I have 4 children. 2 of them are Karol’s kids, and so they are my “step children”, and 2 of them are my biological children. The “step kids” are 22 and 19. The bio kids are 17 and 15. So we have had some experience raising teens.
More and more I am seeing stories about teenagers and young adults who feel they are “entitled” to things. I read about Generation Y and how they feel as though society and their parents “owe” them jobs, opportunities, etc. They don’t feel they have to work for things.
Case in point the story I read in Huffington Post today about a mom who got into an argument with her son. He asked her what she had ever done for their family. He was complaining because their family was financially strapped and he blamed the mom because she is a writer and he asked her when she was going to get a “real” job. My first reaction when reading this post was, “Why did she stand there and allow her teenager to talk to her like that?” I know I would have sat my child down FAST and explained ad nauseum every thing I had done for him throughout his life, ad then pointed out everything I had bought for him that he didn’t “need”. How my obligation to him is to provide him with basic necessities and that anything else he gets is a GIFT!
Then I read an article about a teenager in New Jersey who sued, yes I said SUED her parents for college tuition. She claimed her parents kicked her out of her family home when she turned 18 and refused to pay tuition for her private high school and future college education. The parents claim she left of her own accord because she did not want to abide by their rules. Ok, so yes there is a little he said she said going on here, but in all actuality where does it say a parent is obligated to pay for a child’s college education??
I go to college at Old Dominion University. There are plenty of students there with parents who pay for their education, room and board. I have a friend whose daughter just send her the tuition bills and she just “takes care” of it. However, there are many many students who are working while going to school, and taking out loans they have no idea how they will pay back. In fact I took a statistics class last semester, and we had to have a “clicker” that we could use to answer questions on a powerpoint in class. These questions were worth extra credit points. The girl sitting next to me never answered the questions. When I asked her why she said she just couldn’t afford the clicker. She had been in another class with me and I knew she was working her way through school. I went to the book store and bought her a clicker and gave it to her the next class. She was so grateful she almost cried. She said she would pay me back, and I said, “No, just pay it forward. Someday when you are okay financially and you know someone needs some help, just help them. That is all the payback I need.”
However, there was also a girl in a lab class I had who said she always got A’s because she didn’t have to work. Her parents paid her tuition, and took out the loans for her. All she had to do was make good grades in school. What?? That girl bears NO accountability for her education. What kind of life skills is she learning? Just do a good job and someone will take care of you?? That is not reality. I read these articles and just shake my head. I hear the comments come out of the mouths of my college peers and I am appalled.
I know there are entitled teens out there. I know teens who are given cars for their 16th birthdays, or when they get their licenses. These teens don’t help pay for their insurance. Many teens I know don’t have jobs, and some parents I have spoken to have told me , “I don’t want my teen to have a job, all they need to do is work hard in school and get good grades.” Okay, so how does your teen learn about how to navigate a job? Or how to deal with a boss? Or even how to pay for their own things?
However, on the flip side, many of the parents I am friends with DO make their kids get jobs. They have their kids go to Community College so tuition is more affordable, and the young adults help with tuition. They make their kids pay their own phone bills, or car insurance, or pay for driving school.
But I am loathe to admit that more of the parents in my generation do NOT do these things. How do they expect their kids to be self sufficient or able to take car of themselves, or hell, even be grateful for what they get???? I want to say to them, “Do you know you are raising an entitled kid?” I worry about how these kids, (some of whom I know personally) will live their lives as adults. Will they understand they have to work hard to get the things they want? Will they just expect society as a whole to take care of them? Will they know what hard work looks like, what it feels like? Will they know how to deal with disappointment or rejection? We are not equipping our teens to be able to handle life on life’s terms if we don’t teach them how to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and keep trying. And we don’t teach them how to do that when we always pick them up when they fall and fix their problems for them.
Karol and I have always worked hard to try and give our kids the tools to be able to deal with situations on their own. We do provide guidance, but we don’t swoop in and fix everything for them. We help them with little things, but allow them to navigate their way through the big things with our advice (if they ask for it). They make mistakes. Our oldest son co-signed a loan for an unreliable person. His credit may be messed up for awhile when this person doesn’t pay the bill, but he has learned a valuable lesson about how to protect his credit and who he can and can’t trust. The second son has a job to pay for his own car insurance and phone bill. He does have a car (I put aside some child support money every month for a “car fund”), and recently when he was hit I made him deal with the insurance company and he had to pay the $200.00 deductible. (25% in savings helped with that) The youngest son at 15 has to pay for his expenses when he goes to Busch Gardens, and pays his phone bill. (He does get allowance for chores, but that stops when he turns 16 and can get a job). We only pay allowance up until age 16 in this house. If they want money they need to get a job!
I know in THIS household these are the rules:
1) If you want a phone, you need to be able to afford to pay the bill. If you can’t pay your phone bill, your phone gets turned in to the moms, or shut off on the Verizon website.
2) When you turn 16 you will get a job.
3) Which you will definitely need because in order to have a license in this house you will need to pay for your insurance.
4) Once you have a job you will put 25% of your earnings into a savings account so you have money for college, or emergencies.
5) If you can’t be grateful for what you are given, you will be given nothing.
All 4 of our kids know that we only have to provide them with shelter, food, medical and dental care, clothing, and school supplies. iPads, iPods, phones, cars, electronic gadgets and game systems, etc. are a gift that can be taken away at any moment.
Our kids do chores around the house for which they are not always paid, because they live in a family, and families are a community that needs to take out the trash, clean the kitchen, put away dishes, etc in order for the community to function. Being part of a community means working together to make your community be a place you actually want to live. Not a place filled with trash and dirty dishes.
So Karol and I are doing our part to raise self reliant, responsible, respectable, adults who know how to work for what they want. Of course they will have disappointments, and make mistakes. That is what being an adult is about, but hopefully we have given them the tools to be able to handle it, and know how to get it right the next time.
You are welcome society, for a few less entitled kids in the mix!