Annie's Mailbox: How can I get my son to be more active in his own life?

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Dear Annie: I have two teenage sons. The oldest is very athletic and makes good grades. He will be graduating soon and leaving for college.

The problem is our youngest son. “Logan” is very intelligent, but couldn’t care less about his grades. Half the time, he doesn’t turn in his homework. He refuses to study and generally hates school. He will lie about assignments and grades. We have nagged him, grounded him and taken away privileges, but nothing seems to matter.

Logan is also extremely overweight. We encourage him to exercise, but again, he ignores us.

After his brother goes to school, I know he will quit the only team sport he has ever participated in.

Fortunately, Logan isn’t involved in drinking or drugs. His friends are good kids, even though he doesn’t have many. He spends most of his time at home, doing next to nothing. He helps out with chores when I ask, but he never volunteers.

When Logan was in middle school, we took him for counseling, but it didn’t help. He came around for a couple of years on his own, but now things are worse than ever. Maybe we just didn’t have the right counselor.

How do you motivate someone to make the right choices? At the rate he’s going, he will be a lonely, overweight adult with no direction. Any advice?

— Worried Mom

Dear Worried: Sometimes nagging and punishment don’t work as well as encouragement and positive reinforcement. First, take Logan to his doctor for a complete checkup to be sure there is no underlying medical issue. Then have him evaluated for hidden learning disabilities, since those can often cause a bright child to shut down in school.

Allow him to be more involved in his choices. Discuss why some foods will aid in development. Make exercise a regular part of the entire family’s routine — a bike ride, basketball pick-up game, bowling or rollerblading. And if his behavior is still troublesome, please get him back into counseling.

Dear Annie: For a long time, I’ve had feelings for “Stan.” I know he also cared for me, but would never have cheated on his wife, for which I greatly admired him.

Stan’s wife recently passed away after a six-month illness. Should I contact him in some way, and if so, when? I don’t want to appear insensitive, and I know he needs time to grieve. I want to be respectful.

— Just Wondering

Dear Just: It is not disrespectful to send a note expressing your sympathy for his loss. Should he be interested in contacting you for anything more, he will do so. If you hear nothing after six weeks, you may call and ask how he’s doing.

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