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damage control

My father and his 19-year-old son left their struggling country (with our financial help) and have been living with my husband and me for six months now. What’s driving me mad is that my half-brother is the most entitled person I’ve ever met and my dad supports him. I’ve asked for his help numerous times but my father makes excuses for him. I’m frustrated and annoyed. How should I handle this pampered teen/house guest?

For most of human history, people had large families so they’d have more hands on deck to do the grunt work around the farm or whatever.

Then, at a certain point, certain pockets of humanity started having offspring for purely sentimental reasons: simply to love unconditionally, and (ideally) be loved unconditionally in return; and to post cute pictures of them on social media.

The unspoken contract was that we, your parents, do all the work, feed and shelter you, pay for your clothing and education and cellphone plan and everything else. All you have to do in return is: nothing! Be cute.

Is it any wonder these adored, cosseted creatures might scratch their heads at some point and say to themselves: “Hmmm, apparently I’ve been born into some sort of all-inclusive resort where all my needs and whims are taken care of and all I have to do is say ‘I love you’ once in a while? Deal! Can I sign on for life?”

At some points in human history it’s been a point of pride, almost, for some young people. Example: a subculture of foppish, dandified Italian youth in the 20th century who called themselves “Il Vitelli,” i.e. “The Young Veals,” to emphasize their indolence and pampered-ness.

(Without ever pausing to think of the fate of the creatures they’d named themselves after. This subculture flickered for only a moment, and my theory about that is: Not many women were all that interested in marrying a “Vitello.”)

As I see it, it’s the job of every parent of teens to convince them they’re not guests of the all-inclusive resort they call home, but members of the staff.

Now, in your case the situation is complicated/exacerbated by the fact your father and (half-)brother are not, technically, your offspring.

But I would argue that since a roof you are paying for is keeping the rain and snow off their heads, they become de facto your children. It’s like in loco parentis (meaning, basically: “You’re in the vicinity, so you’re the parents now”), except in reverse.

You need to start kicking some serious butt and you should start with your father. Words to the effect of: “Get real, Dad. You’re not doing him any favours. You’re turning him into a spoiled monster, and that’s the worst thing you can do to a kid.”

I’d go so far as to make pitching in a condition of staying on in your house. Don’t state but maybe openly imply: “You think 19 is a tough age? Try it living in a shelter and eating out of a dumpster.”

Sorry. That might’ve sounded a bit harsh. But tough love is still love, I always say. Maybe the best kind. I understand they’ve gone through and are going through a tough time and no one is more cognizant than I that a) blood is blood and b) it’s a beautiful thing to be able to offer shelter to someone in need.

But you have to lay down the law. Simply put: Your father and his pet “vitello” have to start pitching in – or else.

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