My Son Only Contacts Me When He Wants Something: 9 Reasons Why and What to Do

You pick up your phone and see your son's name pop up. 

Instead of feeling joy, your heart sinks because you know he likely just wants something from you again. 

If this scenario sounds familiar, you're not alone. 

Many parents feel frustrated when their adult children only seem to reach out when they are in need.

Let’s explore nine common reasons why this happens and tips for improving communication and strengthening your relationship.

9 Possible Reasons Your Son Only Calls When He Wants Something

Related: 13 Ways To Recover When Your Grown Child Breaks Your Heart

1. He is busy and distracted.

It's easy to get caught up in the responsibilities and activities of daily life. Between work, family, and social obligations, you may find yourself constantly on the go. 

Connecting with your parents becomes an afterthought rather than a priority.

While this isn't an excuse, understand that your son's lack of contact isn't necessarily a reflection on you or your relationship. 

He simply has a full plate, and contacting you slips his mind unless he needs something urgent. 

2. He assumes you don't mind helping.

Since you're his parent, your son likely assumes you enjoy feeling needed, and you don't mind when he asks for the occasional favor or even money. Especially if you had a close relationship in his childhood, he may see you as always being willing to help. 

Let him know, in a gentle way, that while you don't mind assisting at times, you'd also like non-favor-related contact. Suggest specific times that work for casual catch-up calls.

3. He takes your support for granted.

After decades of providing for your son's needs, he may unconsciously expect resources and support from you when needed. This dynamic can carry over into his adult years. 

man talking on phone Son Only Calls When He Wants Something

Gently communicate that you feel more purpose and joy in the relationship when it involves give-and-take, not just take on his part. If taking you for granted is an ongoing issue, you may need to practice saying no at times to favors that enable the behavior.

4. He doesn't feel emotionally close.

Some adult children only contact their parents when needing something concrete because they lack an emotional bond. If your relationship has always centered around practical matters rather than nurturing intimacy, your son may not think to call just to talk. 

Consider if perhaps both of you have room to improve when it comes to sharing feelings, being vulnerable, or showing affection. Strengthening your emotional connection may motivate him to reach out more.

5. You tend to problem-solve for him.

When your son does call, do you spend most of the conversation trying to fix things for him or offer money/resources? If so, he may view you more as a problem-solver than a nurturing parent. 

Set boundaries around not always rushing in to rescue your son when he seeks help. Also, try asking more questions about his life and resist the urge to offer solutions immediately. This can help shift your dynamic to a more well-rounded relationship.  

6. He lacks confidence in himself.

In some cases, adult children end up dependent on their parents well into adulthood due to self-esteem issues or lack of life skills. 

Your son may doubt his own ability to handle challenges that arise, so he automatically turns to you for solutions. Raising a confident child who believes in themself starts early. 

But even in adulthood, you can gently encourage your son's problem-solving skills by expressing faith in his abilities.

7. You enable his dependent behavior.

It's hard not to jump in and help when your child is struggling. However, rescuing your son every time he's facing something difficult can perpetuate needy behaviors. He never builds coping skills because you handle the tough stuff for him. 

Let natural consequences do some of the teaching when appropriate. Offer support by listening and encouraging versus solving. As an adult, he has to learn to handle life's challenges.

8. He's going through something difficult.

Sometimes, a major life change like a job loss, divorce, or health crisis leads adult children to lean on their parents more, at least for a period. 

Your son may be dealing with a situation that feels overwhelming, causing him to seek your support desperately. 

Show compassion regarding whatever he faces, but also gently nudge him to seek solutions from multiple sources rather than just you. 

9. The dynamic is one-sided.

Ideally, relationships are reciprocal, with both people making equal effort. If you find yourself constantly supporting your son but get little energy in return, this one-sided dynamic could unconsciously train him only to reach out when he wants something. 

You may need to pull back and let the relationship rest for a while. Your son needs to learn that contacting you solely when needed no longer works before he'll change.

How to Deal with a Son Who Calls Only When He Wants Something?

Knowing why your adult son has fallen into the habit of only contacting you when he wants something is an important first step. But you likely also want the situation to change for the health of your relationship. While you can’t control your son’s actions, you can do several things to encourage better communication and closeness.  

1. Set Boundaries  

It's understandable to feel frustrated and even resentful if your son only calls with requests for money, errands, or other favors. Continue assisting at times if you're able, but set some boundaries too. 

