Dear Margo: “Mortal Kombat”? “Angry Birds”?

My college-age son may be addicted to video games: Margo Howard’s advice

“Mortal Kombat”? “Angry Birds”?

Dear Margo: I think my college-age son is addicted to video games. It is possible he is just depressed, but in any case, something is wrong. He doesn’t love school, but can do well when he sets his sights on a goal. He’s home for the summer, but he refuses to look for a job or consider summer school. He does nothing, and the family can’t handle it anymore. We find it a bad example for the younger siblings and just plain bad energy. It was because of this that I told him he couldn’t stay here anymore. I kicked him out yesterday because I think it’s time for tough love. On the other hand, I’m worried. –Sick at Heart

Dear Sick: Well, if the kid is old enough to go to college, he is old enough to fend for himself — given the fact that he was welcome to live at home if he showed some sign of life, i.e., having a productive summer where he was doing something. Video games can be an addiction, so perhaps steer him toward a counselor or a support group that deals with this. Tell the young man that your door is open to him should he decide to be useful. And do remind him that playing any kind of game for hours at a time is not an occupation. And who knows? Maybe your determined action will do him some good. Here’s hoping. –Margo, hopefully

A History of Flying Off the Handle

Dear Margo: I need advice about how to cope with my older sister who flies off the handle, often for no reason at all. We are both in our 60s. The pattern of our adult lives has been to get along fairly well for a while, until she blows up at me for a real or imagined reason. Most of the time, her anger is completely out of proportion to the offense. She says things that are so hurtful that my reaction is to retreat. There have been times when we have not spoken to each other for years, followed by one of us (usually me) trying to patch things up. This happens over and over. Only once, in an argument, did I scream back at her and say the worst things that came to mind. I had always wondered what would happen if she got as good as she gave. It didn’t make any difference … except I felt even worse afterward. And it precipitated a four-year “separation.”

We recently got back together, but it has already started all over again. This last time, I refused to retreat and told her we had to learn how to communicate better with each other; that her blowing up and my retreating are both unhealthy. What makes people have such different styles of communication? As much as I try, I have a hard time forgetting some of the terrible things she has said. This has kept us from being as close as sisters should be. What can I do? –Gun Shy

Dear Gun: It sounds as though your sister not only has a temper and impulse-control issues, but I’d bet you anything there is something seriously bothering her about her life, and you’ve become the target. (Proving, yet again, that siblings from the same home can be entirely different in temperament and the ability to manage.) It’s possible there’s some carried-over resentment from the younger years. Maybe you were the favored child or prettier or something that made you a frenemy in her eyes. (And I know what you mean about feeling wounded by things she has said.)

Her pattern has become clear (and repeated), so you need to accept that this is who she is. She will not change. As for what to do, you can lie low and let things drift … perhaps into no relationship at all. Not everyone gets a great sister. –Margo, genealogically

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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72 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    LW1 – Why did you not do something years ago when he was playing video games.  My oldest son was wrapped in video games as a teen, so Iput my foot down, only certain times for games.  He had to earn time with the games by playing outside, being with friends, homework and school activities.  I am afraid that you have shut the barn door after the horse has escaped.  Hopefully he will become a game designer as that is the only thing he seems destined for.

    LW 2 – I would love to know the dynamics of the family as you were growing up.  Since my mother passed away, none of us siblings talk.  Due to being split up in foster care early and reunited as each became of age and moved home, there are problems.  Add to that the favoritism shown by my mother and there you have volatile problems.  My sister who was shown the favoritism is by far the most vocal and accusatory towards the rest of us.l  Heaven forbid you should disagree with her highness.  I went so far as to tell her at Christmas one year that if I were her poor husband and had to put up with her crap, she would have been dead and buried in the back yard years prior. 

    I have become accostomed to the fact that the family is too damaged to be put back together.  As the oldest, I have tried for years.  But for my own sanity, I can no onger deal with it.  All of my siblings know that the olive branch is there – all they have to do is contact me and we will go forward with no looking back and no old crap thrown in anyone’s face.   Alas, no one has yet to take me up on it.  That withstanding, I have healthy relationships with many of my nieces and nephews who have seen me try to get the family back together.  I have faith that they will carry on the “family” where their “elders” could not.  Kudos to them

    • avatar bamabob says:

      Why do you assume LW1’s son was hooked on video games years ago as opposed to picking up the habit once he was on his own at college? How are your remarks helpful to her situation? You assume her son’s problems are her fault; you criticize her for not addressing the problem earlier; your comments regarding the action she’s taken now is that it’s too little too late and then you predict a life of failure for her son. One wonders why such a charming person as yourself has a poor relationship with her siblings..

      • avatar Kate Olsen says:

        Bamabob – as the mother of two sons, now in their late 20’s, it is very rare for a person to “pick up” a video addiction once they trot off to college.  Do you have any children?  What ages?  Do you have any experience in this area?  And I explained my reasons for bad relations – what pray tell is yours?

        • avatar Amy says:

          Kate, you come off as having a bit of a superior complex and an aggressive streak, so it’s a bit tough to swallow your advice for mending family ties. You even admit that you told your sister point-blank that if you were the “poor husband” that married her you’d have killed her in cold blood! Very uncool. It is heartwarming to know you have a good relationship with your nieces and nephews, at least – if your siblings were truly toxic as you say they are I suspect they would try to poison them against you or forbid you from seeing them outright.

          As far as LW#1 goes, I agree with Bama that to blame the mother is irrational, as there is no indication whatsoever of his past behavior. Video games are not evil, they are a fun pastime, and as with anything else, the key is moderation. The problem isn’t that he plays video games, it’s that he refuses to get a job or lift a finger to help around the house.

          And I got news for you, I work as a game designer, and it’s hardly a job for a lazy, aimless good-for-nothing. It’s a stressful, demanding job, but thoroughly rewarding and requires a college degree, years of experience and a hell of a good portfolio. I think the boy is just ambitionless, and needs a taste of the harsh reality of the real world. That way, maybe he’ll grow up. The mother did the right thing by kicking him out.

