Dear Margo: Just Say No

Have we spoiled our son rotten? Margo Howard’s advice

Just Say No

Dear Margo: I have no idea how it happened, but we’ve made a mess of raising our 18-year-old (although his older brother turned out fine). Up until a few years ago, we were very middle class people. My husband and I worked hard, paid our bills, got by with older cars, and saved for the kids’ college educations and our retirement. Fortunately, a few years ago, my husband’s career took off, and we could buy more luxuries, take nice family vacations, etc.

Suddenly, our younger son thinks we’re the Rockefellers. He’s become impossible, demanding money to go places, and when we say no, he becomes verbally abusive. Because he was too lazy during high school (despite having a high I.Q.), he couldn’t get into a decent college, so he goes to community college (where he is doing very well). Now he is furious because we were planning on giving him his father’s car rather than buying the $30,000 number he has his eye on. Oh, and his very part-time job does not even pay enough to cover gas, let alone insurance.

I know we could just turn off the cash, but at 18, I fear the damage has already been done. Will he ever have a clue, or will he be living with us, mooching off of us and demanding cash from us for the rest of our lives? –Hardly the Rockefellers

Dear Hard: He will not be living with you, mooching and demanding cash if you don’t permit it. You and your husband need to have a sit-down with young Rockefeller and point out that his being 18 means you are no longer legally obligated to offer him room and board, an education, transportation, etc. Explain that an attitude adjustment is not only in order, but mandatory. Tell him the verbal abuse will no longer be tolerated, and if he expects to have any kind of a good life, he will have to do some serious work on his thinking and behavior.

Some damage may have been done by your aversion to saying “no,” but it’s not too late to scare him into acceptable behavior by not rewarding his demands by caving in. You have the power — not he. –Margo, strictly

When the Stories Don’t Quite Match Up

Dear Margo: My significant other and I have been participating in the protests that are in the news. On the day he went to man the booth at noon, we planned that I would join him at 3:00. He was not there. I called his cell many times, but the calls went straight to voicemail. I went home. At 6:15, he finally called and said he was home. I went to his place and questioned him about the circumstances. He said the battery in his phone died and he was at the booth for six hours without leaving it. (That in itself is unusual because he constantly has to visit the bathroom; plus, he wasn’t there at 3:00.) I was very upset and left, telling him I needed to go for a walk to calm down.

A few days later, we were talking with friends of his who said they had been there the same day and visited the booth, but they didn’t see him, either. I think he is lying about something, and it bothers me. I don’t know how to handle this. Please help me cope, move beyond it, or whatever. –Stuck in a Bad Place

Dear Stuck: You are clearly at an impasse with your S.O. when it comes to clearing up the mystery. I think of the old joke, “That’s one…” If a mysterious disappearance happens again, or if you have any inkling that he’s not leveling with you, then you can start to think seriously about whether you wish to continue with a guy whose word doesn’t mean anything. See where things go moving forward, and put the relationship on probation — without announcing that, of course. Time is your friend. –Margo, pragmatically

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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73 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Mary says:

    LW #1—Listen to Margo—-a little tough love is in order!

    • avatar Kathy Fisher says:

      LW#1: My gut tells me that, if he’s already exhibiting verbally abusive behavior, this could get extremely ugly without some outside help. It appears that you, unfortunately, missed the boat on setting healthy boundaries with your son when he was younger and more malleable, and I feel that unless new ones are set with the help of a neutral outsider, he will just continue to play the victim and lash out. I urge you to find a family counselor sooner than later and, if applicable, get your spiritual adviser involved asap.

      LW#2: The writing is on the wall. Liar, Liar, pants on fire….out ya’ go!

  2. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    lw1 – you have done the damage so reap the reward – or get a backbone and tell the brat that you made that the rules have changed.  You are the one who did this so you must be the one to undo it – post haste – before this child wreaks havoc on society with his attitude of the world owes me

    lw2 – face it – he lied – his friends proved that by telling you right in front of him that he was not there – either tell him to fess up or live with his lies – your choice

    • avatar Anais P says:

      On LW1, one way to undo it is to have him get his own place. He will soon learn all the things you do for him and may beg to come back — under YOUR rules, including no verbal abuse.

      On LW2, there is a third choice besides the two Kate Olsen mentions, and that is to break up with him. So far he has not come up with a plausible explanation for his absence. The friends and your own visit to the booth have blown a hole in his contention that he was there for six hours.  To me, lying is a definite deal-breaker. If it were me, I would “move beyond it” and take that third option.

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        But lying about what is just as important as lying.  Was he lying because he was cheating on her?  Or was he lying because he was setting up that surprise party/gift for her?  Context means alot.

        To suggest that any lie is a definite deal-breaker means that you are going to spend time alone or living in a delusion. 

        • avatar Lunita says:

          I won’t argue that any lie, at any time, is deal breaker, because that would be very black and white. But do you really think that he was lying for a “good” reason such as planning a party for her? If so, I doubt he’d let three hours go by before calling. Wouldn’t he have either not have agreed to meet her at that time or when he realized he couldn’t meet her, let her know that earlier on? I think we can reasonably assume something’s amiss. Either he wasn’t into manning the booth and was too chicken to admit it to her, or he was up to something sneaky, like cheating.

          • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

            Probably not.  But you are creating a straw man here.  I am responding to someone who says that any lie is a dealbreaker.

  3. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW #1:  Listen to Margo.  Regarding the verbal abuse…consider it the equivalent of a two year old saying *I hate you* when you tell him he cannot have candy for breakfast. If it escalates beyond decency, kick his ass out.  I doubt, once he knows he cannot manipulate you, it will come to that point. 

