Listen, Learn, and Love - 3 Keys to Harmony

Dr. Joan's Advice

Date: 01/06/2013

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Mom Promises Teen a Car

Dear Broken Promise:

You write that you promised your 16 year old son a car if he earned top grades last year, which he did. Now he wants the car and you feel obligated to buy it for him. However, you’ve recently been laid off and debts are piling up.

My first question is: Does he “need” or just “want” a car?

Start your discussion by talking about “need.” There is a difference between “need” and “want.” When I was a teen, one of my cousins needed a car because her family lived on a ranch which was considerable distance from school. In those days there was no school bus provided by her district. Yes, she got the car AND a special license because she was only 15 at the time!

My second question is: Has he earned the money to buy his car and pay for the upkeep?

I know the answer, but my point is that you and he must discuss the expense of buying and owning a car. Be truthful about your finances and the fact that you may not qualify for a car loan. You may be surprised to learn that he prefers to save and make this purchase on his own. By doing so, he will gain knowledge about the realities of money and ownership.

We all make promises with good intentions. But we have no control over circumstances that can change in the blink of an eye. Your son will understand and your relationship will be stronger when you “come clean.”

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: We keep our promises to the best of our ability.

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