Steph Martin

Stephanie Martin, a writer and editor in Colorado, has two teenage daughters.

In The News

Lincoln Park, N.J.—A nasty family spat spilled into public view when 18-year-old Rachel Canning took her parents to court. She accused them of kicking her out of the house and not paying her private-school tuition. Rachel’s parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning, maintained that their daughter left on her own last fall because she didn’t want to follow their rules.

A judge denied Rachel’s initial request, but before another hearing could be held, an attorney announced the argument was over. “They’ve welcomed her back into the house,” said Angelo Sarno, who represents Rachel’s parents.

Sarno added that “nothing good could have come from this case,” which should have been “brought into some counselor’s office, not into a courtroom.”

Sean Canning said the lawsuit left him “dumbfounded.” He called his daughter, an honor student who’d been suspended from school, “a good kid” who’s also “an incredibly rebellious teen.” The Cannings revoked Rachel’s car and phone privileges and said she could no longer see her boyfriend, who’d also been suspended from school.

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Online reaction was mostly critical of Rachel. “She is an entitled, spoiled brat and will regret this later in life,” someone wrote. Another noted, “By giving our kids every opportunity to realize their potential, we’re also giving them the power to see it as their due rather than the gift and privilege it is.”

Some people said the Cannings should cut off Rachel completely. “Until she learns to appreciate what she’s had, she will never be respectful,” someone wrote. “Her learning to make it on her own will be the best thing in the end.”

Psychologist Jennifer Hartstein said, “Clearly, there is a breakdown in communication in this family.” She added, “The real question I have is how did it get so bad and go this far? What kind of steps could have been taken prior to this [lawsuit] happening?”

Sources: cnn.com, npr.org

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Discussion Questions for Students

What’s your reaction to this court case and family struggle? What initial impressions do you get about the various members, and why? Do you agree that Rachel seems entitled and spoiled? Why or why not? What long-term consequences might she face from this ordeal?

How do you suppose this conflict got to the point where Rachel felt the need to sue her parents? What might have defused the situation earlier, and why?

Why do you suspect Rachel’s parents welcomed her back home? Were they obligated to do so? Should they require better behaviors and attitudes if they’re going to keep paying her way? Explain.

When two very different sides of a story exist, who do you tend to believe, and why? As a young person, do you automatically take the side of your friends when they’re fighting with their parents? Do you ever see the parents’ point and think their actions are justified? Explain.

When, if ever, do teenagers deserve to be kicked out of the house? If kids can’t follow their parents’ rules, are parents obligated to keep supporting them? Why or why not?

Is rebellion a “natural” part of adolescence? Why or why not? What purpose might rebellion serve, from a teenager’s perspective? How should parents handle it? What punishments are appropriate when kids get to be teenagers?

Do you think most parents these days are coddling their kids? If so, give some examples. What type of expectations do you have about what you receive from your parents?  How much respect and appreciation do you show for what they give you and do for you?

Why is communication within a family often so difficult? What are some ways you can improve the lines of communication between you and your parents?

What points do you and your parents disagree on most often? How might you honor them better in those situations?

Scripture links: Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Matthew 21:28-32; Luke 15:11-24; Ephesians 6:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-15; and 1 Timothy 5:8.

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