    LW#2:  Perhaps he isn’t as interested in the *cause* as you are and wanted to get away from your rally because it bored him to tears and he went home and took  a nap but doesn’t want to admit to you that protests that are in the news are not all that fun for him.  Lying is not good, however.  Tell him you know he lied, ask him why, and if you are not satisfied with the answer decide to stay or go.  I would wager the chances of him simply being sick of protesting a cause that is in the news and going home for peace and quiet are greater than him hooking up with another protester of a cause that has been in the news.  But, he lied and you are owed an explanation for the lie.   

    • avatar Chris Glass` says:

      The writer of Letter 2 seems to be the one in the driver seat of this relationship. It seems to me that she may need to look at her own behavior towards her SO. If she is calling too many of the shots assuming he will fall in place he might be trying to sneak time to find himself. He does not owe her a detailed explanation of his every waking moment. His job might hinge on staying out of the spotlight. She states that she is upset because he didn’t offer an explanation. It is time to grow up and realize that her friend may feel smothered.

      • avatar Anais P says:

        On LW2, there is nothing in the letter that indicates the LW is “in the driver’s seat” in the relationship. Of course he doesn’t owe the LW “a detailed explanation of his every waking moment,” but the two of them agreed to meet at a specified time. He most CERTAINLY owes her HONESTY instead of lies. She was at the booth to meet him as they both agreed and she saw he wasn’t there; yet he says he was there for six hours. He lied, and one wonders, why? The fact that he LIED is a huge red flag. IMHO, I think she should just break up with him. A liar is not worth the time or effort.

        • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

          Ridiculous.  She should break up with him for a lie when she does not know why he lied?  A liar would be worth the time if he was lying to cover his tracks for something good that he is not yet willing to reveal.   Such black/white positions are silly and naive. Further, if you have never lied before as an adult, then I think you need to reevaluate what you believe constitutes a lie because the definition is far too narrow.

          • avatar Anais P says:

            Well if he agreed to meet her at 3 and did not show up, that scenario how does that square with “covering his tracks for something good that he is not yet willing to reveal?” Why in the world did he agree to meet her, then not show up? There’s one – being inconsiderate — right there. Then he said he was there for six hours, when she knows it was a blatant lie — that’s two. Then the friends said they did not see him at the booth either. That’s three. He had his cell phone turned off and could not receive her calls. That’s four. He didn’t call to let her know he wouldn’t be there after all. That’s five. Honey, most umpires only give you THREE strikes. The “good thing” has yet to show itself, as the LW did not mention her birthday was coming up, she was expecting a ring and got it, etc. Sorry, but  you have not persuaded me. I still think she needs to get rid of an inconsiderate, lying boyfriend.

          • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

            I am not trying to persuade you, honey.  I am responding to your comment that lying is a dealbreaker regardless of circumstances.  He could very well be cheating on her.  Although your counting of lies/lack of consideration leaves much to be desired, he clearly has some things to answer for to her.

            You need to read a response a bit more closely next time.  I am not defending this guy.  I am telling you that YOUR position that was stated in YOUR words is silly and naive.

          • avatar Diagoras says:

            Why is it ridiculous? They aren’t married. If she wants a relationship based on trust, and she doesn’t trust him, then it’s perfectly reasonable to dump him. It’s not like he’s the last man in the world.

      • avatar Lunita says:

        I don’t understand these negative assumptions you are making about LW2 either. Where does the letter imply that she is “calling too many of the shots?” When you agree to meet someone at a specific place and time, don’t you offer them an explanation if you are then unable to make it? Whenever anyone–friend, significant other, husband/wife–makes a date with someone and then doesn’t show up, common courtesy and manners call for an explanation. And really, how hard is it these days with text messaging, phones with email access, etc., to let someone know you can’t be where you said you’d be at the appointed time? She has a right to be pissed.

  4. avatar crystalclear says:

    Margo’s advice to Letter One is right on the mark.   Seems young son has developed an “entitlement mentality.”   As Barney Fife always said, “Nip it Nip it Nip it!!!”   

    Letter Two disturbs me a bit because this couple seems to have a trust issue developing.   This falls under the heading of they may not be right for each other.   There may be a plausible explanation for his disappearance but until he fesses up it remains unfinished business.   The seed of doubt has been planted. 

  5. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    On Letter 1 – A friend in a similar situation told her daughter she could move out and pay her own way if she wasn’t happy. If she wanted to stay at home she would be expected to be part of the family with specific chores and accept what her parents felt they could afford to give her. They pointed out that retirement was looming ahead for them and this was their time to prepare for that reality. They also enrolled her in a financial management class. She is a well adjusted adult at this time.

  6. avatar Lila says:

    I don’t know that it’s too late for a wake-up call for the 18-year-old Rockefeller. I agree with Margo that a discussion on reality is needed, but not to “scare” him, just to INFORM him of the reality. Bottom line, you want to spend money, spend your own. Oh, right. You don’t earn any. But parents owe their kids more explanation than that… it’s called teaching… so here’s my checklist:

    1. Your Dad earned that money as an established adult. You need to go earn your own. We decide how to spend our money, you can decide how to spend yours.

    2. At 18, we have no obligation to support you but we will help you achieve important life goals like finishing college. You do not get to dictate the terms of our assistance to you.

    3. We recognize that despite your legal majority, you are still growing up. Because you have not yet shown sufficient self-reliance or understanding of finances, we are putting your inheritance into a trust to be managed by a lawyer. The expenses for managing the trust will come out of that trust, so this will reduce your total inheritance. That’s the price you pay for your immaturity if we pass away before you have a handle on things. The estate is currently worth $x, of which your portion would be $x/2. That amounts to y years of your Dad’s current salary, or z years of our current expenses. The trust is necessary to ensure you don’t blow everything your father has earned and saved, on an ill-considered car purchase.

