Daughter and son-in-law refuse to fly the coop

Question: I allowed my daughter and her now-husband to continue to live with me after they got married a few months ago, in hopes that they would fly the coop soon so I could finally have an empty nest. Both are 21. Both work in retail and go to school. I know they would very much like to live on their own, but rents here in the Bay Area are insane. They cannot afford to rent even a studio on their salaries. I don't want to be their financial support system just to get them out, but I don't see any other solutions.

If they would just respect me and my home, I wouldn't feel this way, but they are total slobs and refuse to clean up after themselves. I'm tired of coming home to my house smelling like weed. My complaining does no good. They just don't care how I feel, and they know it would not be easy for me to throw them out legally. I'm frustrated and don't know what to do.

Answer: So, Bay Area rents mean it would be easier for them to stop smoking weed in Mommy's house than it would be for them to find shelter when you evict them.

This is the salient point here, the one that gives you much more leverage than you think you have.

Your point about the legal hurdle also isn't as germane as you think it is.

It is interesting, I'll give it that; obviously, the process is complicated emotionally, but I hadn't known the practical terms of throwing out an adult child could involve more than changing the locks.

Still, that's only if said child chooses to make it so, by fighting you on a request that she move out. And isn't that a much bigger problem than their mess? That your daughter would take you to court to defend her right to treat you like dirt?

Let's have a collective "wow" for that, whether she's actually capable of it or you just believe she is.

Then let's factor it into your next move, which now must incorporate the following facts and objectives: Your adult daughter is acting rude and entitled; you don't trust her not to behave even worse if you force the issue; you don't want to house her anymore; maintaining her current lifestyle verges on 100 percent dependent upon your housing her. ("Her," not "them," because the husband goes as she does.)

These facts and objectives say you have the power - also verging on 100 percent - to make providing shelter contingent on her treating that shelter with respect. No mess and weed, or no home.

You have a sweet carrot to dangle, too, apparently. You say you "don't want to be their financial support system just to get them out," which I take to mean you are able to, financially speaking - and if so, use that. "Clean yourselves up, and I'll help you move faster toward independence." Help them relocate to a cheaper area and transfer their credits, for example, or single-to-triple-match whatever they manage to save.

I know this will horrify purists: Paying an adult child to do what she should already offer voluntarily out of gratitude and good manners alone? Seriously? But what you're contemplating now is to reward them with even more money - underwriting their rent - for being such hideous entitled slobs that you'll do anything to get them out. So buying their cleanliness sounds like the better bad deal.

And you don't even have to spell out "or else I start the eviction/ejectment process" unless she comes back with a threat to fight you.

If she does, that of course would be distressing on many emotional, practical, and parental levels. (Presumably, all children at some point test their parents with open defiance - meaning all parents get at least a taste of what it feels like to discover you've raised a monster.)

But I hope it would also bring a measure of peace. If she cares little enough about you to choose this over doing her dishes, she releases you from the worry that your warm mother-daughter connection will suffer for all this. Sad stuff, but you can't break what doesn't exist.

Question: How do you let friends know without hurting their feelings that the reason you want to meet them at restaurants instead of going to their home is because they allow their large dog to jump up on and sniff visitors?

Answer: "Would you please hold on to him when I come in? I don't like being jumped on."

That sounds a whole lot easier than finagling your entire friendship into a restaurant setting.

If your friends respond to this (perfectly reasonable) request with a case of wounded feelings serious enough to threaten the friendship, the true cause of that would be their decision to be self-indulgent, not your decision to tell them the truth.

tellme@washpost.com.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.