My child is gifted. He’s also 29, unemployed, and living in my basement.

I don’t respond to most of the negative emails I get from people who listen to my show or read my blog, but this one struck a chord. Maybe it’s the “I feel bad for your kids” bit, or the “you never should have been a parent” part, or just the general idiocy on display; whatever the reason, I felt compelled to fire back. Here’s the message I received from a guy named Nick in reference to a discussion we had on the broad subject of parenting. I think we can all benefit from reading this, and solemnly confronting the tragic reality that this country is chock full of Nicks:

“Matt, I heard your horrible conversation today about parenting. A few comments in response:

1) Based on your remarks, I have to say I feel bad for your kids. You sound like the sort of person who never should have been a parent. You said you plain to teach your kids “how to think.” I guess this is common in right wing religious fundamentalist households. Personally, I let my child form his own conclusions about things. To impose your views on a child is tantamount to child abuse. Do them a favor, let them think FREELY.

2) You greatly exaggerate the importance of “chores.” Also, the idea that a kid should be forced to “get a job” is abhorrent. My son was very gifted so we gave him all the tools to succeed academically. This meant we didn’t turn him into slave labor and we certainly didn’t tell him he needed to go work behind a cash register. He concentrated on his school work, and we did our job as parents and financially supported him.

3) It’s easy to mock a “30 year old who lives with is parents.” My son is almost 29 and he’s been home with us since he graduated. Unfortunately the job market isn’t the greatest (maybe you hadn’t heard) and I’m not going to let him starve on the street. He has a college education, it’s pointless for him to be out working in a retail store or some other menial job. I will be here for him until he is able to get the job he deserves.

You need to grow up, get some life experiences and then maybe you’ll have the right to sermonize about parenting.


And here’s the response I sent to him:

Dear Nick,

1) Tell you what. How ’bout I blindfold you, drive you out into the middle of the desert at night, and then leave you there without a map or a GPS? It’ll be great. You can just travel FREELY. After all, who am I to bring you to this place and then presume to tell you how to navigate it? I’m just the guy that kidnapped you and dumped you into a hostile, cold wilderness. It would be presumptuous and authoritative of me to offer you direction and guidance. So I’ll let you wander around aimlessly until you collapse exhausted in a ditch, and are eaten slowly by wild scavengers. You’re welcome. I assume you’ll be grateful; I’ll merely be applying your parenting technique to the situation.

By the way, did you ever tell your kid not to play in the street? Did you instruct him about the dangers of hot stoves and fallen electrical wires? This is a quandary. See, if you imposed your anti-high voltage power line views on your kid, then apparently you’re guilty of abuse by your standards. However, if you didn’t, you’re guilty of reprehensible neglect by the standards of civilized human beings. I’m not an expert on parenting. I never claimed to be. But you don’t need to be an expert to know that one of the fundamental tasks of a parent — and this really speaks to the whole point of the endeavor — is to teach your child how to maneuver through the physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual dangers of life. This includes teaching them how to think, which could also be referred to as passing on your values and your worldview. If you have no interest in doing this, then I would suggest that you never really wanted a child — you wanted a friend. Now you have one. Living at home with you. Forever. Congratulations.

2) Chores schmores. What can they teach a kid? Discipline, obedience, and hard work? Screw that. What is this, the 50′s? Listen, Nick, don’t take this the wrong way, but what leads you to the conclusion that your son is “gifted”? He can’t mow the lawn, work a job, earn a living, pay a bill, apply a skill, or support himself, yet he’s “gifted”? What are his gifts, exactly? You know, something tells me an astronaut’s parents never have to inform people that their child is “gifted.” People sort of pick up on that based on context clues. They behold his accomplishments and admire his achievements. They can SEE his gifts. He uses them, applies them, refines them. Your son MIGHT have gifts — the jury is still out — but whatever they may be, they’ll atrophy and whittle away the longer he spends lounging in a bean bag chair eating macaroni and cheese.

3) So your brilliant and gifted 29 year old son would “starve” if he was forced to take care of himself? The “gifted” standard is getting lower by the day, isn’t it? I’ve been living independently and taking care of myself since before I could legally drink a Heineken. I guess that makes me a Nobel candidate — now that your helpless grown adult son gets to set the bar for “gifted.”