    [This last bit is generally a wake-up call to the young and entitled. They often have no clue how much it costs to run a household… much less the car and insurance expenses… and have very over-inflated ideas of just what their parents have, and how far it will go. Or not.]

    • avatar Lila says:

      Oh, and PS on the verbal abuse: ask young Rockefeller how many people in the world he thinks are going to hand him free money for acting like a juvenile ass. Inform him you won’t tolerate it and such abuse is a sure-fire way to get the money spigot turned off completely.

  7. avatar Jrz Wrld says:

    I suggest requiring counseling for the young would-be Rockefeller. He’s 18, but he’s in your house and so should be playing by your rules – otherwise he can just go fend for himself (and I don’t think this would be a bad thing at all). It could be that he’s just spoiled, but irrational demands like that could indicate something more insidious. My friend’s brother has an undiagnosed mental illness and exhibits similar behaviors. He is verbally abusive when he does not get his way and frequently has grandiose or irrational expectations as to what he “deserves.” His parents are well-off but have been overly indulgent and just acceded to his whims – at this point he’s headed towards 35 never having held a real job, still having his every need met by his parents. And he is BRILLIANT – we’re talking genius-level IQ. Yet he has outrageous temper tantrums when he doesn’t get to open his Christmas present at the time he wants to do it. When his parents die, he will have no one. His sister certainly doesn’t want to take care of him, and he doesn’t know how to fend for himself. It’s really been a tragic and frustrating thing to watch from the sidelines – so many missteps and missed opportunities over the years in this guy’s life. So, if you want to do your kid any favors, learn to say no and set boundaries. And use what leverage you have now to get him evaluated. He could be a brat, or he could need some help with his wiring.

    • avatar Pdr de says:

      Thank you for suggesting that this young man may have some emotional/mental problems and needs to be evaluated. Over the years tragedies have been reported in the news whereby a son kills his parents after years of living off them and fighting with them while expecting them to cave in to his increasingly unreasonable, incessant demands.

      That this young man is verbally abusive is not okay! It is possible it’s a harbinger of more serious and dangerous behaviors to come. There are many good suggestions from readers today and Margo’s advice is right on! Hope the parents are willing to “bite the bullet” before things get worse.

  8. avatar ADunn524 says:

    For LW 1 – I realize that this is not the point of your letter, but I feel compelled to comment on the distinction you make between community college and a “decent” college. I earned an associate’s degree at a community college, and went on to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at well-respected private schools. I am now in the process of applying to PhD programs, and have spent the last several years teaching at the college level. I teach at both a “decent” four-year college and at a community college, and you know what? I greatly prefer the student body at the community college!

    Your son might be–whether he knows it or not–learning quite a bit about life by being a part of the community college environment. Had he gone off to a four-year private school, his entitlement would not have waned. (Trust me.) But at community college, he is hopefully making friends with people of varied ages who are working their way through school, have family and professional obligations, and know a lot about being responsible and independent. Take advantage of this and use the opportunity to start weaning him off of your wallet. He’s only 18; he’s hardly beyond redemption at this point. Be a parent and set some boundaries. You managed to do it with your first son, so you obviously know how.

  9. avatar Lisa Bonnice says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t know the old joke to which Margo refers?

    • avatar crystalclear says:

      Lisa, please share….I’m one who doesn’t know the old joke!

      • avatar Lisa Bonnice says:

        LOL! I’ll let you know as soon as I find out!

      • avatar Margo Howard says:

        Lisa Bonnice & crystalclear — here’s the joke. An old farmer with a dog and a bad temper tells the dog if he keeps up his bad behavior he’s not long for this world. He tells the dog he has only three chances. After the third “bad dog,” he shoots the dog. Then, his wife does something he doesn’t like and he says, “That’s one.” There are, of course, different versions of this joke, but the punchline is always: “That’s one…”

        • avatar Lisa Bonnice says:

          LOL! Thanks, Margo! It’s good to know you actually read the comments your posts gather. 😀

        • avatar crystalclear says:

          OKAY MARGO!    THAT’S TWO…..  hahaha    Thanks for sharing!

        • avatar Pdr de says:

          I heard a version where it involves a husband and his new wife riding in a carriage to their home the day of their wedding. The horse stumbles and the husband says, “That’s once!” The wife looks at him but doesn’t say anything. The horse stumbles again and the husband says, “That’s twice !” By now the wife is puzzled but says nothing. The horse stumbles a third time and the husband says, “That’s three times!” and gets out of the carriage goes up to the horse and shoots him.

          Horrified the wife says, “Why did you kill the horse? What’s wrong with you?” The husband looks her in the eye and says, “That’s once!”

          I would hardly call it funny but clearly remember when I heard it.

  10. avatar Paula M says:

    Speaking from experience (my husband had a major upward swing in terms of income about three years ago) I can totally relate to LW1. The kids notice that there is more $ floating around and automatically feel an entitlement to their ‘share’. We had to make it very clear to our children that while there was more to go around, it was our money and our choice as to which pot the $ went into. For example larger portions went into retirement savings, college savings, a third vehicle of OUR choice, etc. I simply communicated that it was OUR money, and when they make THEIR money and are self-supporting, they can spend it as they please. It sounds selfish, but it really isn’t. We are still helping them pay for college, car expenses etc.
    Your son’s laziness in HS is telling, but the fact that he is doing well at community college shows that he is not a lost cause. I would stress to him that unless he wants to flounder as an adult he needs to understand that life is about hard work, managing money, and maintaining healthy relationships with other people. What it is not about is part-time jobs where you get to spend all your money on yourself, and throwing tantrums and spouting verbal abuse when your don’t get your own way. In real life that will get you exactly nowhere. He will need an attitude adjustment, but at 18 I believe this is still possible.
    If this happened ‘suddenly’ as LW says, it could just be a phase and he is testing to see what will happen. I would not turn off the cash completely, but let it be known in very explicit language that you expect him to be a RESPECTFUL partner who contributes a reasonable amount of his time and money towards his own future. This will benefit both him and you. Speak positively and plainly. Parents do their children no favors by letting them ‘demand’ anything. I agree letting him mooch is the first step toward the rest of your lives.

