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Affluenza Defence

The holidays can be a time of overindulgence whether it be with food, alcohol, and/or gifts.  Some parents have a difficult time setting limits when it comes to providing for their children.  Many justify their behavior by citing that they’re only attempting to give them a better life. This overindulgent behavior of parents isn’t just about giving material goods, but also about allowing their children to live without boundaries and make bad choices without consequences.  In some cases this overindulgence later leads to serious and detrimental repercussions.

A recent teen drunk driving case in Texas used affluenza as a defense for the teen’s crime.  Affluenza is a term that was popularized in the late 1990’s by Jessie O’Neil, the granddaughter of a past General Motors president and author of “The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence.”  The affliction of “affluenza” is generally associated with richer families and can result in irresponsibility, a sense of entitlement, and can act as an excuse for poor behavior because parents have not set proper boundaries.  The 16-year-old teen in this case was charged in the death of four pedestrians while driving drunk and was sentenced to 10 years probation even though prosecutors were seeking the maximum 20-year prison sentence.  His sentence and those of many others before him send a dangerous message that reinforces bad behavior with minimal consequences.  Certainly affluence can buy the best attorney and provide better outcomes, but the bigger issue is the impact on our society.

In my practice I work with highly successful and educated individuals who occasionally struggle with this same issue in raising their children.  Sometimes they have guilt because they work all the time or they are divorced and feel bad for the children.  Other times they grew up with very little and want the best for their children and to give them every opportunity to succeed.  Whatever the reason, some parents have a difficult time with overindulgence, boundary setting, following through on consequences, saying no to their children, and requiring them to earn their privileges.  Next week I will discuss ways to teach responsibility, accountability, and respect in our children.

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