The kind of oblivious snobbery you display used to be reserved for classes of nobility and royalty. Now, any drooling schlub who spent 4 years getting drunk and fornicating at college can claim to be “too good” for almost every available job. Your son isn’t above anyone. He certainly isn’t superior to hard working cashiers and retail clerks who support themselves, raise families and live full lives, while your little snowflake hides under his bed, waiting for mommy to make him hot cocoa and tell him he’s special.

News flash, Nick: Junior ain’t special. He graduated school, good for him. Anyone can do that if they’ve got money, time and no pressures or responsibilities from the outside world. Your precious pumpkin doesn’t “deserve” a job. I wouldn’t hire him to dig a ditch, much less take on serious tasks of any kind. You can spend your whole life telling everyone what you and your son deserve, meanwhile the rest of us will be out in the world, earning, striving, accomplishing, living.

Nick, it’s somewhat peculiar that you chose to end your email by chastising me for not having “life experiences.” I’m two years younger than Nick Jr and I’m married with two kids. I’ve got a career in broadcasting and goals for the future that I’m steadily working toward achieving. I’m not exactly at the point where I’ve got enough material to write my memoirs, but I’ll get there one day. In any case, you, my friend, need to take that “life experiences” lecture and bring it home to the pudgy couch potato sleeping in your basement.

Thanks for the email.

God speed,


**This is a re-post from July 17, 2013. I’ll be back to writing new blog entries this Monday, September 23rd.

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244 Responses to My child is gifted. He’s also 29, unemployed, and living in my basement.

  1. Eric says:

    The part about the astronaut parents was awesome. It just was

  2. amera says:

    Sometimes I get upset when my dad uses my achievements to highlight his wonderful parenting. I’m the black sheep in the family and by some unforeseen slew of events I ended up being more successful than my anyone in my family.

    My sister on the other hand, is living with our dad and is pregnant with a deadbeat dad who’s boinking someone else when she’s about ready to pop. I always feels like a narrowly avoided that fate.

    I do attribute my success to a decision my dad made which was to allow other people to influence my life and provide me guidance. My sister’s therapist recommended enrolling us in the Big Brothers Big Sisters. I ended up with an amazing pair of women who encouraged me and continually highlighted how capable I was. They also encouraged me to trust in myself instead of believing my father was always right…….

    • Blue8 says:

      If you don’t teach work ethic, how in the world will they know what it is? Sports and other pursuits help to teach these things. Working during school and being responsible were expected in my house. Chores were mandatory as my parents worked a neighbours farm to make ends meet on top of their regular jobs. Jobs “menial” or not are jobs and they look good on a resume. NO job means you don’t know how to manage your time or communicate with others. These skills are learned over time. At 29 in this century you should have had a few jobs, this give you skills to fall back on.

  3. If an adult is waiting for the “right job” to start working, odds are they will have no idea how to work to keep that job. I am witnessing exactly that right now in our family business. My husband, as the oldest son, worked his tail off to build a business opportunity provided by his father. His younger brother, however, who, at the age of 27, was given $60,000 and the chance to run a division of the nearly $1,000,000 company, has completely squandered it. He felt entitled to a salary he didn’t work for and a title he didn’t want to put in the hours for. He spends most of his spare time playing video games rather than looking for ways to grow and improve the business. Now he is facing bankruptcy and firing. He had never been taught to stand on his own or what a good work ethic is. His laziness and sense of entitlement has tanked his golden opportunity and, more than that, threatened to destroy family relationships. His father now sadly regrets the cushy teen and early 20 years he provided, a time when he should have been teaching his son how to work.

  4. cass says:


  5. Brit says:

    I was a little nervous to read this post because of the position I am in right now. I’ve been hurt by judgmental comments to our family and didn’t want to be hurt again. However, I completely agree with your post.

    My husband and I (along with our 4 young children) are currently living in my in-laws basement. This has been the hardest most humiliating time of our lives (we are only 26 and 30). My husband lost his job over 2 years ago. We were able to live off of our savings for over a year, but after not having enough income we had no option but to move in with family or in a shelter. My husband has a degree and had a great paying job. We have been living here for over a year, but every day we are actively pursuing a better paying job for my husband that can support our family. I can not believe what he said about a job his son “deserves.” Talk about entitlement! My husband found a job, but unfortunately it is low paying and doesn’t support our family to live on. However, it does pay for gas, cell phone, food, car insurance and health insurance. He is now making in one month what he used to make in a week, but it is still a job and I’m thankful for a hard working husband where no job is below him.