Let him know directly yet kindly that you don't appreciate only hearing from him when he needs something. Consider occasionally saying no to requests that enable this dynamic. 

2. Manage Your Expectations  

Don’t expect your relationship dynamic to transform overnight. Your son is an independent adult now responsible for his choices. 

Focus on controlling your reactions by managing expectations rather than trying to control him. Small positive changes over time are the goal versus an overnight miracle.  

3. Invite Two-Way Connection

Rather than waiting for your son to initiate, reach out yourself to invite meaningful connection. Suggest video chats to talk about topics unrelated to favors needed. 

older man talking on phone Son Only Calls When He Wants Something

Share openly about your life while asking about his with genuine interest. Model the two-way relationship you hope to build.  

4. Require Reciprocal Effort 

Make it clear through gentle honesty and demonstrated actions that you only welcome interactions involving reciprocal effort. Don’t overly invest energy if your son stays stuck in taking rather than giving in the relationship. 

Pull back to allow natural consequences to motivate change.

5. Take Care of Yourself First

Remember that you deserve nurturing relationships where your needs matter, too. Don’t overly sacrifice your well-being to over-assist an adult child. Stay grounded in self-care practices. 

Talk to supportive friends. Then, interact with your son from an emotionally healthy place.

Should A Mom Tell Her Son That Not Calling Is Hurtful?

It's common for moms to feel a mix of sadness, worry, and even anger when their grown sons don't call or text as often anymore. You may take your son's lack of contact personally or fear he doesn't care. 

While bottling up hurt feelings rarely helps, directly confronting your adult son can backfire, too. There are effective ways to share that the lack of communication pains you without attacking your son or damaging the relationship further.

  • Frame it from your experience – Use “I-statements” to explain how no calls make you feel, rather than accusing statements like “you don't care about me.
  • Suggest solutions – After expressing hurt, offer constructive ideas for improvement, like regular scheduled calls.
  • Remain hopeful – Convey confidence that together, you can find realistic expectations.
  • Listen without judgment – There may be valid reasons contact has dropped. Hear your son out.

The goal is opening up dialogue, not venting blame. With care and compromise, you can often improve communication.

How Often Should a Son Call His Mother?

There's no set rule for how frequently a son should call his mom. The ideal amount of contact changes based on factors like the son's stage of life, the closeness of the relationship, and practical time constraints. Both mom and son play a role in maintaining healthy communication. 

The key is that the effort feels reciprocal, with both parties initiating check-ins. If contact diminishes unless the son needs a favor, it likely signals an issue to explore in the relationship.

Is It Disrespectful for a Son to Rarely Call His Mom?

Your relationship dynamic understandably evolves as your son grows into an independent adult. Your son becomes busier, building his career, relationships, and responsibilities separate from you. 

This natural shift doesn't inherently indicate disrespect on his part, though it can feel hurtful when you don't hear from him. True disrespect involves your son selfishly ignoring your needs and making little effort to maintain the relationship with you. 

Infrequent contact due to his limitations is different than him devaluing you as his mother. You can openly discuss your feelings of disrespect with your son and seek compromise around reasonable contact.

What If My Son Still Won't Contact Me After My Efforts?

You've tried everything – calm conversations about your feelings, compromises, modeling closeness – but your son continues contacting you only when he needs something. Or worse, he makes no effort to contact you at all. 

You can't force your adult child to engage despite your best efforts. At some point, for your emotional health, you have to release control. You can cope with a distant or estranged son, as challenging as it is.

Seek Support 

Connecting with others facing similar situations helps ease loneliness. Therapists can assist, too.

Focus on Self-Care 

Double down on healthy coping strategies like getting enough sleep, nutritious eating, and physical activity. Don't isolate.

Adjust Expectations 

Accepting current limitations frees up energy otherwise wasted on resentment.

Find Meaning Separately 

Invest in your needs, interests, and relationships beyond your son.

With time and support, many parents facing distant grown children discover unexpected inner strength and life purpose. Have faith that with self-care, you will persevere despite disappointment.

Final Thoughts

Feeling hurt when your adult son only contacts you when he needs something is understandable. But know that positive change is possible with open communication about needs and expectations on both sides. Prioritize self-care, set kind boundaries, and model the reciprocal relationship you hope to build. With patience and compromise, you can improve your connection.