Thursday, December 10, 2009

Questions, Conundrums, and Puzzles

Yesterday four of my kids had meltdowns -- each specific to their own personalities. Ranging in age from 13-19, you would think that they would have moved beyond screaming defiant fits by now. I am grateful, however, that none of them moved to the point of seriously injuring anyone, though when the Ipod Shuffle, complete with charger, was thrown from 3 feet away, it did hurt the hand it hit. And a few items were damaged, but none of them were people. So we are making progress.

I'm again trying to discover a balance in my head between being merciful and gracious and teaching lessons about life my children, especially those who are young adults. The challenge I"m finding is that even when I explain my lack of willingness to purchase things they need if they are unwilling to chip in any of the money, they don't seem to be getting it. The attempts to make me feel guilty when they are unwilling to move a muscle to meet me halfway is intense. I don't disagree that they need some things. I don't disagree that good parents buy things for their children. But how are they to ever learn responsibility if they are allowed to get something for nothing when they are unemployed?

I'm sure that many of you have struggled with this same issue as your children have reached adulthood and it is difficult regardless of which side you find yourself erring. To err on the side of generosity can make parents feel like enablers and can make them resentful. To err on the side of love that is too tough results in damaged relationships and misunderstandings.

I usually toe the line well. But my current dilemma is bugging me and I'm not sure which way to go. I'd ask your advice about something specific, but I don't want to share too many facts about this individual as he has been complaining lately that I shouldn't "Make money off telling stories about my kids."

So what do you do when your adult children are asking for something that they do need, but that they have been unwilling to earn money to pay for and when they have had money they have spent it on foolish things?

How tough should love be?


Lindy said...

This is how we have handled it so far. If my "adult" child needs something but has been lazy,disrespectful and spending what cash he had on having fun,we will give him household jobs to "earn" the money for what he needs. If he refuses to do the jobs then we let him do without.I do not pay that child first. He has to do the work.
If my "adult" child is generally helpful and easy to be around and has had bad judgment on spending money I may go ahead and buy what they need and let them pay me back,or just buy it if it is the first time they've messed up.
If my grown child is making bad decisions,needs something,but isn't asking me for it,i.e. willing to take his lumps-I may just buy it no strings attached.(mercy)
In the end, I tend to help the kids who are trying but failing a lot more than I do the ones who are treating me and/or the family like crap. l said...

It sounds like they want something, and they need something, but in the end it wasn't very important to get that something. It also sounds like they are trying to make having that something more important to you than it was to them. So really, they want you to be more responsible for their needs than they are. I guess maybe having them do some specific chores around the house with professional results (no halfass pay for a halfass job) if they truly need something. That's a really hard one.

Sarah said...

Why not just give them the percentage of cost you think is fair? If the item costs 100., and you think paying 60% is fair, give them 60. Give cash, and ask for a receipt with the item clearly listed. Then the responsibility is on the individual to come up with the rest and follow through. You're helping but not doing it all. And you have a receipt to bring up when the 'child' comes whinging for more because he/she blew the money you gave on video games.
Just an idea.

nancy said...

I think it's important for kids to get the connection between work and money, as in earning it for things they want. The world isn't going to give them anything for free, so it's good preparation for adulthood. It didn't take long for our newest college coed to learn quickly how much things cost in the "real world". However, as you say, we also want to extend grace and show love to our kids, so sometimes they get something they didn't ask for, as God blesses us that way, too. That's when it's fun to take a coed to the grocery store and fill their pantry. Talk about renewed appreciation!

I think in the end, if a kid expects it, it's time for some "life lessons". I also think it's important for kids to learn that they don't need nearly what they think they do. Other kids have that stuff...our family? Not going to buy most of it. Why not? We need to be responsible to God with what He's blessed us with. We're trying to teach them that God doesn't bless us financially so we can spend it on ourselves, which is so contrary to what our culture teaches. No better time to think about that than at Christmas, though that's the time it's fun to surprise. So many in the world have so little, spending much of their lives just trying to survive. Our kids sometimes have felt pretty "left out" in this age of technology and entertainment, but in the long run...I think we're doing them a favor. I won't even get into what it teaches about how to entertain yourself without electronic stimulation...don't get me started, even if there is such a thing as "Christian rap"! I think we often compromise and don't give our kids the best, short-changing them in a lot of ways. I realize that living on the farm makes it easier for them to find alternate forms of entertainment, with the grove, a tree house, hay loft, and all the lathe swords you want to leave laying in the yard!

I'm sure you wanted my sermon, Claudia. In the end, we all have to be responsible to God for our finances, and I trust you and Bart consider these things, too.

Nancy, finally able to make it to the highway to go for milk and bread

FosterAbba said...

I'm not there yet with my 14-year-old daughter, but I'm already trying to take a tougher stance with the gimmes.

If my daughter were 18 and asking for something that she could have bought for herself if she'd only allocated her money differently, I think I'd leave it up to her to figure out how to pay for whatever it is she wanted.

There has to come a point where an adult child is responsible for themselves. My parents were pretty hard-nosed when I left the nest, and though it upset me at the time, it was the best thing they could have done for me.

I learned how to be a self-sufficient adult.

Lisa said...

Really tough spot. It would be hard to call. If my adult daughter needed something (as in coat, food, etc.) I would help her BUT this is a child that helps herself and wouldn't dream of asking unless it were really important. If she weren't willing to do her part then I probably wouldn't help unless it was life threatening.

I like the idea of chores as long as they were completed correctly, completely and with little hassle to me.

Then there is the other part of the equation. If the child has disabilities how much is enabling a disability.

Can't wait to hear what you figure out!

nancy said...

I used to use the "needs, wants, desires" test w/my oppositional, defiant, severe ADHD son. It was really hard even though I had pretty much used that method all his life. In these economic times one cannot fulfill all the "wants, desires" and the "needs" would be strictly defined.
Those were some really tough years for us - and we knew each other from birth on! He is doing well now, thank God.

Lisa said...

My 15 yo son still needs me to supply him with the "needs" of life - it's the law. I do not, however, buy him a single thing he "wants" anymore because of his blatant disrespect and his absolute refusal to help out our family at any level. He's basically a boarder in our home - without the perk of charging him rent. Until he makes the decision to change, this is the way it has to be. For Christmas we will be getting him a few fun things - no strings attached - but everything else will be replacement items for things he has destroyed (why? "I don't know") in the past few months. It has been a long time coming, but there is a distinct line between providing for your kids the necessities and enabling them to continue in their illogical, irresponsible behavior because mom and dad will just take care of it. I sound like such a hard-a## don't I? It's too bad tough love doesn't always work.

Jennie said...

reading Katherine Leslie's "coming to grips with attachment" I came across this: "our coaching job lasts at least until the child is 18 years of age at which point he can recommit to the team, quit the team or be let go by the team"

hope that helps!