    I’m confident God will provide a more lucrative job for my husband, and in the mean time he is teaching and growing us in our character and faith. It’s not easy to live with family when you have a family! It’s also humbling to ignore judgmental comments about the position we are in.

    • Erika Woods says:

      Life is hard Brit and shit does happen. You guys keep it up and something better will come around.

    • Chrissy says:

      There’s a huge difference between being affected by the current economy and job losses, and never having gotten a job, always relying on handouts, having no work ethic, and having a huge sense of entitlement. You and your husband are trying to do the right thing, and thankfully you have a supportive family who can help you through this challenging time. Hang in there, and keep the faith. God doesn’t always give us what we want, but he always provides what we need!

    • Lisa Reynoso says:

      You know, your husband’s resume will look better for having worked, even at a low-paying job, than that 29-year-old jerk’s will who is waiting for a job worthy of him. Good for your husband!

    • Jan says:

      I think that is wonderful that your husband is working a job that is probably beneath him. Have you considered getting a job also?

      • Lori says:

        She does have a job. Caring for their four young children. This is a full time job, which is why if they found some one else to do it, they would need to employ that person.

    • Boone says:

      I have a number of friends and family in job recruiting and upper management who lament on the people who don’t work menial jobs in their time of unemployment. To your husband’s credit he is doing what he can. When looking at resumes the biggest eye sore is the long term unemployment. The biggest question asked is ‘why wasn’t that person working?’ It is generally thought because they cannot or will not. Your husband won’t have that problem. In addition, your family is doing what they are supposed to so be proud that you have that.

  6. Ted Rocker says:

    Exactly. Gifted kids with no hustle are a dime a dozen,

  7. Becky Lyons says:

    Well the good news for Nick Sr. is that while he coddles his son and eventually turns him into an unmotivated and unhealthy mooch, we will all take over the responsibility of caring for Nick Jr. Whew!! Don’t worry Daddy theres YOUR silver- lining.

  8. Sophie says:

    This was great Matt! I wish I could read Nick’s response!

  9. Steve Csepiga says:

    I read this grinning ear to ear the whole time. Well said!

  10. Laura says:

    You are my new parenting hero! I pay crap for my kids to do extra chores around the house when they want to earn money. I won’t give them a 5 dollar bill for emptying the garbage (if it isn’t on their chore list for the day). I can take it out for free, or I can give you a quarter…you choose. Teaching them that working for many small payments gets the total you want, and you learn to work…that is my goal here. What will happen if I overpay them at home for lame jobs when they get an actual job? Your boss won’t give you a bonus for emptying the trash…you do it because it is part of your job responsibilities, and you get an hourly paycheck. I can empty a lot of garbage’s in an hour. So tired of parents teaching their kids to feel entitled,and not helping them prepare for the real world.

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  13. Tracy Burchfield says:

    “Children must be taught HOW to think, not what to think”. Margaret Mead
    I LOVE your blog, Matt! Keep up the great work and best wishes to you in your career and with your young family.

  14. Lyd says:

    SOO good and 100% true. Nick sounds like a douche bag dad.

  15. SandraB says:

    Please tell me that Nick’s letter was made up. I just don’t want to believe that someone is THAT ignorant!

  16. David says:

    My only concern is that there are people in their late 20’s who cannot find work. I went to school and worked in menial jobs all through college. (student worker, tutoring etc). I got out with my MA degree, and had to take an internship making $10 an hour (after I begged and kept bugging the HR director)! My “raise” when I was granted a full time position was $12. I have spent the last 10 months looking for other jobs (applying to anywhere from 15-30 jobs per week)…with a grand total of interviewing with 4 companies. Yes..4. I have work experience, the education, etc. Finding jobs now is extremely difficult. Large cities or states where unemployment is high (such as my own) only compound the problem. While I sympathize with the dad, I think that you as an author don’t realize that service jobs are not given to college students in some places. I applied to numerous places (wal-mart, target, costco, cost-plus, a grocery store cleaner, etc) and received NO callbacks for service positions. So perhaps the father is right in this, what is the point of applying? His motives may be wrong, but those jobs are not given to college educated individuals anymore. There are simply too many job seekers. My friends who have BA’s tried to apply to positions in the mall, none of them were called back either. While I do think the dad should expect his son to look for work, perhaps there are no “menial” jobs he can even take in the meantime. I was extremely fortunate to find the one I took~the menial labor is going by the wayside as well. Employers are looking for specific skills, they want a magical person who can fulfill every single requirement and that they don’t have to train at all.

