On Hidden Bikinis, Rebellion, Teens Helping Their Friends Disobey, and Living Within a Budget

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Question

I recently found three skimpy bikinis hidden in my 16-year-old son’s cupboard. When I asked, he said they belonged to a 15-year-old friend whose mother had told her to throw them away. My husband says I should just dispose of the bikinis, which would both get rid of them and let the boy know that his actions were unacceptable. Is it legally OK for me to throw them away? Do I need to contact the girl’s mother to find out what she would like done with the bikinis?

Answer

First of all, throwing the bikinis away will not make your son think he did wrong. You must discuss the matter with him and tell him you do not approve of his helping friends disobey their parents.

Now, as for the offending beachwear: Your son said his friend gave him the bikinis. That makes them his property. While someone might be able to contest his ownership in court, it’s hard to see anyone hiring a lawyer about three bikinis. You can throw them away with a clear conscience.

However, before you dispose of them, you should consider another option. Ask your son. He may be lying about who gave him the bikinis. Offer him a choice — you will either discard the bikinis or return them to the girl’s mother. Given those options, he may come up with a different story. If not, you’ve lost nothing.

Question

My niece, age 19, is living with us for the summer. She just finished a class at the local college and now works 25 to 30 hours a week. I also hired her to help me out around the house occasionally. Her wages fund her car payment and insurance and savings for college. She and her friends have started making plans for the 4th of July. They want to go to the amusement park and watch the fireworks afterward. Admission costs $75 that she doesn’t have. The poor kid works her butt off and is trying to be responsible by not shelling out that money. I talked to her mother, and she said, “If she wants extra money then she needs to work extra hours.” The poor kid doesn’t have time to work extra hours. She has work and church, and she baby-sits for free for a woman with financial troubles. Should I just give her the money? Should I just pay her more for the work around the house? I don’t want to undermine my sister.

Answer

You already know the answer to this question, but I’ll tell you anyway.

If you don’t want to undermine your sister, don’t give your niece the money. You probably don’t have all the facts. Perhaps the girl paid more than she should have for her car. Perhaps she has a history of problems at work. Perhaps she’s been borrowing money for years, and her mother decided, “It ends now.” Your sister could have any number of reasons for her stance.

And even if your sister has no reason at all for her rules, you cannot break them. When you agreed to take in your niece, you accepted the moral responsibility to raise her has her mother wishes — this applies even if you did not explicitly state such an intention.

You’re trying to talk yourself into giving your niece the money, citing her work ethic and volunteerism. But it’s not your call. I doubt you would appreciate it if someone watching your child circumvented your instructions. Giving your niece money directly violates your sister’s wishes. And substantially raising her wages beyond what you agreed to pay — for the purpose of funding a holiday trip, no less — sounds suspiciously like giving her money. Feel free to offer her more hours or to ask your sister’s permission, but don’t subsidize this trip.

Thank you for reading today’s Q&A. Check back here tomorrow for another installment of the Ask The Dad advice column. If you’d like to submit an Ask The Dad question, send it [email protected]