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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Perhaps the Worst Example of Entitlement I've Ever Heard Of

Rabbi Ginsberg, the chinuch columnist in the Yated, whose columns I find interesting has a question and answer session about camp. This question send my jaw dropping to the countertop (ouch!).

You know the insane are running the asylum when kids are pressuring their parents to take on debt!

This is just beyond ridiculous! But I can imagine such a scenario happening since so many adults haven't quite made the separation between needs and wants and when it is no secret that "big purchases" that are "necessary" are funded through debt (read: weddings-here and here-, beis medrash, etc).

From the Yated [emphasis mine]:

Question #5:
My children are pressuring me into taking a loan so that I can send them to camp. They point to the fact that I used a loan - a mortgage - to pay for our house.
Just like children need an education as to how checks work and how there needs to be cash in the bank to back up the checks, they also need to understand how loans work. The details of how interest works and how loans have payment schedules are things that children can and should learn. They should also be taught that a mortgage is a necessity, while a loan to pay for camp may not be.

How to be sensible in managing money, how to live within one’s means, and how to be debt-free are perhaps some of the most important lessons you can teach your children. Personally speaking, I grew up in a family that never had a credit card and my mother still gets by without owning one.

My guess is that the kids who are pressuring their parents to take out a loan have parents who debt finance, and not just the home.


Ezzie said...

Not necessarily - they may have responsible parents, who are "stingy" (compared to other parents). Someone more well-versed in debt financing may have made the suggestion to the kids as an argument to use on their parents.

SephardiLady said...

I would hope NO other parent/teacher/principal would ever cross such a boundary. But, I could also imagine such.

Avi said...

I think you're missing the point. Kids don't know anything about finance, they're kids. So if they know that the parent took out a loan for a house, it's a natural question to ask why they can't take out a loan to send the kid to camp. Or to buy a car. Or a PlayStation. Or a slice of pizza.

What amazes me is that the parent had to ask a newspaper columnist for help in how to respond!

SephardiLady said...

Since the column is about sleepaway camp, not the day camp a 5 or 6 year would go to, the kids should be old enough to understand some basics about finances.

But the only way for parents to help their children understand finances is to state their philosophy, live their philosophy, have the kids live the philosophy by also saving parts of their earnings/allowances/gifts, choosing less expensive grocery items over more expensive, etc.

I don't think it is normal for kids to pressure parents to take a loan unless they don't nderstand the ground rules. If they understood the ground rules, they would probably not be pressuring.

Certainly reading something like this is a good opportunity for all of us to ask what some of messages we send.

G*3 said...

> My children are pressuring me...

The poor financial understanding the kids may have aside, how does this happen? How does a parent alow things to deteriorate to the point where their kids can pressure them?

The kids need to understand that their parents don't owe them anything, and the parents need to learn how to say "No."

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Anonymous said...

Oh please, I refuse to get worked up over this one. Kids being kids, they will ask for stuff that they want -- who knows, maybe a miracle will happen and Mommy and Daddy will say yes this time! I think I would have gotten worked up if the advice column rebbe had advised the father that yes, he should take a loan. That would have been worthy of indignation.

Anonymous said...

SL why do you read the Yated if you always get annoyed by it? Thats a very Jewish trait people read the times for years and complain it is anti Israel.

Miami Al said...

I think it's reasonable to ask for advice if you are struggling, not everyone is naturally good at everything. I thought that the response was great... few parents realize that teaching their children about money is one of the most important lessons you can impart them.

Leading cause of divorce is financial issues.
#1 source of Shalom Bayit issues: money.

This is an excellent parenting opportunity, and I appreciate that the answer was to point them in that direction. Camp may not be a necessity... If both parents work, childcare (day camp) is probably a necessity, and if the family needs some adult time, a few weeks of camp might raise to the necessity level. Debt financing it isn't a great idea, but if they normally operate in the black but just don't have the cash now, it might not be the end of the world... but I don't subscribe to the debt=bad philosophy, but rather debt=risk.

