In my experience, parents are partly responsible for “creating” sons that are indifferent, lazy or entitled.
I say that with “no blame.” I know parents are extremely motivated to help their sons have the best chance for being happy and successful. But I made all of these same mistakes myself. Years ago, I spoiled my teenage son, which only made it harder for him to learn and grow with self-confidence.
Unfortunately, we often give our sons way more than they need. We then train them to become overly dependent on us. This creates a conflict inside our sons as they get older. Here is what happens. As they become teenagers, they are biologically driven to “individuate” – to learn to stand on their own two feet. But by providing everything they need, we unnaturally interfere with this normal need to strike out on their own.
On the one hand, our sons are happy that we make it easy for them. On the other, they resent us for treating them like children. They also resent feeling “stunted” as they reach out beyond the family to establish their place in the world. I’ve heard this said by young men countless times when I have mentored them at the nonprofit organization I cofounded, The Young Men’s Ultimate Weekend.
Benefits of Volunteering
One of the best ways to get your son out of the house is to have him volunteer for an organization that could use his services. By doing so, he’ll be engaging in an activity that communities have depended on for thousands of years – having young people share their talents for the benefit of all.
I know most of your sons will think that it’s a ridiculous idea and will reject it right away. Your son does not want to be disturbed from his cozy bedroom playing video games and texting his friends. I understand you’ll be confronted with that.
Getting him to volunteer will force him to get out of his comfort zone to meet new people, and, most importantly, to see that he “has it made” compared with many other people. Most young men need to be humbled in order to feel more compassionate towards others.
When your son volunteers, he’ll experience many of the following benefits:
1) meet new people
2) learn or develop new skills
3) become more compassionate towards others
4) gain valuable work experience
5) feel needed and appreciated (possibly the most important “pay”!)
Helping Your Son Choose to Volunteer
One of the ways I encourage you to get your son to volunteer, is by making it one of the choices that he gets to make when he needs to engage in a consequence – (I define this as an “activity of integrity).
When your son has behaved in a way that’s out of integrity with one of the household virtues and values, I recommend giving your son choices as to how he can “clean up” his inappropriate behavior. The goal of this method is to have your son start thinking about how his actions affect both himself and others around him. Ideally, he will learn to start thinking ahead when he’s contemplating being irresponsible the next time.
For example, if he violated the virtue of Responsibility by not performing one of his household jobs, like cleaning the dishes or clearing the table, you could give him three choices to think about how he’s going to restore integrity in the home:
1) volunteer for four hours
2) take away/turn off his cell phone for two weeks
3) perform additional household chores, like vacuuming and taking out the garbage, for two weeks
The more you highlight the reasonableness of the volunteer choice, the more likely he’ll choose to do it!
It’s critical that your son develop the virtue of Empathy – identifying with the feelings and experiences of others. Having him volunteer and make efforts on behalf of others – not just for himself – is one of the oldest and best methods to help your son become more mature.
Also by Mark Schillinger
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