Is it fair to charge our son rent?

Here’s a question I’m asked a lot.

“Is it fair to charge our son rent?”

I’m on BBC Radio Tees discussing charging adult kids rent as more and more adult children are coming back home to live as they try and save up for a home of their own.

But do you charge them rent? If so how much – the going rate?

What if they return as Boomerang kids and don’t pull their weight?

You have to have a think about the situation that you find yourself in. Are your kids genuinely saving up and you want to support them, or are they out every Friday and Saturday night & going clothes shopping on Sunday? As this will have a bearing on how you charge them rent & on the conversations you need to have so you don’t end up resentful.

Rescuing kids is very different from supporting them & you’d be wise to ponder what you think is happening in your house.

Here’s a real question sent in to my Sue Atkins Parenting Show podcast.

“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?”

I suggested…

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:

  1. I feel…
  2. When you…
  3. Because…
  4. I would like…

For example:

  1. 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!).
  2. 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.
  3. I feel… worried, anxious, stressed and concerned about your drug taking.
  4. 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.

Here are my thoughts about Boomerang Kids ….

Student debt, the high cost of housing, and a general lengthening of adolescence (itself, a result of growing life expectancy) are all contributing to the new phenomenon of boomerang kids – the 20 or 30 somethings who move back in with their parents after once fleeing the nest.

Young adults are returning home to their parents as they can’t afford to buy or rent their own place This is when problems occur, not necessarily because the adult children treat the family home like a hotel, but often because they do not accept that their lifestyles clash, grate and jar horribly with those of their parents.”

The problems of boomerang kids are very real with parents often bemused and at a loss to know how to handle this new situation. Knowing how to cope and live together as a family again. It’s about looking to the future and setting some simple, clear and specific goals that can be achieved over time. It is important not to get stuck or feel that you have all taken a step backwards in your lives.

Here are my simple and practical tips that will make the transition to living together once again a harmonious one:

1. Do remember that it is your house and your rules
2. Do insist that your children make a financial contribution to the home – this will teach them to respect you as well as themselves
3. Do draw up an agreement on household chores and basic house rules – then stick to them
4. Do accept that you have to go through a transition in behaviour with adult children
5. Do insist they tell you if they are not coming home at night and explain why you need to know, e.g. peace of mind, security so you can lock the door.
6. Do set boundaries – be firm, fair, consistent and respectful.
7. Don’t wait on them hand and foot
8. Don’t treat them like teenagers and don’t try to control them
9. Don’t forget that as parents you are role models. Make sure that both parents are on the same side, e.g. if the dad expects the mum to do all the household chores the adult child will too
10. Don’t let bad behaviour go unnoticed – if it upsets you then speak to them about it. Work out compromises, solutions and ways forward. Don’t let resentment, anger and arguments build up.

“Boomerang kids” don’t stay at home forever. Whilst they are at home it is important to keep the lines of communication open and to talk about what everyone wants to gain from the situation. Compromise and thrive – a bit like all of family life really 🙂