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Teens and Money

Avoiding the "Mom's-My-Money-Tree" Trap

by MaryP  |  4256 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 

"Can I have $20, mom? Shannon and me wanna see a movie."

So. (After you've corrected her grammar), do you reach into your pocket, or not?

When your children are teens, they are much more independent. They are striving for autonomy. They see themselves as 'good as adults', and want the freedoms, perks, and advantages of adulthood. Oddly, they're not so keen on the "responsibility, burden, and worry" part of adulthood...

So. Do you reach into your pocket? I don't. Not necessarily.

Rather than be the Parental Money Tree, I give my teens a modest monthly allowance, from which they are required to pay for certain of their expenses.

A monthly allowance will vary depending on your family income and where you live, but it should be sufficient for the basics. BASICs, and not much else. For my kids, it was in the range of $100 - 150. And when they were making $50/week or more? The allowance was stopped.

hey were expected to purchase their own shirts, socks, and underwear. I provided a set amount for jeans, shoes, and outerwear. If they wanted the high-end, designer shoes, they paid the difference. If they want something badly enough, they’ll work for it. If they’re not willing to work for it--they don’t want it badly enough! Why should I use my hard-earned money to provide something they don’t want that badly?

“Can I have $20 for a movie?”

Nowadays, I never get asked that question. Would I reach into my pocket? No, because I’d be too busy asking where the spending money had gotten to. The child would be expected to account for their need. Usually, they need the money because they chose to spend their allowance in other ways. That’s okay. Sometimes I mess up my monthly budget, too. And then what happens? I do without something. I am not asking of my teen something I don’t expect of myself. They either find something else to do, or find some way to raise the money.

We are a family team. When I refuse them the $20, I am not treating them as a child, I am treating them as an adult.

Because sometimes? Sometimes it kinda sucks, being an adult – and that’s not such a bad thing for your teen to know!

About the Author

Mother of three (teens), step-mother of five (teens), home daycare operator of five (todders), and STILL SANE!! NOTHING is impossible...

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4 comments so far...

  • Hi-tech creations of technologies today are really very interesting. Are you aware that strong influence and extreme amount of exposure teenagers may have to these elements increases or even creates anger and provides them with groups that validate their negative interests? Have you ever considered a payday loan because your teenagers have consumed the entire contents of your pantry? Cell phones, internet, mp3 players, new pants (that they hardly hold up), running them here, running them there. And can they eat? They can eat their weight in chicken chimichangas. Having teenagers is an expensive proposition. Should we rescue these teenagers? Should we take out a payday loan to support all of their "wants?" Or should we teach them to work and to pay their own way? I read an article that taught me how to teach them to shovel snow to earn their own money. For other ideas on raising teens, or just a sympathetic voice.

    Reported Posted by Payday Loans on 16th January 2009

  • Florinda - Thanks! I like the cost-sharing idea. I've used it in the past, and am doing more of it lately.

    Monica - Your last line really grabbed me: when you treat them, they KNOW it's a treat, and don't just assume they're entitled. It's so easy to give children the idea they're due these things - far harder (but much better) that they understand when they're being given more than their due! I like your approach.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 30th August 2007

  • We started small, with specific sums of money allotted for different things. The kids had a monthly book allowance from the time they were 7 or so, and a small weekly sum for them to save for items they wanted, or for instant gratification. It was up to them. By the time they were teenagers I was had passed over control for clothing purchases (both of them shop for bargains much better than I do now), school supplies, and most of their "wants"

    Our big breakthrough was in vacation budgeting. We would give them a specific sum of money and they could decide on their own what souveniers were important. Oh the whining and "Mom can I"'s that decision saved.

    The secret is starting small and letting them learn the lessons of poor budgeting when it's 3 days to allowance day, not as an adult with 10 days to payday.

    Both kids are working full time this summer and have already allotted where their paycheques are going. It's my son's first year of university, and he's spent the last few weeks looking for deals on his required books list. We moved this summer and my daughter decided on a catholic school for her senior year of high school, and she made up the difference between her "fall" clothing budget with her own earnings to cover the cost of school uniforms (no deals on those saddly)

    So now, not only do I feel confident that the kids will manage their money a LOT better than I did at their age, when I want to treat them I can, and they understand that it's just that, a treat, not an entitlement.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Monica on 27th August 2007

  • I used a similar approach when my son was a teen - his parents provided his basics, but anything beyond that he knew he had to pay for himself. For some major purchases, we worked out a cost-sharing arrangement - as you say, if they're not willing to contribute to it, how much can they really want it? And since we ARE raising future adults, putting them in a position where they'll learn about managing their money is doing our job.

    My husband and I talked about this recently, as his daughter will be 13 next month, and we're on board with helping her learn to handle her money by requiring her to do so. (Her mother will most likely be an even bigger stickler for it than we will.)

    Great article, MaryP!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 27th August 2007