August 16, 2005
Would you do this for your kids?

I have a very hard time understanding the values that would lead to this.

It's the end of the day at Plano West Senior High School, and teenagers are pouring into the parking lot.

One jumps into a BMW M3. Another takes off in a Jaguar X-Type. A Land Rover joins the pack.

Senior Jodi Payson drives a black Hummer H2. She carries a Louis Vuitton purse and a credit card with no limit.

Last year, Jodi was among the privileged class at Plano West that sets the unspoken benchmark that many other students and therefore their parents strive to attain.

Plano West stands out for its students' affluence and their academic achievements, but it is as representative as any Collin County school in that parents say they feel pressure, from their children and their surroundings, to meet the highest lifestyle standards.

Competition starts early. Parents try to outdo one another on birthday parties with limousine chauffeurs and costumed characters.

By the time they're teenagers, children can shop on their own, which takes the spending to a whole new level.

They want bigger toys, including cars, and they won't settle for the type of jalopy their parents drove when they were 16.

This area is one of the wealthiest in the country, and it is also among the youngest. About three in 10 residents of Collin County are younger than 18.

Parents from all income levels say the urge to spend is most powerful when it comes to their children.

They might be in debt up to their eyebrows, but their child will have a cellphone and a Blackberry and a luxury car, said Mia Mbroh, a parent educator for the national nonprofit counseling organization Practical Parent Education in Plano.

"They do it out of love, and they don't want their kids to be the odd man out," she said. "Adults want to fit in as much as children."

It sounds more like desperation than love to me, but then I think that the best way to love your kid is to teach her to be self-sufficient rather than give her everything she ever wanted and more. I don't know what else there is to say.

The Morning News has a whole series called The Price of Prosperity that's got some eye-opening stuff in it. Like this one, which I fear will be the fate of too many of those Plano West students. Check it out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 16, 2005 to Society and cultcha | TrackBack

It's not just Plano, TX.

It never ceases to amaze me how many Escalades and Hummers I see being driven around Tottenville by kids that are still in or just out of high school.

My philosphy is simple: If you are under 18 and just got your license, you should be made to drive a 1975 AMC Gremlin. If you are between 18 and 21, just got your license and don't have a job, you should be made to drive a Yugo. If you are over 18 and working, then you should be the one paying for the car.

Posted by: William Hughes on August 16, 2005 3:20 PM

Stupid jerks ruining their kids.

Posted by: B. K. Oxley (binkley) on August 16, 2005 4:17 PM

i had the misfortune of growing up in plano during the 80's. what really amazes me about the place is the blind obliviousness of the parents when their child-raising ways backfire. it always seems to happen the same way: every ten years or so, the kids will start to get excessive about something, overdo it, and then start dying. it was suicides in the 70's, cocaine in the 80's, heroin in the 90's. (they're about due for another, IMHO) and the reaction of the parents is always, ALWAYS the same. utter shock at the notion that [their] perfect children are capable of doing such a thing.

which is why i'm raising my kids anywhere but there.

Posted by: ElHombre on August 16, 2005 5:14 PM

I am reminded of a quote from the bible...As you sow, so shall ye reap.

Someone's going to have some awfully spoiled and self-centered kids with some screwed up values picking out their nursing homes one day.

Posted by: Patrick on August 16, 2005 6:09 PM

I always love hearing about parenting from people with no children...I especially love to hear about kids that have too much from someone who grew up in the East and then attended that equal opportunity institution, Trinity University. A very expensive place to send ones child with a minority enrollment of, what, less that 20 percent, because most minorities don't play Tennis. Truth is, and I read the DMNs story, most parents are willing to do more than they should, just like our parents did. Back in my days it was GTOs or a Olds Cutless, maybe a Mustang...they were all there too.

Posted by: Dos Centavosforu on August 16, 2005 7:00 PM

I always love hearing about parenting from people with no children.

Excuse me?

I always love hearing from people who think they know more about me than they do.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 16, 2005 7:36 PM

Be careful there you old-timers: Gremlins and Yugos (especially the cabriolets) are fast becoming collectors items with the counterculture-type collectors and you may be setting your kids up for greater expectations. Not that I'm trying to tell anyone how to raise their kids, but your perception of a clunker is different than your kids perception of a clunker.

When I was old enough to drive my dad gave me a 42 year old car - his first car, a 1938 Plymouth P5. It was factory made with one tail light, one windshield wiper, a stick shift, had to use hand signals out the window for my drivers test, and I was always scrounging around for parts. I was very proud of it. My friends had Edsels, DeSotos, Crosleys, or Kaisers but I had a Plymouth.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on August 16, 2005 9:42 PM

Thanks for the links. I'm running a series of posts about kids today. My worries are the same as yours - we do them no favors by teaching them that money buys happiness. Two of my kids are driving. One is 19, pays for her own car, gas and cellphone by working pt and going to school at UH. The other, 17, shares with dad (he rides the bus to work), but pays her own gas and phone. They also buy their own clothes. Its hard on them, but who ever said life was supposed to be easy missed something somewhere.

Posted by: stc on August 16, 2005 10:29 PM

Any word on whether they spoil their dogs, too??

Posted by: Amerloc on August 17, 2005 7:46 AM

I always love hearing from people who think they know more about me than they do.

Don't get me started.

I wish I still had my '75 Buick. That would've been a great car for when my daughter reaches high school age.

Posted by: Pete on August 17, 2005 8:07 AM

Oh good grief. That article on Plano was an eye-opener for me and I thought I was familiar with North Texas.