          • avatar Michelles11 says:

            I don’t even like video games, or games in general, but I WILL admit I got a bit addicted to Bejeweled on Facebook.  And strangely enough, I was having a really rough time in my life.  So yeah, I think maybe this kid’s “addicition” could have something to do with his state of mind.  College isn’t fun for everyone, it can be overwhelming.  Maybe he just needs some direction, LW1 Mom is right to be concerned and I wouldn’t assume that he’s been addicted to video games for years, it could just be a means of escape for him.

        • avatar bamabob says:

          Yes I have children teens thru late 20s. Yes, I have experience in this area, and while I was in the service I can’t tell you how many people I saw become addicted to much less sophisticated video games than are available now–people who never so much as picked up a joystick while they lived at home. I agree with Margo and the other comments; LW1 did the right thing. If her son starts showing some initiative, even if the only job he’s able to find isn’t enough to fully support himself it would be enough to indicate he’s mature enough to come back home.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            Yup—I agree with bamabob, and what the LW did as far as kicking the son out. Oh, and sorry Kate—but it’s extremely unlikely that the kid will become a game designer (which involves a great deal of talent, focus and discipline to learn and execute animated design). The kid may be depressed, but it also sounds like he’s kinda lazy and unmotivated. There’s usually only a few things that end this behavior—a need for money, a really awful job or two, or a girl.

        • avatar momis says:

          Not so, I’m 30 and, while I always played video games when I lived with my parents, it was most certainly not an addiction. I moved out at 24 (was cheaper to live with my family while in college) when I landed my current job. I bought my own video console and played video games until late. I remember a Thanksgiving weekend that I decided not to go home (we don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving at home) and decided to play the new video game I had just bought. I finished that game in two days with little sleep in between.

          Fortunately for me, not all type of video games appeal to me so I go for long periods of time without getting a new one and not touching my ps3 remote control at all. But when I do get my hands on a game I enjoy, I will probably be addicted to it until I finish it.

          I don’t think being “addicted” to video games necessarily makes you an unproductive person. In most cases it does, but there are several people like myself that enjoy playing video games from time to time and still hold a productive job. I’m an engineer working on my master’s degree and I just got a promotion yesterday. It was significant for me to get it because my manager fought with HR to get my promotion when my company is about to lay off a large number of employees. But also significant because it was a very, very generous raise. So I think that clearly shows that my temporarily video game addictions do not interfere with my work productivity.

          My younger brother is a video gamer as well but he never liked school to begin with. He has an okay job and a very social life; he gets out of his room to go do other stuff so we are not worried video games are consuming his life.

          The kid in LW#1 does sound like he needs help, though.

        • avatar BeanCounter says:

          Kate – bamabob has a valid point that you didn’t address.  HOW ARE YOUR REMARKS HELPFUL TO HER SITUATION????  They aren’t.   It’s just you dumping on someone with a great big “Serves you right!!!”, without having any background on this person’s situation.   So, as far as I’m concerned, you’re irrelevant…….. you and your perfect life with your perfect child rearing.   And for the record, My brothers and I were addicted to video games growing up.   None of us play them anymore, and all five of us have had stable jobs for the past 20 years.   The problem isn’t the video game playing, nor if he was allowed to excessively play them as a child.  The problem is something else much more complex and difficult.  The video game playing is a symptom, not the cause of  the problem.   And you’re too righteous to figure that out.

        • avatar ToniH says:

          Actually, my DH didn’t start playing video games until he was in his 30s. The way I look at it is that it’s a lot cheaper in the long run & a LOT safer than him turning to drugs/alcohol. But, at the same time, when he’s in his video game mood, he doesn’t do squat around the house, so I have to honestly treat him like a 10 year old & give him time limits and use the game console (right now it’s a PS3) as a reward (“you can play game for 1 hour AFTER dishes are done” type thing.). Works for us. And I play games too (Xbox 360 or my ancient Atari). And we have no skinkids. Keeps us young. 🙂

      • avatar htimsr40 says:


        Kate sounds estranged from her entire family and her attitude sounds angry and irrational. There are PLENTY of kids who pick up “addictions” in college, whether that is to video games, alcohol or anything else. Her response to you below just further paints the picture of her own emotional immaturity.

        She knows everything … including when this particular kid picked up his habit … and she can’t possibly be wrong. “and I am sorry – a college age student does not just develop a video game addiction – he or she has had it for years and parents have indulged it”.

        Yep, if I were one of her siblings, we would be estranged as well. I am guessing her mother showed “favoritism” to the more rational siblings.

    • avatar Drew Smith says:

      Sounds to me like Kate Olsen’s family background shed light on her answer to LW1.

      One does not turn their back on a child who is going through depression. Doesn’t matter how it is manifested.

  2. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    I’m going to applaud LW#1 for doing the tough love now instead of after the kid graduates.  Every bad habit has become an *addiction* in our culture.  I doubt the kid is clinically addicted…he just likes to play vfideo games and doesn’t like to work.  Maybe he never had household responsibilites  or even a paper route when growing up but at least LW #1 is making him grow up now.

    Yes..the economy sucks right now.  Jobs are not easy to find.  But I bet you he could get a paper route or find a job at a local fast food place if he didn’t feel it was beneath his dignity.  Or start a lawn service.  If he cannot find a paying job, there are all sorts of charties who would appreciate his time. 

    LW#2:  I would just try to find a way to let this go.  Get some counselling if you think you need it to do so.  Estrangement from family is tragic and heartbreaking but it happens. 

    • avatar Amy says:

      Kat, you nailed it right on the head. I couldn’t have put it more succinctly. 🙂

    • avatar amw says:

      I thought the same thing…or even a summer internship that would help him gain some experience that he could put on a resume in the future. And since he likes video games, he may look into a career that incorporates his love of the game while still requiring dedication and commitment to the job at hand. A lot depends on where he lives, but I know the gaming industry has a couple offices in my area. I’ve suggested this to many people fresh out of school. It’s networking and helps you decide if that’s really the career path you want to take.

