Our Teen Has No Money Sense, and We're Stretched to the Limit!
My oldest daughter works and goes to college. My youngest is in high school. She used to have a part-time job, but now she just wants to go school and go out with her boyfriend. She wants us to give her money to buy clothes, get her hair done, pay for her cell phone and so on. We are on a tight budget and can't give her much. She is always complaining about everything. My husband and I told her that she can study and also have a part-time job, but she said "No" because she just wants to study. She could have finished school a year ago, but she just wants to be with her friends. I can't say anything to her because, according to her I'm always judging her. Help! It is so hard to deal with teenagers!
Signed, Stretched and Resentful
In a world where we have instant access to everything from breaking news in the Middle East to what Kim Kardashian wore to the gym, it's impossible to prevent our kids from an onslaught of exposure to a culture that glorifies More, Better and Best!
Raising teens requires dealing with their insecurities and deep longing for peer approval. Money -- and the perks it provides -- seem to give kids the ability to fit in, by providing them with the clothes, meals out, accessories and "stuff" they think they need to belong.
But we only have to look as far as the recent financial crisis -- and the thousands of people who lost their homes because they were living beyond their means -- to see that when devotion to "stuff" isn't handled responsibly, it can lead to financial ruin when kids become adults.
Ultimately, the best way to help your daughter is to model financial responsibility by living within your means.
Here's my advice:
• Decide what--if anything-- you and your husband can comfortably offer your daughter for spending money. Sit down with her and explain that with your many financial obligations, you've decided to create a realistic budget for your family. Let her know what -- if anything -- you are willing to give her for her cell phone and so on, provided that her grades reflect that she's making school her priority. Tell her that if this amount doesn't seem adequate, she is welcome to supplement it with a part time job.
• Decide whether you want to give your daughter her spending money in one lump sum -- from which she will pay her cell bill, haircuts, meals out and clothes --- or whether it would be best to give it to her weekly, or twice a month. She will probably want it all at once. Let her learn how to budget when that big pile of money gets smaller as the days pass. If her doesn't get taken care of in time, which will probably impact your credit, shut it off. Do not advance money to her; this is an important opportunity to learn to manage the money she has, a skill that's sorely lacking in today's credit card world.
• Don't argue, rationalize or engage in negotiations if she asks for more money. Respectfully explain that this is what you can afford, and that you are committed to living within your means.
Expect your daughter to complain or be upset about this new arrangement, and allow her to vent, be mad or cry. For her, it's not about the money as much as it is about what she thinks the money can do for her: buy acceptance, inclusion and approval.
By showing her that you are there to support her emotionally, but are committed to living within your means, you'll be teaching your daughter essential life lessons. No, it's not easy raising teens, and they often have a sense of entitlement that makes them seem very ungrateful for all we give them. Before you know it, though, your daughter will be an adult, and, hopefully, she'll thank you for helping her develop the real sense of security that comes from having learned how to handle money responsibly.
Yours in parenting support,
AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.