Dear Weekly Standard Editor,
I have been having issues with my 21-year-old son, Gus. He’s not unintelligent, and he’s willing to read and discuss things, but he rarely thinks about the consequences of his choices. As a result, he has been held back in school for three years in a row.
Of course, I have tried to encourage him to do his homework and study so that he can pass the few remaining classes he needs to graduate, but this makes him irrationally angry. He goes on tirades about how I’m trying to manipulate him into doing things he doesn’t want to and shouldn’t have to do. Additionally, he blames educators for not being “upfront” about requirements to study and do homework when he started school.
Here’s what he told me just last weekend:
“At first, they tell you how important education is, and they talk about job opportunities and developing good habits. What they don’t tell you is that you’re going to have to write papers, read books, and take exams. It’s like a cult… typical sales tactics!”
The same thing happened when he interviewed for a job a few weeks ago. He apparently started by demanding a high pay rate, a lot of time off, and gave the interviewer a list of tasks that were beneath him which included, “cooking, cleaning, and communicating with customers.” When the fast food restaurant didn’t hire him, he went off about how they were hiding the “truth” of how they exploit their employees.
So, I was hoping you might have some advice on what might help him think about the consequences of his choices. I want to let him make his own choices, but it’s getting to the point where his classmates are frustrated with his laziness and selfishness. They’re even teasing him with the nickname “Gus on the short bus.”
What should I do?
It sounds like your son needs some gratitude and humility in his life. There may be a nearby church that could inform you about service opportunities, provide fellowship and community, and encourage discipline and improvement. He probably still has a lot of positive talents and attributes that could help others, if only you could convince him to take them off the shelf, dust them off, and put them to use.
Good luck if you need it!