Since many people seem to be posting and re-posting the article by Amy Chua (Wall Street Journal, 1/8/2011) about how Chinese mothers are superior to Western mothers and appear to appreciate her point of view, I decided to share my thoughts on her article. As a well-known parenting expert who has not only raised two successful, happy children of my own, I have also extensively and intensively studied and taught parenting strategies for the past 21 years.
I just finished reading the most marvelous coloring book! I know, I know, reading? A coloring book? How does that happen?
It happens when the words are as charming, brave, bold, humorous and touching as the pictures. It happens when the coloring book makes you not only want to go out and buy yourself a shiny new box of colored pencils to color again, but also when you want to quote the words you read to all your friends.
7:30 a.m. this morning: buzz, buzz, buzz. I hit the button on the alarm and it stopped. Well, I thought, I feel pretty good! That extra hour of sleep really makes a difference!
Quick back story: my son, Dan, has been sick with the flu for 5 days. Last night he woke us up three times for various reasons, one of which was that he still has a 99.7 fever and couldn’t go to school today. That is when I reset my alarm from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m.
When my son came home from his first day of school this week, I asked him how it went with regard to using his AmEx PASS card to purchase lunch, since this was one of the things he was wary about when switching from cash to card to receive his allowance.
“The place we went to wouldn’t take my card,” he said.
“Oh. How did you handle that?” I asked.
“I just borrowed money from a friend,” he replied.
“Dan?” I asked my son, “I’m curious about how you budget your money. I mean, how do you save for things you don’t have to buy on a daily basis?”
“Budgets just make sense to me,” he said, “they seem intuitive.”
At 18 years of age, I had already owned my first car for two years. Growing up in Texas, most individuals needed a car, and families often bought one for their teens to avoid scheduling snafus. I was in my first year of college and had always been adept at managing my money so as to never find myself in financial difficulty. Yes, I was a bit of a tightwad! But it served me well in terms of having money when I needed it.
I recently asked my son how he thought things might be different this Fall, using his AmEx PASS card rather than being given his allowance in cash on a weekly basis. Deadpan, he quipped, “It’s obvious. Cash is virtually untraceable so all of my illicit dealings will now have to be under the table or I'll have to go to the cash machine and pay a fee. I’m just going to have to be more thoughtful about what I do illicitly.”
While staying with my grown daughter during part of our vacation, I noticed that she seemed to have a clear financial plan with regard to spending money on items that she needs as well as on things that she wants, so I asked her how she creates a balance between the two. Interestingly, while I thought there was a clear differentiation between “needs” vs. “wants,” she asked for clarification. I explained that “needs” are things like toilet paper, food, gas money, etc. “Wants” are things like a new pair of shoes if you already have perfectly serviceable ones.
When we gave our son his American Express PASS card, he immediately made a bid for more allowance. My reply: Let's sit down at a family meeting and we'll discuss it. In the meantime, I told him, he should think about what extra financial responsibilities he wants to take on with the additional allowance.
If I had to choose just one financial lesson for teens to learn before they head into young adulthood it would be the lesson of how money works in real life. In my last post, I said that I don’t believe you should pay your teen for doing chores or getting good grades. In fact, I don’t believe your teen should have to “earn” his allowance in any way. How, then, do we reconcile that with the fact that in “real life” money is earned, not just handed to you? I believe this question arises from a misconception about the definition of allowance.