Advice columnist Carolyn Hax: Moral puppetry is both insulting and futile — however, your parents get to use their money as insultingly and futilely as they choose. And you get to decide what course of action your integrity demands.
DEAR CAROLYN: I’m nearly 22 and I will begin my senior year of college this fall. I recently moved back in with my parents for the summer and was lucky enough to be offered a summer job that is related to my field and would be a great résumé builder for me.
The job is located an hour and a half away from my parents’ house, so I planned on moving in with my boyfriend of 2 ½ years, who lives in the area. My parents do not approve.
My parents have supported me 100 percent financially throughout the last three years of my college education, for which I am extremely grateful. However, they’ve threatened to withhold my last year of college tuition if I accept the job.
I feel this job would be a great opportunity and it would be such a shame to have to decline.
Most Read Life Stories
I am sick of being treated like a child and constantly having my parents hold financial leverage over me. Am I crazy to consider taking out student loans so I can accept the job and have my freedom? Or should I just suck it up and deal with it for one more year in order to graduate debt-free?
— Twenty-One Going On Twelve
DEAR TWENTY-ONE GOING ON TWELVE: If I told you to take the job and the loans — or to suck it up and appease your parents for ooooone more summer — then I’d just be replacing your parents in the adult role. Time to do your own cost-benefit analysis.
How much would you have to borrow, have you missed any application deadlines, how much of a career advantage would this summer job give you, how much of your rationale is just a fig leaf for wanting to be with your boyfriend/out on your own (not that there’s anything wrong with either) — and most important, to my mind, how much say in your life do you think this tuition money buys your parents?
Has that last answer changed since you were 18 and a freshman, or is the fact of their financial support the decisive one?
When you’re funding a someday-kid’s education, will your financing have strings attached?
At your age it would be a problem if you weren’t sick of being treated like a child. I also disagree strongly with parents who hold tuition hostage to control their children (see http://bit.ly/Hostage1 and http://bit.ly/Hostage2); make tuition contingent on doing schoolwork, of course, but moral puppetry is both insulting and futile.
However: Your parents are adults who get to use their money as insultingly and futilely as they choose. You, in turn, are an adult who gets to decide what course of action your integrity demands — including whether to accept a gift when you fundamentally object to the terms.
DEAR CAROLYN: I am a working, single mom with very tight finances with a group of friends who are all very well-off. When we go out to dinner for a friend’s birthday, they always choose expensive restaurants, order lots of expensive items, and sometimes even make the decision to get an expensive, fixed-price menu or to split the bill evenly. These approaches negate my intention to come to the outing but order something inexpensive.
I feel like my choices are to either not go or to say something ahead of time, the wording of which would be tricky.
— Just Spent Way Too Much at a Restaurant for a Friend’s Birthday
DEAR JUST SPENT WAY TOO MUCH AT A RESTAURANT FOR A FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY: Why is the wording tricky? Next time you’re planning a birthday, or, even better, just hanging out together on a non-birthday: “Since I have the attention of a bunch of you: The birthdays are killing me. I can’t afford them. Can we please choose less expensive restaurants, or not split the check evenly when all I have is a side salad? I’m to the point of not being able to go.”