My wife and I are feeling like complete failures as parents, and are wondering just where we went wrong. As proud, liberal Democrats we have tried to raise our son to be a compassionate, caring human being. We thought we were doing everything right, but now - at age 15 - he has told us that he wants to join the Tea Party.
"Joey" has told us that we are too soft, always giving money to the United Way and other causes that assist the needy, and that money earned is money appreciated. He is making my poor wife cry and my blood boil the way he goes on and on about how if the less fortunate just developed "a work-ethic and sense of morality" they could all be fully-employed and "not sponging off of society".
Tazi-Kat, for us, the most difficult part of this issue is that we have always encouraged our son to be a free-thinker and to follow his heart regardless of what others will say. We support our son's right to free-thinking; we just cannot support his views in our home, but at the same time we do not wish to squelch his right to free speech. Do you have any advice to offer on how to handle this terrible muddle?
Voted for Obama...and Gore...and Clinton (Twice!)
Dear Voted For...:
Nobody has ever said that parenting is easy work - not even those who have never been parents. The job of raising a child to be a respectful, noble, and successful member of society is a difficult and sometimes thankless job, as you are discovering. At 15 years-old, your son is old enough to formulate his own opinions; but not old enough to be independent of his parents rule. This "muddle" you are in presents a wonderful opportunity for you as parents to teach your son compassion for others - and that money and jobs do not simply materialize out of want or need for them.
Since your son is still underage, the law requires that you provide him with nutritious food, clothing, and shelter. It does not, however, require that you provide him with snacks and other junk food teenagers like to eat. Nor does the law require you to buy your son expensive designer clothes. Do you see where this line of thinking is headed? Just because you must respect your son's views does not mean that you are required to support them.
I suggest that you sit down with your wife, and work out an accounting of your son's expenses. How much do you spend on designer jeans when plain-old Levi's will work just as well? Calculate the price differences between what will "work just fine" in your eyes and what will "work just fine" in his eyes. Tell him that from this point forward, the extra expense will be his to pay. If he cannot afford the additional money to purchase Sean John clothing than it looks like he will be wearing the latest fashions from J.C. Penney's Arizona Jeans Company.
If you wish, you can take this plan one step further by eliminating spending money for things like pizza with friends, popcorn and candy at the movies, video games, and other splurge items. If his allowance will not cover these expenses, you and your wife can offer him the opportunity to earn the necessary funds by completing additional chores. If increasing his allowance is not in your budget simply tell your son that you, as the employer, cannot authorize the "overtime expenses" and that he will have to seek extra employment elsewhere. For a 15-year-old boy, this usually means mowing lawns, raking leaves, or shoveling snow - depending on the season.
Once this plan is implemented, your son may discover that his preferred lifestyle does not jive with his new-found political views on absolute self-sustainability...or you may discover that your son is truly committed to living out every aspect of his new-found political views. If the former occurs, do not pass up the opportunity to discuss with him the lessons learned. If the latter holds, you and your wife will have to work on accepting that this is who your son is and that his views - however odious you may find them - deserve respect; as would his industrious spirit.