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Who Rules the Roost?

Who Rules the Roost? Establishing Boundaries for Returning College Kids that Everyone Can Live With


Home (Bitter) Sweet Home: A College Student’s Perspective 

by Caroline Finnegan | Guest Contributor


Dear Parents,

A little intro from a senior in college and three-time champion of the smooth transition home for the summer. As the third child among my parents’ four darlings, I wasn’t the first college kid to come home for the summer and attempt to “rule the roost,” as my dad likes to say. The easy (ok, occasionally traumatic) transition was made possible by my two adoring parents who wanted nothing but the best for their kids.

The thing to keep in mind when laying down the law in your home, from the perspective of a college student, is to remember that we’ve been on our own for a year (or two, or three, or four) now, and we’ve gained a lot of independence. Sure the messy rooms, the lack of ability to do laundry and the spoiled attitude might say otherwise, but the reality is, we’ve thrown ourselves into new situations without the safety net of parents and have matured in ways that might not jump off the page…just yet.

It’s tough coming home to the requests of parents when, for so long, we’ve been planning our days just the way we want them: wake up at 10 am, go to class, workout, get lunch with friends…etc…etc… A lot of parents won’t see the maturity of their kids when they come home for summer, because the truth is, we regress back to our high school selves. We know our parents are there to dish out a few bucks, to say “no” when we ask to do certain things, and to encourage us to get off the couch and to do something active. At school, we don’t have this back-up, and we’re forced to discipline ourselves. But you will never see that whilst we’re in the comfort of our homes.

So even if your kids are acting like their seventeen – year old selves, try not to treat them as you did in the past, and hopefully they’ll get the picture. If you give them the independence they had in college, they will be encouraged to show you just how much they’ve matured while at school.

P.S. My dad would also like to note that college students should realize they are adults sharing a house with other adults.


Dear Students,

As finals wind down, most of us are packing up our rooms and getting ready to hit the open road back home. It’s a bittersweet feeling leaving the freedoms of school… ah, college…to return to the rules of our parents’ house. It’s a little difficult understanding the term “curfew” when you’ve spent the last nine months stumbling home as the sun comes up. The idea of “chores” seems obsolete when your room at school looks like a tornado hit it. Readjusting to life in your childhood home can be less than fantastic, whether you’re home for the summer after freshman year or as a post-grad beginning the job search.

I can assure you, though, that if you focus on the positives, and try not to step on any toes along the way, these tips and tricks will make the transition as smooth as possible. It’s not easy listening to your parents after living a year without their rules, but it is important. Getting off on the wrong foot could literally ruin your entire summer.


  1. Don’t Forget To Call

It’s easy to forget to report back to your parents because you’ve been on your own for so long, but they take responsibility for you when you’re back at home. If you’re going to spend the night out, don’t forget to let them know. Having a worried parent calling and looking for you all night is stressful for both parties. Just remember to update them every once in a while, and it should be smooth sailing from there.


  1. Help Out

If you do little things around the house, like unpacking your clothes early, or keeping your room mildly clean, your parents are less likely to treat you like a child. Remember, if you act like you need their help, they’re going to come at you full throttle. Instead of getting annoyed at your parents for asking you to help out, just do it and move on….you get more bees with honey.


  1. Remember What You’ve Been Missing

Keeping in mind all of those things that you love about home will make the move back effortless (well, almost.) Being at home has it’s perks, that’s for sure. Don’t forget, before you know it you will be back at school (or moving out.)


  1. Be Respectful

By this I mean, remember that you are not at school and that your actions are affecting a lot more than just yourself now. Coming home at 4 am and heating up the leftovers from dinner is fine, as long as you’re quiet.


  1. Blend In

Don’t do anything in the beginning of the summer that is going to put you on your parents’ radar. I find that as long as I blend in and do my best to not cause a scene, my parents are less overbearing. If you don’t give your parents a reason to worry, they’ll be more lenient. Keep in mind that your parents are watching your every move as soon as you get back. It can’t hurt to be on your best behavior for a couple of days as you settle in.


  1. Curfew?

If your parents try to reinstate your old curfew, chances are you haven’t been on your best behavior. Stating a curfew is a means of control, and if your parents are reverting back to the high school years it’s most likely because they feel like you need rules to follow. If you are being responsible, checking in and acting mature, you should not have to worry about the old 1 am curfew coming back to haunt you.


  1. Get a Job

Laying out in the sun and bumming around the house all day sounds like an ideal summer to most of us, but the reality is that we are in college and should be taking on the responsibilities of a job and making money. If you’re working hard, your parents will take notice and not come down on you for petty things. It will be easier to ask for that extra cash for the concert at the end of the month if your parents know you’re also doing your part.


Editor’s Note: Caroline Finnegan is a rising senior at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.



Quotes: “I tell my kids when they return from college that they are back in the ’worry zone.’   What this means to me is that I just need them to check in and let me know what they are doing.  Will they be home for dinner? Will they be staying at a friend’s house? This allows us to make our own plans. I don’t want to micro-manage them, but they are back in the family zone so they need to show respect for what’s going on in the home.”

– Deborah Cowart


“My rules at home are simple — I don’t need to know where my boys are at all times, but I expect them to let me know who they are out with and when they are going out and coming home. A quick text is all I ask.”

– Renee Rubin

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