Bad Parent: The Limits

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The "Bad Parent" column on the parenting website delves into the unspoken realities of being a parent. Rufus Griscom, founder of, returns weekly in January with a taboo-smashing discussion. This week: What's your limit?

Is there a limit to how much you'll sacrifice for your child/ren? Give us a call or comment below.


Rufus Griscom

Comments [51]

Jilly Prather-Nehls from Ohio

I am so sick of the whining, "My parents won't pay for my college education!" These kids are usually the ones that have had everything given to them without having to work at least partly for them. More enabling.

It''s common sense that kids who at least work part time to save for college expenses are the ones who grow into more mature, responsible adults. And they become more appreciative of the hard work it takes to fund their education.

Feb. 06 2011 12:00 PM
Dan from seymour ct

To the people that keep saying "how dare you have kids if you are not going to see it through to pay for their college" like somehow we are kicking them out on the streets to die. This self righteous, hand my kid everything attitude is why so many kids today think they are entitled to ANYthing they want and have no idea what hard work is.

My fiance and I have both said the same thing, we are not paying for our kids educations. We will support them and love them and if they make it through college and work hard we will then give them whatever financial help WE CHOOSE. This is not selfish. We fully understand this means student loans and etc. So many kids feel entitled to a 120,000 college education, its sickening. Make them take out loans and work hard so that you know they are going to appreciate what they get in life. How many times do you see a kid in college riding on mommy and daddy's dime partying it up and flunking out of school? I come from a family of four kids and you know what? My mom and dad didnt pay for ANY of us to go to school. We all took out loans, which eight years later I am still paying back and proud to be doing so, because I did it on my own. I also worked 30 hours a week to help pay for rent and food, etc. This was not easy as I majored in Mechanical Engineering. If I can do it, anyone can. My fiance has taken out loans and paid for her schooling on her own. I know friends who take out second mortgages to let their kids go to college debt free while they will never be able to retire until they are 75. You do what you want, but don't you dare call me selfish for teaching my kids responsibility and hard work.

Mar. 11 2010 12:30 PM
Denise from Huntington, New York

Actually, the fact that I'm horrified and saddened by the thought of children sleeping in the streets of Haiti beside rotting bodies, and the fact that I want to puzzle over what's best for my children (college payments or not; carrying their bags for them like a Sherpa with an SUV or not), are not mutually exclusive.

Too many parents follow the current "wisdom" of childrearing, which for the last couple of decades has been decidedly on the permissive side. I am bucking the trend; my plan since well before I had my now 7- and 5-year-old sons was to raise good people, people who could stand on their own two feet (and carry their own backpacks, for heavens' sake!). And maybe, who knows, people who may someday contribute to solving the problem of the kind of crushing poverty we see in places like Haiti.

Jan. 14 2010 02:10 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn, NY

Though I'm not a parent, I feel the need to weigh in as someone who chose NOT to have kids because I'm not prepared to sacrifice anything for my offspring. Though people will say "oh, how selfish!" my answer is, I know myself well enough to know that my own time and financial resources are limited to X, and if I want to live my own life to the fullest, I don't want to put that kind of strain on myself.

Raising children is a huge undertaking, and I think too many people don't examine all aspects of it before they jump in. If you can't afford it, or don't want to lose what precious time you have for yourself outside of the 40 hour work week, then one should think twice about having kids.

Jan. 14 2010 01:57 PM
Allison from washington heights

Correction: the report about children sleeping next to the stench of rotting bodies is part of the top of the hour npr new, broadcast at 12pm and 1pm today.

Jan. 14 2010 01:06 PM
Allison from washington heights

With all due respect to your show and this topic, after having heard on the BBC this morning, that children in Haiti are sleeping next to decaying bodies, perhaps this is a time to reflect on how grateful we are for our children, and not venting our gripes and frustrations? Please consider putting this segment series on hold for a few/weeks or months.

Jan. 14 2010 01:01 PM
Martin from Brookly

Is it possible for the public to see video of testimony in the Prop 8 case?