      As usual, great answer!

  3. avatar Mush says:

    LW1- If the summer is short and he is having trouble in school, for whatever reason, then maybe he just really needs and wants a bit of time off. I dont see how kicking him out is helpful to him or sets a good example to the younger kids.

    LW2- There is a good possibility the bad sister has a mental illness such as borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder. Dramatic mood swings is not the norm. If it is such, then she needs help.  

    • avatar Amy says:

      Really, Mush? The kid refuses to work, doesn’t do anything but sit there and expect the world to cater to his every whim and you think he needs a break? Please. He needs to grow up and start living in the real world, which means earning your own keep.

      To LW#2, they are both in their twilight years and this has been a lifelong conflict. It seems clear the sister does not want to seek help, and I think that the poor woman needs to save her own sanity and try to let things go, perhaps go to therapy herself and try to find peace of mind.

      • avatar LuckySeven says:

        Well, it’s only a good idea if he’s just lazy. If he’s depressed, it’s a terrible thing to do to a kid who needs help–nothing like having your own parents kick you while you’re down. The catch 22 with depression is that, when you need to get help, you don’t because you can’t see how it will do any good. Many people need outside intervention, and asking someone that young, who is probably still dependent on his parents for healthcare, is not very fair.

        As for LW2, I would cut the sister loose. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were bipolar or had something else going on, but there isn’t anything the LW can do about that if the sister is unwilling to do anything about it. Better not to subject herself to the abuse.

      • avatar amw says:

        Too many kids these days seem to think they are entitled to free room and board and should have the option to play house bum for as long as they see fit.

        It’s the same concept as chores growing up…parenting is about preparing the child for life. Lessons learned. LW1 taught her son a big lesson…nothing comes free. If you want something, you must work for it. End of story.

        • avatar moonrevenge says:

          “Too many kids these days seem to think they are entitled to free room and board and should have the option to play house bum for as long as they see fit. ”

          The funniest example I’ve heard of involved a high schooler who complained to his mom (who worked full time outside of the home) that he worked hard at school and he deserved a day off, therefore she was a tyrant for making him do chores.

      • avatar sadrunner says:

        LOL…is 60’s considered the “twilight years”? Amy I have really loved all your comments today, but that one made me laugh! I always thought the twilight years were more like when you’re70 or 80.

        • avatar Lilibet says:

          I laughed about that too, Sadrunner. 🙂 At 65, I hope twilight is still a few years off. I feel more like “late afternoon” LOL. But in fairness to Amy, whose comments have been excellent, I do remember thinking that people in their 40’s were pretty old when I was in my 20’s. Now the ones in their 40’s seem like kids (my daughter is 40). Funny how our perspective changes!

    • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

      I agree Mush, LW1 may be too harsh. A college student who is “lazy” now doesn’t mean he will be that way for the rest of his life. Boys in their late teens don’t the stanima of an adult, and their brians mature at their own pace. That doesn’t mean let him off the hook totally, but LW1 could mellow out a little. With so many adults out of work now, a summer job may just not be available.

      • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

        “Brains”, not “brians”.

      • avatar D C says:

        Boys in their late teens don’t have the stamina of an adult?  I wish someone would tell that to my 18 year old son — then maybe I’d actually get to see his face once in a while. 

      • avatar moonrevenge says:

        “Boys in their late teens don’t the stanima of an adult,”

        As proven by the number of male freshmen who are up all night partying with their friends. Oh, wait…

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        “With so many adults out of work now, a summer job may just not be available.”

        This is especially true if you refuse to look for one—like LW1’s son.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Mush: regarding L#2: people with borderline personality disorder don’t have mood swings…they manufacture all sorts of manipulative behaviors in order to get their way. As one of the most dangerous Axis II disorders, it is almost impossible to treat with therapy, as those with the disorder are amazingly self-aware, and will resist any and all attempts at redirection. Bi-polar disorder does not automatically cause “mood swings”. It depends on a diagnosis of bi-polar i or II, rapid or slow cycling, and a number of other factors.

      I do so enjoy when people decide that someone must be mentally ill because they are an argumentative, difficult, perhaps bitter and vindictive ass-hat. These siblings are in their 60’s, and the issue seems to be personal, not psychiatric. I have a sister with whom I have a similarly uneasy relationship. All I can say to LW2 is this: when you feel the distant, earl warnings…find a way to end the conversation. My sister and I are 50 and 52 respectively, and it’s taken me till very recently to learn that it is impossible to have a real, meaningful, conversation with her. Too much history. Give yourself the permission to not do this anymore, and you will be surprised at how freeing it is.

      AS for L#1: He just wants to relax and chill, while wafting his emo waves of negativity around the house, and making everyone else miserable, and that should be fine, as, because he is a tender college student, he’s entitled. There is nothing worse than having a misery-monkey young adult lolling around uselessly, expecting everyone to put up with his torpid, stultifying presence. He needed to get out, get a job, find something to do. LW1 was fine with giving his behind the boot, and it is also fine that she is worried.

  4. avatar Constance Plank says:


    My two girls have been told that they are welcome in my home after they are of age as long as they are helpful, responsible and pleasant. That includes carrying their own weight in the house. If the college student is playing games rather than working, I’d be inclined to take the computer or video system away, before kicking him or her out, but my guess is that the story has many more layers to it than the one we’ve read.

    I would, and will, kick my beloved children out of my nest, if that is what they need in order to grow up! I know that the sooner the adult child gets a grip about adult responsibilities the better! I was married to an entitled person for 23 hideous years, and he still feels entitled at almost 54. Even his doting parents have stopped indulging him, after 4 years of him living with them after he *finally* left us.

    They would have done better to stop his entitlement in his teens the first, or second, or third, or fourth time- well, you get the idea- when he messed up royally. Instead, at 54, he’s finally having to take care of himself, and his own errors.

