Q: My husband and I recently learned that our son has lied about attending college classes for the last year. He is an excellent student, intellectually, but lacks maturity and respect for authority. When we discovered that he has dropped or failed his classes this year, we confronted him with tough love! Our boundaries say, “if you are not committed to getting a college education, then we will no longer fund your schooling and support your lifestyle.” His responded with anger, screaming and a totally disrespectful attitude. He didn’t seem to think it was a ‘big’ deal that he lost his bright futures scholarship. He told us that, “he didn’t need us anymore and that it was our problem, not his.” I suspect some inflated ego-issues from him, too. What do we do? This is out of left field and we’re not sure how to handle it except to cut him off, financially. Ideas?
A: I think your son owes you whatever the year cost. And, yes, I think his anger is more about his fear of being on his own than anything else. Somehow he deluded himself into thinking that you are okay about funding 4 years of sleeping, partying, or whatever else he was doing. You are certainly not obligated to do that.
I hope you were more able to stay in control than he was. Angry words aren’t going to help this boy grow up. Now that you’ve gotten over your initial shock and he’s had his tantrum, it’s time to talk. Ask him if he would like some help to figure out his finances and pay his school loans (to you and the bank). If he refuses, just give him a deadline for moving out and leave it at that but remind him that if he changes his mind, you’re available. If he takes you up on it, help him figure out where he’s going to live, what kinds of jobs are available to him, and how to build his credit and pay his bills.
I strongly suggest that he take a year off from college, no matter how hard he tries to convince you otherwise. Talk is cheap. He needs to show you he is serious about his education by saving a substantial amount toward the next year of his schooling. You can then help him apply for loans in his own name. If he shows you a good semester or two, you might consider whether you want to get back involved.
Please don’t feel a bit guilty about showing him that there are consequences for irresponsibility. It’s a lesson he desperately needs if he is to become a mature man.
I wish you well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Jul 2008
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Son lied about attending college. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 6, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/07/24/son-lied-about-attending-college/