In Orange County, CA there is a lot of wealth. Many parents have the ability to provide their teenagers with things they as parents struggled to obtain. It is very common for me to counsel teens in my office and hear them talk about what kind of car they want for their 16th birthday. It is also normal for me to hear about how unfair it is that they don’t have the latest version of the iPhone. While some have jobs, very few seem to be required to pay for any of their own extras.
I think I understand where this type of thinking originates. It is easy to see how you could have gotten ahead more quickly if your parents had been able to give you an easy start. It is tempting to buy into the discussions about status that are constantly around you. You will really start to notice it when your teenager applies to college. Most of their friends apply to any private school or out of state school of their choosing. If they are accepted, then their parents will do whatever it takes to pay for it.
You have to ask yourself though, how much is too much? There is a very, very fine line between giving your children a head start, and creating entitlement. An entitled attitude actually leads to being farther behind in the long run because these kids don’t know how to work. Most of the time the consequences of entitlement don’t rear their ugly head until your child is an adult. By then it can be extremely difficult to change.
Don’t be afraid to tell your kids no. It is very beneficial for them to learn how to really contemplate whether what they want is worth working towards. When I was fifteen I showed some promise in a sport called field hockey. I told my parents I really thought I ought to have group private lessons like the other girls on my team. They told me I was welcome to do so…if I paid for it. When you’re making $5 per hour babysitting, suddenly $500 for 10 lessons doesn’t sound so good. Instead I took orange cones down to the park with another girl on the team and we practiced drills for a couple hours on Saturdays. There was a work-around to my situation; I improved at field hockey just as much as the girls who did the lessons. I also learned that things cost money, and that money costs time (a much more valuable lesson than becoming a better field hockey player). In my case it would have cost me 100 hours of babysitting, which was something I simply wasn’t willing to do. I’m sure it was hard for my parents to say no, but now I am so thankful they did (By the way, I didn’t stick with field hockey all that long anyhow).
The moral of this blog is that you have to be careful not to overindulge your kids. Overindulgence seems to be the thing to do around here, so you’re going to be weird if you say no. However, raising kids who have been given the opportunity to have the dignity of earning their own extras is better for them in the long run because they become self-sufficient, proud of themselves, and have reasonable expectations in life.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT