Is busy daughter getting more than her fair share?

By Heidi Stevens / Chicago Tribune

Your daughter is enrolled in five activities. Your son’s in none. Do you owe him some money?

Parent advice (from panel of Tribune staff contributors):

No! It’s his choice not to participate in activities — activities I’d freely pay for. Remember, too, I’ll likely be paying more college tuition later to cover all the scholarships he didn’t get for having such a poor extracurricular record.

— Bill Daley

All you owe him is roughly equal access to enriching activities, should he choose to partake. And, to my mind, that does not include freer spending on the video games that must be taking up all of his free time. Having a kid who’s a lump on a couch isn’t all that exciting to a parent, but at least it’s cheap.

— Steve Johnson

No. Balance comes over a lifetime. But I would try to find something he wants to do. Supporting my daughter and going to all her activities means I will be spending some quality time with her. I would miss that with my son and would want to find something for us to do together as well.

— Dodie Hofstetter

Expert advice:

Balancing the books to devote equal funding for each child is unnecessary and likely impossible, says Vicki Hoefle, mom of five and author of “Duct Tape Parenting: A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible and Resilient Kids” (Bibliomotion).

Focus, instead, on balancing the other kind of capital — emotional — you’re spending.

“The time and energy and focus devoted to the daughter might be where the son is sensing the unfairness,” Hoefle says.

Since you’re not driving your son to and from practices and attending events that he’s starring in, look for other ways and times to connect with him throughout the week.

And make it clear that when he finds a pursuit he’s passionate about, you are happy to support it.

“‘We’re willing to put the money and time in as soon as you figure out what you want to do,’” Hoefle suggests. “‘But figuring out what you want to do is not up to us. That’s up to you.’”

The financial output may even out over time.

“Maybe your son is really interested in astronomy, and you can invest the money you’re not spending now on a two-week-long summer camp where he gets to study with astronauts and learn about space and travel and astronomy,” Hoefle says.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as getting rid of the clutter in your brain about what constitutes fair,” she says. “The reality is kids are interested in different things in different ways, and by supporting that you validate each person and the fact that there’s more than one way to be.”

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