Parental Social Engineering: Good or Evil?

I have an eighteen year old daughter, an only child, who suddenly decided to move out of the nest a few weeks after her birthday, and in with her barely lukewarm boyfriend. The kind you have to hold a mirror in front of his mouth to check if he’s still breathing.

She was an underachiever: a classic bored kid, A’s on tests, but with a disdain for what she considered “busywork.” And unafraid to challenge and question, which is a Bad Thing within the framework of the American penal system and its counterpart the American public school system. I offered a couple years ago, in fact, wanted her to quit school then, take her GED and go straight to college, where she would find a challenge. But she didn’t want to leave her friends, so she stayed, albeit not doing much. Unfortunately, I was not in a position to quit my job and homeschool her.

Despite doing something incredibly stupid, she is actually extremely intelligent, resourceful, remarkably confident, literate, outspoken, talented, competent, and unafraid to take action in her own or others’ defense. (Which has gotten her in hot water with the school more than once).

However, one of the greatest destroyers of female potential, is an unplanned teenage pregancy.

So, I have offered her $50.00 cash, in exchange for the doctor’s office receipts showing the successful insertion of an IUD (a method her doctor has already recommended for her). She still has health insurance for another four months.

I offered her $100.00 in exchange for a copy of her GED diploma.

$150.00 for proof that Boyfriend was neutered. Really, he shouldn’t breed. At least not with her. His IQ is roughly half of hers.

$500.00 for dumping him; to be paid only after I am satisfied that he is history.

Friday evening, at a local watering hole, I became esconced in a heated although civil debate as to the morality and ethics of my attempts to “bribe” what I consider good behavior. I am open minded, and although I defended my actions as a parent, I must secondarily consider the ethics involved.

Is it “elitist” manipulation of the poor to offer them cash to produce certain behaviors and actions? My position is that I can more easily afford $500 than she can afford the consequences of a deadweight boyfriend. The other side countered that it is immoral to attempt to “buy” someone’s behaviors, simply because (a) I have the money (b) She doesn’t have money and © I want to see certain actions from her?

They kept insisting that it was typical of the mentality of the “upper classes” (???) to not accept lifestyle decisions that did not reflect their own values and culture. That it’s one of society’s inherent evils in the class struggle. I said bullshit. I am not trying to remove a choice from her, simply sweetening the pot.

The only point I conceded, was that perhaps I have it backwards: I should be offering her $500 to go on (almost) foolproof birth control, but just $50 to dump him.

My goal is not necessarily to get her to move back home, but to remove herself from a dead-end lifestyle. She’s not a substance abuser, so that is not an issue. But she is working as a beer girl at a local golf course (making almost triple the money Boyfriend makes as a part-time construction worker’s helper). She needs to be in college.

Eventually, I predict she will tire of his blank, slack jawed gape, and ditch him like last week’s potato cakes. But I don’t want her to be burdened with a baby first; especially not one by a dud like that.

Is it any more wrong for a parent to attempt to influence their child’s life choices in this manner, than for, say, a corporation, or a government?

Isn’t being with her boyfriend and living her dead-end life her CHOICE?

You are her Mom. It is your Duty to manipulate her. :smiley:

You do realise that this is her great act of rebellion against you and that it’s unlikely that most/any of your bribes will have your intended effects, right? I’m guessing that if you take a hard, honest look back at yourself over the years you’ve always controlled or attempted to control her behaviour to meet your standards. She is, as you’ve stated, intelligent, and this is her way of getting back at you. The less you react the better, for your peace of mind and her future well being.

In agreement with ShibbOleth, I have my doubts that this will work in the way you hope. Particularly the “dumping the boyfriend” part; that’s only likely to convince her that you’re her enemy, trying to get in the way of her love (and love conquers all! Especially when you’re 18).*

Perhaps you should be dropping hints about fancy weddings and lots of grandchildren instead. (OK, not really. That’s a joke.)

I think she’s more likely to be seeing you as controlling and manipulative, and so equating you with other authority figures–like school, and remember what a success that was? You’re trying to exert authority, albeit in a roundabout way, and she wants to be an adult. She’ll reject it.

