A few years ago, while visiting the home of a friend, I noticed a book on her kitchen counter about raising kids without a sense of entitlement.
It made sense to me that this friend would have such a book. She and her husband, both professionals, are doing well financially. I didn’t think to copy down the name of the book, because I didn’t think I’d ever find myself in their situation. I was still suffering the financial constraints of the newly divorced. “My kids know we operate on a budget,” I said to myself – and by budget, I meant we generally were living paycheck to paycheck. It never dawned on me that my kids would see our situation as anything other than a struggle.
Fast forward five years. My oldest child, my 14-year-old daughter, is now a teen. Like many teens, her tastes exceed my budget. She wants to wear designer jeans. Shopping is a hobby or a fun pastime. She also loves good food (no Mickey Ds for this kid), concerts and Broadway shows.
Nothing wrong with any of that. I raised her to have good taste. Still, there are practical limits to how much of this I can fund.
I tried giving her an allowance, but the concept of saving eluded her. She would spend her allowance and then ask (demand) more for “hanging out.” Paying for chores didn’t make sense – washing dishes and doing the laundry are obligations to be shared by the members of the household, not something one does for remuneration.
I told my daughter to start babysitting for extra money. She did, a few times, but never actively pursued it. When I told her to start tutoring younger kids or find something else to earn some pocket money, she cried and said, “I don’t know how to do anything!”
I sat down with her and went over the household budget with her to the nearest dollar, showing her how my bi-monthly paychecks are spent. She nodded, wide-eyed, but the effect wore off the next time she wanted something and I refused to give it to her.
I can’t do the money battles anymore. Her raging sense of entitlement and utter lack of responsibility and accountability infuriate me. Lecturing doesn’t work. So to teach her some valuable lessons about money, I’ve decided to enroll her in World of Money, a one-week summer program for kids 9-17. World of Money introduces basic financial concepts to kids and helps them begin to understand what spending, saving and investing really mean.
In one week, my daughter will learn as much as possible about banks, interest, the stock and other financial markets, the role of the U.S. Treasury, budgets, and other basic money concepts.
I hope the program has a lasting impact on her. It’s important for all children to learn about how money REALLY works, but I think it is especially important for black children to be exposed to this information. Our kids don’t see us often enough engaged in the acts of saving, investing, budgeting and paying bills. And while I recognize the importance of leading by example, those at-home lessons need a boost from someone who isn’t Mom saying “no” all the the time.
While I may not have the means of my friend’s family, I am fortunate to have moved beyond living paycheck, to taking one or two significant family vacations per year. My kids’ sense of entitlement is out of control, and I need to reign it in this summer. I am going to ask my friend for the name of the book she bought for her family years ago, but I am also open to other suggestions. If any of you CocoaMamas readers have thoughts or recommendations about how to teach children, especially teenagers, some valuable and worthwhile lessons about money, please share.