Parenting is an art as much as a science. What nurtures creativity and responsibility in one child may breed wanton disregard in another. What is a great instructional tool one day is seen as useless and starts an argument the next. And while there are many helpful and well documented methodologies for parenting, the best informed parent will make some mistakes – and learn from them. As someone who has literally written the book on teaching kids about money (The Ultimate Parenting Map for Money Smart Kids – $10 including free shipping at www.brightleitz.com), I continue to learn from mistakes when I put theory into practice.
One of the hard learned lessons for me as a parent is that every stage of life for kids brings new lessons for the children and for their parents. The child who saved all her allowance as a grade schooler may have spent all her pay check within three days of every pay day as a teenager. What can be learned from this is that phases in kids’ lives are temporary. The outlook of the grade schooler isn’t lost, it’s just on vacation. And the teenager will learn to pace her spending if her parents resist the temptation to either lecture her about budgeting or give her extra money.
Another lesson is that most operating procedures work best when well defined. Here’s an example. This summer my family had multiple teenage drivers as well as my husband and me sharing cars. In the past we pretty much had a one-driver-per-car ratio, so the rule had been that each teen driver paid for their own gas. As we started playing musical chairs with car usage, I decided to generously allow the kids to use our gas card. We had them pay for a few more things we generally pay for. Feeling particularly kind, I’d often encourage the kids to get a soda at the gas station store. Hey, it’s summer! Live it up!
Then the gas card bill came in. OMG! The bill for the first month of summer was literally over four times the size of our average bill for that card. None of the kids was around when I opened the bill, so no shouting or bloodshed ensued. But the system changed immediately. Of course, it wasn’t entirely their fault. My card, my decision. So defining things up front – and thinking through potential outcomes – can make for less painful learning for everyone.