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Do I please my teenager or my adult child?

I was in session with a mother and her son. The son had inherited some money but was not old enough yet to make decisions regarding how the money could be spent. The mother allowed the son to have a very small portion of the money and she put the rest away for the future. The son became very angry and argued that the money was his and she had no right to keep the money from him. What really affected her was when he called her a thief and said that because she did not make enough money he couldn’t buy what his other friends could buy. She began to feel guilty and started to second guess her decision about the money. His words and proclamations that he hated her began to wear her down.

I asked her what she was trying to achieve by keeping the money out of her son’s hands. She said, “Well honestly it is partly because I know that this money will mean more to him in the future as a down payment on a house or something else, and partly because I don’t want him to be able to buy vape products or weed. We have recently had issues with finding these things in his room.” I then asked her what is shaking her confidence most that she is making the right decision. She said that she is his only parent and can’t stomach the possibility that he might never forgive her, and she is unsure if this is really something that she should be controlling.

I reminded her that her son today, the teenager, is going to blame her and be angry for many things to come. There was no way to assure her that her decision is the right or the best. It is however important to point out there is a big difference between trying to make a decision in the spirit of helping him save money and controlling his money for other selfish or ulterior motives. What really seemed to help her find confidence in her decision is when I asked her, “Would you rather your teenage son be angry with you for keeping him from using the money impulsively, or your adult son to be forever grateful to you because you protected him from his teenage self?” The fact is that her son will not stay angry forever and he will soon grow out of his teenage years. However, she will spend the rest of her life in a relationship with her adult son.

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