    • avatar crystalclear says:

      Our job as parents is to produce a good citizen to go out into the world and make it on their own.   We do our children no favors by making life too easy while they are living at home.

  11. avatar P S says:

    LW1 – My oldest has been like your son. Expected handouts and a free ride, then became verbally abusive and put out when told no. She used to say she was going to refuse to go to college and just let Dad do everything for her… until he reminded her he’s not immortal so no, he can’t support her forever, and like it or not, as her guardian (she has autism) she will do what he tells her, including attend college.

    I finally had to tell her last summer I would not put up with her verbal abuse anymore. Her response was to scream and yell at me. I hung up and refused to call back. She did apologize but continues to have behavior problems.

    For those who might argue that her disability should get her leniency, she is high functioning and intelligent enough to grasp right from wrong. She also has no problem playing moral judge and jury toward others, can be nice when she wants, and has admitted resorting to the nasty behavior because she simply wants to win, so in my book she doesn’t get a free pass.

    She’s almost 20 now, still lives with her father because she’s still learning to be self-sufficient, but she’s slowly getting on her way. She’s kicking butt with her college courses and (at least I hope) learning to respect others more. I’m hoping she’ll gain the confidence down the road to say you know what, I really don’t need Dad to stand on my own two feet, and I really won’t die if I do this whole adult thing on my own.

    I guess my point is if my autistic daughter can learn to get along with others and control herself emotionally and socially, then there’s definitely no excuse for your son to act like a spoiled @$$. As others have said, sit him down and inform him he’s of legal age, that means you owe him NOTHING, that everything you do for him is out of generosity and love at this point. However, if he doesn’t knock it off and start living by the law of the land, you’ll pull those purse strings shut so tight and so fast it’ll take an act of God for them to ever open again for his sake.

    LW2 – Clearly he lied… why is anyone’s guess. Either way it sounds like it’s time to have a talk about it. He needs to understand that he’s setting himself up as someone you can’t trust unless he comes clean. IMHO that’s not unreasonable to think.

    If it was because he decided he’s done with the protests and just wanted to go home, he should be able to tell you that provided your relationship DOES contain enough trust, and provided you can give him a neutral and non-judgmental audience. In other words, if he’s not into the same causes as you anymore, no matter how strong your opinions are on this issue, don’t go medieval on him.

    If it’s on account of something else, then how you approach it will be up to the two of you. Either way it sounds like there’s a communication disconnect that you both need to address so this doesn’t happen again.

  12. avatar David Bolton says:

    Some observations for LW1:

    “I have no idea how it happened, but we’ve made a mess of raising our 18-year-old…Up until a few years ago, we were very middle class people.”

    You probably still are “middle class people.” I wonder where your son is getting the message that you aren’t—perhaps it’s from you.

    “My husband and I worked hard… and saved for the kids’ college educations and our retirement.”

    Mistake #1. Kids should ALWAYS pay for their own college from day 1. If you want to pay for books or give them so gas money—fine. Making them pay for college is one of the best ways to make them take it seriously and learn financial responsibility. You can offer your advice, but tell them it’s their decision to choose, apply, fill out financial aid forms, meet deadlines, get transcripts together and figure out what they want to major in and how they are going to pay for it. EVERY college-bound kid should have to do this, so that in 4 years you don’t have a jobless dependent in your basement who has a $100K debt for their degree in Medieval French Literature.

    “He’s become impossible, demanding money to go places, and when we say no, he becomes verbally abusive.”

    Mistake #2. Verbally abusive = As an adult I can choose to remove myself from this.

    “Because he was too lazy during high school he couldn’t get into a decent college, so he goes to community college…”

    Mistake #3. College performance is HIS problem. High school performance is YOUR problem. Perhaps he could have gotten into a “decent” college if you had established firm rules about academic expectations and worked together to achieve that goal. And if you did, then why weren’t they followed? School is not your child’s babysitter. Also, your disappointment and apparent distaste for where your son is going to school now is probably doing him no favors, by the way. Community college can be one of the best (and least expensive) ways to get a professional degree.

    “Now he is furious because we were planning on giving him his father’s car rather than buying the $30,000 number he has his eye on.”

    Mistake #4. Public transport is both cheap and efficient, and it’s a great way to save the environment. If you want to HELP (emphasis on HELP) buy your son something—HELP him buy a bike.

    “Oh, and his very part-time job does not even pay enough to cover gas, let alone insurance.”

    Mistake #5. Two words: wait tables. If your son is working anywhere for less than $12/hr, he’s wasting his time. And bikes don’t need gas or insurance (just a helmet and a lock!)

    “I know we could just turn off the cash…”

    MIstake #6. Then why haven’t you?

    “but at 18, I fear the damage has already been done.”

    Mistake #7. One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make is not allowing their child to grow up, face responsibility, and FALL FLAT ON THEIR FACE A TIME OR TWO. Your kid wants to be an adult. Let him.

