The 30-Year-Old Son Who Refused to Move Out: Three Lessons Learned

The story made the national news over the last few weeks. I think it did because so many of us found it preposterous. Did you catch the story?

New York parents decided to sue their 30-year-old son who refused to move out of their house. Sound a little strange? Keep reading. Evidently, Michael Rotondo decided to remain in his parents’ home long after he turned 21, and just “hang out.” He was not employed full-time and in many ways continued to live like a teenager. While I am sure he, his mom and dad had conversations about his maturation and readiness to launch out on his own, it didn’t seem to stick. The reports said they continued to encourage him to “get a job” and to “take responsibility for his life.” In response, he felt it was “ridiculous” that they’d make such demands on him.

How does the saying go? 30 is the new 20?

The judge ruled in the parents’ favor and required Michael to move out and grow up. He couldn’t believe how cruel this was, even though they gave him two weeks to follow through on the ruling and gave him $1,100 dollars to get started.

Is It Really Essential For Young Adults to Move Out?

Photo Credit: New York Post

I recognize there are some who actually need to “boomerang.” Moving back home after college offers young adults time to ramp up for life on their own. Tuition debt is larger than ever and many find it difficult to find jobs that pay enough to cover expenses. In those cases, parents and adult-children should strike an agreement and set a mutual deadline for independence. Why? For the health of the young adult who desperately needs to strike out on their own and become the person they’re gifted to be.

Others argue that in many European countries, kids remain at their parents home well into their twenties (maybe even thirties) until they get married. It’s a cultural norm. Agreed. The difference, however, is that healthy European young adults who live at home—are contributing to the family, working full time jobs and playing an appropriate “adult” role. Too many young adults in America are merely playing video games, while mom makes grilled cheese sandwiches for them. Did you know that more 18 to 34-year-olds live with a parent than with a spouse, according to a new study by the U.S. Census Bureau?

Three Problems in This Situation

As I see it, there are three significant problems in our culture when it comes to this topic. These problems have evolved over the last twenty years: 

1. The young adult who somehow feels moving out is a punishment.

While I believe the story of Michael Rotondo made the news because it’s an exaggeration, I also know there is a growing population of young adults who see “adulting” (the process of becoming a mature adult) as almost a penalty. They had so much fun as kids and now they fear the fun might be over. My question is: why would anyone see maturation this way? It seems to me we have failed to relay to our kids that becoming autonomous is an adventure to anticipate, full of exciting choices, stretching challenges, ups and downs and definitely rewarding when lived well. Too many of us have failed at not only preparing our young for this adventure, but for describing it this way. Too many teens and twenty somethings are afraid of the opportunity, seeing adult life—life on their own—as a punishment to be avoided as long as possible. 

2. The young adult who doesn’t feel ready for adult life.

How did this begin to happen, that parents stopped preparing their children to become an adult—to pay bills, to purchase a car, to rent an apartment and to fully function on their own? The data is compelling. Fewer teens today are working jobs (half of what it was when I was a teen) and fewer are going out on dates without their parents than the previous three generations. By 2015, the majority of 10th graders didn’t even drive a car (even with a learner’s permit). Author and psychologist Jean Twenge summarizes it saying, “No matter what the cause, teens are less likely to experience the freedom of being out of the house—those first tantalizing tastes of the independence of being an adult, those times when teens make their own decisions, good or bad.”

3. The established adults who depend on litigation to enforce behavior.

This one could be controversial, but I offer it to you to consider. While I admit I don’t have all the data on Christina and Mark Rotondo, I was struck that this mother and father felt they had to lean on the law to enforce correct behavior from their son. I wonder what was happening over the years as this boy grew up. Did they cultivate any moral authority in his life to lead him well? Where was the breakdown in their relationship that would compel them to feel they must sue their son? Doesn’t litigation imply some relational breakdown?

Miserably, our belief today is that the parents job is only to provide for them, not equip them for life on their own. This is both pitiful and sad. Worst of all, the greatest victim is the young adult who needs help to even get by in life. It leads to negative encounters like Christina and Mark had with Michael.

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The 30-Year-Old Son Who Refused to Move Out: Three Lessons Learned