Anonymous said...

The one quibble I have with the response is the statement that a loan for summer camp "may not be a necessity." It should have said "is very rarely" or "is never" a necessity.

I understand that if both parents work, some form of childcare is a necessity, but if loans are required to pay for childcare, then does it make sense for both parents to work day jobs, have they not budgeted during the year to account for the expense in the summer, or was a there an unforeseen cashflow problem? Even if it's a child care issue, there may be less expensive alternatives such as local day camps or babysitters.

Avi said...

SL, I'm with Tesyaa on this one. Kids will push whatever buttons they can to get what they want. The answer is appropriate, so the only thing that weirds me out a bit is that the parent thought the kids might have a point and felt the need to ask how to respond.

JS said...

More likely than not the kids are just whining and think telling the parents to take out a loan is a winning strategy. Maybe their friends told them that their parents do it.

A larger concern, and I'm not saying this is happening here, is that educators DO put tremendous pressure on students to do certain things. Camp and study in Israel after high school are two examples. Going on shabbatons is another. Often the educators instruct the students to beg and cajole their parents. Many educators don't care if the parents don't have money saying a loan can be taken out and that it's a necessity for the child's Jewish upbringing. Another thing I've seen is educators subverting parents' desires by obtaining scholarship funds to help finance it. This works two ways: 1) the parents doesn't agree with a program so the educator gets the funding thereby taking the decision away from the parent or 2) The parent doesn't (or can't) pay $200 (for example) so the educator gets $100 in funding essentially forcing the parent to pay the $100 as they no longer feel they can say they can't afford it.

Ariella said...

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for parents to send their children (particularly sons) to sleepaway camp, even when they already need substantial scholarships for their yeshiva tuition and quality for government subsidies. It seems crazy, but there are even scholarships for sleepaway camp.

SephardiLady said...

Anonymous-Since I do work with finances, I find it interesting to know what stresses parents are under. I also find the messages out there interesting. That is one reason why I read different publications. I also read numerous parenting books and personal finance books. Oftentimes there is great advice, but no matter what the source, apply the sechel test.

Ariella-I have more to write on this column. The writer considers camp a near necessity suggesting that sleepaway camp should only be skipped if the money is simply not available and mentions that one look for sponsorships/scholarships before making the decision not to send.

Installment 2 will look at the push for camp. Incidently, in the Modern Orthodox camp, I don't believe any have called sleepaway camp a necessity or near necessity. No less than Rav Schachter called it a luxury.

JS said...

"Installment 2 will look at the push for camp. Incidently, in the Modern Orthodox camp, I don't believe any have called sleepaway camp a necessity or near necessity. No less than Rav Schachter called it a luxury."

Perhaps no one calls it a necessity publicly, but nearly every single kid I knew growing up went to sleepaway camps. I was one of the only ones who didn't. I don't think much has changed since then. Many grandparents help pay the bill and some parents who are off for summers work in camps to get their kids in free.

Charlie Hall said...

I never went to a sleepaway camp until I was 11 years old, and even then only for the next four years, and for only one week each year. (I think I went for two weeks one of those years.) My parents didn't have the money and that was that.

LeahGG said...

I think that camp is a fantastic experience, and parents should forgo other *luxuries* to send their kids to camp.

On the other hand, I don't see any reason why any child over 10 needs to go to camp EVERY summer for the whole summer.

This summer, I have a 15-year-old helping me out 6 hours a day, 4-5 days a week with my baby. Her older sisters did the same thing for my older sister about 5-6 years back. The following summer, they flew (from Israel) to visit their grandmother in England, on their own money that they'd earned babysitting. Their parents and grandmother probably "cushioned" the trip a bit, but they paid their own airfare.

If it's that important for a teen to go to camp, then they can probably manage a session every other year by working the rest of their summer vacation time.