    LW2: Well, the obvious thing that comes to mind is that he’s cheating. I guess he could also be uninterested in whatever cause the booth required. I guess it’s also plausible that his cell phone battery died. But it’s not plausible that he’s telling the truth—period. You were there and he was not, and your friends were there and he was not. (It is not plausible that he was invisible). To that end, I would look at his cell phone records and see if any calls were made when his phone was supposedly dead. If there were calls made—that’s two lies. To me, that’s enough to start planning an exit strategy.

    • avatar marsun57 says:

      Sorry David; but I just have to disagree with your mistake number 1: Children should ALWAYS pay for their college education. Um, no. My parents worked hard to pay for mine and my siblings education. They didn’t ask me to do this; but when I went to college, I paid for my books and if I dropped a class I paid my father back for the money he spent on the course. When our son went to college we paid for it. We told him that his job was to go to school and get his education. If he wanted to work, he would do it (and did) during the summers. When he decided he didn’t want to live in the dorm anymore, he saved his money to afford rent; utilities; etc. during the school year. We continued to pay for his education and gave him a little extra cash each month.

      When he told us during is sophomore year that he wanted to go to graduate school we explained to him that we would like to be able to support him; but the reality was we wanted to be able to have a nice retirement. If he wanted to go to grad school he would need to find a way to pay for it or find a school that would pay him to go. He is now a graduate teaching assistant; the only thing he pays for is lab fees. We co-signed his apartment lease for the last two years and until he got married we continued to give him extra cash (reduced amount).

      As for LW #1; Margo’s advice is spot on. The son needs a reality check and a good talking to. And the verbal abuse needs to stop – penalize the brat when he does so!

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I’m sure some people look at it as an investment—I think offering a kid a free ride at school is a recipe for disaster, especially since it usually comes at a time when adults should be saving and preparing for their own financial future. I see nothing wrong with helping your child get through school by taking on some of the load, such as books or some of the living expenses, or being there in case of an emergency. But continuing to pay for everything teaches a child nothing about financial or personal responsibility, other than “Dad/Mom will take care of it.”

        • avatar marsun57 says:

          We agree to disagree David. My son expressed a lot of guilt that he couldn’t help out more. Should we have made him work more? My husband and I remembered how hard it was to go to school and put in close to 40 hours a week at work. We both decided that wasn’t what we wanted for our child to go thru. We were able to do this for our son and choose to do so. Not all children who are helped out in the way we have helped our son (or were helped out as we were) go thru life with no financial or personal responsibility or the belief that their parents will take care of it.

        • avatar Lila says:

          I think kids do benefit from having to put their own money into their college education, but at the same time, a lot of them end up with enormous student loan debts. As part of their real-world financial education… and as a getting-started-in-life gift… I would try to come up with an arrangement that would help them avoid that debt, which can get quite large and can cause credit problems.

          Possibly parents could show the kids how much the tuition is, tell the kid to pay X amount according to his ability, and the parents make up the rest with the expectation that the kid will pay them back on a written, established plan. Being saddled with a debt to your parents is much better than being saddled with debt that appears on your credit report.

        • avatar Lunita says:

          “offering a kid a free ride at school is a recipe for disaster”

          Like marsun57, I must disagree with you David. Children can–and do–learn financial responsibility from their parents in many ways, and not just when their parents decide whether or not to finance their education. For example, as soon as we were old enough (16 in my state), my sisters and I were required to get summer jobs. I worked full-time every summer from the year I turned 16 through college at my dad’s work.

          My parents placed a very high priority on education for myself and my two older sisters; so much so that they paid for us to attend private schools all the way from elementary school through to high school even though they struggled for quite some time to do so. When we graduated and went to college (this was not an “if,” it was an expectation), they paid a substantial portion of the expense. I don’t know the details of my sisters’ educations, but in my case, I attended USC. SC gave me a scholarship for half of the tuition, my parents paid about a quarter of it, and financial aid covered the rest. No disaster occurred–all three of us are financially responsible and stable. Nor did we mooch off of our parents forever.

          If parents have consistently made financial and personal responsibility a priority for their children, helping to pay for the child’s education is not a “free ride.” But if they have spoiled the children in other ways as well, then the child(ren) will take the education–just like everything else they are given–for granted.

          • avatar bright eyes says:

            I’m on the fence about paying for your child’s college. If you can afford it – awesome!
            As long as the child knows the work and effort that goes into paying for college and they’re greatful for the education – it works out rather nicely. I feel if kids are just handed something without knowing what goes into getting it, sometimes they value it less. I have friends who wrecked 3 cars while a teenager – their parents kept buying cars… I had to pay for everything for my car and when it wasn’t working, I was lucky to get a ride to work. If I couldn’t get a ride – there was the bike in the garage.
            I have done that with my own child, he had to earn the money for a rather expensive toy. And he shocked everyone when he did. 5 years later that toy is still in good shape and hasn’t been lost or damaged.

        • avatar Diagoras says:


          I have to disagree about the car, although I guess it depends on where you live. But in many areas, esp. suburban ones (rather than city) employers require you to have your own car and that is becoming more and more common lately. Plus, as someone who didn’t have a car when I was young and didn’t learn to drive until I was 33, I can tell you that learning to drive later in life is much more difficult. Of course, that doesn’t mean parents have to buy cars for their kids. Most families have two vehicles so giving the kid access to but not ownership of one of them is reasonable.

      • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

        @marsun – NO WRONG. This is the same mindset that parents OWE their kid a really expensive wedding. Why should a parent put themselves in debt and jeopardize their retirement to put their kids through college? Most financial experts find this on par with the wedding thing. A way to wrangle yet more money out of the middle class for things that should not cost this. The more people who are willing to do this, the more poor retirees we will see, and the more entitled kids too. BAD ADVICE.

