Didn’t Raise a Quitter

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
Our son is a great kid. He was a B+/A- student in high school. For
years he has said he wants to be a doctor and we have not done
anything to contradict his dreams (usually a 4.0 is needed). The reality
is that he devoted a lot of time to sports (crew) and neglected his
schoolwork. But it did get him into a good school, one where he could
excel in athletics, but where his lack of study habits and lack of serious
commitment to academics will bring up some serious issues about his
future. Now he’s saying he wants to quit crew. We want him to stay in
because the athletic teams get special tutoring, the kind that might
make the difference to get him over the freshman hump. I know it’s a
lot of work to do both school and sports, but he’s young for his age
and we are more worried that he’ll succumb to the dangers of dorm
life. I’d rather have him sleepy from working out than hung over. Do
you have any compelling arguments about why he should stay on the
Didn’t Raise a Quitter

Dear Didn’t Raise:
It’s hard when children don’t live up to parents’ expectations. It
sounds like you’ve raised a good son who has high ideals and a good
sense of commitment to what he sets his mind to. Study habits are
important, and yes a 4.0 may be necessary for med school. But so is
becoming a happy well-adjusted person, and that’s something that
requires as much role modeling and reinforcement as coaching
provides in sports.

Your goals for your son sound contradictory. If you want him focused
on school, then give him incentives to get good grades (perhaps in
tandem with some diminished feedback for not doing well) and
perhaps tutoring if he needs it. Yes he might get perks, but the
adjustment to college is also about learning to be a grown–up. If he’s
been hand-fed his whole life by overly protective parents, perhaps
what he needs most is the chance to make his own decisions, to
occasionally fall flat on his face, and to learn how to get up again. If he
learns to do that he can learn anything else.