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I'm living in a patchwork family and this question is about my 15 years old stepbrother. He is about to decide for an apprenticeship but the problem is that he doesn't show any particular interests towards what he signed up for. He mostly takes the suggestions from his dad and halfheartedly applies there (at the moment he's signed up to get an apprenticeship for business informatics).

To his personality and skills: He is a very silent person; during meals (we are 7 people) he never initiates a conversation and if asked a question he responds with a slightly awkward, growling voice and never tries to continue the conversation. He's not very skilled with his hands or possesses good fine motor skills. He had to ask his dad multiple times for clarification when cooking ramen noodles. His only interest I can identify is playing video games.

Me and my mom (not his mom) have discussed this many times and none of us could come up with anything he might be interested in so I think it is up to him to identify his interests. But since he also doesn't actively try to find something he's interested in, what are things me and my family could do to motivate him to do so?

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    This is a total shot in the dark, so I doubt it is a full answer but: Perhaps he is good with animals? Various services for pets may appeal to him! Or he may be a gardener! It sounds to me like he may be tied to computer-games, yes, but be seeking to something more natural that does not involve people. People are complicated and hard after all! – Layna Jan 22 '18 at 13:06
  • Maybe look at what kind of games he likes to play for ideas? Video games many times encourage problem solving skills, so something that employs those kinds of skills. If he likes things like SimCity, Minecraft, Terraria, etc. then maybe something like architecture or programming. Look at the skills used, not necessarily the subject matter. Many people like shooter type games, but would probably hate something like security or law enforcement. Guns in video games are not the same as guns in real life. – Becuzz Jan 22 '18 at 15:33
  • Although you wouldn't believe it on stackexchange, I'm also generally a silent person. I have no problems with silence, but I find conversations awkward. If he enjoys video games, he might enjoy the challenges of live broadcast videography. Check out your local community/cable TV provider, they are always looking for volunteers. The crew that I lead is mostly teens. – pojo-guy Jan 22 '18 at 23:24
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    I second pojo guy. I produced a tv show at local public access tv and learned a lot.... that said, why do you want to find something that interests him? I feel like that's an important detail you left out. what do you hope to accomplish? producing a tv show very similar to playing video games. – I wrestled a bear once. Jan 23 '18 at 2:59
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As a mom to two teenagers, I feel safe saying that you cannot make a teenager (boy or girl) become interested in something if he or she doesn't want to be interested. And trying to motivate your stepbrother could easily backfire; he might resist and/or resent any motivational strategies.

My advice is to give him some space and let him learn about himself and life at his own pace. Be there if he asks for help but otherwise let him be.

  • I agree with this. My expectation would be that once he loses somewhat his home safety net, then he will start trying to figure out “what he wants to do.” But a lot of kids are depressed as teens too, and I think most have to get past that before they can effectively direct their energy – MAA Jan 22 '18 at 20:19
  • I think there is value in your advice, but I'm particularly worried about the video games. Video games are an a potential addiction. In my county they actually have sent people to 1/2 way houses similar to drug addicts for video game addictions. Now, I'm only using that to make a point that more may be going on here. It is possible this kid has emotionally checked out or become addicted and some form of an intervention may be needed. Of course this is all speculation in this specific case, but it is not without precedent. – Adam Heeg Jan 22 '18 at 21:38
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How about getting him involved in some community activities or classes? Its hard to find new interests without trying things. Pick up a flyer for classes or volunteer activities at a local center and get him to pick one or two then pay for the class and enroll him. See if you can get him involved in really random classes and things. Some of these might be things you/family can do with him! (I'm going to randomly throw ideas out):

  • Parkour
  • Cooking
  • Electronics hobby
  • Sports (soccer, etc)
  • Volunteering at an animal shelter
  • Volunteering with kids
  • Swimming
  • Archery
  • Skateboarding
  • Martial arts
  • Photography
  • Art/drawing/digital design
  • Board games (see if you can find a local group of gamers that meets to play on a weekly/monthly basis)
  • Hiking/biking local trails
  • Bird watching
  • Stamp collecting (okay, maybe not - but think of random things! :) )

Also, try taking an interest in HIS thing. You said "video gaming" but video games are so incredibly diverse now. What does he play? Why? Single player? Multiplayer? Strategy/shooter/FPS/RTS/turn based/real-time/creative-type (terraria/Minecraft), etc. Does he like the challenge, the creativity, the quests, the adrenaline, the online community? Ask him what he likes about his favourite games. Ask him to teach you how to play! Taking a genuine interest in his "thing" and forming a better connection will help when you try to get him to go and do something with you.

Perhaps enrolling in the class or joining the community alongside him will help. Trying new things is embarrassing sometimes due to the clumsiness that comes with unfamiliar activites, but can be easier to start and more fun if a friend is alongside laughing and struggling with them.

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Sometimes it is less about what you want to do and more about what you don't want to do.

If possible it might help to get into a low level job. The fear of being stuck at McDonald's or Walmart has driven many teenagers to apply themselves in college.

As long as he is comfortable he will avoid facing the uncomfortable realities of being a responsible adult. Honestly, do you blame him? I don't think video games or types of video games has much to do with finding an interest as it does with blocking him from finding an interest.

Based on personal experience video games can be a distraction more than a hobby. Some people are willing to leech off others, even be homeless instead of deal with the difficulty of life. The process of getting 'into life' and to get motivated can take time, but with tough love it is possible.

What is tough love in my mind?

1) You love someone when they don't deserve it - that is tough
2) You teach them discipline and train them up even when they don't see the good you are doing them. But this requires definition 1 to be successful.

It is up to you to decide if this advice applies and how it will look in the life of those you care about.


Final Note:

As a final note I want to address the reality of Video Game Addiction. I have not read up a ton on the matter, so at this moment I will simply add some relevant links.

American Addiction Centers on Video Game Addiction

WebMD on Video Game Addiction

WHO close to recognizing Video Game Addiction

It’s clear that compulsive gaming, like compulsive gambling, uncontrollable drug use, or any other obsessive behavior, can be harmful.

Classification of Video Game Addiction

Most definitions of video game addiction refer to excessive play which results in negative emotional, social, relational, educational, or career - related consequences

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