Jan. 14 2010 11:50 AM
galvoguy from yonkers

laughing at the parents who has youngster and state they wont pay for college.
in nys is the parents are not marries , nys will force the man to pay for the college cost on their child.
\this happened to me, the child was over 18 , in the army reserves , and at the time had graduated hs but had not pursued any higher education, and was working.
i was a public utility outside worker, with no pedigree of everyone attending college in my family nor did i have a college degree of my own.
i also responded to the DNA parenting topic, as i was never married to the mother.

Jan. 14 2010 11:13 AM
B from Brooklyn, NY

My husband and I split the college bills down the line with my three kids.(BTW, it cost more to send my son to SUNY-he graduates in May) than it did to send my two other children to their private baby ivies way back when (when there were scholarships!) They are all in grad/med school and helping them with grad school was NEVER on the table. We help them by sending them food packages and permitting them do their laundry here at home, etc.
As for the Pattersons' son, I don't understand why,minimally, they cannot buy help. That kid is crying out for attention and he's going to get it from his local drug dealer, you betcha, if they don't get pro active.

Jan. 14 2010 11:09 AM

My parents did not pay for my college education - I did. I did not pay for my children's college education - they did. If we as a country, want all children to go to college - then we should fund higher education as a nation.

I can't believe that any responsible parent would put up with an adult offspring who can't figure out how to fund their own higher education.

Also, I would wager that one of the major reasons that college has become so expensive these days is because parents (not the students) are expected to pay.

Jan. 14 2010 11:08 AM
Maude from Park Slope

I'm a child of parents who helped me pay for undergrad school for the most part--they had a limit to how much they'd pay. After that there was absolutely no help at all--and I have to admit that I feel resentful, when I first came to NYC I was working at a publishing job and could only afford a terrible apartment/neighborhood very far away from my job. I asked my parents to help with 200$ a month, which I would pay back, but they stood their ground. I did end up making my way eventually, but I think the relationship with my parents suffered because I realized I couldn't depend on them for help if I needed it.

Jan. 14 2010 11:05 AM
John Weber from Jersey Shore

I don't have a problem with someone deciding to not pay for college, especially if they REALLY can't afford it. But I question those saying it is too expensive and then saying they are "doing pretty good" financially. I have a one year old and my wife and I decided to set aside $5K a year every year. Yes we will have to sacrifice but it is easy to just consume less.

Think of cable TV, some people pay $100 a month, in a year that is $1200 and by the time they are 18 that's $21,600. Not a full college education, but a pretty good start. So what's i going to be? 100 channels of nothing on that you complain about anyway, or college for your kid? Ditto with brown-bagging your lunch.

Jan. 14 2010 11:02 AM
Benita from Greenwich Village

My parents made it clear to me that they would not send me to college if I did not get accepted by a free city college. I NEVER would have done that to my child when he turned college age. Part of one's obligation in having a child, as I see it, is to educate him/her.

Jan. 14 2010 11:00 AM
Emily from Manhattan

It seems unbelievably selfish for parents to not pay for their child's education. Especially for the father talking about his wife's student loans: You've surely seen how hard it's been for her, so why on earth would you want that for your child?

My parents weren't rich, and they had to make choices about where their money went, so they chose to save from before I was born to send me to college, instead of giving me some of the "extras" my peers had. No, I didn't go to Disneyland or have a giant collection of toys, or the latest fashions. I got something much more important: The chance to start my adult life debt-free.

Jan. 14 2010 11:00 AM
David Bradford from North Carolina

My Dad was a blue collar guy. Two days before he and my mother were to leave for their retirement, he took me to breakfast. He said to me, "Look, in two days we're gone. You're on your own. If you're smart enough to get into college, you're smart enough to pay for it. I'll be dead in a few years and I don't have the money to carry you. Grow up."
And I did. I paid for college myself without taking a dime from my parents, nor did I take out a loan. He died a few years later and I was on my own. Although what he said was harsh, it was honest. And I am better off for that dose of reality.

