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Teen Gave an Expensive Gift

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My 15-year-old son gave a female classmate a $700 diamond ring that he purchased with money he made from a summer job. I told my son that I felt this was totally inappropriate and that he should get the ring back. He doesn't think he has to because he used his money to buy the ring. Should I let him stick to this decision, or step in?

A: A ring valued at $700 is a wholly inappropriate gift for a 15-year-old to give to a new "girlfriend." The girl should not have accepted this gift. Talk with this girl's mom about her daughter's keeping this gift. I doubt that she would disagree with you on the gift's inappropriateness. Your 15-year-old will, of course, respond with righteous anger if you contact the girl's mother, but I think he'll realize that you're just being a sensible parent. In the end, unless you have made prior arrangements with your son about how the money he makes must be spent or saved, I believe it is his to do with as he chooses.

You now need to enter into an agreement with your son about how the money he earns will be spent. He may be 15, but part of your responsibility as a parent is to teach him financial responsibility. If he cannot show sound judgment when it comes to spending money, then permission for him to earn it should be brought into question. This is a thorny issue but it's one that should not be ignored. Romance complicates this present money situation but it can be used as a springboard to a comprehensive discussion of his moneymaking, spending, and saving behaviors.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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