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Dear Jon Letters: Eighth Sort

How to get your 14-year-old son to shovel the snow.

by Dear Jon
December 7, 2000

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Dear Jon Letters: Eighth Sort_Dear Jon-How to get your 14-year-old son to shovel the snow. Regular readers have already gotten the drift of this advice column, so this time we're skipping the legal caveats that basically tell you to go sue yourself.

Dear Jon, I am a Soccer Mom in a suburban family. My oldest son is in college as a scholarship athlete. My daughter, a High School senior, has opened her own business as a Personal Technology Consultant and is editor of the Yearbook. My youngest, a fourteen year-old boy, was a wide receiver on the Freshman team, but now that the season is over he comes home from school and plays computer games. Now that we have snow, how can I get my fourteen year-old son to shovel the walk?
Signed, Annoyed Parent

Dear Noyed, In your culture, the two favorite avenues for getting any kid to do anything, are: 1) Bribery and 2) Threat. Unfortunately, bribes have to be motivating, and threats have to be backed up, or your kid will ignore you. Your dilemma is that your son, being fourteen, is too young to have the car keys withheld, too old for time-outs, too big for corporal punishment if that fits into your socio-religious system, (and if it doesn't please be aware that Dear Jon, the Webmaster, the Editor of The Partial Observer, the administrators and proprietors of www.partialobserver.com, its contributors and subsidiaries, in no way advocate anything that might look remotely like child abuse to you,) has everything he needs in his room (t.v., stereo, computer) that even if you do ostracize him you are only adding to the great deal of time with which he ostracizes himself, and he is too immature to realize that his help in even some small things would contribute greatly to the peace and prosperity of the household. Your son is old enough, however, to have some sense as to the value of a dollar, so bribery becomes more

Hopefully you have in your acquaintence a family with a daughter between 12 and 15 years of age who might shortly qualify for a beauty pageant. To get your son to shovel the walk, invite this family over for dinner. Mention this casually to your son as he is playing his Hell Warrior VI computer game, two hours before their expected arrival. In approximately thirty minutes, you will see him freshly showered, wearing clean clothes, and demanding of you why the house isn't perfect. At that point you can mention the need to shovel snow. He will have a tantrum for about five minutes, and then he will shovel the walk, after which he will come in, grumbling about how he "has to do EVERYTHING around here," he will shower again, and put on yet another change of clothes. And at the dinner party, he will be one of the most charming young men in the world.

Dear Jon, I live in a trailer park in Wisconsin. My boyfriend is only in the state on week-ends, and my fourteen year-old stepson (from my second marriage) is just as dead-beat as his jailed Dad. How can I get him to shovel out the driveway?
Signed, Frustrated Mom

Dear Frust, Look for a neighbor with a bumper-plow on his one-ton, which shouldn't be too hard. Ask that neighbor to give your son driving lessons in your driveway.

Dear Jon, I live on the third floor. My fourteen year-old son won't ever help me dig my car out of the parking space after heavy snow. What can I do?
Signed, Angry Mom

Dear Ang, Tell your son that you are happy to take the bus to work, and that as long as the car stays snow-bound, he will have to take the bus too and from everything that he does; you will not be his chauffer unless he does his part to dig out the car. And then wait him out, even if it means leaving 90 minutes earlier for work every day.

Dear Jon, I am fourteen years old, a guy, and poor. My cheap-skate parents won't upgrade my game system, and they're waiting until Christmas to get a DVD player. With all the snow and I'm not old enough to drive, there's nothing for me to do once I finish all my homework. I'm WAY too embarrassed to invite anyone over when there's nothing to do except play these old games from like, 1997 or something. And girls? What a joke. All the girls in my class that are cool or nice, only go for juniors and seniors because they can drive. Some guys in my class are dating girls in, like, seventh grade. That's just, I don't know, wrong! So anyway, how can I convince my parents that we need the DVD player NOW, so that they will get me a new game system for Christmas? Sincerely, Fourteen

Dear Fourteen,
Random! I had no clue that your life sucked so bad! But maybe you can work something out with your parents, like a saving plan. For every hour that you do something around the house, like, I don't know, shovel snow, maybe, they pay you $5.00 in cash OR $7.50 in credit. Do dishes, vaccuum, pick up your room, clean the bathroom you use the most, and keep a time-card. As you build your credit, your parents can cash out by buying whatever piece of technology you think will make your happy. By the way, if they are already giving you an allowance and you are not doing the things they ask you to, I can't guarantee that they are going to be attentive to this plan. You might have to do this INSTEAD of an allowance. It's one of those stupid "parent" things that happens when people get old, just so you know.

Dear Jon: My wife is 8 1/2 months pregnant. She's sore, she's tired, she's big as a house, and she's emotionally vulnerable.

I have two questions. Whatever happened to Dennis Rodman? Would the Bears be better off dumping Cade McNown after this season or giving him more time to grow up?
Concerned Father

Dear Father,
In the break-up of the Bowls after their last championship, Dennis Rodman rode off into cultural oblivion. I'm sure others know more about him than I do, but does anyone really care? If your lucky, your new child won't be plagued by Rodman's celebrity as a role-model. Regarding Cade McNown: Your letter has inspired me to think of an alternative career for him. If he likes taking snaps from center, maybe he should deliver babies? ("3-45! 3-45! Hut--Hut--Hut!)

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