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Completely Confused By 20 Year Old Son's Behavior

by Anonymous

My son is 20 years old. He is extremely intelligent. He excelled in school and was at the top of his high school senior class. He was accepted into every college he applied to and was offered scholarships. He chose a college and went there for three semesters. He made passing grades the first two semesters but failed his classes the third semester. He came home following the third semester and has been here since. He only shares that he did not like college, the environment or the people.

Since he has been home, he is very confrontational. Doesn't like to be told anything. Informs my husband and me frequently that he is an adult and can do whatever he wants. He has worked but not steady and is working minimal paying jobs that won't afford him an opportunity to get his own place. He frequently expresses his dissatisfaction with society and is upset that some people have more money than they need while others can barely afford to live.

He has several medical conditions but refuses to take his prescription medications. He frequently misses scheduled doctor's appointments even though he is the one that scheduled them. He is still on our medical insurance so cost is not the reason for any of his behaviors.

I am just so frustrated and confused. How can a person that was so driven and successful until they turned 18 be acting like this? He says he plans to move out into a house with several of his friends but never has enough money to make that happen. His room is filthy and he doesn't seem to mind that one bit. He walks around the house with a scowl on his face, refuses to eat outside of his bedroom, and is just in a general bad mood.

I have asked him to talk about what's going on but am told it's none of my business. I would like him to talk to someone but know I will get resistance because he is an adult and does not want my input.

He vapes, smokes marijuana, and drinks. All things that both my husband and I are opposed to. When asked to stop he says he likes it and has no plans to stop. I just don't know where to go from here. It's obvious he has problems and needs some kind of help. To me this has gone past rebellion. I'm concerned there could be mental health issues and I'm sure substance abuse issues. I don't want my son to fall into the gutter, but I also don't want to continue living this way.

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Jul 06, 2022
The Answer Is Very Clear
by: Dr. DeFoore

Hello, and thank you for reaching out on this site. Clearly, all I know about your situation is what you have written here. However, I have 50 years of experience in counseling, and I can tell you for certain that your situation is a strong case for tough love and healthy anger from you and your husband.

Without meaning to, you have given your son the unspoken message that his behavior is acceptable. You are providing free room and board to someone who is abusive, irresponsible, disrespectful, and engaging in behavior that is unacceptable to you, right under your roof. Regardless of what you have said to him, this unspoken message is far more powerful. Your words literally mean nothing to him, as long as you continue to support him in these ways nonverbally.

I'm sure your son is a good person, but his current situation is making him sick. Nothing you have said in your post indicates mental illness. He sounds fully capable of making it on his own, but as long as you provide physical and financial support for his self-destructive behavior, you are actually adding to his problems.

Please share this with your husband, and be sure you both read these two articles on tough love and healthy anger.

Every day you allow him to continue to live with you while hurting you and himself, you are supporting his unhealthy choices. This is not love. You have fallen into a pattern of enabling.

You and your husband need to reclaim your home. Just because he is your son does not mean he has the right to disrespect the sanctity of your home.

I wish you all the best as you move toward a healthy solution.

Dr. DeFoore

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