Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My 19-year-old son has had an issue his whole life: He never cleans his room! We started giving him an allowance when he was 10, but we didn’t give him the allowance if he didn’t do his homework or clean his room. So he didn’t. We have given him a car, and the freedom to do whatever he wants, if only he would keep his room free of trash, but it hasn’t worked. His car is trashed, too! We would like to sell the house, but his bedroom floor is now warped and the walls are ruined. He has a college fund and extra money. He works part time. He says he can’t work more hours, due to school, but he still skips classes. We’ve said he needs to decide if he wants to go away for school and move out next fall. I left home when I was 17. I worked full time. It took me 25 years to get my degree. My husband did it when he was 18. We would prefer to support him through his goals. Any ideas on how to get him to respect us enough to clean his room and car?
DEAR MOM: Let’s review: You chose to (essentially) pay your son to do his homework and clean his room (things he should do, anyway). And because you tied his allowance to these things, his logic was, “Why bother doing homework and cleaning my room? I don’t need any allowance. Because I’m 10!”
You and your husband are still treating your son like he is 10, providing everything — except consequences. Now you are blaming him for being a lazy slob. Your choices as parents have created this mess. This is on you.
Give your son the advantage that you had at his age — of being on his own, supporting himself and figuring things out.
No more tuition. If he is skipping classes, then he isn’t ready for college. Then he will have plenty of time to work a 40-hour week, just like everybody else, and rent a room in someone else’s house, where there might be real consequences for damaging property.
If you want to be extra nice, you could kick in for his car insurance, but other than that, he will have to establish his own goals, and see what it’s like to be in charge of his own life.
And you need to let him.
DEAR AMY: My husband was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. Rather than answer constant phone calls, we chose to send out a regular summary via email. This very personal and sensitive notice was sent only to family members and close friends. Imagine our horror when we learned that a good friend of ours had forwarded one of these updates to the president of an organization my husband belongs to. She instructed them to forward it to all organization members, and they did! This friend also said she would forward regular updates. The “friend” said she did it because so many people in the organization care about us. We are having great difficulty getting close to forgiveness. Would most people forgive this easily? Can you help us get rid of our anger and learn to forgive?
Want to Forgive
DEAR WANT TO FORGIVE: Must you forgive this person so quickly? What she did was an outrageous violation, and she seems to have justified it, rather than apologize and ask for forgiveness.
Work on releasing your anger. Punch a pillow or two. Hold hands and breathe deeply. Your anger keeps you in a tough place, right when you need your strength and resilience.
Don’t give her more of yourself than she deserves to have.
Tell her, “We’re having a tough time recovering from the way you chose to violate our privacy. We’d appreciate an apology.” Strike her off all future group communication. Add a coda to your regular emails, saying, “Please do not share this information with others.”
DEAR AMY: Thank you for your reasonable reaction to “Mama Bear,” who didn’t want her father-in-law to ask her 15-year-old son to fetch a beer for him. Bringing beers to my grandfather was about as close as we ever got. I actually have happy memories of him sitting with the ice chest just out of reach.
Not Damaged for Life
DEAR NOT DAMAGED: Has it occurred to you that your grandfather stationed himself “just out of reach,” in order to get you to fetch for him, promoting this connection? That’s my theory.