My daughters are not teens, so I can’t give advice from experience. But I would say that you should do the horribly difficult thing; let her do what she wants, be pleasant to the guy, and try to refrain from criticism. After a while, you might try asking her gentle questions about what she wants.

Good luck. I don’t know what to tell you, really.

*Never, ever underestimate the power of a young girl to completely delude herself about the guy she loves. I remember it all too well in myself. Many girls will happily sacrifice everything good they have for a rotten guy, and defend him to the last. They want to do it a lot of the time, whether he likes it or not. Maybe it’s self-dramatization, or the desire to be a martyr–I don’t know.

Yes, it is. As I already mentioned, I am not trying to eliminate a choice she might make. My question is, whether it is ethically reprehensible to attempt to use my greater resources to bring about certain actions?

She knows her choices are hers alone.

Ouch! You’re absolutely right. I had a BF, same name and last initial, coincidently, when I was her age, who was obedient, devoted, and utterly unsuitable…and who eventually ended up in the deadpile as well, once the amusement factor wore off…and he wanted to get seriously serious. But I wouldn’t move in with him. I was, however, dumb/in-luv enough to do so with her biological father… :smack:

She is, fortunately, smarter and more streetwise than I was at her age or for years thereafter. So I doubt she’ll put up with what I did.

I think my attempts are ethically defensible, as her mother, so long as I don’t try to emotionally blackmail her…“dump him or else…”

In other words, taking away a choice from her. I guess it’s “ok” to try to influence someone’s choice by making one choice more positive than another…but I disagree strongly with for all intents and purposes eliminating a choice for someone else…i.e. “we’ll disinherit you IF you don’t comply” … or by trying to eliminate their choice at all …i.e. criminalizing that action.

I have taught her since she was little…“If you must negotiate, always do so from a position of power.” Am I taking advantage? I don’t want her ending up on the Oprah show in fifteen years yowling about being traumatically manipulated by her mother.

As you mention, in the end, the choice is hers. However, if you have it in your power to influence that choice in a way you see as positive, you have to. If you have presented the arguments of those opposed to your action, simply tell them phhhppt! It is all the response those arguments deserve.

A parent is responsible for guiding their children through life as much as possible. Early on this involves making a lot of choices for them. Later is simply consists of giving advice. In your case you are still in that middle ground where the child is considered an adult, but not really mature yet. You have found a way to influence her choices without making them for her. Bravo!

Good luck. I tried to add a paragraph about advice, but it came out sounding stupid.

By paying her cash to make certain life choices you putting her on the same level as a lab monkey. Push button get treat. Maturity can’t be bought. Rather then discovering the errors in her ways, she will most like discover an easy way to make money. Push button get treat. She’s an adult human being, not a lab monkey. If she can’t make decisions to better her own life, thats tough. Hopefully, she will learn from her mistakes.

I hope you don’t mind me commenting on this part of your post. We are still in GD, after all.

I agree with your sentiments. However, it is still a parents job to see that the mistakes she learns from are not so drastic that she has to keep learning from the same ones. If a child runs into the street, you punish him until he no longer does that. You could say simply, well, he’ll learn from that as soon as it becomes a mistake. But such learning comes at too heavy a cost.

If Scopata Fuori succeeds in getting her daughter to straighten out, she will still have learned from her mistake. The mistakes we make at 18 can sometimes only be seen as mistakes when we are 25. (37? Oh, heck, I’m not sure what the age really is). The point is that she must help her daughter navigate the next couple years without derailing her daughter’s chances for future happiness. Encouragingher to avoid pregnancy for the next couple years would go a long way to accomplishing that.

Ok, that’s my $.04. Send me a bill. :wink:

She’s break up with the unsuitable boyfriend when she’s ready. She’ll get her diploma when she’s ready. She’ll go to college when she’s ready.

Your best point is that getting pregnant would compromise her ability to do the above when she is ready. I would concentrate on that, and if it takes a offer of money to do get through to her, I hope it works. As for the rest, I honestly believe you shouldn’t push her; live with it. Focus on the pregnancy thing, and good luck.