Should We Have a Manipulative Adult Parent Move In With Us?

Four Ground Rules

What do you do if a manipulative adult parent asks to move in with you? Dr. David Powlison, counselor and faculty member at Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), elaborates on this difficult decision and provides four ground rules to consider before making it. 

David Powlison has been doing biblical counseling for over 30 years and has written numerous articles on counseling and on the relationship between faith and psychology. His books include Speaking Truth in Love, Seeing with New Eyes, Power Encounters, and The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context. 

Deciding whether or not you should let a parent who's proven to be manipulative move in with you is a difficult decision—even more so if that parent has physical or mental inabilities. David doesn’t have an automatic answer, but he offers four ground rules to think about:

  1. Recognize this is an eyes-open decision that you and your spouse must make as a couple.
  2. Ask yourself if you are willing and able to handle it.
  3. Know that if you do decide to have the parent move in, it will be difficult.
  4. Should you have the parent move in, you will need to be candid in your interactions.   

There is not a single right or wrong answer to having a parent move in. David said that couples considering having a parent live with them need to weigh competing biblical principles and make a wise decision. What various Scriptures come to mind that speak to this question, but may not answer it fully?
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It’s important that you consider not only Scripture, but also your own willingness and ability to have a manipulative adult parent move in with you. Take a minute to consider where you are in this particular season of your life. Think about your finances, limitations, opportunities, assets, attitudes, and whatever else you think would be helpful. At this point, are you willing and able to handle this challenge?
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If you choose to have an adult manipulative parent move in with you, it will be hard. You will be tempted to act out of anger, withdraw, hate, and more. What potential difficulties stand out to you as you consider this change?
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David encourages three forms of candid conversation should you decide to have your adult parent move in:

  1. clear, candid, and openly stated objective love
  2. candor about openly stating the problems
  3. openly stated ground rules and expectations

Your love for a manipulative adult parent doesn’t have to be warm and fuzzy, but it does need to be genuine and stated. If you open your home to one of your parents, you will want that parent to feel safe and loved. What words of love—even if they're hard—do you have for your parent? Are you willing to speak them aloud to them?
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You will also need to be candid in sharing exactly why it is difficult to have your parent move in. David said it’s good to name those difficulties—such as manipulation or lying—out loud. What problems come to your mind that you would need to name specifically?
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Should your adult parent come live with you, you will need to establish ground rules. Some things will simply not be allowed. Considering things like your home, finances, schedule, and more, what ground rules come to mind?
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Now that you know David’s four ground rules, what reasons do you have for having your adult parent move in with you? What reasons do you have for not doing it?
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David’s four ground rules are not a formula. They are simply a framework to help you make an informed decision before God and each other and then be as loving as possible to your aging parent. 

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