The discussion around the dinner table a few nights ago started with Mr. Unchained’s simple question: When is one considered an adult?
To his annoyance, I replied that it depended entirely on the situation. Despite his urging to just give him a number, I said that it depended on the given situation and the individual’s maturity in life. For example, should a 17 year old who has consciously committed a terrible and premeditated violent crime be tried as an adult? Or should their age dictate a more lenient sentence? In my opinion, probably not.
What makes an adult?
In a non-criminal, everyday sense, I think one of the major determinants of being an adult is the capacity to be wholly responsible for oneself and be financially independent. I say “capacity” because I can think of a few instances where an adult remains financially dependent on their parents while pursuing graduate studies. However, had they not been in school, they would have been out in the workforce and would be financially independent.
So to answer the titular question, I think you must first answer, “What is a parent’s financial responsibility?” I’m sure the answers may vary widely but in our opinion, a parent is responsible for providing the basic life necessities. Everything else should be worked for and not given freely. For the most part, this is how the “real world” works – if you want something, you’ll have to work hard for it. I think this would also help reduce that sense of entitlement that seems to be so incredibly rampant in our society nowadays.
For example, I plan to provide the basic amount of clothes and shoes our kids would need, some of which would hopefully be hand-me-downs. However, if our kids decide they want certain brands or a 10th pair of jeans, that’s something they’d have to work for and buy with their own money.
Is post-secondary education considered a necessity?
Mr. Unchained was on the fence on this one. At first, he thought that one should be financially responsible for their own post-secondary education. This would mean incurring large amounts of debt for an undergraduate degree and starting off one’s adult life with a heavy debt load. However, I thought that post-secondary education in our society should be considered a basic life necessity which parents should make every attempt to provide for their children.
While I know there any many people who don’t really value post-secondary education the way society used to, I do feel that people with relevant post-secondary degrees go miles further than those with only a high school education. (I say relevant because my psychology major would have only been useful had I continued with my original plan to pursue a PhD to be a Psychologist.) Sure, you’ll always hear those stories of people with post-secondary educations working low-paying jobs contrasted with driven people who carved out their own successful destinies with only a high school diploma but I sincerely believe those are the rare exceptions, not the rule.
My thoughts are that if we are financially able to, we should provide for our children’s post-secondary educations. Graduate studies, however, would be our child’s decision and financial responsibility (unless there is money leftover in the education fund or we are magically wealthy by that time.) This would also help our children not start off their adult life saddled with crippling debt, allowing them to save their first salaries for things like their own homes and vehicles.
Having said that, I would definitely encourage our children strongly to get summer jobs (and part-time jobs if their school schedule allows for it). I don’t plan to be handing out spending money, they’ll gain experience working and will hopefully get into the habit of saving part of their paycheck!