'Life lesson': is asking a teenager to help pay her $10,000 dental bill unreasonable?

The total cost of all the procedures was around $10, 100 AUD
The total cost of all the procedures was around $10, 100 AUD Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Teaching kids valuable 'life lessons' is an important part of parenting - but how far is too far?

Co-parenting can be extremely difficult. One father is questioning if his ex-wife's idea of making their 16-year-old daughter to help pay for her dental fees, which total around $AUD 10,000, is asking too much -  which she insists it will be 'a good life lesson' for the teenager.

The father-of-three admitted that part of the problem was him and his ex-wife 'failing to enforce good oral hygiene', saying that 'it's the cumulative effect of 10 years of neglect when she was rarely (very rarely) taken to the dentist'.

Posting on the sub-thread r/Parenting on Reddit, (which has since been removed), the man said his daughter went to the dentist, and was told she needs $7000 USD of dental work, which includes five crowns, 22 cavities, and five extractions.

"When my ex-wife and I were married and financially struggling, we failed to take her to the dentist regularly for most of her life" he said in the post, adding they also never taught her the importance of caring for her teeth.

The man says the dental problems are a result of not teaching his daughter to care for her teeth

The man says the dental problems are a result of not teaching his daughter to care for her teeth Photo: Getty Images

"Most of the time we knew she wasn't brushing her teeth" he admitted "and we never taught her the importance of flossing"

The father-of-three said his ex-wife moved the kids across the country so she had a support system around, and during this time she went to the dentist at least once, with some preparation taking place for a root cancel that they never went through with.

"Still, her oral hygiene was neglected" he said, continuing saying the when his daughter came to live with him, he started to work on her self-image and emotional and physical health, including dental work.

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"We are half way through the dental work and my dental insurance capped out at $1500, so the remaining balance of the $7000 is going to come out of pocket" he wrote. "My daughters crowns are in and I'm 'happy' to say that she is now taking her oral hygiene seriously - brushing twice daily, flossing and using mouth wash"

According to the divorce agreement between him and his ex-wife, they are to split all extraordinary medical bills 50/50, which is where him and his wife disagree with each other.

"My ex-wife wants my daughter to pay some of this bill with her own money, she calls it a life lesson" he says, adding that his daughter already puts 50% of her pay check towards college savings - that's not negotiable"

"My opinion is that my daughter's poor oral hygiene over the last 10+ years is our failing as parents - we didn't teach her or live up to our responsibilities in this regard" he argued.

"Because she's a minor I don't think it's her responsibility to pay any of that medical bill," he said adamantly. "My position is that my ex-wife and I are responsible for the entirely of this bill".

The total cost of all the procedures was around $10, 100 AUD

The total cost of all the procedures was around $10,100 AUD Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

"I totally accept my responsibilities here and recognise that I let my daughter down by not teaching her the importance of good oral hygiene" he continued, asking if users think his daughter should pay for some of the bill.

"Is there value in a 'life lesson' of making her pay some of the bill?" he asked.

Users were quick to say that you can put a price on some life lessons, and asking a 16-year-old to pay part of a $AUD 10,000 bill is too much.

"Absolutely not! This is a parenting failure," said one.

"Oh my Lord, my jaw dropped reading this. ABSOLUTELY NOT. This is on the two of you legally, morally, and ethically. I'd be furious if I were your daughter."

"Sounds like the ex could use a life lesson that a decade of poor parenting choices leads to a $7k dental bill," wrote another. "This should absolutely not fall on the child's shoulders, who sounds like she's already caring for her teeth AND saving for college."

A user who identified herself as the daughter, responded to the post in the comments, saying she agrees with her father that she shouldn't have to pay.

"I know part of this is my fault but making me pay is a little extreme," she said. "I know that I need to take responsibility for some of this and I think I am."