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LostInParadise's avatar

What can be done about my shiftless nephew?

Asked by LostInParadise (28460points) November 29th, 2013

I was looking forward to seeing my nephew Louis this Thanksgiving, who I had not seen since last Thanksgiving. I have no children or any other nephews or nieces. My brother told me that my nephew would not be showing up, because he is embarrassed because all his cousins are doing better than he is.

Louis is a 23 year old college dropout. He is sharing an apartment and working at a low end job. He is very outgoing and makes a good impression on people. He is certainly not stupid, though he does much better in language related areas than in math and science. He got an 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT.

Louis suffers from no obvious psychological disorders, but he lacks self-discipline and has no ambitions. He refuses to get professional help, though my brother would gladly pay for it. He is obviously not happy about his situation.

The four year college route is probably not suited to him, but he could get an associate degree or learn a trade. He could become a paralegal or a chef or an electrician or any number of things.

Are there other people like this? Is it just a matter of immaturity, or is some kind of intervention required?

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24 Answers

jca's avatar

Is there a chance he is a substance abuser?

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Find out what his passion is,then encourage him to ry for it, sounds like what ever he was trying for in college wasn’t it.

Judi's avatar

The more you and his father push the worse it will be. Why not try appreciating him for who he is, not what he does.
Maybe he is just choosing not to join the rat race. He’s working. Sorry it’s not up to your standards. I don’t think that makes him “shiftless.”

Darth_Algar's avatar

Trying to push someone into a particular lifestyle does not work.

LostInParadise's avatar

@jca, He uses marijuana and there was a time when he was dealing drugs.

@SQUEEKY2 , He enjoys music and plays the saxophone. He has done work as a DJ. He is probably not good enough to be a professional musician, but there may be some music related work he could do.

@Judi , If he was happy with his situation, I would be willing to let it be, but it tears me up that he was ashamed of showing up for Thanksgiving. He should not have to be working at a minimum wage job.

syz's avatar

You can’t “make” someone into something that he’s not. He’ll either have an epiphany and get his life in order, or he won’t.

jca's avatar

Maybe his “shame” comes from feeling like he’s being talked about behind his back, not from really feeling bad about his situation. Maybe, also, he didn’t want to go for some other reason, like he’d rather be with his friends and not feel talked about, but he used the “shame” as an excuse.

It’s also possible that he is still using marijuana and still dealing drugs, which is how he makes ends meet. He may be one of those people that does not want to conform to the rat race. Not saying it’s right – he may end up having to deal with the legal system and justice system, but you can’t make him change if this lifestyle is working for him now.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I want to know how you would “intervene”.

How will you force him to change?

He is 23 and an adult. A smart one, from what you say.

Butt out.

jca's avatar

When you say “is some kind of intervention required” what do you mean? Throw him in a paddy wagon and take him to get a full time good paying job? Take him to a mental institution, even though they won’t take him because he’s not showing signs of being mentally ill? Take him to therapy, where you can’t force him to talk and no therapist would attempt dealing with a patient who is not there willingly?

Judi's avatar

My guess is that his “shame” is because he feels he’s let the family down.
If the family were to appreciate him and VALUE him regardless of his vocation he probably wouldn’t feels much shame.

Seelix's avatar

You say that he’s working and he’s sharing an apartment. I assume, then, that he’s supporting himself, and at least making enough money to take care of his basic needs.

Is his lifestyle directly (negatively) affecting those who love him and those he loves?
It sounds to me like he might not be living up to his full potential, but that he’s doing okay. He’s only 23. It might take him a while to come to the conclusion that he wants to do better for himself, if he does indeed come to that conclusion.

Leave him be. It could be worse.

ETA: I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t want to attend the holiday gathering not because he’s truly embarrassed, but because he doesn’t want to have to answer for his lifestyle. Knowing that your family is disappointed in your life choices is not fun. Trust me on that one.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Seelix “You say that he’s working and he’s sharing an apartment. I assume, then, that he’s supporting himself, and at least making enough money to take care of his basic needs.
Is his lifestyle directly (negatively) affecting those who love him and those he loves?
It sounds to me like he might not be living up to his full potential, but that he’s doing okay. He’s only 23. It might take him a while to come to the conclusion that he wants to do better for himself, if he does indeed come to that conclusion.”

Well said. I remember at 23 I was still living with my parents and my biggest concern was having enough money for the bars and strip clubs.

johnpowell's avatar

Wow, you described me at his age. And you sound a lot like my aunt that thought I was wasting my life. But I was actually doing exactly what I wanted. A shitty job and reading and hanging out with my friends.

And you know what, I did exactly the same with my aunt. I avoided her because every fucking word out of her mouth was how I wasn’t living up to my potential. When I was 18 I called her a few times a month and we would chat for a few hours. I was so sick of her shit I went about 5 years without talking to her because it became unbearable.

So the ball is in your court. If you want to maintain any sort of relationship accept his choices. Talk and don’t judge and offer help in a non-dickish way and he might come to Thanksgiving next year.

LostInParadise's avatar

One additional note. According to my brother, the apartment he is living in is “squalid” (my brother’s word) and my brother said he will be kicking in some money so that my nephew can live in a better place. I should also point out that my nephew’s political views are conservative. Freeloading and dropping out of society are not traits that he finds admirable.

