Friend Upmanship

29 Jul

Dear LetterBalm: My 15-year-old son’s best friend attends his school and comes from a wealthy family. When he is with this boy, his friend’s parents take him for posh dinners and outings. Last month they took him on an oceangoing yacht for a weekend cruise. The month before that it was a full-blown wilderness experience. My wife and I can’t afford to treat them so lavishly. My son is beginning to act like he should have special treatment. He and his friend are good, grounded kids, and his friend doesn’t act entitled. I don’t want my son to become a selfish jerk. What can I say to him that will resonate?

–Concerned Dad

It’s good that you have a solid rapport with your son. Ms. L.B. wants you to cut your son some slack. He’s experiencing some heady times, and, well, his head is turned. You and your wife can be good role models by example in this situation – and, so can your son’s friend. Even though he’s rich, the young man is humble and worthy. Talk with your son about values and how money doesn’t equal merit. Tell him that your home is open to anyone of any financial background, as long as the individual is a solid human being:

Travis, you’ve been having some great times recently with Blake. His parents have been very generous, haven’t they? I’m glad you’re such good friends with Blake. I’ve known both of you since you were in kindergarten, and I see how you are good role models for each other. You’re a person with good work habits, and he’s a humble person who doesn’t act like his family has a lot of money. The last thing your mom and I would want is for you to feel entitled to special treatment or expensive things. Money doesn’t automatically equal merit. We didn’t raise you that way, and, in fact, we can’t compete with wealth. What we can give – and I hope you know how valuable this is – is a home and parents who are always open to your friends from all walks of life.

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