Never pass up a chance at a memory

iStock_000003661616XSmallAs kids get older, the National Bank of Dad dynamic will likely change. Kids will want more money for more stuff and for more expensive stuff. Plus, they will be old enough to have their own actual bank account, and usually by the time they are 12 they are asking for one anyway. Just make sure you break the news to them on how REAL interest rates work.

What should older kids pay for? Should your teenager have an allowance or should they get a job? Or both? What about the new  outfit your daughter MUST have or the fees to pay on her softball team this spring? Who pays for that?

There’s a great line by actor Taylor Kitsch in his role as Panther football star Tim Riggins in the best TV show of all time, Friday Night Lights: in the season finale he’s taking his infant nephew with him to watch football practice – and as they also watch the cheerleaders Riggins’ tells his nephew “never pass up a chance at a memory.” 

First, let’s address what mom and dad should continue to pay for as the kids get older.

  • A reasonable clothing stipend. (Owen 78). You have had to clothe them since they were born, and unless they are on a reality TV show you will likely still have to clothe them. The clothes get more expensive as they get older and they may want something more stylish (i.e. pricey) than you can afford. Set reasonable limits and if they want something more expensive, they can pay the delta.
  • Birthday presents for friends and family members should be covered by mom and dad until the kids reach their teenage years (Owen 81-83).
  • Family treats: if everyone’s going to DQ then its mom and dad’s treat – it’s not a neat to eat treat if you just drive them there and make them pay for it. However, if you’re going to Disney World, mom and dad can cover airfare, hotel, food and park passes (Owen 84), but the kids can save up for their own toys they want to buy on property.
  • Special circumstances: if your kid wants to buy a motorcycle with money they’ve saved (holy cow how much money are you giving them in allowance?), its perfectly okay for mom and dad to require that the kid buy all of the safety equipment with their own money (Owen 84-85).
  • Carelessness and mischief: if they ruin their clothes through carelessness or mischief (as opposed to normal wear and tear or an accident) they should pay for the replacement (Owen 85).
  • Upgrades: if you were prepared to spend $20 bucks for a new top for your daughter but the one she wants is $50 then still give them the $20 and they can make up the difference.

My wife and I recently started to do this as well. Since they were born, to encourage our kids to read whenever we go to Barnes & Noble they know they can buy a book on us. This has developed a love of reading in all three of our kids, which was our diabolical plot. However, it’s also starting to get expensive – and, you’d be surprised how many books are really toys in disguise. To manage our budget we buy Barnes and Noble gift cards from the kids’ school, which gives the school a kickback every time we use them, and allows us to manage the book budget. Also, we’ve put the kabosh on buying toys disguised as books, and we have set a dollar limit for the books we will buy. If they want a more expensive book they make up the difference.

Growing up, I remember one of the first steps into adulthood was getting my own paying job. My uncle hired me to work at Hungry Howie’s pizza (he owned the place) and I still remember the first day I came home from work and realized I could earn my own money. Most of what I earned there made it about 60-feet away to a place called Applewood Hobbies, where I supported Mrs. Oser’s business by buying games and hobbies for about a decade. I’m sure my salary made for a nice retirement for her.

But Owen’s challenges our thinking by asking if our kids should work? When kids are little their job is to play. Playing is how they learn, grow and develop. When they get older we expect them to get a job but Owen’s says that unless a family’s financial situation forces everyone to contribute, children should not be allowed to hold regular jobs outside of school during school year (Owen 87), and I must say, he has a point worth considering.

First, remember the phrase “unless a family’s financial situation forces everyone to contribute,” so we are not talking about kids lounging around the house while the family farm gets foreclosed. Second, Owens is not encouraging your kids lay around the couch watching endless hours of SpongeBob (or whatever they watch these days) or playing the Call of Duty marathon for weeks on end.

” A child’s waking hours are limited and the most profitable place to invest them, both short-term and long-term, is in education… I would much rather have found one of my teenage children, after school, lying on the couch and reading a book rather than taking orders from the drive-through window at Wendy’s,” David Owen (Owen 88).

Participating in extracurricular activities, such as yearbook, playing sports, being involved with the clubs, can still help them acquire the virtues they are supposedly acquiring from menial after-school McJobs (punctuality, responsibility, persistence and satisfaction of doing a job well) (Owen 88). However, to a teenager, teenagers like jobs because jobs generate money and money generates stuff (Owen 89). But would you rather have your kid decide that he’d like a Ford Mustang more than he’d like an A in Math? (Owen 89). (Okay, let’s be real, I suck at math and work or no work I’d have gone for the Mustang, mainly because it was a chick magnet and I’d have actually been cool but maybe you still get the point).

Kids who work long hours after school are giving up what turns out to be for many some of the most memorable and cherished times of their life (Owen 91). I’m not so naive to think that life ends after high school and in my case, my college years rocked compared to my high school years, but for many people when they graduate from high school they begin the long march to the middle and reflect sadly on their lost youth.

Through my sophomore and junior years, I worked at my uncle’s pizza place, then as a sweeper-boy at a local elementary school (that was haunted by the way!), but I intentionally took my senior year off. I loved sports and played many of them up until junior high, but by high school I learned I liked being in front of people on a stage so I completely immersed myself in theater.

In my senior year I directed a one-act play (somehow managing to get the three hottest girls in school to act in it for me – don’t get excited, none of them ever went out with me and yes, I was too afraid to ask, but that’s a story for another blog). I also stage managed Grease!, acted in Children’s Theater, acted in a couple of one-act plays and was a part of numerous other productions – this all led to being accepted to a college to pursue a Bachelor’s in Theater (which I turned down by the way – again, topic for another blog).

During my senior year, by not having a job, I also spent hours of after-school time with my friends, hanging out, talking on the phone (we didn’t text back then), going to parties, cruising, dating, dumping, getting dumped – you know, just being a student and enjoying life. Oh, yea, went to most of my classes too. Lots of good memories were made and my parents were gracious enough to provide a decent allowance during that time. I’m sure for some of you this flies in the face of your proletarian work ethic, these frivolous luxuries is what being a teenager is all about (Owen 91).

Owen’s also allows that summer jobs and after-school jobs that complement their academic or extracurricular interests, such as tutoring, writing, Apple tech support, etc., are okay (Owen 90).

There are of course other considerations, such as kids who are saving for college, or vocational schools or other post high school activities, but adolescence is a fleeting time in our lives, that last magical moment in time before we have to enter full adulthood. Do you want those years for your kids filled with memories of working at the local fast food joint until 1:00 am and then sleeping through school the entire next day, or making memories with friends (until 1:00am then sleeping through school the entire next day). I actually opted for the latter and while my grades showed it, I think I still turned out okay, and if my Facebook friends list is any indication, so did most of us. Your kids have a small window of time to make their memories, they will have the rest of their lives to earn a living.

Owen, David. The First National Bank of Dad: A Foolproof Method for Teaching Your Kids the Value of Money. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print.


3 Responses to Never pass up a chance at a memory

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