    I’ve just had an awful week with my 16 year old daughter, who was an utter (insert epithet here.) She’s without speakers for the next perceivable while for playing loud music at 11 p.m., she lost her new laptop to me, until her room is clean, and two of her “aunties by affection” have given her severe lectures on appropriate dealings with her mother, and what her responsibilities are, due to last night’s extreme rudeness. We will be fine eventually, but meanwhile, it’s my goal to raise a responsible, loving and polite member of society.

    I’ll do whatever is necessary in order to achieve that goal. I love my two daughters more than my breath, but I am not their friend; I am their mother. Therefore I keep the greater good in mind. Even when it would be a lot easier to have a spine of silk versus a spine of steel.

    Parenting is not for the faint of heart.


    Family can be difficult. If you know that a well is empty, why do you keep taking a bucket to the empty well, hoping that this time there will be water? Been there, done that. The well is still dry.

    We have family by blood, and we have family by gift. My friends are far better family to me than the family I was born into ever was. I love the family I was given.


    Constance in the Sierra Foothills of CA

    • avatar Kate Olsen says:

      Amen for you.  My children grew up looking at “uncles” who in their 20’s lived at home.  One was indulged to extremes – he would not eat the food cooked nightly and had to have “special food” purchased for him – ie – junk – the other one did chores around the house and did odd jobs until he found gainful employment – and even with his odd jobs, gave his parents half of what he made.  Upon seeing that, my two boys were brought up under the following rules.  When you turn 18 – get a job, get an apartment and get out, unless you are going to college – then we will help as much as we can, but with the economy, you need to get good grades and gert grants.  I am the proud mother of an Army MP and my other son has been gainfully employed for years. 

      Other than what bamabob insuates – children do need to be taught and have consequences – and I am sorry – a college age student does not just develop a video game addiction – he or she has had it for years and parents have indulged it

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        “…and I am sorry – a college age student does not just develop a video game addiction – he or she has had it for years and parents have indulged it…”

        Pardon me, Kate, but by your logic, it then follows that a college student who comes from a dry home cannot become an alcoholic in college, or a drug addict, or sexually promiscuous, or a gambling addict (that is more common than many realize)…without their parents having indulged and condoned that behavior for years previously.

        What unmitigated rot. Millions of young people, male and female, go off to college every year, and thousands of them become addicted to things that their parents would never have permitted, much less indulged or condoned, while they lived at home. In what alternative universe do you live? And games are included in that mix. Some of the worst offenders are the on-line role-playing games like World of Warcraft, Runescape and Everquest (and before someone kvetches, I am not saying that everyone who plays becomes addicted…far from it…or that I disapprove…I don’t), which many, many parents don’t allow, and are first encountered in college. A vast number of responsible parents limit time spent on video games per day, and per week, game ratings, and especially time spent on “live” video games such as XBox Live.

        It is when a person is in college, far away from home, with time on his hands (it happens to females too, I am not being gender specific. I just detest the PC his/her), that obsessions (I prefer that term to addictions when it comes to gaming and gambling) take root. Yes, college students can have a lot of free time. It depends of what kind of courses they are taking, scheduling, dedication, whether they are working or not…so many things. No one is monitoring them, or telling them what to do, and they can indulge in whatever they want. Binge drinking seems to be a favorite these days, as does smoking (whatever substance) from a nargile or hookah (or water pipe). Gambling has become exceedingly popular, especially among young men who have heard of all of the “legendary” poker geniuses. And sex. A lot of rather random sex. After all, there are pills to cure AIDs now, right?

        And gaming. Video games are fun. If you’re an anti-social, unmotivated to wash or clean up too frequently sort (mom isn’t around to make you shower, change your socks or sheets, or use deodorant…or get your lazy butt up and do something), then sitting with your console and controller and playing for hours is just right for you. If you like to socialize, but are too apathetic to go out to do it…live video gaming…and if you want to have on-line bro-friends, or a BFF, or romance, or be a hero (or anti-hero)…but arrange it so that your appearance is epic, or gorgeous, or siren-like, or vampiric…then on-line roleplaying is for you.

        I have known people who have flunked out of college because of on-line roleplaying who never touched it before they left their parents’ homes. Kids who had limited access to video games at home who go to school and have all night video game parties with friends…to the serious detriment of their grades. When I say limited access, I mean two hours on weekends. Does that sound like indulging an addiction to you? Adults who have never played a live feed video game, or online RPG who lose jobs, marriages and homes because of their obsession.

        And then there are those who die, or end up hospitalized, or flunk out, or whose lives devolve into trainwrecks because of substance abuse and addiction. Thousands of them. By your logic…all of them must have had said addictions indulged for years at home by idiotic parents. Not so. But then, you seem to be the queen of proper parenting, so you must be correct.

        I was in the gaming business (table-top and RPG’s) for years. I’ve seen my share of problems. And 99.999% were in adults who had never played as teens. Ever. I have a 20-year-old son who never played a video game in my home…but is still addicted. Because of playing Mario Brother infrequently in day care at the age of five. He didn’t have any video games, or cable or satellite TV, for years afterward. And yet…I follow the trends on all sorts of societal malfunctions…including the almost awesome (and I use the word in its truest sense) irresponsibility of far too many of today’s college students. They do what they want to do…it’s almost satirical in its hyperbole.

        In closing, let me ask you something? Are your parents responsible for all of your bad choices, personal pecadillos, bad habits, and vices? Best think on that a moment…

        • avatar Drew Smith says:

          Agree entirely with Briana regarding Kate O’s comments. It’s a bunch of self-righteous rot, blame the parents for the kids video game addiction, maybe the indulged him, maybe they didn’t, what is the point of casting aspersions that are rooted in the imagination of the writer? It says more about the person making the aspersion than anyone else and offers nothing of value.

    • avatar amw says:

      Wonderful response to LW1.

      “We have family by blood, and we have family by gift. My friends are far better family to me than the family I was born into ever was. I love the family I was given.”

      I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • avatar moonrevenge says:

      “I love my two daughters more than my breath, but I am not their friend; I am their mother.”


