How do I motivate my son?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My son is 19 and spends all his free time on his computer (he paid for it) he refuses to get a job. He does go to the local community college. I need to somehow motivate him to get a job. I’ve taken everything from him before (internet) and it doesn’t seem to work. Please any suggestions.

A: You and your son are involved in a power struggle instead of a conversation. He does as he pleases. You take things away. He lets you know those tactics won’t work. You get mad. He gets mad. It goes nowhere.

This “child” is 19. It sounds like neither one of you has acknowledged that a developmental shift is happening. He is no longer your little boy you need to support. He is a young man who can support himself but who wants help while he gets a college education. The trouble is that he feels entitled to a fully funded lifestyle while he does what he wants. You haven’t been able to make it clear to him that funding is not an entitlement.

My best suggestion to you is this: First, take a big step back and figure out where you really, truly stand about your parental obligations while he is in school. Decide what you expect him to do in exchange for being subsidized. Then make a formal appointment with your son to discuss how his college years are going to go.

Lay out your expectations. Then (this is very important) be open to listening to his point of view. Work on coming to a clear agreement. What does he get? What do you expect in return? Don’t agree to anything you can’t live with. Lay out clear consequences together for the possibility that either one of you will violate the agreement. This conversation will only be effective if you stay calm, matter of fact, and business like. This is business, not a moral issue.

If he doesn’t live up to his end of the deal, there is nothing to fight about. He is simply showing you by his behavior that he would rather be on his own. Respect that decision. No yelling. No cajoling. Just give him a hug, offer to help him move out, and wish him well. He can do it. He has computer skills. My guess is that he’s smart. You raised him. Have confidence that he can get along.

I wish you both well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Jun 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). How do I motivate my son?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/06/01/how-do-i-motivate-my-son/