        • avatar Mimsy says:

          Because someone gives different advice than you does not make it wrong or bad. Don’t generalize.

    • avatar Drew Smith says:

      Dear David Bolton,

      Regarding your comment
      “You probably still are “middle class people.” I wonder where your son is getting the message that you aren’t—perhaps it’s from you.”

      What a bitchy thing to say! 🙂

      Seriously, I take back calling you bitchy (but if the shoe fits).

      In this case, the letter writer already acknowledges a mistake.

      And I respectfully disagree about a child paying for all of college. If my kid agrees that her part of the agreement is to do her best, that school is her full-time job, and delivers on that agreement with good grades in a degree that sets a path for the future, then I am fine with paying.

      It’s an agreement, and if she doesn’t live up to her part, I am not obligated to continue paying.

      This is just one example of how a kid can learn responsibility through this experience, I am sure there are many others and one size NEVER fits all.

      • avatar Mimsy says:

        Randomly noticed this comment as I went to post mine:

        “Seriously, I take back calling you bitchy. (but if the shoe fits)”

        Then no, you’re not taking it back. 😛 That’s like telling someone “I’m sorry if you got offended.” or “I’m sorry I was rude, but….” both of which aren’t apologies at all.

    • avatar Mimsy says:

      Where on earth is an 18 year old going to find a part time job that pays 12 dollars an hour? He doesn’t have a degree and he can’t work full time if he’s in college. In this part of the country, you can’t find any sort of college-appropriate job (other than the ones the police will pick you up for) that pays more than 8.50.

      Also, it is not so easy to walk away from verbal abuse, especially if you live in the same house. Often the abuser will follow you from room to room, and if you shut a door in their face, will stand at the door and scream.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        “Where on earth is an 18 year old going to find a part time job that pays 12 dollars an hour?”

        I live in Nashville and most Targets, Walmarts, fast food restaurants, etc pay at least $12/hr, and still can’t find enough kids to fill positions. Starbucks offers free benefits for part-timers. Waiting tables/bussing pays a minimum of $12-15/hr after tips, as does most lawnwork. There’s also painting, cleaning, landscaping, babysitting, lifeguarding, etc. If he’s smart, he could tutor, or possibly get a paid internship in whatever field he’s interested in. Besides, if the father has an upper-level job making good money—he’s certainly got contacts who need unskilled labor. There’s always work to be found—it’s just finding the people who want to do it.

        And as far as the verbal abuse—his mother needs to realize who the parent is in this relationship. If I had a kid following me from room to room screaming at me—they’d follow me to the closet as I got a suitcase, and then to their bedroom as I packed them some clothes, and then to the front door as I handed them their suitcase and told them to return when and only when they learned to maintain some control over their mouth. I have a feeling they would shut up then.

        • avatar Mimsy says:

          Ah, your state pays far better than good old Kansas. If you make more than 9 dollars at a fast food restaurant, you’re probably the store manager. Wally world only offers 8.15. But my data’s from six months ago, it might have changed. Still, if he’s in school, his job should be to go to school and get an education, especially if his parents are footing the bill.

          If he’s crossed the line into verbal abuse, then he is an abuser. You may feel comfortable with packing his things, but then I am assuming from your name that you are male. If his mother is the letter writer, and the son is a great deal larger than she, she may feel differently. Intimidation is half of verbal abuse, and she will need back up if things have gone as far as she says. Apparently he’s tramped over the line so many times he no longer sees one, and it is a small jump from verbal abuse to physical. Better safe than sorry.

        • avatar Alicia Burchett says:

          Nashville pays better than Colorado Springs too because here you would be lucky to get $8/hr at wal-mart or fast food restaurants.  What is more,  my 17 year old and my 18 year old who are both very responsible and conciencious cannot seem to get a call back for an interview any where right now. 

  13. avatar Linda Myers says:

    Largely, the 20 and under generation we have now lacks respect or the knowledge of it. They are raised with positives, which is not a minus – though when taking it over the line it is met as being “inappropriate behavior” and they continue. Strong discipline is a time out they endure knowing all past behavior is forgiven and repeated. They learn to command rather than request – and are treated as royals by subjective parents. They make their own rules.

    There are many who do not follow this behavior and are the minority. Spanking, slapping hands or any discipline beyond talking is considered capital punishment and unheard of. Being 18, this young man would either be given my rules or booted. Period. Let him spend some time in a world where his rules are not the doctrine. Cold, hungry and an ass kicking from someone who does not tolerate him might straighten him out. Super Nanny taught how to raise the little ones, have her come back and figure out the outcome. Tired of brats.

    • avatar Lila says:

      And this is one of the many reasons I am not a parent, and have NO regrets. I would be thrown in jail SO fast if I had kids.

      • avatar Chris Glass` says:

        No you wouldn’t Lila. you would never let these situations develop to begin with. Our kids attended enrichment classes and did volunteer work so they could appreciate what they had. After working with physically and mentally handicapped individuals they were grateful for an education.

  14. avatar Hannah Smith says:

    As someone whose parents paid for college, let me say this: I am now a fully functioning, financially stable adult with a full-time job, health insurance, a car I own, car insurance, an apartment I’ve never once missed rent on, and bills I’ve never once missed paying (or paid more than a week after receiving them). Oh, and I have no debt on ANY credit cards. Of which I own one with an under-$5,000 balance that I pay on time every month. Show me any adult who’s more financially responsible. The fact is, it has less to do with a specific, absolute law like “ALL kids should pay for college” (mine was in the realm of $50,000/yr – show me a kid at 18 who can get a job that pays that well; and, by the way, my first job was at 12) – and more to do with parents teaching responsibility. Chores as a requirement, making homework a structured event wherein the child completes it his or her self before being allowed any play-time, making family time more important than TV/video games, and taking a genuine interest in his or her development as a moral, responsible, respectful, and kind human being. Yes, that takes work. But I don’t think that every kid should be painted with a brush that says “ONLY if you make them pay for college WILL they become responsible financially.” The causation just isn’t there.