Luckily my wife and I are still at the stage where a new "Dora the Explorer" backpack makes our youngest daughter's month and our 7 year old is thrilled with new tennis shoes from Target. But we talk a lot about how to deal with these issues when they eventually come up.

One of the difficulties is that you want the best education for your kids and that thinking gets you sucked into these sorts of neighborhoods if you have the means because these upscale suburban neighborhoods are where the highest ranked schools seem to be.

Last month my wife and I took a drive up to Southlake to visit a friend of hers who recently established a practice there and who was inviting her up for a look. I knew Southlake was supposed to be a relatively upscale place with good schools but I was blown away by how giant all the houses were. And also how little actual sense of "place" there seemed to be. Southlake even built a little fake downtown around a town square that is really little more than a typical upscale mall with no roof. It took 5 minutes of driving around to know that we were never in a million years going to contemplate living there.

As for cars, our 7 year old will be inheriting my wife's 2004 CRV when she turns 16. We already decided that. Our objective is to get our kids a good college education and start them out in life with no debt and reliable wheels. Anything more than that will have to come from their own pockets. Used to be when I was in college in the 80s a student could pretty much pay their own way through school with a combo of work study and loans and graduate without opressive debt. Heck, my Dad paid his own way through college in Oregon by working as a logger during the summers. But with the escalation in college costs and the ramping up of loan limits I see lots of kids graduating from college with what are really opressive debt levels. I figure if we can get or kids started out in life with good educations and no opressive debt that will constrain their options then we will have accomplished something.

Posted by: Kent on August 17, 2005 8:47 AM

I grew up in the North Dallas/Plano area and I can attest to the High school Parking lot at Plano West, Plano, and even Plano East. It wasn't as bad in the mid 90s when I was there.

Plano is an ego-centric city and it's probably been that way for the last 30 years. It's always tried to be the best at everything. Best schools, best football team, best looking kids, best cars.

The thing is in the metroplex there are a lot of Plano's; i'm sure you would see the same thing in Colleyville, Grapeville, Flower Mound, Frisco, newer areas of Keller, Coppell.

Posted by: pc on August 17, 2005 9:37 AM

"...from someone who grew up in the East and then attended that equal opportunity institution, Trinity University.

As my mother would say, just what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

You wield the phrase "grew up in the East" like a cudgel. As someone who went to school with Chuck, aside from his accent and a love of the NY Yankees there was little to mark Chuck as being from the East Coast. And there was none of the East Coast snobbery to which you not so slyly allude. Rather Chuck was kind, generous and full of a genuine hospitality that would have made the staunchest Southerner smile. The same can be said for Chuck parents who are remembered fondly by my folks from their meetings at parents functions.

As to Trinity, it was and remains a fine school offering a quality education at a relatively reasonable price. Don't believe me? It's been US News and World Report's #1 school in the West for 12 years in a row and has been cited as a best buy/value by Kiplinger's, Fiske and Money. To bring this tangent back to the topic - sending your son or daughter to a school like Trinity is not sending them to a babysitter/country club where they will be spoiled. It's a real yet cost-effective education which is earned, not simply a degree to be purchased.

And another thing - yes, Chuck had a car at college but as I recall it was a hand-me-down from his grandmother build in or near the year of his birth. A far cry from the car show in the Plano High parking lot.

So quit trying to obfuscate the message by maligning the messenger, Dos. It a tired, simplistic, and off-based "argument".

That's just my two cents, Dos.

Posted by: Patrick on August 17, 2005 9:53 AM

You don't have to be a parent to understand what happens when you spoil a child, you just have to have been a child.

Children learn their priorities from their parents. These children will grow up to be superficial and materialistic, just like their mommies and daddies.

And no, I don't have children. Does that make me an idiot? I think not.

Posted by: blurker gone bad on August 17, 2005 10:50 AM

Patrick: Thanks, dude. The check is in the mail. ;-)

(The car in question was a 1969 Chevy Nova, and it was indeed inherited from my grandmother.)

And Blurker is exactly right. Children learn what they live.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 17, 2005 11:00 AM

Dude, welcome to my life as a teenager in The Woodlands. Other than having college loans to repay, I think that my significantly smaller resources gave me a competitive advantage over many of them in school, college and life. That isn't to say there weren't a few spoiled kids who turned out to be fine folks, but the opportunity/fruition ratio was a bit off.

Posted by: matth on August 17, 2005 12:02 PM

Thanx for the link to the story about Amy & her husband - if they're like the Collin County nouveau riche I have known, they're nice little republicans. Isn't it special they managed to qualify for Chapter 7? Too bad they chose to miss out on their party's "bankruptcy reform", due to hit the streets this October or thereabouts...

Posted by: darms on August 17, 2005 1:37 PM

Ooh, a 69 Nova. Once upon a time, that was my dream machine. Now it's more of a Prius, but ah, memories...

Posted by: agm on August 17, 2005 7:58 PM

People in Plano don't have any real money - just a lot of credit cards and a lot of debt. Plano people try so hard to compete with Highland Park and its so obvious. But they will never reach that level. Highland Park is "old money". I hear people in Plano bragging about "yeah we are going to be like Highland Park in a few years". Only in their wildest dreams. Doesn't matter how many Porsches they buy for their kids, or how many Louis Vuitton handbags their wife carries - money can't buy class. These are simply middle class people parading as wealthy.

Posted by: Kim Davis on October 4, 2005 9:21 AM