      I was a teenager right around the time pop psychology was starting to push the idea of parents being friends to their children. My mom gave me the stink-eye when I said as much and said, “I’m your mother. My job is to raise you into a responsible adult. Once we get to that point, we’ll talk about being friends.”

  5. avatar callie123 says:

    LW#!: I have a question for you. Does your son do well in school, and does he only slack off in the summer. If your son does do well in school, he might just be tired from the amount of work he was just completed and needs a breather. I myself am in college with an almost perfect GPA, and when I go home for the summer all I want to do is do nothing because I am so fried from the school year. I literally park my behind in front of the TV or computer and just veg. during the day and at night or on the weekends my friends and I hang out. Now, if your son does not do well in school and he slacks off and plays video games all the time even through the school year, then I would be worried. But if he only acts this way in the summer, I would not be too worried

    • avatar amw says:

      That’s all fine and well until you join the rest of us that work every single day for a living and do not get a break in the summertime.

      Not to mention, when you come home, there are still responsibilities to tend to such as mowing the yard, cleaning the house, laundry…

      It’s a full time job and the breaks are few and far between. Enjoy this time while you have it…because it doesn’t last long, trust me.

  6. avatar Lisa Cornell says:

    LW#1 I am all for tough love, but I think the letter writer acted rashly and thoughtlessly. His/her son’s crime was withdrawal and lack of ambition between school terms. Perhaps what he needed was some understanding, some space, a bit of a break and some love. Instead he got shown the door. It sounds to me as if this family has some serious problems that require family counseling. My son behaved in a similar fashion when he was in college. During school breaks he didn’t want to do anything, didn’t look for a job and kept to himself and slept in. He was depressed. I got him a check-up, the doc prescribed a mild anti-anxiety and he slowly regained his usual good mood. I didn’t yell at him or pressure him. I gave him good home cooking. Gave him the car to get out and about. I asked him to do some errands for me and slowly he became engaged again. I would never have shown him the door. I can’t believe this letter writer is so callous.

    LW#2 I can relate. I have absolutely no relationship with my sister. In our case it is not about yelling or screaming but rather about a complete difference in values. If it were not for the fact we were related, I would never have my sister in my circle of friends. My sister has a great deal of money, is a braggart and has zero class. I do not understand why people feel guilty or feel the necessity to keep relationships with people they don’t like simply because they are related. I don’t wish my sister ill, I just simply want nothing to do with her. My mother doesn’t understand it and constantly asks me to be a bigger person and extend the olive branch. I have no desire and I won’t. Life is simpler this way.

    • avatar amw says:

      I’m rather surprised to see how many people have made the same decision as I have in regard to a sibling.

      My mother is the same way and is constantly nagging me to “make amends.”

      And I always tell her, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice (or ten), shame on me. I will not be someone’s doormat so my mother can convince herself that she has the perfect, normal family.

  7. avatar Jrz Wrld says:

    I dunno. Either LW1 raised her son with an incredible sense of entitlement or she kicked a seriously depressed young man out of her house. If it was the former, well it’s about time. If it was the latter, that may have been unwise. I know for me that a video game obsession is usually the sign of something seriously wrong with my psyche – and the video games are just a form of self-medication. Add to that that a lot of mental illnesses can manifest during the college years. I think she should have gotten him a mental health screening BEFORE she kicked him out. If you’re willing to float your kid’s college bill, you should be willing to take care of his mental health issues. Kicking a kid out is a HUGE step – you pull the rug out from under them. Most of the time, it’s exactly what’s needed. But when you’ve got an ongoing mental health issue, it could be exactly the wrong thing to do. If he’s already feeling isolated… Look, I’m not trying to be alarmist, but I know what my state of mind was like at that age, and the depression thing is kind of scary. And since she didn’t say that she raised this kid with no sense of responsibility or obligation, I tend to lean towards the depression explanation. The LW is the best person to know this though. She needs to educate herself on depression (I’ve heard “The Noonday Demon” is good) and determine if she thinks her son is a sufferer, and then proceed from there.

  8. avatar K Coldiron says:

    I agree with Callie and Lisa and the others – LW1 may have acted a little fast in kicking her son out. This letter is really light on details, and we don’t know anything about the prior relationship of the parent to the son or even the personality/tendencies of the son. I remember being in college and desperately wanting to take advantage of the last couple of times I would ever get long stretches of time not to work. Being an adult and being able to enjoy a summer off is a rare privilege, and if you are well and truly aware that you’re going to get down to business (for the rest of your life) after college is over, I don’t see anything wrong with it for one summer or two.

    But if the son is 22, or he made some kind of deal with the parent that he would work, or if he’s generally a layabout, or any number of other details – then maybe the tough love was the right thing to do.

  9. avatar John Lee says:

    A revelation I had a few years back that is an offshoot of Letter 1.

    When people find that they are having relationship issues of any kind, for some reason, the automatic recommendation or analysis they come up with is that they need to improve communication.

    I will have to say that is rarely the case. It is more often the ability to compromise (or the lack of) that is the problem, not the communication. I think nearly all of the relationship problems I’ve ever had in my life with my mother, sister, wife or whoever, were due to either one of us either being obstinate or just plain crazy. It’s rarely a communication problem. People communicate clearly that they are angry or they are demanding this or that from me. I just don’t want to deal with their anger or their demands.

    Just like in letter 1, she thought she needs to communicate better. Right, if her sister communicated any better, the few years of peace they have between them would become months.

  10. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: I suppose it’s never too late to try and get him help. He’s still young.

    L #2: I’d just let it go. Let HER come to you next time. And don’t blow up yourself (though it might be difficult not to); try to calmly reason with her. And perhaps get input (if it’s safe!) from other family and/or lifetime friends, as to why she might have some longstanding resentments feeding her anger? Otherwise you might have to accept the fact you and she will never be close. It’s a 2-way street, and she’s like a reckless driver it seems.

