Dear Doctor, 

I think I know what you are going to say, but I would like some thoughts to share with my daughter who is the mother of two children. I watch her and her husband buy everything for their children. It worries me because she was raised with appreciation for a dollar. She would pay attention if I gave her one of your columns talking about how to help children learn the value of money.

Nana

Dear Nana,

A parent is a teacher, certainly the most important one in a youngster’s life.

In our world, learning to manage money is very important. Indulgence is everywhere and has developed into entitlement. Most children see the possession of every sort of technology and toy as a right. It is a parent’s job to teach that such goodies require work and are a privilege.

I strongly believe in an allowance. This is a weekly stipend and should be conservative. Additional money may be earned for doing odd jobs that might require outside help if the youngster were not available. Examples include cleaning the garage or stacking wood.

A parent then works to help the child save cash with which they may invest in items they desire. For example, a bicycle can be bought with 75% paid by the parents and 25% by the child. This was the case with both of our children and resulted in the bikes being taken care of even into adult life.

Parents should work to model responsible use of money. If there is a continuous flow of money and things in the household with no sense of boundaries, do not assume the child will learn about spending. The phrase “we cannot afford it” should not be anathema.

As the youngster grows, opportunities come for experiencing earning outside the home. Shoveling snow, yard work, and eventually a job allow for the purchase of special things ranging from clothing to a car.

As children depart home for college or other adventures, teach them about credit cards.

In short, anticipate, teach and model. They will thank you for it and become responsible parents themselves.

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, email him at lrryllrsn@CS.com.

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