Jan. 14 2010 10:59 AM
Edward from NJ

I will not pay for my kids to go to Penn State.

Jan. 14 2010 10:59 AM
karen from nj

I have taught at the college level for 20 years. The better students are almost always those who are paying at least some of the cost themselves. They have a stake in the outcome and are more applied. Those on the 'free ride' from Mom and Dad are on an extended vacation. NOT handing your children everything is the mark of better parenting.

Jan. 14 2010 10:59 AM
Jane Nordli from Westport, CT

First of all, I'm a baby boomer, the older branch of that group. I have a daughter whose education I paid for and two grand children, whose education I have already set aside a large (for me) chunk of money. I am a retired teacher, with a limited income but I've been frugal all my life and yet I feel my life is rich and abundant. Education is a non-negotiable obligation parents and grand parents have, in my opinion. The world is going to be a very tough place when my grandchildren enter the job market and I want to help them as much as I am able, to equip them with skills, and the ability to think well and creatively. I think it's interesting that the younger members of the baby boom seem a lot more concerned with their own welfare.

Jan. 14 2010 10:59 AM
Sarah from Kensington

I got to say, as somebody who went to school with people who paid for it on their own (as opposed to splitting it/having the kid - me in this case - take out loans) that's an enormous amount of pressure to put on someone at 18. It makes them grow up (in my opinion) too quick, they have to take on a job while they study (so can't as one caller said, appreciate their studies more, since they're working a lot) and even with that, saddle them with loans when they graduate. I mean, set some money aside, at least give them a hand.

Jan. 14 2010 10:59 AM
Catherine from long island

I am not a parent. Theoretically, I don't have a problem with parents saying they won't pay for college, if they have come to a reasoned decision. However, having been to college, and having worked at colleges, you haven't addressed the fact that colleges and aid agencies don't allow parents to "choose" not to give. Students who want financial aid are PRESUMED to have their parents' resources available, and that cannot be changed. These parents may be condemning their children to have to wait SEVERAL YEARS after high school before colleges will let them NOT claim their parents' resources.

Jan. 14 2010 10:58 AM
bob from huntington

Maybe the problem isn't whether or not parents are willing to educate their kids through college. Maybe it's another instance of the world's largest industrialized economy failing to provide (healthcare anyone?) for the fundamental needs of its citizens.

Stop beating yourselves up, parents. Start beating on your elected representatives!

Jan. 14 2010 10:58 AM
Robert Plaut from NJ

There is one group of people (usually men) who are legally required to pay for college through their divorce agreement.

Jan. 14 2010 10:58 AM
CJ from NY

I think that parents should pay for college if they want to but not if it means resenting the child's choices after college. Some parents think when they pay for school that they get to control the rest of the child's life and if the child deviates then s/he is ungrateful.

Jan. 14 2010 10:58 AM
Meredith from Long Island City

People who are complaining that they sacrifice their body and their careers...these people CHOSE to have children. Nobody twisted their arm.

Jan. 14 2010 10:58 AM
Denice from Fort Greene

My parents never offered to pay for my college. My mom simply couldn't afford it and my dad never felt like it was his responsibility since I lived with my mom after the divorce.

Jan. 14 2010 10:58 AM
hjs from 11211

not making sure your kids get through college makes as much sense as not teaching them to read. good luck to all of us

Jan. 14 2010 10:57 AM
david from NYC

A couple weeks to go to Burning man without my kids. Ive given up a large part of my creative and "out there" life, and I have a hard time turning away from getting my fix, which has continued to be Burning man for the past 12 years. I have 2 boys, 4 and 7 and they went with my partner and I twice,but for now that's it. They'd like to go, but for about two weeks at the end of the summer I hold out as that being "my thing."

Jan. 14 2010 10:57 AM
Connie from Westchester

I aggree with Stephanie. Parents do more harm to their kids by "serving thm" than by teaching them to be responsible for their own possessions. Parents are using the kids to fill a void in their own lives. By living through the kids, they do not have to assume responsibity for themselves. Just go to any social event with people who have kids and see how long the conversation stays off the subject of the children...what accomplishments?/team?/school?/college?... etc. It puts too much of a burden on children to expect them compensate for interests the parents lack.