  11. avatar martina says:

    LW#2:  I’ve said it time and time again.  You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family and just because they are family doesn’t mean you have to put up with them.  If you don’t have to share in the care of elderly parents, let it go.

    • avatar ToniH says:

      Hear Hear! I haven’t spoken to my sister voluntarily in over 10 years and have had about 3 conversations with her that SHE initiated! She treated me like dirt when I was young and now that SHE needs help, she comes to me? Why should I help her when she turned her back on me? Yes yes, forgiveness is divine, but I’m not aiming for divinity (I’ll leave that to my cats). As my father would say, she made her bed, let her sleep in it. It’s the honest truth that you truly can pick your friends, but not your family. And if your family is toxic to your mental/emotional/physical well being, then cast them off! You can always “adopt” family! I know, I just “adopted” a baby brother! Doesn’t matter that he’s not related in any way, shape, or form.. I love him like a brother! Life’s too short to dwell on negative people and people in their 60s still have many many productive happy years in front of them. Enjoy them with people who are good for you, not with people who are bad for you just because they share some DNA.

  12. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Letter 1 Did the child ever have a healthy interest in anything other than video games? Our kids had them but also did other things, tennis collecting rocks, swimming etc. The games were not allowed to be a total focus growing up and they came after homework and their chores. During the summer they were expected to take enrichment classes or do volunteer work so they weren’t alone at home with nothing but time on their hands. I found the key to helping our kids mature was volunteer work. After working at a CP children’s camp and a physical rehab hospital they understood what a gift they had in a normal working body. Our children were expected to work summers to help to pay for college. We had an agreement that we would pay what the scholarships didn’t for tuition and room and board they would pay for books and personal expenses. Part of an education is teaching kids financial responsibility that means letting them know they are expected to help themselves.

  13. avatar Lila says:

    “Playing any kind of game for hours at a time is not an occupation.” Um. Curious if Margo has the same take if it’s someone sitting in front of the TV watching an hours-long football or baseball game. Is the difference something to do with the sports-watching being more of a generally-established interest? Or is is somehow more sociable behavior? Personally – I see it as pretty much the same thing: someone engaged with a screen for a long stretch.

  14. avatar kebelf says:

    I am so *very* tired of this attitude of ‘anyone’ can get a job and gaming is evil. My son has been looking and applying for work while in college – good luck with that. He showed up for a job interview for a new In and Out – they didn’t hold it at the store but rented a huge room. Dressed properly and willing to do any job at any time. (along I might add with hundreds of other people). My college niece just had an interview for a grocery store opening at 6:30 A.M. – again a huge crowd where she said most of the people were no where close to her age group. You all need to pull your heads out. I’m happy you have jobs or are able to stay home but for MILLIONS of people that isn’t happening! You’ll note that Mom doesn’t say, and probably doesn’t know, if her son has applied for jobs. Probably thinks that ‘applying’ for a job means going door to door. There are sites, like Snag a Job, for your min. wage jobs – *that* is how you get a job 90% of the time now. That he’s in college will be held against him – not available all hours and of course when he graduates he’ll leave – so his app will hit the trash can at the speed of light. (the same I might add goes for the older worker that has gotten laid off). Now, as for blaming ‘games’. Stop it! Yes there are a few out there – the minority that have a problem. The majority are not just playing games but interacting with people world wide – you all do know that they talk in addition to playing?? They are far better educated about the world than you are and far more tolerant and understanding of different cultures. Try and remember that each generation had something that was going to destroy them. The charleston, comic books. If this kid has been turned down, or most likely, not even heard back as many times as mine he’s probably depressed out the wazoo and wondering why he’s in college because the future probably looks damn bleak to him.

    • avatar D C says:


    • avatar Mandy McNalis says:

      If you’re ever in central PA, I’d love to buy you a drink and challenge you to a round of the game of your choice!

      People need to pull their heads out and shut up if they have no frame of reference to the subject. You know, like the folks who don’t play video games, have never tried (or tried them 10 years ago and think they’re somehow an expert now), and feel the need to demonize something they know very LITTLE about. If every hobby was classified as an addiction by those who aren’t in the know, I could name a few folks who could be classified as gossip-addicts, or knitting addicts, or car-addicts, and many more money and time consuming hobbies.

      • avatar Lea Holland says:

        -pointing at self- Book/movie/music/writing-addict right here. Might be a video game addict as well, if I enjoyed playing them. Would, but I don’t have a system, and I’m no good at most of them anyway. Plus, I apparently get motionsick really easily, so some I can’t even stand to watch. 🙁

        • avatar Mandy McNalis says:

          I used to have that problem with some games, too. 🙁 I still can’t watch someone play “Mirror’s Edge” without turning a little green and I’m really into gaming. So don’t feel too bad on that; you’re not alone!

          • avatar Lea Holland says:

            Yeah, my cousins have learned that if they’re gonna play a certain game, and I’m around, get me out of the room or give me something to distract me! 😛 Goldeneye makes me sick, which is too bad, because it’s actually pretty fun to play.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Good grief, have you read all of the responses? Not everyone said that gaming was evil (it isn’t, as I stated before), nor did everyone say that anyone could go out and get a job. LW1″s message seemed very clear to me…her son is doing nothing but playing games…and nothing. No phone calls, no leaving the house, no socializing, no networking…and is projecting an extremely negative attitude while doing nothing. I don’t think she had to detail his nullity, it is obvious from her words. It also seems fairly obvious that this is impacting the family in a significant way…or did you miss the fact that he has younger siblings? Or is it that they simply don’t count for much because of whatever is causing him to sit around in a vegetative state?

      She clearly stated that she is worried about him…but if he is an adult, she cannot force him to any sort of mental health professional (if you’ve never experienced that particular heartbreak, I advise you give it a try before you shoot off your mouth) unless she actively witnesses him causing harm to himself or another. As she said, he won’t do anything. If you don’t look for a job, it’s a dead cinch you won’t find one…that’s a certitude. Not everywhere in the country is suffering the kind of situation you are describing regarding open job interviews…perhaps you need to educate yourself a bit more. Especially the kind of jobs that a college student might take for the summer. Also, summer school clearly was an option for him, which he also refused. He had choices, and he chose to sit and make life miserable for everyone. LW1 does not sound delighted with her decision, it sounds more like a desperate, last ditch effort to cause the young man to do something…anything. I hope it works for him…and for her.

