by Mark Gregston
What our kids see us do is more powerful than what they hear us say. And the expression: more is caught than taught, has never been more true than in the area of finances and teen maturity.
Maturity follows responsibility, and as parents, it’s our job to train up our children in the way they should go. We need to help our kids understand how the world works, and how the world works, financially. But listen to this stat: In the past generation, the number of high school students with summer jobs dropped from 75 percent to 35 percent– that’s almost half!
We have to teach our kids about money. And we need to be intentional about it so that it doesn’t damage their future relationships. So, whether your child is six or sixteen, this article will give you the insights you need to help your child make that transition from adolescence to adulthood.
#1 Give them Financial Responsibilities Early—and Often
Parents who retain control over every detail of their child’s life do so at the detriment of the child, the parent, and even society! Those words may sound harsh, but they’re true because no parent wants to deal with a 25-year old couch camper who’s never been taught to be responsible. It’s up to you to build maturity into your child’s life, and that comes from what you’re teaching them.
So, start them early. In eighth grade get them a checkbook—not a credit or a debit card. Teach them how debits and credits work and how a budget works. They need to know that you shouldn’t spend more money than you earn.
Figure out how much you spend on your kids each month and then deposit those funds into that checking account. Let them know that they’ll be responsible for using those funds to cover their normal monthly expenses. They may make poor decisions … but then again, they might just surprise you!
#2 Natural Consequences for Financial Failures
Most of us are familiar with the story of the prodigal son—he took one-third of his father’s estate and squandered the money pretty quickly. What’s often overlooked in that story though are the six words that come right before his return: And no one gave him anything.
That was a tough lesson, but one he needed to learn. And it’s one our kids need to learn, too. So, when your teen fails with money, or with any responsibility, don’t shame them—support them instead. Be there to dust them off and help them get back on track. Remember, learning won’t take place if you continually bail your kids out—though there are definitely times when stepping in is appropriate.
#3 A Few Things to Consider
When you allow your teen the opportunity to solve their own problems, you give them responsibility and an opportunity to grow and mature. So, pull back the curtain on your own family finances, and let your child see the inner workings of the household finances in age-appropriate ways.
The more freedoms your child enjoys, the more you should let them take financial responsibility for those cellphones, cars, and dates. Decrease their allowance as they get older. But don’t just spring it on them. Discuss it first, so they’ll understand your intentions. And while you’re talking about it, encourage them to get a job. Having outside employment will help your teen learn about the responsibilities that come with employment—not just how they can earn money.
And, finally, teaching your kids about money matters will actually help them feel and act better. Money management isn’t just about earning and spending. It’s about giving, too. And philanthropy doesn’t just happen, it needs to be “caught” and nurtured. A cheerful, well-trained giver is the best kind.
Mom, Dad … your teens need your financial help. I’m not talking about giving them money. I’m talking about helping them understand the world of finance and how money and credit works. They need to be taught about investments and how to not spend more than they make. They need to be taught how to make all they can, save all they can, and give all they can. It’s called financial training. Your investment in this area of their life will one day make for a happier marriage and family life as they begin to work and live in a world that demands financial responsibility. Create opportunities for learning while giving them occasions to make some mistakes. It’s how they will learn and also how they will see the importance of your counsel.