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No parents allowed -- what NJ teen who sued parents tells us about America today

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Spare the rod, spoil the child – an axiom as old our great-grandparents – no longer makes the cut of politically correct, parental “10 commandments” by which we train up the next generation to use a bathroom, to eat in public and to conduct their affairs with a little quiet dignity. 

“Use your words” may well have taken its place, played out in spades this week, as a teenager employed a courtroom full of words to get her “allowance” without the added burden of parental rules. 

How very cutting edge. How very tragic a tale.

In today’s society a “No Parents Allowed” sign hangs over the doors of schools, governments, clubs and now, it would seem, even on some doors in people’s own households.

Usually, as any Disney movie illustrates, you take the parents out of the equation before you add the cruel and uncaring guardians and mayhem ensues. But more and more, in today’s society, a “No Parents Allowed” sign hangs over the doors of schools, governments, clubs and now, it would seem, even on some doors in people’s own households.

According to media reports, Rachel Canning, 18, moved out of her parent’s home, but still wished to receive their financial support. 

Her father, retired Lincoln Park, New Jersey, Police Chief Sean Canning, said that he and his family were glad to support Rachel, if she was willing to comply with “reasonable household rules, such as being respectful, keeping a curfew and doing some chores.”

Behind every closed door lies a universe; who can say what took place within this family leading to such a breakdown … but to be clear, a judge ruled that forcing the parents to fund their daughter’s adult life without limits would be bad precedent and denied her claims.

One can imagine a New Jersey version of HBOs “Mildred Pierce,” the story of a spoiled girl who manipulates those around her to get what she wants, no matter what it costs those who love her. Of course, in this sad case, only the family truly knows.

In an online post, Canning said: 'Late last summer, what started as normal teenage parent conflict and disagreements over life, rules and other things with Rachel suddenly escalated into full blown rebellion. '

These things usually would not be news: Teenagers in rebellion; chores undone; and parents frustrated with baby birds eager to leave the nest with all the freedom of adulthood (while the bills still come to mom and dad.)

Still, this case raises questions about the status of parenting today in which mothers and fathers work to provide more and more material goods for kids who neither appreciate the sacrifices required to attain them and who too seldom feel a need to follow through with the requests made of them. Bribery as incentive impacts more parenting decision than we might be willing to admit, and not always with the desired result.

Teaching discipline, honor, respect and a work ethic requires saying no, demanding good behavior, and delaying reward until goals are met.

Naturally, legal authorities must step in when children are abused or neglected. The law must provide remedies for the weak and defenseless. But trial attorneys alone will become rich indeed if they start collecting from lawsuits filed by disgruntled teens, eager to be free from parental rules but with a hand still in their parents’ pockets.

Talk about a lawyers full-employment program: sulky and lazy teenagers will be a real growth industry for carnivorous attorneys, willing to destroy families to make a few buck, not to mention the human toll such lawsuits will wring from young people.

All functioning adults must learn the “Ashton Kutcher” rule – you will have to work for what you want (not wait for it to be handed to you.) It is usually in the home where we learn our first lessons in work, time management, consequences and reliability. Chores are not slave labor; they teach the mechanics of running a life.

One can only imagine the kind of children who will be raised in an environment in which tiny tyrants blackmail their parents, do what I want or go to court. Talk about a welfare state gone astray.

Parenting is a hard job, and one of the hardest things all must do is say, “No,” even when sometimes you really wish you could say “Yes.”  

Hopefully, news of this case will encourage parents and teenagers to sit down together and talk to each other about how best to manage expectations and chores – and leave the lawyers out of it.

Kristi Stone Hamrick is a media consultant and active cupcake baker for all school functions. Follow her on Twitter@KristiSHamrick.