      • avatar CanGal says:

        her point with regard to the job search was that just because he is always on the computer does not mean he is not searching for a job or networking. Most, if not all, jobs are posted on the internet, if not on job sites, all newspapers classified ads are online as well. Just because the mother does not see her son “hitting the pavement” does not mean he is not looking,

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          CanGal: If he is sitting in front of the TV all day playing video games…and otherwise doing nothing (which would include using the computer…most video games are played on the TV by preference because of the larger screen and better resolution)…then he is not job hunting.

          I am fully aware that many jobs (but not all) are listed on Internet websites. I am Internet savvy, and use that vast resource for a great many things besides futilely commenting on WoW. My husband is a very experienced IT professional, and has been for many years, and uses the Internet constantly for a wide array of reasons well beyond the workplace, at which he is the administrator for the US division of a global company. However, it doesn’t sound as if LW1 is an unobservant mother who is simply assuming that her son is slacking because he occasionally plays the odd video game on his computer. She is worried about him, and the rest of her children.

          And, if he had been perusing, and applying for jobs on the Internet, I think she might have noticed. But she is plainly watching him sit and play…or sit and do nothing. And summer jobs are usually the sort of thing you physically go and apply for, even in this highly technical period of electronic, high-speed networking and socializing. Even a person of my decrepit age has observed the college students she knows getting in their cars, or borrowing their parents’ vehicles (Houston has virtually no PT, and Bicycles are of limited use here) and going out and getting jobs for the summer. In the past employment-challenged years. As Whopper-floppers, part-time employees of grocery stores, Target, Wally-World (ergh, shudder)…whatever.

          I really don’t understand the rush to accuse LW1 of being completely ignorant of her son’s activities (or obvious lack of such), or so many reader’s failure to notice that he isn’t her only child, and that he is negatively impacting his siblings…and that she clearly stated that she is worried about him. Some parents actually do pay attention to their children, especially when said children clearly are behaving in a problematic, or peculiar manner.

      • avatar kebelf says:

        Yes I actually have read all the responses and the general thread is ‘games, oh horror!’ You posted the nastiest, most ill informed of all of them. That you are obsessing on one small minority speaks volumes. I will wager that I have been using, working and online with computers far, far longer than you. (try a 2400 Baud modem – that was before the WWW). That you blame Mario Bros. when your child was 5 for his gaming now??? Oh puleezzzeee! That Mario game improved his eye/hand coordination and problem solving while he was having fun. Maybe if when you were working in the industry you had included him and talked to him about it the results would be different. My sons had computers from a young age. Those computers were in the same room with me and they learned from the start how to protect themselves, use them and have friends world wide. Those same nasty, dirty gamers have given my sons tips on job openings because contrary to your belief they are ‘networking’ while playing a game. I pity you if you lose your job and you are not in one of the few ‘in demand’ fields – you are in for a very rude awakening.

  15. avatar normadesmond says:

    why doesn’t someone invent a button that rings
    a little bell, signifying that margo has done it again.

    answer #2 was brilliant!

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Yes it was. Unfortunately for LW2—she can’t make the sister any less of a bully, or to care any more than she currently does. Writing her off is probably the healthiest move she could make.

  16. avatar P S says:

    LW1 – I think showing some tough love was the appropriate thing to do. I also believe getting him some help, if he’s willing, would be called for here. If he refuses the help then there’s not much you can do… sometimes with addiction and other problems you have to let the person in question hit rock bottom or have some things taken away for them to realize that they ultimately are responsible for their own behavior.

    Even if the young man is unable to find employment (and I agree it’s really, really still tough out there in the job market), he could still do volunteer work and help contribute to household chores so that he’s not isolated or pulled into a depressive spiral. Also if you have to and if possible, find ways to restrict his access to the video games in your home. Your house, your rules. Just a thought.

    LW2 – Sadly I agree there are times when it’s best to close the door on some or all members of one’s family of origin, and it sounds like your situation may be one of them. I had to do the same several years ago when it was clear my blood relatives were perfectly content with the situation as it stood, which included a lot of abuse and refusal to take responsibility for their toxicity. It is a difficult decision but doing the right thing isn’t always easy… and your letter is proof that you can do the right thing until the cows come home, but it won’t matter if the other person isn’t on the same page.

  17. avatar Jody says:

    People come in to themselves at different times. He is VERY young, and still has time to make those huge mistakes without it adversely affecting his future. Does he understand this? It APPEARS to me that he may have a self-esteem issue. He may not know what to do with himself. I don’t know your son. But, I believe most kids (no matter what age we are) want to make our parents proud. No doubt he knows he’s not doing that. He knows how displeased you are, etc. To believe he is doing all of this out of pure laziness is risky. He may have something going on that he needs help with, as opposed to discipline. It could be mental, emotional, spiritual, medical… we don’t know. But, I don’t think assuming discipline alone will reap the rewards you are looking for. Just my opinion.

    Some of us are like Eagles, who when pushed from the nest SOAR. Others of us are like locomotives, who need to build up the steam before we can really get up to speed. Neither is better than the other. He is divine child of God who was blessed with the right to live his experiences and learn from them. He may learn it this time. Or, he may have to go through it 5 times. Who knows? As parents all we can do is guide them through their physical experience here in this lifetime on this planet.

    I wish you the best of luck. Patterns are difficult to break, but not impossible. It may sound crazy, but if you see him the way you WANT him to be…. he will see himself that way too, and maybe…. just maybe…. he will begin to believe he is that and more and begin doing that and more. It’s true. I’ve seen it happen. The subconscious is a VERY powerful thing.