Jan. 14 2010 10:56 AM
Darrell from Astoria

I don't have kids of my own yet, but I've had my share of experience with what parents are unwilling to sacrifice: my dad boycotted my brother's wedding ceremony on the lawn of a chateau in France, because my brother didn't invite him to the legal ceremony which took place two weeks earlier in California (for the record, the legal ceremony was purely procedural - they didn't invite anyone). My dad and my brother are not on speaking terms now, and our family has splintered as a result - this Christmas was the most quiet, lonely, family-less affair I can remember. Nonetheless my dad is completely unapologetic - he won't sacrifice his principles for anyone, not even family. Go figure.

As for me, I definitely expect to have kids someday, but one thing I will absolutely not sacrifice for them: my sex life.

Jan. 14 2010 10:56 AM
Leah from Manhattan

An undergraduate degree is becoming more and more necessary for high-paying, skilled jobs, and this trend will only continue in the future. If my husband and I can't pay for our child's college education completely, then we will support him/her in acquiring the necessary aid, loans, etc. I think to do otherwise is selfish and irresponsible.

Jan. 14 2010 10:56 AM
kadidal from New York City

I really cannot think of anything I would not sacrifice for my child. I feel that it is definitely the parents responsibility to put their children through good college. We have a 4 year old and have decided not to have more children because it would be too expensive.

Jan. 14 2010 10:56 AM
Leo in NYC from Staten Island

This is why I am so conflicted about having kids. There is a tension between the inherent selfishness of the act -- the children don't ask to be born. Until you conceive them they don't exist. We have kids for us -- the parents. So doesn't that demand a certain obligation on our part? When I hear parents say they're not paying for school... it disturbs me. It was your bright idea to go and get pregnant! Why should the kid pay for it..?

Jan. 14 2010 10:55 AM
Edward from NJ

For parents who won't help with college, what do you want your kids to do after high school? Do you expect them to go to college or can they do whatever they want?

Jan. 14 2010 10:55 AM
lucy corrigan

sure, it would be great to have your kids pay for their own college education but you better not have much in the asset column because colleges expect you to pay and will NOT help you child in the form of financial aid if you have the wherewithal to help them.

Jan. 14 2010 10:54 AM
Julia from Skillman, NJ

It's not that these parents are so much giving up on their children for their career; they are working, however, so diligently, for the purpose of raising their children and being able to meet their needs as they grow.

I came from a mother who chose not to work and hung out at home. My father was not there. Essentially, I was out in the work force at a rediculously young age.

Please don't confuse a working parent with somebody that doesn't care. When a parent goes out to work and puts out great effort in doing so, it is just them saying that they do care.

Jan. 14 2010 10:54 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

The demographic transition is the concept that as societies become more affluent, parents reduce the number of offspring to have the ability to spend more time and finances on fewer children in order to provide them the most benefits.

Jan. 14 2010 10:53 AM
steve from Englewood, NJ

I won't, WON"T, pay for their bail.

Jan. 14 2010 10:53 AM
merrill from NY, NY

A Brooklyn friend of mine is a father of five and one of his children was fortunate to be accepted. He would have had to literally substantially mortgage for his one Stanford-bound children to the detriment of his other four children. The child went to elsewhere.

Jan. 14 2010 10:53 AM
KS from Brooklyn

I'm a teacher and see kids dumping bags on moms all the time--and it makes me want to scream! These yuppie/boomer parents have spoiled these kids so much, they can't even walk three blocks to go to the bagel shop; their parents have to DRIVE them. I would be so embarrassed.

Jan. 14 2010 10:53 AM
Carrie Walker

...about the parents paying for college thing. I don't think my parents ever intended to pay for mine and my brothers' higher education, but they did strongly encourage us to go. There was never a discussion about money; they didn't have it, but I think if they could, they would have paid for as much as they could.