    That said, I have known MANY spoiled (financially) kids whose parents coddle them financially and in other ways. There’s a difference between “paying for college” and “doing your child’s homework,” “buying them a brand new car,” “replacing anything they break/lose/have stolen immediately with no consequences,” – it’s a matter of teaching consequence and responsibility, which CAN be done while still paying for college – particularly with good planning. My parents are NOT wealthy, but planned for my schooling before I was born. I learned from their example and instruction that my education took 18 years to raise funding for. I honor that every day by being frugal and responsible.

    • avatar Hannah Smith says:

      That was @David Bolton 🙂

      • avatar Drew Smith says:

        To Hannah regarding “@David Bolton”

        Well Said!

        I took on loans and worked in the Summer to put myself through school and STILL partied my way through college. I rarely attended classes but managed to get a college degree.

        Today, I’m a Marketing Director at a Fortune 500 company, not bad I would say.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          Fair enough, but I bet if your son or daughter were attending school that you paid for and they partied all the time instead of going to class—you’d be furious.

          Again, I don’t have a problem with giving a child some support while they’re attending school. And I’m sure that one size doesn’t fit every situation. Maybe a better plan would be to say: “You pay the first year and show that you’re serious about doing well—and then we’ll split the cost.” This puts the burden of proof of making it a worthwhile investment on them, plus it forces them to pick a college that they can actually afford. It’s also the opposite of what my mother did with my brother—she paid the first year, he partied the whole time, so she cut him off. He dropped out, having wasted enough money that one year to pay for my entire degree.

          The problem with higher education today is that many schools are essentially diploma mills—offering esoteric degrees that are worthless, and charging a fortune for them. If I’m going to spend $80-100K (the current average range for a 4-year degree), it better be on something that’s going to return that investment. Otherwise I’d give my kid the down payment on a house and say: “go think up another Facebook.”

          • avatar Hannah Smith says:

            Agreed that the investment needs to be returned with the respect that the degree is earned and the grades maintained (I maintained my grades at an A/A- average throughout the course of my schooling). I think that goes along with everything else, however – if you are able to raise a kid from the beginning to be responsible to their family and friends, to be a hard worker (again, I got my first job at 12, and maintained an A average throughout very demanding schooling), than I think it’s important to support that history with a certain amount of faith. Should that not be kept up, then, of course, insist that the kid in question pay their way if they wish to continue; the money shouldn’t be thrown away, and I completely support the idea that the student should work hard (learning disabilities notwithstanding) to the best of their ability and maintain a standard. That said, I did not go to a heavy party school, and I think it’s a big problem that parents with children who are already irresponsible think it’s totally ok to send their kid to a party school, and then get upset when their child shows up drunk half the time and skips all his/her classes. That, to me, is inappropriate behavior and deserves repercussions. I just don’t see it as a catchall that describes any and all kids whose parents pay for their schooling.

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      I agree with that – if the parents teach their children to value their education – then go ahead and pay for it. And you’re right – there are no absolutes with children – there is plenty of gray area. There is no guarantee that by paying for a child’s education they’ll end up a productive member of society. I’m seeing that in my own family right now – some are greatful for any help they recieve (financially or otherwise) while others feel they’re entitled. 

  15. avatar Hannah Smith says:

    Agree, almost completely. Corporal punishment has been shown in nearly every study to lead to anger and violence issues, however. Starting a kid off YOUNG with real consequences (no, you can’t play with your toys until your bed is made; no, you may not watch tv after that outburst; you have time out in your room alone without your games or going over to your friends’ house) – there are real ways to teach discipline and raise a kid right. It doesn’t have to – and shouldn’t – require hitting them. It also shouldn’t start at 18. Starting the minute they’re born can lead to a healthy, happy, well-adjusted kid who honors their elders and all others with respect and can become a productive member of society. I like your solution here, though – kick him out. A legal adult should be able to provide for themself if need be.

    • avatar Hannah Smith says:

      And…@Linda Meyers. Wow, my browser’s really playing with me today!! 🙂 🙂

    • avatar Phillip Koons says:

      I disagree on corporal punishment. I think there are situations that warrant it.

      I gotta be honest…my dad was overly strict and was fond of the belt. I was far more respectful and mature than my peers and easily realized that my actions produce consequences…my sister was much the same way. Now while I don’t think it should be the first form of punishment attempted, I do think there are situations that warrant it.

      PS…I’m a pretty passive person and have never had anger or violence issues as a result of it.

      • avatar Phillip Koons says:

        That being said….18 is a bit late for corporal punishment nonetheless. I think Margo’s message is right on. Parents just need to be forward with him…lay down the rules, the consequences and let him decide. Parents HAVE to follow through if it doesn’t go over well (which seems to be difficult for some).