  18. avatar D C says:

    I kind of wonder if the son of LW#1 were to spend all day reading books if it would be such an inflammatory issue. 

    • avatar P S says:

      The difference with books, however, is they stimulate the imagination… at least in my opinion far more so than video games – and yes I’ve partaken of both quite frequently over the years.

      • avatar D C says:

        My 15 year old Asperger’s Child plays video games as much as we’ll let him, but in the last year has developed a desire to read.  He finished the Pendragon series the first week of July and was without a book.  We pulled some classics from the shelves and encouraged him to just read the first chapter,  but he wasn’t interested.  We FINALLY got him to start the Harry Potter series.  Our older son was forced into Harry Potter in elementary school.  He cried, he negotiated, and finally he shut up and started reading.  He finished 4 books that summer.  I’m hoping my younger son will dive into that series and enjoy it as much as the rest of the family did.  It should keep him pretty busy til school starts. 

        • avatar Lea Holland says:

          While I agree that books are sometimes better than video games…some people just can’t enjoy books, my own mother hates reading, as well as my sister, and I can’t seem to stop…I don’t agree with forcing a kid to read something that they’re not interested in at the time, unless it’s for school. If they end up getting interested in it later, then they’ll read it then, but until then, it’s not up to anyone else to decide what they do and don’t read, as long as it’s age-appropriate for that particular kid.

  19. avatar Daniele says:

    I’ve spent a few years teaching composition at a university. The movement from home and family to a university is a difficult one, emotionally, particularly if the course of study is difficult, not what the student is particularly interested in, and when they discover that college isn’t at all what they thought it would be like. Learning to self-manage time is one of the most difficult obstacles traditional students face. Many of them are used to earning As and Bs with little difficulty and negligible homework (they have time to do it at school), but find out that college courses are more difficult, or repetitive, and there’s not time for homework during class. Living in the dorms is not picnic, emotionally, either. Most find it all a rewarding experience and get into it easily. Some simply don’t. The video game playing as an avoidance tactic, especially if it’s a new thing, is a strong sign of depression. If mom suspects depression (and she outright stated she does), she should talk to him about it and have him evaluated. There’s a root cause to it and he might feel ashamed or frustrated about that cause. A few sessions with a therapist could help. What would be even more helpful is to help him learn how to find the help he needs at the university. Get on the university’s website and find the counselor. Most universities offer free or reduced cost counseling sessions for students. Most students don’t need many sessions. They just need some place to talk over their stumbling block and to develop solutions to that. It’s hard to watch students fail out of the university because of something simple like time-management problems, a skill that’s very underdeveloped in most incoming freshmen. Mild depression is common enough and easy enough to address, provided it is addressed. Mild depression can interfere with university life to the point where things are just compounded. Depression leads to things like proctastination, absenteeism, low grades, failing courses, and these things lead to deeper depression because the student feels like a failure. The kick in the pants the kid needs may be less than “go out and get a job” than “let’s talk.” If nothing productive comes from that, then move on to tough love. Don’t jump straight to “straighten up or get out.”

  20. avatar D C says:

    Too late for LW#1, but maybe not for some of you out there.  A woman I know did this when her kids were teenagers.  If they didn’t clean up their rooms by the set time, she would go in while they were at school and clean the room.  All the clothing, electronics, what-have-you that was on the floor she would collect and keep in the closet in her room she put a lock on.  The kids would have to use their allowance money to BUY BACK THEIR CLOTHES!!!  I LOVED it!   Hit them in the wallet and they usually come around.  That wouldn’t work at my house because we didn’t do the set allowance thing, but still, I thought it was brilliant. 

  21. avatar D C says:

    And speaking of addictions…. some of us on here post an awful lot.  You might call that an addiction as well. 

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Ain’t that the truth!?!. I just spent over 30 minutes reading responses. My life is no better for it, nor are my chores done, I’m not sleeping as I should be, but here I am. LOL

  22. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – I love social networking sites and one that is video ased is of course YouTube.

    Oh my God, you will not believe the hundreds of thousands of young and older men and women that vlog about nothing more than video games! And what is truly bizarre is how they are all living very similiar lives. MOST of them smoke weed. MOST don’t work but live with and off of others. MOST spend their entire days fixated on the video games. They don’t have “real” friends, they don’t date, they don’t have any social lives beyond staying in a room, getting high and playing video games.

    As with anything, if you can’t indulge in something sparingly, if whatever it is you are addicted to, feel drawn to do all day to the avoidance of real life and people….you have an issue. The tough love this letter writer speaks of is exactly what she needed to do. If he were a teen I would say step in an insist he get help. But as Margo said, if he is old enough for college, he is old enough to get a handle on his life.

    Letter #2 – Okay, here is my story!  Wow, I could have written this!  I come from a big family and I have to deal with this behavior from several siblings.  I believe when it is someone you love, you should be direct and honest. Tell them how you really feel and how their actions are affecting you. I also believe in telling people directly when their actions are hurting me….causing me distress. If I tell you directly “I love you but the way you speak to me sometimes is so hurtful….I really become emotionally drained by you” and their response is essentially I don’t care… or not, I will avoid them.

    To me it is no different than someone slapping me in the face, over and over. I can stand there and take it, endure the pain knowing it will happen again, or I can say “I am not going to allow you to hurt me anymore.” With my sisters when times are good and we are getting along, I relish those moments for what they are and enjoy them. When their psycho side rears its head I know that is a time for me to move one to others in my life that bring me joy. It works for me.          

    • avatar K Coldiron says:

      Hundreds of thousands of people don’t work, live off of others, do nothing but smoke weed and spend their entire days fixated on video games? That’s a pretty large chunk of the population…where are you getting this information?

  23. avatar OhNo says:

    LW1: Show him the article from today’s Yahoo! about a 20-yr old who died from sitting too long playing games. Blood clot in the leg killed him.

    LW2: Your sister sounds exactly like the bipolar people I’ve known. She needs a psych. evaluation, but if you suggest it to her, she will attack you again. Don’t ask me how I know.