The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a third-year high school girl preparing for university entrance examinations. Our family has problems with my older brother, who almost always skips his university classes.
He failed entrance exams for universities when he was in high school. After a year as an out-of-school “ronin,” he could not get into the university he really wanted. Therefore, he focused on universities he was more likely to get into and finally got through the entrance examination for the university he now attends.
I thought my mother would be relieved by his success. However, he has been skipping his university classes and has spent a lot of time playing games at home. Of course, he is not earning credits, prompting a university staff member to call us about it.
He feels ashamed of his behavior immediately after he is warned by others. However, the next day, he starts becoming defiant. This happens all the time with him. When asked why he wanted to go to university in the first place, he said, “Because I don’t want to work.” This answer disgusted us.
Unless he changes his attitude, I don’t think he will graduate. I don’t expect he’ll work at one place for a long time, even if he can find a job.
What should our family do to fix this? Please scream the advice at my brother for us, too.
S, Ibaraki Prefecture
Dear Ms. S:
As a sister, you get angry rather than worry about him, don’t you? Your brother is like the spoiled son of a rich merchant family in the Edo period (1603-1867). Being considered the inheritor of his father’s business, he plays around all day.
In rakugo storytelling, such a man is disowned by his parents after being told, “Get out of the house immediately,” at the beginning of the story. However, it is hard to do the same thing nowadays.
You asked me to scream at your brother, but I think he has already gone past the phase where he would listen to verbal persuasion. Therefore, it is essential that your parents lay down the law and issue the ultimatum: “Study or leave home.”
Your parents not only take care of their son daily, they are also paying his expensive tuition. If he says he feels uncomfortable about his university, they should consider making him leave and go to work to provide for himself.
My advice for your parents is to warn your brother that they will kick him out of their house as well as make him pay for his tuition unless the situation improves. It is also essential to make him keep his promises, such as to earn enough credits at university. Should he break a promise, they should consider punishments, such as not paying for his tuition and throwing away his games.
What is important is to write down the promises on paper and then display the paper so that he can see it all the time. If your brother breaks any of the written promises, your parents must be firm in their punishment.
Since I’m guessing you’re busy preparing for university entrance examinations, please talk with your parents about your concern and basically leave it to them to decide what to do. Then focus your efforts on passing your own exams.
Masahiro Yamada, professor