10/17/2014 02:59 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Is Your Grown Child Still Mooching Off You? 6 Ways To Change That

Everybody knows a moocher, but what if the freeloader is your own child? In the video above, Dr. Phil steps in to help David and Lori, whose 26-year-old son is still living at home. They say he was once a model child, but is now lazy, makes a complete mess of his room, can’t hold a job, drinks, smokes pot — and they are fed up with it. Watch as Dr. Phil delivers a dose of reality along with a plan of action for Christopher and his parents, too.

If one of the millions of adult children living at home across America is yours, or if someone is taking advantage of you financially or refuses to become self-sufficient, Dr. Phil offers these tips:

1. Think about what lesson you’re teaching. Understand that over-indulgence is one of the most insidious forms of child abuse, according to Dr. Phil. That’s because spoiling your children doesn't teach them how the world works. All you are teaching them is that if they ask enough or refuse to step up themselves, you'll give them what they want. What a disservice that is to your kids. Instead, teach them to require more of themselves, and that winners do things losers don’t want to do.

Take Responsibility for Your Life

2. Quit enabling. People do what works. Your child is doing what he's doing because he can. Instead of asking why your kid isn't more productive, have a job or goals, ask yourself if you have created an environment in which your child doesn't have to step up. If he can maintain the standard of living you raised him in without any effort, is it any wonder he’s doing what he is? Couldn’t you get used to somebody paying all your bills, putting a roof over your head and doing the grocery shopping too? As the parent, it’s your job to shake things up and stop allowing the status quo to continue. Pain or discomfort can be a good motivator — but first you’ve got to stop enabling the behavior.

3. Learn how to say no and set boundaries. Your children need to learn that if they choose a behavior, they choose the consequences. Don't allow them to keep choosing behaviors that have negative consequences that you pick up the tab for! For example, if you create a contract that requires your child to do their part around the house or they get kicked out, then you need to stick to the rules you set — not fulfill their obligations for them.

Breaking the Cycle of a Family Freeloader

4. Don't feel guilty. Wanting your children to be out on their own does not mean you don't love them. It means that you don't want to rob them of the chance to be self-sufficient, productive adults who are able to have a sense of purpose and pride. Or, perhaps, you feel guilty about something from your kids’ childhood that is now at the root of why you’re letting them take advantage of you. If you don't think you were a great mom back then or you made some mistakes that you regret, you can’t make up for it now by neglecting to set boundaries.

Steps to Independence: How to Get Your Adult Children Living on Their Own

5. You don't solve money problems with money. You solve money problems with a change in lifestyle, values and priorities. If your child has no money to move out because he spends what he earns partying or on clothes, that’s a problem! If your child can’t afford to move out because he’s only working part-time, then the rest of his time needs to be spent looking for full-time work so he can support himself. Likewise, if he doesn’t have a job, his job needs to be finding a job. Come up with a plan to fix what’s not working, follow clear steps, and stick to a timeline that all parties can agree to.

6. Start requiring more. The most valuable gift that you can give your children in this situation is to start requiring more of them and help them to be grownups. Imagine the joy and pride your children will feel when they can look in the mirror knowing they have made their own way, can stand solid on their own two feet, and have every right to celebrate their own accomplishments. Help foster their independence by requiring more of them — and of yourself.

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