I sent my nephew an email but he never replied. My brother said I might have more luck texting him. I am perfectly willing to take a neutral position. It would be nice just to hear from him.

johnpowell's avatar

And I will add that I started college the next year when I was 24. I was just waiting out needing to enter my parents info on the FAFSA. Mom was in jail and this made the FAFSA nearly impossible to complete.

Seelix's avatar

One thing I’ve noticed among young people around my age (20s-30s) is that we seem to be much less likely to follow the prescribed path than people of older generations.

Looking at my friends around my age, it’s not at all unusual for us to still be in that “figuring things out” stage. If I compare that to my sister’s cohort (and she’s only 7 years older than I am—I’m 33 and she’s 40, for the record), many more of them finished school (high school or post-secondary) and went right to work.

I’m 33 years old. I have two degrees and am partway through a PhD. I’m smart and socially adept, yet I work two part-time jobs (at a jewelry store and a burger joint). I don’t feel “shiftless”, but maybe I am, according to some. I don’t think I’m freeloading or dropping out of society, but maybe I am, according to some.

Sorry. It’s hard not to take things personally sometimes, even when I know I shouldn’t.

ibstubro's avatar

If you were looking forward to seeing your nephew and you think he’s a good kid, how is it that you’ve not seen him in a year?

I’d suggest reaching out to him. Accept him as he is and invite him for a day of play. Go to the zoo, have lunch, do a little shopping. You might be amazed to find that you understand his situation at the end of the day. Or not? Who cares. Climb out of your box, have a fun day with the boy and build some memories. Let him know he has a place to turn if he needs it and that you accept and love him as he is.

LilCosmo's avatar

My husband’s oldest son is very similar to (the way you describe) your nephew. He has trouble holding a job and has dropped out of no fewer than three colleges. He is a very creative young man and gifted artist who struggles with bi-polar. The only difference is that my step-son doesn’t seem to understand the concept of birth control and has a two year-old and a baby on the way (with a woman he walked in on in bed with another man). He is approaching 30 and there is no indication that he will be changing his ways any time soon.

At this point we try to see the boy for what he is – a “cloud” who is not tethered to worldly success the way many people are. He is a free spirit who follows his own path and there is absolutely nothing we can do to change him. We thought that having kids would encourage him to settle down a bit, but since it hasn’t (he lives with the mother of his kids who works full time to support them all) all we can really do pay attention to see if his lifestyle is having a negative impact on his kid(s) and be there for them as much as we can as positive role models. We have come to terms with who he is and the fact that no amount go belly aching or complaining from us is going to change that – it is just going to alienate him from us which is the last thing he and his family needs.

Try the patient with this young man and remember that getting him to change is like getting a alcoholic to quit drinking – the ball is in his court – attempting for force him is a fruitless endeavor.

bea2345's avatar

Let him alone. Nothing comes before its time. One of my nephews was just like that – taking entry level jobs, idling about. His mother was so upset, but my brother was pretty calm except that he never gave his son any money (or he said he didn’t). Then one day the boy announced that he had been accepted at a school of technology in Florida. Now, in his middle thirties, he owns two businesses and is building himself a house for his growing family. I suppose your nephew is just not ready. 23 is young.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Seelix , It would be great if my nephew were getting just one degree and managing to earn the money for it on his own. I give you great credit.

I hear what you are all saying and I suppose that in my heart I knew it all along as well. The best that I can do is to have hope and feel compassion, show acceptance and love and understanding.

trailsillustrated's avatar

What everyone else said. My kids are almost 18 and their dad and his family have ridden them relentlessly about ‘doing something with their lives’. They never want to go to family functions because all their cousins did so well in school and are so successful blah, blah. It has done nothing but alienate them. They say they know the family talks about them, my daughter overheard her grandfather shit talking them to someone on the phone, it hurts. I have told my husband to step off. Step off. 23 is so, so young. Let him follow his own path.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“The best that I can do is to have hope and feel compassion, show acceptance and love and understanding.”

I don’t think so. That attitude (as good as it may seem), is one of thinking there is something wrong. Might make you feel better. Doubtful it will do anything but insult him, because he’ll see right through it.

He doesn’t want your hope or compassion. A “show” of acceptance isn’t genuine acceptance. He probably doesn’t want your understanding either, since he probably doesn’t even understand himself. And I’ll bet your definition of love is different than his.

What he wants is someone who can laugh with him as only a good friend can. I say give him what he wants.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Twenty-three is much too young to be considered a failure. Actually, I think it’s rare to meet any 23-year-old person with a well-defined path in life. At that age, most of us are just starting a difficult transition – leaving the children that we were and becoming the adults that we’ll be.

All these cousins who are so much better off than Louis is? How old are they?

And, what about your own relationship with Louis? You seem to want to be supportive and compassionate, yet you call him your “shiftless nephew.” Ouch! When you’re with Louis, is it possible that your visceral feelings make themselves known?

Haleth's avatar

Yeah, that was me at at 23. I avoided family functions because they would not stop nagging me about my life choices. It was their favorite topic of conversation. And then they nagged and guilt tripped me about why I wasn’t going to these family events. The only way to get them off my back was to say whatever it seemed like they wanted to hear, and stay pleasant and non-committal.

A few years later, I’ve found a direction in life, and stuff with the extended family is a lot easier. The directionless phase in my life brought out a really judgmental and intrusive side of them (which I guess always existed), and dealing with that was just a huge pain. The holidays are supposed to be a happy time.

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