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Ask Dave

Giving Their Son Some Problems

Karen's son told her and her husband he's not going back to school. Karen wants to be supportive and wants him to be financially independent. Dave recommends standing back and watching life happen.

QUESTION: Karen in Des Moines says her son finished his second year of college and told her and her husband he’s not going back. He’s in a band and has a vague idea that he’ll be a musician. Karen wants to be supportive but not too supportive and wants him to be financially independent. Dave recommends standing back and watching life happen.

ANSWER: He’s getting ready to have some problems. He’s made some bad decisions, and he’s going to reap what he has sown. Good.

He should have consulted you before he quit school because you were supporting him. He owed you that. It’s a different formula for me if he comes in and sits down and talks to you and you all agree that he quits school because that’s what his desire is instead of him rebelliously announcing that. I take a different line if I’m the dad and mom in that situation. If mine did that, I would love them, and if they needed some food, they could swing by and have dinner with us and we’ll pray for them, and we’re going to stand back and watch life happen. I might have to chain his mother to a bedpost to make that happen, but that’s what would happen to my son.

He decided all of this without consulting the support. “Honey, I love you, but the proper way to do these things is have a discussion with the banker. Instead, you just decided you’re going to go do this, and so guess what? You’re going to go do this. We’re going to pray for you, and if you get really hungry, come call us and you can join us for dinner one night. We’d love to have you here for Christmas and Thanksgiving and when we’re doing something. The other kids are going to be around. We’d love to have you around, but as far as us paying your rent, your cell phone, your insurance, your food, your lights and water—baby doll, you signed up for this trip.” It sounds kind of tough, but that’s what he chose. “If you want to complete school, we’ll continue to support you until you complete school.”

Even when my kids finished school, I had one that lived with us for three or four months after graduation but had a plan to get onto her own two feet after that, so it wasn’t a permanent thing. But that was all a discussion and a transition. It wasn’t her announcing to us that we were going to support her in decisions that we don’t support.

You and I know this kid doesn’t have a freaking clue. So I think it’s awesome. He may come home with his tail tucked between his legs, and that’ll be okay. Then you can reset the rules and say, “All right, here’s how this works this time around.”

Like I said, I’d probably have to chain my wife to the bedpost to make this happen, but I would probably take a harder line than Sharon would admittedly. Now if it were the girls, Sharon would put them out in the snow, but with Daniel, he could get away with murder. Something about my baby . . .

I think the deal is this, Mom. Your job probably is stand back and let this young man that thinks he’s a man prove it. I hope he goes and becomes the rock star and makes $100 million doing that. I hope it works out for him. I hope he wins. I’m not mad at him. I’m just not going to support him as a grown adult standing on his own when he’s making decisions I don’t agree with. I’m not going to give you money to finance your life when it’s not a life I agree with—for your own good. It’s just like if he’s doing drugs. I’m not giving him money for the drugs—that kind of stuff. It’s not that I hate him. I just don’t like what he’s doing. I love the sinner; I hate the sin. I don’t have to be mad at my kid about this, but I’m just not going to finance decisions that I think are bad for them. When you buy him $100 in groceries, you keep him from having the problems that we all want him to have right now so he realizes how dumb a decision this was, and then maybe he’ll go back to school. I sure hope so.