Ways to Avoid Problems with Your Children Over Money

Practical Ideas to Avoid Conflict and Build Responsibility

• Let your children know what you’re willing to buy them or how much they can have to spend before you go to the store.

• If you don’t plan to buy them a particular item they want, let them know beforehand.  (One parent allowed her son to browse the toy section of his favorite store and asked him to tell her three things he wished he could have.  She promised to keep his preferences in mind when it was time to buy.)

• If your kids can’t have what they want, redirect their attention to something they can have: “We’re not buying any candy on this trip. You can pick out the kind of cereal you’d like.”

• Before you give your child an allowance, be clear about all aspects of your arrangement. Talk with your child about expenses she’ll be expected to pay for herself, any restrictions on the use of the allowance, requirements for receiving or earning the allowance, what portion of the allowance must be saved, availability of advances (and arrangements for repaying) or ways to earn extra money when she needs it.  You might even want to write out an agreement or “contract,” but with or without this backup, stick to whatever arrangements you make.

• If your child wants something expensive and you have no objection to the purchase, ask him to earn and pay for a portion, and agree cover the rest (to whatever degree you can afford). For example, if he wants designer jeans, you might offer to pay what “regular” jeans would cost and let him make up the difference himself.

• If you give, give freely—no lectures about how easy they’ve got it, how spoiled they are, how hard you had to work for it, or how money doesn’t grow on trees.

• When they’re old enough, help them develop accountability. For example, a lot of kids believe that when you want money, all you have to do is go to an ATM and get some! Talk to them about how you have to put money in first—even show them a bank statement to “prove” that money doesn’t just come out of a wall!

• Teach them to save.  Start a savings account for each child and help them plan and commit to a savings program (for example, a portion of their allowance, earnings or gifts).  Help them determine the purpose of this account, their savings goals and an acceptable minimum balance (or maximum percentage they may withdraw).

• If you agree to loan your children money, ask them how they plan to repay the loan, and even request collateral (siblings not acceptable).  They may take you more seriously if you get something in writing, even if it’s for small amounts.

• If you must borrow from your children, give them an IOU or sign some written agreement.  Pay them back on time.  Model responsible “borrowing” behavior.

• Start small and start young.  It’s a great way to help teach responsibility!

Excerpt from The Parent’s Little Book of Lists: Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Parenting, by Dr. Jane Bluestein, © 2021, Father Sky Publishing, Albuquerque, NM.

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© 1997, 2012, 2022, Dr. Jane Bluestein

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