Money and Teens…

Posted: July 25, 2012 in For Parents and Guardians
Tags: , , , , ,

If you’re a parent, you have to feed your teenager, provide shelter and medical care, and you have to clothe your teenager (and love and nurturance is nice too, as challenging as this might be when they’re nagging/begging/bargaining for new gear)… but nowhere is it written that you have to arm your child with all the latest gadgets and in-style stuff just because they ask. A few well timed “no’s” can go a long way in establishing your authority and making sure your child has healthy priorities.

Whether you’re wealthy, comfortable, living from check to check or struggling to get by, how much money you spend on your child  affects far more than just your budget. The frequency with which you buy them unnecessary goods (and yes, YOU get to decide between necessary and unnecessary, not them)  can significantly influence the kinds of earners and spenders they become as they get older.  We all know the saying… give a teenager a fish, he/she eats for a day, teach a teenager how to fish, they eat for a lifetime (or something like that)… and this couldn’t be more true than it is in todays increasingly style-driven, economically precarious society.

For teenagers, how they’re perceived by their peers matters a lot, in fact, it probably (and maddeningly) seems like it’s the only thing that matters. For your children, their confidence often hinges on how they think they look in the eyes of others. Are they pretty or handsome enough? Do they look poor? Is their cell phone as new as everyone else’s? Are their sneakers new and unscuffed or will they be teased for wearing shoes from a discount store? Understanding the pressure your teenager is under to “fit in” is necessary for your  relationship, but having an understanding of this pressure does not mean you need to give in to their very clever, subtle and sneaky tantrums or manipulations.

Of all the decisions you have to make and all the worries you have as a parent or guardian, preparing your teenager to be budget conscious might seem fairly low on the list of priorities… especially if you’re fortunate enough to be financially comfortable. You’re most likely more worried about their grades, the choices they make at parties, their adherence to rules and laws, practicing safe sex (or preferably, practicing no sex) or saying no thanks to drugs. But while teaching your child to have a healthy respect for (and fear of not having any) money might take a back seat to safety and grades, it’s one of those life lessons that they need to learn.

Not only are “entitled” and “spoiled” rather unattractive qualities in children, but raising a financially savvy child will actually stir them to be more motivated in school. A young person who has a clear understanding of the connection between work ethic and self-discipline and money, freedoms and “stuff”,  is a young person who is far more likely to take ownership of their education and post high school goals. If somehow, you can help your child understand that FIRST, you  work and earn, and SECOND, you get the good stuff (and not the other way around)  you will have accomplished a great feat that will pay huge dividends over a lifetime.

Discussing with your child the value of money, the work required to earn money, the fleeting nature of money and the necessity of recognizing that money, while nice, is not what life is all about, is a discussion that inches them closer to independence (and you closer to getting really nice gifts as you enter your golden years).

So speak with your teenager about the economy and job security. Teach them how to manage a checking account. Ask your adolescent what their understanding is of budgeting, credit and smart spending, and discuss with them how to differentiate between stuff they want… and stuff they need. And when you’re done having a lovely, calm, warm, respectful talk (I know I know) about moving towards independence, set up a plan that clearly illustrates how much of your money they have access to, what they are allowed to use it for, and exactly what they need to do, in their lives and at school, to earn some of your money.  And right after that, help them write their resume and with a smile on your face, invite them to hit the bricks to find a job.

Basic Principles of Cultivating Money-Conscious and Respectful Children:

* Remember, just because you might be able to afford to buy your children “stuff”… doesn’t mean it’s good for their development. Preparing them for adulthood is the most loving thing you can do for them (even more than buying them the latest iphone).

* Weekly or monthly allowances should always be attached to some responsibilities… and not just brushing their teeth. It’s okay to make your child really earn their money. If in your home you can cultivate the quality of “strong work ethic” and “respect for authority”, your child’s teachers will be most appreciative, and you’ll see results on their report cards.

* Remain ever-mindful of the guilt-trips and sob stories, so you don’t fall victim to them. It’s okay to provide for your child, but once you start rewarding “explanations” instead of “efforts”, you’re putting yourself on a very slippery, and expensive, slope.

* As much as your child may kick and scream, daily routines are good for children. Adults have them as employers and employees, so children should get used to them early… and you can use money or privileges or special activities as their payment for completing their daily routines.

* When old enough, be sure to discuss with your children the economy, banking, credit and credit cards, debt, savings, investments and all the other matters related to money. It’s okay (and necessary) to have a sense of humor about the topic, but be sure that the seriousness and dangers of financial irresponsibility are conveyed.

So there you have it… a few, achievable strategies targeting the development of  financially responsible, hard-working children.

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