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Bright Teen is Underachieving


My 19-year-old son is very bright, but after two years of college with C and D grades, he seems unmotivated to study or work. All he wants to do is hang out with his girlfriend and play video games. He says he can't find work during the summer, yet I don't see any real attempts to even look. I am a single mother with a 13-year-old son as well. The tension is terrible in the house. I recently told him that if he can't step up, then maybe he'll have to move out. I want him to succeed, but I don’t know how to help him.



Parenting is a tough job no matter what age your children are. The behaviors of your 19-year-old are very concerning and seem quite immature. If your son is really bright, then the grades in college he is earning reflect that there is something going on that is distracting him from applying himself.

The type of schedule he is keeping won’t work if he has a job or is going to school, so he is forming some habits that are setting him up to fail. Watching TV and playing video games is not a realistic way for him to spend his summer.

Does he have chores to do around the house? Is he responsible for cleaning, doing laundry, mowing the lawn or preparing dinner? If not, it is time for that to begin if he is not working at a job outside of the home. And unless you want the same ​thing to happen with your 13-year-old, we suggest that you make some changes by assigning responsibilities to both of your children. Make the TV, computer and video games off limits until the chores are finished or until you arrive home after work.

As a parent, your responsibility is to help your son develop his independence so he can take care of himself. You might suggest that your son see a counselor to help him work through the issues underlying his behavior. Have a family meeting, and present your expectations to your sons. Make sure the message both of your sons hear is, "As their parent, it is your responsibility to teach them to become independent young men."