What To Know About Sons Who Can’t Keep A Job


If you have an adult son who can’t hold down a job, there could be a lot going on. And it can be hard to figure out the problem, which can make things even more stressful. But that doesn’t make it any easier to talk to your son.

Sons who can’t keep a job may have a few reasons for the issue. Some may have a problem with real world expectations and motivation. Others may not have the skills they need to work, or they may have trouble finding a job that suits their skills. Avoiding enablement is key while being supportive.

Whether your son just finished school or has been out for a while, he may have trouble keeping a job. As a parent, you have to decide if it’s a time to support your son or if you need to be more strict. Keep reading to learn more about sons who can’t keep a job.

The Reasons Why Sons Sometimes Don’t Work

When trying to understand sons who can’t keep a job, you should look into the underlying reasons. If your son can’t stay at the same job long, he may be the problem. But there may be other factors contributing to him leaving work.

Before you judge your son for not keeping a job, here are a few reasons for that.

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Some Have Unrealistic Expectations of Being Employed

Especially today with children growing in up in a culture that devalues traditional views of men, it is hard for boys to know how to be. They are encouraged by some to be more self introspective, feelings oriented, and frankly, selfish and myopic.

The view of men 60 or 70 years ago was one of work, protection, and providing. Now boys are taught that sensitive men in touch with their emotions are the goal. There is very little talk of sacrifice for the family and hard work so that wives and children won’t have to suffer.

Doing anything to earn an income takes massive amounts of repetitive actions that require tenacity and fortitude to continue month after month and year after year. Boys aren’t always taught that this is how having a job is.

Many sons aren’t taught that though some jobs can be rewarding, if they were fun… we wouldn’t get paid to do them. Working is work.

Small business owners learn a couple things within the first few years of opening up shop.

  1. You work harder for yourself than someone else.
  2. When you work for yourself you are never truly ‘off work’.
  3. Never, never make your hobby your job.

Some may disagree slightly with some of these, but they will usually be talking about the exceptions. Though it is fun or interesting to talk about the exception when debating a topic, we are generally the rule.

Sons need to be taught these things. They are not naturally known or even able to be fully reasoned out without experience. You as a parent need to share your experience and give them an advantage.

If a job is what they are looking at achieving, this small business owner kind of fortitude is a good view of what reality holds. If you are an employee, you are helping the owner or owners of the business mitigate the work load and risk of failure. Your son needs to hear that they are only valuable as an employee if they can reduce stress and help the business make money.

The business is not there in order for them to have a job. They are fortunate to have the job and only deserve it if they are a contributing member of the team.

These expectations aren’t readily apparent to some children. Parents and fathers especially need to instill this type of work ethic in their sons. It is their ‘job’ as a parent.

Lack of Motivation In Sons

If your son has no problem getting a job but always quits or gets fired, he may not have enough motivation to succeed or show up. Whether you work in the corporate world or for a small business, you have to show up to work and be prepared to put the companies interests before your own.

Even if your son does contract work, he could lose that work if he doesn’t go to work. He may also lose jobs if he shows up late or always leaves early.

Your son doesn’t have to love his job, but he should be able to go to work and get stuff done. A lack of motivation can come from laziness, depression, or unrealistic expectations. Most people find and keep jobs or have the tenacity to keep their small business going month after month. Motivation must be self discovered, but parents can be a catalyst.

Motivation is something parents can give their children fairly simply. There is a valuable saying that applies here and makes the direction many of these parents should take rather clear.

our need will be the real creator.

Plato

Read on further to find some actionable steps to create this sense of urgency and necessity in your son. It is certainly within the power of parents to create this ‘need’.

Consider how your son acts at home and if he may need help getting motivated. While some job switching is normal, your son may need help if he doesn’t feel motivated to keep a job.

Unemployed Sons Could Have The Wrong Skills

If your son just graduated from school, he may not have enough skills to get a job. Unfortunately, not many schools teach students how to look for a job, the actual skills needed for day to day work, or how to act at work to be successful. Your son may not have ever learned how to act at work and how it’s different from being a student.

Students are actually clients in a school setting. The focus is always on them and their achievements. They are normally getting financial and even emotional support from their families as they hyper-focus on themselves.

When they are thrust into the real world of employment and business concerns, immediately they find themselves on the outside looking in. They are no longer the center and are now expected to contribute to something that sees them as relatively inconsequential.

Depending on what your son studied in college or high school, he may also not have skills that are in demand. If your son doesn’t have business or professional skills, it will be hard to last long at a job. (To learn more about alternatives to higher education, I addressed that in another article.)

The same is true if your son doesn’t know how to remain calm in stressful situations or how to talk to rude clients and customers. While you can learn those skills after graduating, it may be the reason why he can’t keep a job.

Everything from realistic expectations, the knowledge experience brings, and even job specific skills that take time to master are all things that these sons may be lacking. They can be learned and will need to be in order to be successful. Parents need to help them along the path of discovering them.

Many Sons Don’t Know The Value Of Experience

Then there is the fact that experience is exponentially more valuable than any amount of education alone. Sure, you need an education for things like medicine, law, etc. But those in the field with experience and accomplishment are infinitely more valuable than those without it.

Many sons are not taught this at home or in schools. When they come out of college many of them think they are only a short time away from management and leadership positions. They falsely believe that they deserve it. True education teaches them how to respect and own our place in society.

