How often have parents heard that plea? Perhaps I should be a little more specific and ask, "How often have 20th or 21st century American parents heard that plea?" I’m not sure how common it is in other countries where there is and has been less affluence, so I will confine the question to Americans and, perhaps, Canadians.

Back to the subject at hand: Why do I ask this question? Because, I think this circumstance is indicative of modern families, who may have more money than wisdom. It is not uncommon for Mom to get a job, after the kids are mostly grown, so that often means there is an increase in household money. It happens about the time Junior learns to mount an effective petition. In fact, the latter follows the former as dependably as pimples follow double chocolate fudge sundaes!

Junior has a lot of expenses, and some of them are actually legitimate! And Oh, my, wouldn’t it be just great if Mom and/or Dad would underwrite them! As I have previously, and perhaps infamously, declared, teenage boys are 95 parts testosterone and foolishness and 5 parts good sense. Now, they don’t agree with me, but I stick to my position, and I defy anyone under the age of twenty to prove me wrong. The poor beleaguered parents of this world are nodding their heads so vigorously they are in danger of losing what few marbles they have succeeded in squirreling away during these trying years of parenting modern teens.

But I digress. Back to the discussion at hand: We modern parents have become patsies. The kids see us coming! Even worse, they have lived with us so long, they have our number! They know just how to get around our defenses. But are we being wise to let them get away with it? I’m not sure we are being wise, or even being kind. Sooner or later they will have to start living in a real world, and it is better for them if it happens sooner, rather than later.

Why do I say that? Because they have to learn how to handle money, and they have to learn that saving it is wiser than spending it. They have to learn how to differentiate their wants from their needs. Perhaps the hardest part for them to learn is that food, four or five articles of clothing and a roof to keep off the rain or four walls and a roof to keep out the cold are their only true essentials. Shoes are nice, but a large percentage of the world’s people have none. Soap is great and showers are better, but they won’t lose their lives if they have neither. Just ask GIs who have seen combat.

Unfortunately, American kids think McDonald’s is a necessity, or is it Burger King? And then there is that thing of movies every night. Neither is more than a modern luxury, and they must learn to finance their own luxuries, otherwise they will continue to think of them as necessities.
We parents can do this, and, for our kids sake, we must. By the time they leave home, they must be able to stand on their own two feet, but they never will, unless they learn the difference between necessities and luxuries. Teaching them is our job, and we must not abdicate that responsibility.

Muriel Sluyter

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