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Ask Rene: Is My Son Spoiled?

Dear Rene:

I am at my wit’s end and don’t know what to do. I have five children. Four of them are doing fine, with their daily ups and downs, but reasonably responsible and well-adjusted.

My 21-year-old son is a different matter. He is in his third year of college. I want him to focus on his school, so I pay all his other expenses. He probably could make do without a car but I want him to be able to come home with no excuses, so I made sure he had a car — a 2011 Toyota Camry, very nice.

What’s the problem? It’s not good enough! He whines all the time that he doesn’t have a new car like other kids at school. I am dumbfounded. I expected he would be grateful he has a free car, even the insurance paid for him, but he wants the newest and best.

I’ve tried to laugh it off, saying, “Well, I did what I could,” but the whining continues and my anger is blossoming. Where did this child get this sense of entitlement? And how do I get him to knock it off — not just about the car, but about anything else he decides he deserves? I want to nip this in the bud before it gets any worse.

Sign me:

Maybe He Should Take the Bus



Okay, assuming you came here for my unvarnished take on matters of motherhood, I’m going to give it to you. I will try to hold my fire a bit since it’s clear you’re already at your wit’s end and you don’t need me piling on. So here goes:

To answer your question, yes, your kid is a spoiled brat! How do kids, who for the most part all come out of the womb Tabula rasa, get that way? From their parents. Yes, that’s right. All the things you did to show him you loved and cared for him, raised the level of expectation in his mind and now it’s up to you to try to undo some of that. Here’s what I would suggest:

*TAKE AWAY HIS WHEELS: Yeah I went there. So he doesn’t like the late model Camry he’s driving around town that you bought for him? I’m sure you can find someone who’d gladly take that bucket of bolts off his hands. I’ll bet they’d be willing to pay Blue Book value for it too. If you don’t want to sell it, just confiscate it for a time. At least then, all he’d have to worry about is keeping his bus pass in a spot where he can find it when he needs it.

*LET HIM STAY AT SCHOOL:  You mentioned you gave him the car so he could get back and forth from school to home and concentrate on his studies. Two things. Not having a car doesn’t mean he can’t concentrate on his studies, not even a little bit. There are many people (myself included) whose only wheels through college (or at least part of it) were those on a Schwinn yet somehow we figured it out. And secondly, with that attitude, why do you WANT him home? Why? So he can bitch about how you’re not working hard enough to provide him with all the things his friends have? Sounds to me like your son could use an extra helping of dorm food, which you are no doubt paying for.

*COME TO JESUS TIME: That goes for you and him. Look, people grow a lot in times of discomfort; don’t I know it? What your son needs is second helping of struggle. See, he views his current situation as thoroughly untenable because he has nothing to compare it to; when you’ve always had it good, you have no idea what bad looks like. I’m not saying kick him out and make him fend totally for himself, but I am saying stop giving him so much. Let him work for some of the things he wants. Trust me, he will appreciate them more. And the next time he complains about not having what his friends have, tell him to ask them if he can move in. You’re doing the best you can and if that’s not good enough, maybe he’d have better luck living somewhere else.

Now, here’s something for you, mom. Do not go down this path if you don’t plan to stick with it. In other words, don’t threaten to take away the car and then not do it; otherwise you undermine your authority and become nothing more than a paper tiger. If you say it, be prepared to follow through; otherwise, keep your lips zipped.

Good luck!

Do you have a question for Rene? She has an answer. Click here and fire away. And don’t forget to follow the conversation on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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