When I was a teacher in Los Angeles years ago it was very strange to me when new, young teachers would enter the profession thinking they were on a fast track to become team leader, assistant principal, and principal soon after. There is a general overestimation of the self that is pervasive in many younger adults coming out of college today.

They didn’t even have a five year plan to leadership, which is insane in itself. They thought more in terms of two to three years. If it didn’t happen by then, they claimed some sort of bias had been levied against them. This is simply unrealistic and disrespectful to all others that have put in the time to gain experience.

Sons simply need to be taught that the value of experience only comes with time and age. They must understand that the skills that it brings will not be theirs for a long time.

We even see this with teens that are trying to find part time work. It is a great idea for teens to get a job to help with work ethic and even get a little experience.

Perhaps your son studied accounting or medicine, and he has plenty of skills. But he doesn’t have professional experience. Some jobs require more experience, even if the position is entry-level.

That can make it hard to get a job in the first place. However, if your son does get a job, he may be the first the company fires if they need to downsize. They’ll probably want to keep the employees with more experience so that they can survive with a smaller team.

Unfortunately, not having experience can be a vicious cycle. If you can’t get a job, you can’t get experience. However, it can be a common reason why your son struggles to get and keep a job.

It can be even more common when the economy is struggling. If companies can’t afford to keep their employees, they’ll do what they can to survive. Your son may lose his job even if he’s the perfect employee.

Sometimes Bad Timing And Luck Can Be The Culprit

Sometimes, your son may lose a job to no fault of his own. Regardless of his skills and experience, his employer may decide to cut out a department or a location. Companies can do this for many reasons:

  • Saving money
  • Preparing for a merger
  • Moving headquarters

Your son could have all of the skills and experience in the world. But if companies in his industry keep getting smaller, he may not be able to keep a job.

And while he can switch industries, he may have the other issue of not feeling motivated to put in the effort that it requires. If your son can’t keep a job, you should look at the bigger picture. Then, you can determine if it has to do with your son or not.

How to Help Your Son Keep A Job

Fortunately, you can help your son even if he can’t keep a job. While you don’t want to be an overbearing parent, you should offer some support. Then, your son can feel more comfortable talking to you about his job search struggles.

Here are a few things you can do when your son can’t hold a job.

Be Understanding – You Were Not A Picture Of Perfection At That Age

Your son may be embarrassed that he can’t maintain a job, so he may not come to you. If you go to him, be as kind and understanding as you can. Avoid judging your son, and try to see things from his perspective.

Consider what you were like at his age and if you experienced anything similar. Maybe you didn’t struggle to get a job, but you did have a hard time getting through some of your college classes or maybe you can relate through your struggles in starting a business.

I know my husband and I talk about it frequently. We wouldn’t want to meet ourselves twenty five years ago. We made so many selfish and myopic decisions leading to some big mistakes. We don’t want our sons to repeat our mistakes, but sometimes there is just no stopping them.

Give him a chance to share his thoughts and feelings on working. He may want to keep a job, but you won’t know that if you don’t hear him out. If you think back, you probably had some of the same issues in different contexts yourself.

Consider How Your Financial Support Affects Your Son

If you’re providing for all of your son’s financial needs, he may not have the motivation to work. He knows he can rely on you to pay for food, rent, and other expenses. In that case, he would probably rather spend time on activities he likes instead of work.

If that’s the case, don’t cut your son off cold turkey. Instead, slowly stop paying for everything. Have him start paying for things like food or gas for his car. Then, you can have him contribute rent if he lives with you or to part of his rent if he lives elsewhere.

That way, he can start taking responsibility for his financial future. If he sees that he doesn’t have as much money as he needs, that may motivate him to get a good job and focus on his work so that he can maintain his income.

Encourage Lesser Job Positions To Build A Work Ethic

This is related to the earlier topics discussed about understanding the value of work and having a less myopic view of the world. Pride is a problem for all of us. It is even considered a main vice.

Helping and supporting your son could come in the form of encouragement to find work in less desirable positions until better ones become available. This may even take some convincing if your son has too high of an estimation of his worth to a company coupled with a lack of motivation or the need to have an income.

Much of the time, sons with a family to support will have more impetus to get up and get working. If your son does not have this as a motivation, you may need to look for other options to motivate him into finding a lower paying or less prestigious position while still searching for that ‘dream job’.

Provide Your Son Emotional Support

Next, provide support in other ways besides money. Let him complain to you about his job search. When he gets a job, let him talk to you about a stressful day so that he can unwind. Here are a few ways you can support your son:

  • Find job listings
  • Support his decision to leave a bad job
  • Let him complain about work

Being able to support your son can make him feel better. Even if you don’t give him money, he may appreciate being able to talk to you about stuff.

Wrapping Up What To Know About Sons Who Can’t Keep A Job

Some sons who can’t keep a job are that way because they know they can rely on you to pay for stuff. But other sons may struggle to find a job in their industry, or they may not have enough experience. Either way, try to support your son and slowly help him become a more independent man.

Keep in mind that you are trying to help your son avoid your mistakes without making parenting mistakes in the process that you will have to add to your list of regrets later. Come at it slowly, but start taking definite steps in some of the directions listed above. Be understanding, but be firm with your son. They will respect you for both.

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a Catholic mother of four, grandmother ("Oma") to two, and wife to Mat since 1994. She is a former public school teacher of 18 years, licensed in 3 states and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. In addition, she also taught education courses online as an adjunct professor, mentored numerous education interns, hosted professional development for educators, and tutored, as well as homeschooled.

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