I'm now in a graduate program and will owe more than $100K when I am done, but I don't regret it. I actually think that if I have my own children, I will want them to pay for at least half of their own education, as it makes you take your education more seriously and forces you to apply for scholarships and the like.

Jan. 14 2010 10:52 AM
Barbara Edelman from New Paltz, NY

Why is it "radical" to base decision of # of children to have economic realities of one's family as stated by -- I believe -- Brian Lehrer (or possibly his guest)? Thanks for your attention & your great show!

Jan. 14 2010 10:52 AM
Suki from Williamsburg

Don't have kids if you don't plan on supporting them through college. How selfish can you get?

I say this as a childless woman who struggled to balance a full-time job with my college course-load.

I will not have children until I am fully sure I can afford to support my children through four years of college.

Jan. 14 2010 10:51 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

The days of student loans and WORK. I never understood why parents feel that they have to sacrifice the prime of their lives to pay for their kids college education.

Parents are better off paying for their kids going to a private elementry school to give their kids a good head start.

Jan. 14 2010 10:51 AM
RCT from NYC

Are we bad? We've told our son, a sophomore at a community college, that we'd pay for his education through his B.A., but at public (CUNY, SUNY), not private schools. The state and city universities are quality schools, with great faculties, and my husband and I are not willing to blow our retirement fund on a second-tier private school.

We've also told him that he would have to pay for grad or professional school and that, while we'll support him through his BA, after that he'll have to get a job.

We're "hands on" parents who arrange our schedules -- very busy ones -- so that we spend a good deal of time with our son, who still lives at home, but we are middle-class, middle-aged, and have our own lives to live. We can't spend down to zero to finance his education -- something that we would not have to do in Europe, by the way, where education is subsidized.

Jan. 14 2010 10:51 AM
Taylor from NYC

I am a divorced father of twins. I am a consultant, work from home. The mother is an executive at a big outfit in midtown, works 6 days a week and rarely is home for dinner. But the legal process, which she could afford and I could not, ended up putting the kids at her house with a baby sitter more often than not. I guess I should have sacrificed all of my money. Now I hope they figure it out before they go to college.

Jan. 14 2010 10:50 AM

Actually, large families being on farms is a myth. Large families are historically not correlated with agriculture. I remember my dad, who grew up on a farm, talking about how the family was limited to 3 kids because "that's all the land could support".

Jan. 14 2010 10:49 AM
Kyle from Brookhaven

Is it a question of choice? Does David Paterson really have a choice in the matter? Do middle class parents who have to work a million hours to even conceive of college for their kids? The questions being asked here are totally skewed.

Jan. 14 2010 10:48 AM
Patrick from Ironbound/Newark

I was a custodial single-father when my kids were one and two and a half, boy and girl. No family help. It's NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. We laughed for 20 years. No time or money to remarry - was that a sacrifice? They both are successful college graduates and I wasn't rich. Relax and enjoy....for goodness sake.

Jan. 14 2010 10:47 AM
susan buckler

I'm a single mother and have devoted my life to my child, now 10. I've decided to "step out" once again, and try to find a partner. My child is furious, jealous and potentially obstructive. I understand my child's feelings completely, will try to help my child navigate these new, tough waters, but I will not give up my search for companionship and be alone for the next 10 years.

Jan. 14 2010 10:47 AM
Jill from Westchester

Radical??? To only have the number of children that you can afford to have? Please - that's simply called being responsible.

Jan. 14 2010 10:47 AM
Stephanie Condas from Montclair, NJ

I'm really bothered by something I witness everyday at school pick-ups. Kids stream out of the building and, without even looking at their mothers, immediately hand their backpacks to them to carry. The moms take the bags without batting an eye. I can't stand this. When my son or any of his friends try to hand me their bags I say, "I'm not the sherpa." Does that make me a bad parent? Supposedly, "good parents" are always there for their kids, meeting their every need. In the process I think we end up serving them.

Jan. 14 2010 10:22 AM

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