Q: Is it wrong or unfair to remind a teen that while independence is great and you the parent are encouraging it, you, the parent, are paying for everything, or close to everything, so the teen has an obligation to at least listen to your views? I realize that this comes close to imposing an unchosen ‘duty’ on the teen’s part. On the other hand, it is (usually) the case that the teen is not paying for much, if anything.
A: What parents of teens should NOT do is lecture the teen that, “I take care of you, I gave you food and shelter, so you owe me.” Children do not ask to be born. They come into the world because of the choice the parents make to have them — and raise them. Helpless children are entitled to have food, shelter and a rational, nurturing environment that fosters intellectual growth. The rest is up to the child-turned-adult, starting in young adulthood (i.e. the teenage years). The teenager is in the wrong when he or she claims entitlement to the nicest things money can buy — that is, things that are desired but not needed to live. The parent, first of all, might not be able to afford them; even if the parent can afford something the teen wants, but does not actually need, the parent is not obliged to buy it. A sports car or a designer label, or the very latest iPod, are not entitlements. If the parent is able and willing to provide some of these optional things, then fine — but even then it should not be presented as an entitlement. It should be presented as, “I love you and I can afford to buy this for you; so I’m doing it.”
In order to be rational about this issue, parents must objectively distinguish between “want” and “need.” The teenager may claim that a “want” is actually a “need.” The parent must be prepared to inform the teenager that he or she is wrong. This won’t make the parent popular, but it will make for a more realistic and less entitled-feeling young adult. Unfortunately, many parents of teens do not take this approach. That’s why America has become a society filled with too many adults who feel entitled to whatever they want, a society headed by a politician and his band of thugs hell-bent on destroying our economic system in order to perpetuate this delusion for another few years. The parents who refuse to cave in, and who dare to treat their young adult children as if they are exactly that — young ADULTS — are among the unsung heroes of our society, with respect to family relations.