Ah, money! We work hard for it! We want our kids to value and handle it responsibly! What to do when we're met with, "I want that!" and, "Can I have that?" How many times did your parents remind you...and how many times have you repeated their admonition...that money doesn't grow on trees, you know! I hear a lot of parents complain that "kids today are so entitled," but the truth is, our kids are only as entitled as we teach them to be.
This Positive Discipline Tool Card recommends using allowance as a teaching tool. There's no particular right way to structure this, but parents should keep in mind the central goal: How can I teach my child to value and manage money responsibly?
My husband and I decided pretty early on that we would pay for "needs," and our kids should pay for "wants," at least for the most part. There were birthday and Christmas gifts, and the occasional "just for fun" purchases. For instance, we bought them their first Nintendo game systerm and a couple of games to go with it (it was the 90's, and the home gaming system craze was just starting!), and their grandparents gave them another one several years later. Otherwise, over the years, they used their own money to buy the additional game systems that found their way into our living room.
By the time they were about six, we had jobs they could do around the house to earn money (separate from their required "because you're part of the family" chores). Christmas and birthday money from relatives or friends went into their savings account, which they could access to make a purchase. So when they expressed the urge to buy something, our conversations were about how THEY would pay for it.
What we noticed over the years: little boys who made impulse purchases on a trip to Target grew into older boys who recognized that those impulse buys had been a waste of their money. They thought more carefully about what to purchase because Mom and Dad weren't going to buy it for them. They got creative with high school dates to do things that didn't cost a lot but were fun, so they'd have money for the more expensive Homecoming and Prom expenditures. They worked part-time throughout college for their spending money, and now that they're independent adults, they know how to manage their finances and they appreciate how far a dollar doesn't go, so they don't part with it easily.
AND they have always expressed appreciation for our financial contribution when they needed some help along the way. Entitlement never entered the picture.
Here's what I'm curious about, and if you're reading this, perhaps you'd be willing to share your experience. I wonder if parents who have a hard time saying NO to children around the money issue, also have a hard time saying NO to themselves. My husband and I were both raised by parents who had tightly limited budgets. They were "Depression Babies" who sent a strong message of "waste not, want not," learn how to do it yourself so you don't have to pay anyone else to do it, and save for the future because you never know what's coming. We grew up expecting to earn our own money to pay for extras, and as we moved into adulthood, even when we started making enough money to afford a few "extras," we've always had conversations about whether the purchase was worthy of the long-term cost commitment. We engaged in many of those conversations with the kids present, so I like to think we walked the talk and impressed upon them the need for impulse control with regard to money.
Like I said, there's no one right way to handle the allowance/money management issue. I'm interested in what others have done, and what you noticed in your kids' development as a result. Thanks for joining the respectful conversation, if you'd like to!