We all have parenting do-overs. Truth be told, I have a couple. Some, like preparing special meals for my picky eater when he was little, turned out to be a misstep that only affected me. But the one skill I really wish I'd worked on earlier with my sons is managing money.
I'm not sure how it slipped by me, quite frankly. Growing up in a blue-collar household with four siblings, I certainly wasn't raised with many material things. We all had jobs, from babysitting to newspaper delivery. By the time I was 16, I had earned my very own credit card, and I'd learned the ins and outs of layaways, coupons and clearance racks. In college and beyond, my parents' only financial contributions were the occasional restaurant dinner or train ticket home.
So, how did I end up with twin teens whose pockets seem to have holes in them? My husband and I have no one to blame but ourselves, really. By the time the kids were born, we'd managed to build steady careers and most of our educational debt was gone. Not through magic, but through hard work and planning. Our children, however, never saw the lean years. So they failed to appreciate where the money came from to pay for their comfortable home, ample playthings, and annual family vacations. Sure, they heard stories of our youth, they saw the neighborhood I grew up in, they witnessed how hard their dad and I worked, but there's seeing and there's KNOWING.
What I see now is that we unintentionally deprived our sons of many key lessons in appreciating the value of a dollar. We taught them the basics, like setting up savings accounts and donating to charity. But we paid most if not all of their expenses. We didn't insist that they get a paying job until senior year in high school, out of concern that their grades would suffer. And in the end, we failed to give them the chance to truly experience the ups and downs of balancing a budget. Now, in college, they are having a rough time staying in control of their spending. We've had numerous back-and-forth discussions on details like ATM overcharges, unnecessary bills, and the too-frequent ordering from online accounts attached to their parents' credit card. Luckily, password changes put a stop to that real fast!
Our new arrangement is a minimal weekly deposit into their campus accounts for essentials like subway tickets. Anything else, they need to earn the cash for. It took awhile, but the Bank of Mom is now closed.
What about you? Do you have a parenting do-over that you'd care to share?
A proud Parenting Guru, Boston Irish is actually Maureen O'Brien, PhD (aka Dr. Mo). She is a psychologist, parenting coach, workshop speaker and mother of twins. Her latest book is called Advantage Mom: 20 Lessons from a Parenting Pro, available exclusively at www.destinationparenting.com .