        • avatar Hannah Smith says:

          As I think I stated above in my other comment, I don’t see the swath being fully painted for every child. There are perhaps some children who do react better to corporal punishment in the moment, though I would wonder about their later development. I’ve seen no scientific data to support that, but it doesn’t mean it’s not the case (personal experience, unfortunately, is not a scientifically valid basis from which to form a conclusion). In fact, your statement clearly shows that you have grown up thinking that violence towards children is warranted, likely a direct result of your having grown up with such. A study by Murray Straus, released in 2001, which analyzed a study group of 9,000 families, found that “children who are spanked…learn that love and violence can go hand in hand….A child can learn that hitting is “morally right.'” Children spanked are from 2 to 6 times more likely to be physically aggressive, to become juvenile delinquents, and later, as adults, to use physical violence, have sadomasochistic tendencies, and to suffer from depression. (can be found in _Beating the Devil out of Them_, Straus, 2001). Turning out “normal” and “well-adjusted” seems to be the exception to the rule (and you’ve clearly managed to turn out to be someone who thinks that violence is an acceptable method of punishment for children, so that part at least is consistent with said studies). That said, agreed that 18 is a bit late, and doesn’t seem to be a useful option here.

  16. avatar krista griffin says:

    LW#1- Have your older son (his brother) talk to him. Some kids are very resistant (especially at 18) to whatever Mom and Dad have to say. But a sibling can put things into perspective and has the ability of coming at them as more of a peer. I.E.Scenario 1- Mom: Don’t you dare speak to me that way. That is not how you were raised!! Son: I’ll talk however I want, I’m an adult now. You can’t rule me!! Scenario 2- Older brother-Dude, you sound like a jackass when you talk to mom like that. No wonder she doesn’t wanna help you pay for that video game. Son: Shut up. (thinks about it) LOL OK those were probably really stupid examples but it does make a difference.

  17. avatar Kathleen Hein says:

    L#2: Break up with him. Now. Not only does he lie about his whereabouts, didn’t answer his phone, stood you up, but he “constantly” has to use the bathroom? You don’t recognize the signs of a cheater when you see them? I’d bet a lot of money that his cellphone goes with him on all these bathroom breaks. You know the truth- you just don’t want to admit it to yourself. I did the same thing for years, until the other girlfriend got suspicious and followed him to my house and pounded on the door at 6 AM. He always had an excuse and a perfectly plausible explanation for all the little things I wondered about- but if I’d been honest with myself and had a little self-respect, I’d have admitted that I was being played. Do yourself and favor and don’t waste any more time on this loser.

  18. avatar Elizabeth L says:

    LW #1 First get ready to deal with the tantrums that will ensue and than it’s time to grow a backbone and tell your son the party is over and if he wants dad’s old care he needs to get a job that pays enough to cover gas and insurance if he becomes verbally abusive cut him off. Also I would change all the passwords to all bank accounts and limit his ability to get to your credit cards and start to monitor your credit.

    LW# 2 Tell your boy friend you know he lied ask him to be truthful and if he refuses walk.

  19. avatar Carib Island Girl says:

    My experience is that people only get away with what we let them. I mean really…..your kid that can barely support themselves is really going to cut ties with the parents who hold the safety net? If so, call the bluff and see how long it lasts. Why would you want that kind of person in your life anyway? They are bullying you and that does not speak well to how they were raised. It also does not bode well for any of your futures. NIP it now and teach them some manners for God’s sake.

  20. avatar Shirley T says:

    IF the money demands and verbal abuse came on “suddenly” as is stated in LW 1’s letter, has the subject of drug use/abuse been looked into?

  21. avatar krista griffin says:


  22. avatar darlean washington says:

    I actually felt myself lean forward and sigh when I read the first letter. My very best friend is going through this right now as we speak, but from a passive aggressive standpoint.

    It’s always hard to admit that you’ve created a monster, especially when you’ve spent two decades trying to do otherwise. We can’t blame the son too much when he’s had help.

    What I suggested to my best friend was to buy a big old dry erase board, some magnets, and to start posting the bills on it. Then, start cutting them to reasonable proportions. She began to ask her kid for 15% of the electric. When he said no, she cut his cell phone off and stopped cooking him dinner.

    For some reason, when you use the bills as a meter for responsibility, you transfer blame. It took a bit to take for my friend, but I think the concept is solid.

    Please, start taking note of every dollar he spends, you spend, and then sit down with the husband when you show him what he’s responsible for.

    Oh, and P.S. High IQs? Smart people are sometimes troubled. Be careful. Love him but know him.

  23. avatar A R says:

    LW1: I’d tell him that his sassy, rude attitude just cost him the used car. I’d explain that starting in June, the only cash he’ll have will be whatever he earns at his job, so plan for it. Moreover, I would be very clear that in order to continue to live with us, he would be required to: take a full load, pass each class, and keep a civil tongue in his head. Failure to do any of the above would result in a kick to the curb.

    LW2: I think one of them went to the wrong booth. Meanwhile who the hell microexamines how often their SO goes to the bathroom or whether their cell phone battery really died. She sounds like a lunatic to me.

    • avatar Anais P says:

      He didn’t just “go to the wrong booth;” he said he was there at the booth for six hours and both she and her friends went to the booth and he wasn’t there! He agreed to meet her at 3 and wasn’t there, wasn’t reachable by cell and offered zero explanation about blowing her off! If YOUR significant other agreed to meet you at a certain time, blew you off, wasn’t reachable by cell and offered NO explanation, would you have said to yourself, “Oh, I just went to the wrong place?” I very much doubt it! You would be pretty irritated — and suspicious.

  24. avatar Diagoras says:

    Sometimes it just takes one person to be verbally abusive but the much more common scenario is that both parties lob insults at each other. Sometimes parents try to justify their own tantrums by the fact that they are the parents or it’s their house but wrong is wrong even if you are the one in charge. Take a look at your own behavior and make sure you aren’t childishly retaliating. You can calmly explain that certain consequences will follow (like not paying for x, or even kicking him out), but if you are screaming back at him then you’re just as much at fault.

    Also, if you and your spouse spend more than once a month screaming at and verbally abusing each other, don’t be surprised if your kids do the same to you.