When I was a teenager, my dad referred to himself as “the money tree.” My siblings and I were constantly asking for money, whether it was to pay for a “Letter” jacket, a tennis trip, or just a few bucks to get us by until the next allowance day.
My dad was thrilled when I turned 16, stopped babysitting for two bucks an hour, and got a “real” job as a cashier at a local store. He still paid the athletic fees and for the band instruments, but he no longer had me begging for money for other things.
If you want your kids to stop coming to the Bank of Mom and Dad for everything, you need to take steps to help them become more independent in their own right.
Set Clear Expectations
The first step is to set clear expectations. My parents made it clear that they would cut my allowance and that I would be responsible for my own entertainment when I was old enough to get a part-time job. They were very clear about what they were willing to pay for, and clear about what I had to pay for.
My siblings and I each got $100 for back-to-school clothing. We could choose to blow it on one or two designer items, and have to cover the rest, or we could buy smart, getting more bang for our buck. But we knew going in exactly how much we would get.
Start when your kids are young, and talk about expectations. My husband and I are already talking with our 11-year-old son about what he’s responsible for and what we’ll pay for.
Help Your Child Succeed
We already talk with our son about setting priorities and choosing what to do with his money. We also help him succeed when saving up for what he wants. He can choose to work as an office assistant in my home business, earning a wage (I’ll issue him a W-2 at the end of the year). He also submits 4-H projects to the county fair to earn ribbon money. The harder he works at those, the more money he can earn.
The Internet also offers a lot of new opportunities. We read about enterprising tweens and teens all the time. Help your child find creative ways to earn extra money so that they learn to take charge of their own future — and rely on you less. I’ll never forget the epiphany I had the day my mom suggested that, if I wanted a schedule more suited to my activities, that I quit the job as a cashier and instead start my own business as a piano teacher.
Guide your child and help him or her learn about money, so that he or she is set up for age-appropriate financial success.