What Parents Owe Their Children

What do parents owe their children? Do parents “owe” their children anything? Do parents owe their kids a college education, or an inheritance? Are the challenges of parenting causing concern and doubt on how to be a good parent while raising your children and teens? What does “parental responsibility” include in raising children?

The only things parents “owe” their kids in a material way is to provide for their basic needs of water, food, clothing and shelter until the children reach adulthood, where “kids” then take on the responsibilities of caring for their own needs as adults.

Children, adolescents and adults have 6 basic human needs including: physical, emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual and creative needs in order to be happy, healthy and well-adjusted individuals. Things such as personal ambition, self-control, respect, obedience, happiness, self-esteem, morality, courage, loyalty, integrity, honesty and independence are all things that cannot be bought or given, but must be learned.

Parents have the responsibility to teach and train their children about the basics of life such as how to speak, eat, walk, tie their shoes, use good manners etc, and it is the parents’ obligation and responsibility to love and care for their children with firm guidance and consistent discipline, support and educate them until they reach the age when they can and should provide for themselves and take care of their own needs.

Things Parent’s Do Not Owe Their Children

Parent’s do not owe their children every second or minute of their day, nor every ounce of their energy. Parent’s do not owe their children round-the-clock car service, singing lessons, dance lessons, karate lessons, trips to summer camp, trips to Disney World, expensive bicycles, a credit card, a motorcycle or a car when they reach the age of sixteen, or a trip to Europe when they graduate high school. Parents need to get off the “you owe me” guilt-trip and learn how to say no to children and their numerous demands and unrealistic expectations, and mean it.

Parents do not owe their children a college education or an inheritance. If parents can afford to send their children to college, fine; but parents must not become guilt-ridden if or when they cannot afford to send their kids to college. If children want or plan to attend college and their parents are not financially able to afford the expense, kids that really want to go to college can do so with scholarships, federal grant programs, student loans, etc. Parents who fall victim to the “give-me game” may find themselves guilted into bankruptcy if not careful.

When children become adults, parents do not owe them a down payment on a house or money for the furniture. Parents do not have an obligation to baby-sit or to take their grandchildren into their home when the parents go on vacation. If parents want to do it, it is a favor, not an obligation. Parents do not “owe” their grown children financial help or an inheritance regardless of how much money a parent has. Parents must learn to cut the financial umbilical cord for their own sake and for the sake of their children.

The parental responsibility of raising children to adulthood is an enormous challenge, as parents strive to provide for their child’s needs as best they can, only to hear those ominous words as kids get older, “you owe me” this or that. The idea of owing anything to children is usually heard from entitled teenagers and grown adult children who have unrealistic expectations of a parents responsibility and obligations to kids.

Psychotherapist Eileen Gallo, along with her husband John J. Gallo, collaborated on the book, Silver Spoon Kids : How Successful Parents Raise Responsible Children, and Gary W. Buffone, Ph.D., author of Choking on the Silver Spoon: Keeping Your Kids Healthy, Wealthy and Wise in a Land of Plenty, have provided parents two excellent parenting guides to ensure children don’t become spoiled about money in an age of unprecedented wealth, unlimited credit, rampant materialism and entitlement.

Included are helpful checklists, self-tests, and brief bits of wisdom and advice that parents can quickly put to use. Parents, if you have ever wondered how to talk to your kids about what money is and is not, what money can and cannot do, the above books are a great place to start.

Related Posts:

A Sense of Entitlement
Helping vs. Enabling: Is There a Difference?
12 Rules for Raising Delinquent Children
What it Means to “Let Go”
Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children
Are Parents Helping or Enabling Their Adult Children?
How to Stop Enabling – When Our Grown Children Disappoint Us
Are You An Enabler? Identifying Early Warning Signs of Enabling Behaviors

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22 Responses to “What Parents Owe Their Children”

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  1. Lin says:

    Hi Steve, LOL. Yep, I don’t pull any punches in any of my articles, do I? :)

    That’s one very good reason why my site is called Telling It Like It Is. Cause I do! :)

  2. hi Lin,
    I give Telling It Like It Is a gold star for “truth in advertising”.
    It’s very refreshing. :)
    ~ Steve

  3. I think one of the few things a parent owes a child is the ability to make rational decisions. To each his own, sure, but I am constantly amazed when I hear stories of young married couples that can’t afford a downpayment on a house yet chose to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding and honeymoon. When kids mike choices and set priorities like that then I think we as parents have failed.

  4. Lin

    I love this article because I really struggle with where to draw the line between my son and myself. My mother left when I was 11, so when my son was born I got a bit carried away with the desire to be perfect and “do everything right”. It’s been a long and hard journey to realise there is no such thing as a “perfect” mother and all my self judgment and guilt really doesn’t empower me to give my son what he needs while keeping me sane at the same time.

    This is such a wonderful blog for parenting advice. thank you so much.


  5. Lin says:

    @ John, I know what you mean. Many young people are caught up in the idea of the Cinderella wedding, with all the trimmings, regardless of the cost. Girls especially since it’s common for the bride’s parents to pay for their daughter’s wedding. I agree that it is better in the long run for marrying couples to think more about the marriage than the wedding itself, and carefully consider their options of how to have an inexpensive wedding and use whatever money they have or receive as wedding gifts for a down payment on a house.

  6. Lin says:

    Kelly, mom’s are often so riddled with guilt, if it’s not one thing it’s another. You’re right, there is no such thing as a perfect mother or father, everyone makes mistakes and learns to do better as they go along.

  7. Jay says:

    You list that the basic needs of water, food, clothing and shelter must be provided, and that we have the six Maslow needs of physical, emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual and creative needs. YOU NEVER ACKNOWLEDGE THE NEED FOR LOVE. GOD HELP YOU AND YOUR KIDS.

  8. Lin says:

    Jay, I beg to differ. Perhaps you missed the 4th paragraph where I said “it is the parents’ obligation and responsibility to love and care for their children”. You might want to read the post over again before making such erroneous statements about me and/or my children.


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