Fifteen-year-olds do not turn into crazed consumers overnight but there is hope.
Recently a mother was shocked and bewildered when her son demanded she buy him the latest gadget while cursing and swearing at her. She felt hurt and threatened. She is not alone.
Unfortunately, many kids feel pressured to obtain merchandise or clothing in order to feel like they belong to a group. This is their way, in part, of learning about and finding their place in the world. Understanding this is crucial in order for a parent to remain calm and deal with the issue at hand. Put yourself in the child’s shoes for a moment and remember what it was like when you were a child.
Even if you had the money of Bill Gates I would never suggest a parent drop everything to buy things. The first step would be deciding what fits into your budget and personal values without any input from the child. You are probably already paying a large portion in housing, food, transportation, utilities, etc. You may be giving an amount of discretionary funds to your child, probably in the form of an allowance. You also know what you do or do not want to allow in line with your family values.
Personal values guided much of our purchases for our daughters. That means we did not have money to get beepers or Tamagotchis (a battery operated creature) but we had plenty of money for books, hobbies, art and craft supplies. There were things or events that we simply did not allow because they were contrary to our values.
Anecdote: Katie had a friend whose mother tried to pressure me into buying Katie several Tamagotchis because her daughter had them. She gave her daughter a Tamagotchi birthday party that year and spent a lot of money to get her daughter an entire collection of Tamagotchis and all the paraphernalia it included. For party favors she gave little suits for Tamagotchi – that Katie did not now or ever would own. This was a 40-plus year-old school teacher! That illustrates how strong fads and peer pressure can be. The caveat was that many of the Tamagotchis electronically “died” when they did not get enough interaction from children who were horrified.
Do not discuss your money with your children; discuss their money with them.
When you open your income to your children you are in effect making them ‘partners.’ Kids are creative and will see no logical reason you should ever buy a piece of clothing for yourself even though you have lost (or gained) three sizes. Kids will also ‘find’ unused funds previously earmarked for: Savings, retirement, car repairs, etc. to be put toward their wants list. Even child support is parceled for housing, utilities, food, clothing, school, etc. By the time the check arrives the money is already spent.
If you have not previously given an allowance to your child it is never too late to start.
Every child in school has parents with different incomes and many do receive allowances of varying amounts. The main purpose of allowance is to teach children about money matters and budgeting to meet goals – not to make them rich. Some parents give a set weekly amount for each year of a child’s age. Example: $3 per year times age 15 = $45 weekly. You set the amount and decide what the child must pay out for from that money: Lunch at school, library fees, clothing, movies, activities, etc. Any money a child has left over at the end of the week can be saved and put in the bank, put in an envelope for the item they want to buy or spent however they see fit. The amount of your child’s allowance does not depend on the amount others get or how much they would like to get. Giving children also gives them some control of their situation.
If this is the first time presenting this type of allowance to your child you may expect protests at first. With the mother of the 15-year-old mentioned above, she may expect a considerable amount of cursing and swearing. (You can also deduct from allowance for swearing.) For this mom I would recommend not responding or engaging in debate over anything until the child calms themselves. Ground rule: No amount of verbal or physical abuse is ever acceptable. Once the child has calmed down they will be ready to discuss money and allowance.
Empathy can be a powerful tool: “I know you would like to get a new cell phone, I would like one too.” Remind your child that you value them as a person, not because of what they have or because of their grades in school. Explain how much you are willing to budget for their allowance – an amount that is not negotiable. Be available to assist with budgeting: “If you skip meeting the other kids at the doughnut shop you can save $12 weekly.” ‘Helping’ does not mean giving them more money.
If the child has time and you agree, this could be the perfect time for the child to get a part-time job. The child could babysit, mow lawns, do yard work, shovel snow, deliver newspapers, work in retail, etc. You would also want to approve of the type of job they get due to safety issues and the number of hours they work. Opening a bank account would be the next step rather having the money within easy reach. The more money they make now means the more reliable vehicle they will drive later on. Now, how is your child going to get to their workplace?
One thing you may want to address would be the yearning to own a vehicle when they become licensed to drive. Even used vehicles are expensive and repairs and maintenance can quickly bloom which points to having many more conversations about responsibility: Insurance, registration, inspections, etc.
Peer pressure is not the only source of pressure and in all likelihood the child will begin to understand more about how the real world works and just maybe understand more about your world.
Yes, this child will definitely need to earn more money.