03/11/2014 04:54 pm ET Updated May 11, 2014

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover, Or a Parent By Their Kid

Parents are judged all the time. Good parents must be the ones with the good kids right? Yes, sometimes. I believe good parenting happens in the in the way we react to our sons and daughters. Difficult kids needs good parents too and most of the time, they get them. When your kid wins awards and gets straight As, the world looks at you like you're a parenting genius. If your kid stays out all night and gets into trouble, the world has another opinion. The thing is, parents are defined by their reaction to their kids behavior, not the behavior itself. Lots of honor students and high achievers come from difficult backgrounds, while some kids have every advantage and flounder. I think parents should be defined by effort, generosity, boundaries and consistent, unconditional love, not by the current situation of the children they raise.

There's a case before the court in New Jersey right now that should have all of us worried. As parents, as adults and as sons and daughters too. There is a young lady who I believe is so confused and misguided that she is throwing away a future filled with potential to become that girl who sued her parents for more stuff. She had everything. She had a home with a family that clearly still loves her, unconditionally, even now. She had a private life surrounded by family that continues to have her best interests at heart. She was known as Rachel, not the poster child for self-righteous entitlement. Fueled by teenage angst, she has decided that her parents should remain a source of financial support indefinitely without any regard to their needs or rights. As I understand it, she wants their money as though she were their child, (un-emancipated), but her autonomy as though she were an independent adult.

I wonder if she would like to have a daughter just like herself one day? I wonder about her capacity for empathy. I wonder about her future. Would you hire someone like her? Would you want her on your campus?

Right now all eyes are focused on the teen and the accusations, but let's not forget her mom and dad. While her actions are glaring, their response is a shining example of unconditional love. We can only imagine the humiliation, pain and frustration they might feel. Their memories of their precious baby girl forever colored by the demands of a teenager they may feel they never really knew at all.

Still, they are patient, tolerant, kind and continue to offer to welcome their daughter home, even to support her, to pay for her education and transportation. This resolution should be no problem right? But here's the problem, they want to be her parents too. They want to guide and protect her, to teach and support her. To be respected as the owners of their own home and in control of their own lifestyle, to be more than just a financial doormat. Imagine that!

State Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard said it all when he said: "Are we going to open the gates for 12-year-olds to sue for an Xbox? For 13-year-olds to sue for an iPhone?" he asked. "We should be mindful of a potentially slippery slope."

No parent is perfect, but perfection has never been the standard. Good parents are actively and positively engaged with their children and give them unconditional love, not unconditional amounts of money. Good parents teach their kids about respect for self and for others.

Teaching empathy matters, everyday. More than almost anything else, empathy and the ability to see beyond ourselves builds compassionate communities and changes the world into a place where everyone deserves some respect; even parents.