    • eric says:

      your problem is you are looking where there is no work. there are places in this country where unemployment is 3-4%. that 3-4% are people who are lazy or otherwise unemployable, the employers here are struggling to find people who are willing to work, not just show up and collect a paycheck.

      • eric says:

        also what is your major, did you actually pursue training that would lead to a career? Or are you one of those English Lit majors who think that major will get you anywhere.

      • Caitlin says:

        Move to Oklahoma! We have more positions available than you can imagine! If you’re not working here, then you don’t want to! Our unemployment is low and so is our cost of living!

    • Bobbie says:

      Tweak your resume when you apply. Since you worked all through school anyway, just leave the school part out. Get in, let them get to know you and like your work ethic and then apply for something higher up the food chain. Put that schooling on your resume when it will get you that job – take it off if it won’t. Once you’re in, you can tell them you have more schooling and why you didn’t say before. The trick is to get in there and get a positive reputation first.

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  18. Amanda says:

    Well almost 29 and living home with his parents isn’t a bad thing I say. And if he’s single I’m interested 🙂

    • Vicki says:

      You did notice unemployed right? Trust me on this one, you are not interested unless you want the most expensive and annoying pet ever. More work than raising a child with none of the joy! TRUST ME! I have been there. Find a real man, they ARE out there.

  19. Kami says:

    That was awesome! I have to say that I was smiling all the way through your message to Mr. Enabler. I have had a son move back home after his divorce and while he was working full-time and attending college full-time. However, he paid rent and pitched in for the ‘temporary’ time he was here. There comes a point when those apron strings need to be cut and you just need to let your kids succeed or fail on their own, but it starts when they are small, not in their twenties. The warped concept that this guy is waiting for some special job cracks me up as a mother of six. During that time his brain will turn to mush and he will continue expecting some kind of ‘hand-out’ from society for the ‘special’ kind of kid he is, all thanks to his parents. Reality check!!! There isn’t anything special about anybody that sits on a couch, in their parents basement, who is not actively looking for the opportunity to work. The value is in the work, not in what type of work. And each job is a stepping stone to another. It’s called experience. The bummer is that this father is doing his adult son a great disservice by making him believe he is ‘special,’ and only deserves a certain type of work. The concept of settling comes to mind. Ironically, they are both settling for less. You can’t tell me an employer is going to look at his resume and not ask what he’s been doing in between college and now. How is that conversation going to go? ‘Hmmm, well I spent my days and nights on Mom’s couch, in the basement, playing video games and watching trash.’ Yeah, that’s time well spent. Idiot. The most ridiculous thing of all is that these parents actually believe it is their ‘job’ to financially support their adult son while he goes to school. Let’s give them a nobel prize for training their son for the ‘entitlement’ lifestyle by enabling his behavior of laziness. Sigh! Oh, and since I may qualify with my ‘life experience,’ I’m going to give Nick some advice….Hey Mr. Enabler, your son does not become ‘special’ by sitting around doing absolutely nothing. If it walks like a duck or talks like a duck, it isn’t a cow. Do you really think you’ve shown any faith in your son by making him believe there is nothing out there for him. Stop making excuses for laziness.

  20. Andy says:

    Matt. THAT WAS AWESOME!!!!

  21. Wondering says:

    I would like to find statistical information on what college degrees are highest for unemployment (especially over the past few years)….does anyone know where that information is posted?

  22. Angela Moore says:

    I love this. Thank you.

  23. Jan says:

    If this guy has not worked and he is 29 years old, chances of him getting a job are slim to none. The part time jobs my daughters had in college were the key step in helping them get a job in their field when they graduated or actually one of them before she was still going to school. The gifted part is the free ride he’s getting. The free ride IS the gift.

  24. Dave says:

    You’re an asshole. But you’re right. And you’re funny.

  25. queenmummy says:

    Well Matt we don’t always see eye to eye on things, but this is one of the times we are looking through the same glasses! I have younger children and I work hard not to cripple their growth the way that the man in your article has done to his own son. I understand being supportive, proud and encouraging but there is also something called enabling which I think can be mistaken for all of these things.

    Enabling creates a sense of self entitlement which presents as bone idle, disrespectful, and playing the victim/martyr. None of these traits will translate into success or happiness period. How can one be happy or become fulfilled with a lack of accomplishment? We all need to feel that we have achieved something in this life, reached a goal, or touched the bar we have set for ourselves. I think sometimes parents get so caught up in how their child’s struggles will translate in the eyes of others as poor parenting that they overcompensate by taking over.

