves in the situation where grownup children are still living at home. This article is not for those families where this is a temporary arrangement, owing to a sudden divorce, illness or children being between jobs or flats.

This article is for those families whose 30-year-old working son or daughter wouldn’t know where to pay an electricity account, how to boil an egg, and that dirty socks and towels do not get up off the bathroom floor by themselves.


Signs that your goodwill is being abused

  • Your child, despite earning a good salary, does not make a significant contribution to the household expenses.
  • You are struggling to make ends meet, while your child has money for holidays, CDs, smart clothes and a fancy car.
  • You find yourself often having to foot the bill for your child’s friends popping in over mealtimes.
  • You find yourself having to cook meals at least twice a day. Often your child actually doesn’t arrive for these and sometimes does not let you know.
  • You cannot remember if your child has ever washed a dish, swept a floor or cleaned a bath. You think there was that one weekend in 1991 when you had broken your leg…
  • Your child knows where to buy a laser mouse for his computer, but wouldn’t know where in the supermarket to get bread, eggs or garbage bags.
  • If you didn’t clean under the bed, the missing library book from 1987 would still be there.
  • You are careful to make phonecalls after 7 pm, but your phonebill remains high.
  • A request to be taken somewhere or to get something for the household is met with unwillingness.
  • Money is borrowed from you and conveniently forgotten.

Living together in peace
Many people manage to make this work, but there are certain ground rules that need to be laid down for this to happen.

  • No work and no pay. If your child is unemployed and seems to be making little effort to end this state of affairs, it could be your willingness to continue supporting him or her making this situation possible. Set realistic limits.Say something like, “It costs us R2500 per month to have you here. We know work is difficult to find, and will not expect you to make a contribution for the next three months, but after that we will not have a choice."
  • Don't leave things up in the air. Make fixed arrangements that are arrived at by mutual discussion. The situation will not just resolve itself – on the contrary. Parents who are prepared to be doormats for their grown children are not doing them a favour.
  • From kids to adults. Accept the fact that your relationship is going to have to change with the changing situation. Your child is becoming a young adult, and you will need to learn to let go a little. This does not mean that you must stop giving support, but you can also expect support for yourself.
  • Paying her own way. Once a child is working, there is no reason why you should be footing the bill for her living costs. If she were not living with you, she would have to pay a lot more elsewhere. Children who study can be treated more leniently, but set realistic time limits. The last thing you want is an eternal student around your neck.
  • Letting go. Accept that once a child is paying his or her way in your household, you can no longer dictate things like dress, friends and movements over weekends. You can, however, stipulate what you will tolerate under your roof, as you would do with any other boarder.
  • Calculate costs. Work out household and food costs accurately and give your child a breakdown of exactly what it costs to have him/her there. Keep in mind that if your child was not living there, you would more than likely be able to rent out that space to someone else.
  • Calling certain shots. You are entitled to make certain ground rules, such as that you need to be notified by lunchtime if your child is not going to be home for supper.
  • Knowing where they are. You are not entitled to knowing where they are at all times, but you can expect them to tell you more or less when they will return. If a child is not going to sleep at home, you need to know beforehand, given the levels of crime in South Africa. Life is too short to lie awake worrying about the whereabouts of your middle-aged child.
  • No live-in help. If your child is paying his/her way, you are not in a position to treat them as a live-in chauffeur, babysitter, cook or gardener. If this type of duty is expected of them, it must be calculated in when their contribution is determined. A reduction for babysitting or doing the laundry, is quite acceptable, but then both sides must stick to the bargain. Children who study and are therefore not paying rent, can be expected to do a significant portion of housework.
  • Get itemised accounts. Get an itemised telephone account for calls made from your line. This piece of paper can avoid many nasty fights.
  • Get a life of your own. You and your child are not responsible for each other’s constant entertainment. Make a fixed date, such as supper on Tuesdays, when you can catch up and chat. Nothing will make your child want to leave more quickly than feeling that you don’t have a life and are sitting at home waiting for them to entertain you.
  • A helping hand. You are not doing your child any favours by doing things for her she should be doing for herself.
  • Time to go? Remember that sometimes, the more loving thing to do is to let go of those you love. If things are unpleasant or uncomfortable, feel free to make an end to this arrangement. Remember, penguins actually peck their young until they leave. While this is not recommended, sometimes separation preserves rather than destroys relationships.


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