Our son pays us back for unnecessary charges: Dad's perspective

We must teach our kids responsibility. My wife and I make responsibility one of the most important and frequent lessons that we teach our son. We expect him to complete his school work and household chores responsibly and give his best effort possible. We also strongly believe in handling his money responsibly. We made financial mistakes in the past, but now that we know better, we want to pass on our current financial responsibility to our twelve-year-old son. We include having him pay us back for unnecessary costs as part of that training.

Restaurants - not eating

We started this rule when our son was six years old. He would get money from his grandparents for birthdays, good report cards, or just because. Grandma gets her way! We have a very picky eater, and he was even pickier as a younger child. We got tired of paying for a meal in the restaurant and then throwing it away especially with his favorite foods. Often, even bringing it home for later did not work. We would try giving it back to him until either he ate it or it got too bad to keep. Finally, we started taking back the money that we would spend on his meal any time he did not eat enough. Three five-dollar paybacks add up fast for a six-year-old, but he learned not to waste our money in the restaurants. Now, he eats what he orders.

Computer game monthly fee

I had to warn our son very recently of another potential waste. He has a favorite online game called Roblox that he has played since nine years old. I do not mind paying the monthly fee because he works his chores for me to pay it, and the game has some valuable academic and financial lessons. He has also learned to write short computer programs from playing the game. For the first half of 2012, though, he began to play some other games using his own money for them. I noticed that he had stopped playing Roblox because he got a little bored with it, but I kept paying the fee. I told him that I did not want to pay if he did not play. Either he plays or cancels the account. I ruled that he would pay me back for each time I paid the monthly $19.95 fee if did not play or cancel. He has resumed playing with those stipulations.

My cell phone

We have rules that make our son responsible for every computer download, and he pays me back any charges that get billed to me whether we give permission or not. In May, 2012, I gave him permission to download a free file. In the process, he did not read the description that popped up. He thought he was continuing the download, but he actually registered my cell phone for daily horoscopes by text message for $9.95 per month. I do not have a text plan, and three messages came before I noticed. I ordered him to find a way to cancel. I could have done it, but I wanted him to know how upset I was. I deducted the text costs from his weekly pay. I soon received my next cell phone bill and saw the $9.95 charge. He got no weekly pay until he made up the money owed. That meant two weeks' worth of chores for free.

Teaching responsibility

Our son has to learn responsibility regarding money and other ventures. His paying us back any unnecessary charges that he causes teaches him to make his decisions more carefully. We deem it best for him to learn these lessons while young so he can avoid the mistakes that my wife and I made early in our marriage. We will continue to raise him responsibly especially concerning handling his money. These three examples -- and others -- serve as reminders to him to use wisely his power of choice.

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