    When did things change? I remember being excited for my first job, making my own money and feeling ‘grown up’. Nowadays the youth that are working seem to be disinterested and disengaged regardless of the job they are LUCKY to have. They act as though it is a burden to do this menial task as opposed to all of the super social activities they could be doing (and most often turn the check outs or fast food counters into their own little social gathering where they indulge in conversations about how drunk they were last night or who’s dating who). I’m sure there are some out there that are responsible and respectful but I haven’t happened across them very often. Maybe parents should ask themselves what message they are sending with that fancy new car they bought junior or the bedroom full of indulgences that princess didn’t have to lift a fingernail for. No one appreciates what they have got or what it took to get it unless they have been in a position to have worked for it.

    I pray that my children make good choices and that they learn from their mistakes. I don’t believe their choices or failures will be a reflection of my parenting, their ability to make decisions and pick themselves back up after a fall, will. I think this listener missed your point entirely, you weren’t condemning parents ‘helping’ their kids, you were trying to highlight the difference between a hindrance and a help. To attack you as a parent or as a person was uncalled for and even if he did disagree with your topic there were more respectful ways to express that. Gifted or not a child needs direction, accountability and life experience. Absolute freedom is great for free range chickens but not so great for kids. If a grown MAN or WOMAN is living at home (and I don’t mean people who have had to return out of true hardship, that’s an entirely different thing) then they should be able to contribute and work toward that FREEDOM they desire.

  26. Gregzz says:

    This is amazing. I mean, you really ripped this asshole “Nick” a new one. His whole argument was flawed from the very beginning and he only further dug himself into a humiliating hole by describing the very parenting attributes that lead to their “gifted” son (who is, by the way, a full grown man/adult) to still be living with his parents! He is 29, that means he graduated about 7 years ago…and he STILL cannot find a job???? Bullshit, he just has NO WORK ETHIC because HIS PARENTS NEVER TAUGHT HIM THAT! I see this shit all the time, Mommy and Daddy pay for their child’s clothing, cars, college, give them a nice “allowance”; all so their kids can focus on their “education”. Well guess what? Most employers aren’t looking for someone who just has a piece of paper saying they graduated; they want a person with EXPERIENCE!. It doesn’t necessarily need to be in the same field, but to show that the candidate has worked and had responsibilities in a work environment. It’s amazing how entitled people can think they or their kids are, it’s almost to the point of being delusional. Your kid doesn’t “deserve” anything, they need to work for it. Whether that means cleaning dishes, taking dinner orders or ringing up merchandise; these all are indicators that this person knows how to work. “Well you know how the job market is these days”, to that I say “BULLSHIT!”. Sorry, but I graduated college in 2010. I have had a job since I was 14 and worked around the neighborhood doing yard work since I was 10. I worked in high school, I worked while I was attending college, and I continued to work the country club job as a server I had while in college after I graduated until I was hired by a major company, 5 months after I graduated (all the while I was living on my own, paying rent with the money I made working my job at a Country Club ). It was a contract job, but I accepted and I had my contract extended twice before finding a permanent position within the company-The position wasn’t a job extremely related to my major; but I took it anyway. These parents are idiots and have no idea how to raise a child (as evident by their son still living with his parents), parents need to let kids learn lessons on their own, not cushion them from the harshness of reality. They need to instill structure in their children’s life that will help them succeed in a demanding world. All I can say is this: I feel sorry for the kid/man-child that this douche raised.

  27. Zach says:

    Matt, you made that e-mail up. I know you won’t admit to it publicly or anything, but punch yourself in the stomach or perform some kind of act of self-flagellation to punish yourself for this. Try not to be so pathetic in the future, and don’t link this to anyone you know IRL – it’s very transparently phony.

  28. bob says:

    This was great, Matt! Thanks for taking the time and thought to put this together. I worked hard outside of school while working hard at school just to get through. I also actually had talked to my younger brother today about working the job you have and moving up. How can people expect to be noticed for the “worthy” job if they aren’t out there doing what’s expected of them now? It’s so simple, but people have just accepted what they hear without thinking it through to real life. It’s also Scriptural, which would obviously mean it’s factual. God says that he which was faithful in the least, was given much. We all have to start somewhere, buddy! Thanks Again!

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