Failure to Launch: Rules for Adults Living with Parents

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Last week, we discussed the difference in empowering and enabling young adults living at home. If you recognize that you have been enabling your adult son or daughter, you are not alone. While “failure to launch” is not an clinical diagnostic category, the phenomenon of young adults living at home and getting lost in the transition to adulthood is becoming more prevalent.

In order to get young adults living at home and experiencing a failure to launch back on track to adulthood, it is important to stop enabling behaviors and establish rules for adults living with parents. This does not mean completely casting your son or daughter off, or kicking your child out to live on the streets. It does mean setting boundaries, limitations, and rules for adults living with parents. It also means doing whatever you can to help your son or daughter become an independent, self-sufficient young adult.

Rules for Adults Living with Parents

1. Set Limits, Boundaries, and Rules for Adults Living with Parents

Parents who have children experiencing a “failure to launch” into adulthood, should establish boundaries and set limits for young adults living at home.  calm and assertive as you approach him or her about the subject.

  • Setting Financial Boundaries : Explain you will not be indiscriminately providing spending money, and that any money provided will be earned.
  • Setting Household Boundaries: Remember: your house, your rules. This may involve setting rules for responsibilities such as laundry, buying groceries, cooking, cleaning, etc. This may also involve restricting access to television, internet, or video games until a desired task or chore is completed (i.e. helping out with housework or applying for a job/school).
  • Setting Rules for Autonomy: While many young adults living at home are used to being on their own schedules, parents still deserve common courtesy. If your child is living at home, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for a courtesy text if he or she will miss dinner. While it is fine for him or her to keep their own schedule, coming home late and waking up those who have to work in the morning is not fair.

2. Stick to Your Established Boundaries

No means no. Period. Also remember, it is okay to say “I changed my mind.” While it may be easier to give in to your child, remember that you aren’t doing them any favors in overcoming their failure to launch into adulthood.

3. Allow for Failure

Failure is a healthy and important part of identity development. It is okay to be there to help pick up the pieces if your son or daughter falls; however, if you don’t allow them to stumble, it will be more difficult for them to learn out on their own.

4. You Can’t Give a Person Self Esteem

Self esteem is not something you can give to a person; they have to earn it by struggling through difficult things. Self esteem is earned by trying, failing, trying again, and succeeding. Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”


Young adults facing difficult life challenges are finding themselves stuck in a rut or a “failure to launch”. Each individual’s journey toward independence is different; while some will make the journey on their own, others may need a helping hand, some guidance, and even a gentle nudge.  Establishing rules for young adults living with parents is a vital step to getting him or her back on the road to independence.
To find out more about helping young adults living at home achieve their independence, download our free, twelve page white paper, The Road to Independence Can Be Rough: It’s Okay to Ask for Help

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