There was a lawsuit making the national headlines through much of March. In involved a teenager from New Jersey who was suing her parents for—among other things—access to a college fund. The litigious young lady was one Rachel Canning, 18. As it turns out, young Miss Canning eventually dropped the case voluntarily, and has since returned home. I suppose that is a tidy end to the court case, but I can’t help but pick my jaw up off the floor when I read related news stories.
According to her parents, eighteen-year-old Rachel Canning had disciplinary problems at school, and at home she often failed to comply with house rules including completing chores and abiding by curfews. Canning asserted that by withholding financial support, her parents emotionally abused and abandoned her. Here are the key points I’ve gathered:
1. Rachel Canning is eighteen-years-old (legally an adult).
2. Rachel Canning has disciplinary troubles.
3. Rachel Canning voluntarily moved out of her parents’ home.
4. Rachel Canning thinks her parents should be forced to provide financial support above and beyond what they are legally required to provide despite the fact that she chose to move out of the house rather than abide by the rules set forth therin.
Um, am I missing something here?
I just so happen to be the mother of teenage girls, though only one of them is over the age of eighteen. I can tell you with certainty that I have indeed struggled with my teenagers over issues ranging from curfew to driving privileges. Did you catch the key word in that last sentence? Privileges. Not rights. When these struggles persist, I respond by snatching away aforementioned privileges faster than my teens can say ‘entitlement.’ With those confessions right before you in black and white, you tell me whether I deserve to be sued.
Here’s the thing: I think it’s safe to say that most parents who go to the trouble and sacrifice of establishing college funds for their children tend to be responsible folks who desire prosperous and successful lives for their offspring. If and when those children choose to habitually break rules and spit in the face of authority, I can’t help but believe that the parents are not only legally authorized to withhold college funds, but they are doing society a huge injustice by doing anything short of that.
In addition to the requirement that they condone themselves in generally appropriate ways, my husband and I have a nonnegotiable condition that our children must meet in order to receive the college funds we’ve scrimped and saved for out of the goodness of our hearts. Namely, we require that after graduating high school, our kids take part in a mission trip with a Christian organization. We’re insisting that our kids go to a developing country and roll up their sleeves to help build walls and plant gardens and just generally love up on less fortunate people. Funding for the trip will be covered, but participation is not optional—that is, if they want the college money. I’m sure that by Canning’s standards, such a requirement is downright criminal.
I can’t help but think, though, that Canning herself might benefit from a trip to one of Africa or South America’s developing countries. It seems she could use a dose of reality.