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Kids, Time to Pick Up the Check for Mom and Dad

BY: Halley Lawrence | Nov 11, 2014
Kids, Time to Pick Up the Check for Mom and Dad

Ah, parents: where would we be without them? They raise us, love us, and fulfill basic needs for us, like food, shelter, and Batman pajamas. And often, they insist on paying for dinner outings long after we’ve left the nest. But at what point should we stop letting them do that? We asked an etiquette expert—and a group of commenters—about whether adult kids should stop letting moms and dads foot the bill at restaurants.


From parents of adult children:

  • "We always welcome an opportunity to treat the kids and their significant others to dinner. And we love and appreciate it when they treat us. I was truly moved the first time one of our adult children offered to pick up the check. There were so many unspoken messages conveyed in that gesture, among them: 'I can finally afford to do this.' 'I want to do something nice for you.' 'Thanks, Mom and Dad, for helping me get to this point in my life.'"
  • "There's little my grown kids need me for these days (on the financial side, that is), so paying for dinner is something I really enjoy doing."
  • "My heart soared the first time I heard my son say: 'I'll get that, Dad!' Until he got a 'decent' job in his mid-20s, I always paid. Now it is understood that he pays. The same for me and my parents, who never have to open their wallets again when with me."

From adult children:

  • "We started picking up the check when we started making more than our parents. Often, we'll trade off 'treating' for meals. We don't see each other often enough, so I'm happy to pay and give a little something back if we can afford it."
  • "I go out to lunch with my 91-year-old mom every week, and we take turns picking up the check. If I try to reach for it too often, she'll snatch it from me and remind me that it's her turn to pay. I think she enjoys being able to 'treat' me to lunch."
  • "I always pay ... ever since I got a full-time job after college. My parents love paying for the meals whenever they can, though. I think it's their way of saying 'You are still my child.'"

From Mister Manners (real name: Thomas P. Farley), the etiquette expert behind What Manners Most:

  • "If you’re lucky enough to have parents who still take joy in taking you to dinner, I wouldn’t battle them on it. I wouldn’t want to deprive them of that joy. Regardless, the person being treated should definitely offer and not just sit there and smile—make at least a fake grab for the wallet. You definitely want to make that effort. [And] I would make sure that at least a few times a year, you make a point of taking them to dinner."

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Who picks up the tab in other situations? Find out with our guides:

check on the first datecheck splitting etiquette
Who Should Pick Up the Check on a First Date?The Right Way to Split a Group Check

Guide Staff Writer
BY: Halley Lawrence
Guide Staff Writer