PROBLEM CHILD

How to deal with rebellious teenagers and troublesome countries

The euro zone, it’s fair to say, is hardly a happy family. And looming largest are the antics of a single problem child.

Greece has been a euro member for 15 years. As every parent knows, that’s around the time when things get difficult. The innocence of early youth, so full of promise and potential, gives way to sneering and sulking. Rebellious tendencies. Mood swings. Running with the wrong crowd. Wearing inappropriate clothing. Giving people the middle finger.

Greece has blown through its allowance, and then some. In search of more money, it is raising a stink, playing one relative off against the other. But after some bickering amongst themselves, the elders are now more or less united: The kid needs to learn to behave before they dip back into their wallets.

“I literally can’t even,” Greece says, slamming the bedroom door in a huff. “You brought me up this way, man. I’ve already suffered enough. What are you going to do about it? Throw me out?” And this week, for the first time, its European creditors said, “Yeah—we might.”

But therein lies Europe’s dilemma. If it doesn’t get tough on the wayward child, it might set a bad example for others with troublemaking tendencies. But what sort of message would it send to kick Greece out of the house—er, monetary union—altogether? Tough love is one thing, but this is heartless. Cowed and afraid, the bond between family members might never be the same. Some of them might storm off too. And what will the neighbors think?

For all the drama, most still expect the family to patch up its differences and make a deal. But maybe, as in so many households, they just need to grit their teeth and wait for the teenager to grow up.

This was published as part of the Quartz Weekend Brief. Sign up for our newsletters here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe & Africa, and the Americas.

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