Photo: Jeremiah Sullivan
Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users'questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I would love advice on having a better relationship with my 22-year-old son. He lives at home, goes to college part time and works part time. He does not help out on his own. When I get angry and insist he does it, he comes and goes, without saying hello, good bye. Kind of has a superior attitude like he's in charge. He still plays a lot of video games, swearing—makes me crazy. I'm divorced. How do I bring peace to our relationship, have him help out and have a kinder attitude toward me? Frankly, if he pretended, that would be okay too. What's my prayer? What rule am I forgetting about? Oh, I really hope you pick my question!
— Sandy L., Lombard, Illinois
Your son is extending his adolescence as far as he can stretch it. The attitudes you describe—including the superior air, the addiction to video games, avoidance of chores and disregard for you—are well known to every parent of a 16-year-old. They are pretty inexcusable in a 22-year-old. In addition, your situation is compounded by two aggravating factors. Your son learned his callous attitude from his father, I'm afraid. And you are experiencing the downside of being a single mom, which is that you have become too dependent on your son for emotional feedback and too ready to let him linger in immaturity.
What this comes down to is that you are no good for him and he is no good for you. This is a mutually unbeneficial relationship. As the adult, it's up to you to face reality as it applies to you. Get a life outside your son. Force yourself to let him grow up. Stop paying so much attention to him; stop burdening him with your disappointments and failed expectations. I know this is a strong dose of medicine, but it will heal you in the end.
As for your son, your worry is well placed. He isn't in a good position to grow up. He has little motivation to do so, and he's too immature to see the downfall that awaits him if he refuses to grow up. Your role is to help open his eyes. First, he needs a strong talk from a man he respects. This man needs to deliver some hard truths. Second, he needs a role model who fits the kind of person he should be growing into.
I can't tell you what kind of role model is exactly right. This will take some clear-headed thinking on your part. At 22, many young adults can't identify their strengths and weaknesses. They need more experience, perhaps some mentoring. No doubt that's true of your son. But find a man whose career and life choices will make your son say: "I want to be like that. I can be like that." Without such a figure in his life—or the life of any young adult—the prospect for the future is more aimless drifting.
How do I help others understand why I walked away from my family?
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Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.
Published on February 03, 2010