The lessons you are able to teach your teenage child by teaching him about money are many. As a parent you are able to use money metaphorically to build important character traits.
1. Work Ethic: If you reward your teen for hard work, then they learn working hard is a way to get paid. As your teen puts in more effort and obtains more skill, the reward increases. This is exactly what happens in life at a job. As you become more skilled combined with working hard, you are paid more than someone with less skill who is lazy.
2. Contentment: We don’t want to teach complacency, but we do want to teach contentedness. Your adolescent will appreciate what she has more if she is not gratified each time she wants something new. She will be less inclined to use new things as a way of feeling good if she has to pay for them herself. I’m not suggesting you require your child to pay for everything. However, having your teen pay for many things is a really good idea because it teaches an invaluable character trait of contentment.
3. Patience: Adolescents who save for something are more patient by nature. They understand good things come, but in time. They recognize value in setting a goal and achieving it. They see some of the joy comes in the earning and some comes in the having.
4. Responsibility: Responsible behavior includes living below your means. Teens who earn their way are more responsible in general. They have to choose between buying gas and buying marijuana. Usually they will buy gas for their car. Teens who have no financial responsibilities often spend their money in self-destructive ways.
5. Generosity: It feels good to give away someone else’s money. It feels even better to give away your own hard earned money in order to help someone less fortunate. Your adolescent benefits from you giving them money they can donate to charity. Your son or daughter really feels the simultaneous pain and joy of giving their own money to church, a friend, or something that doesn’t benefit him or her directly. It teaches generosity to start this before adulthood. It becomes a feeling they won’t live without. It increases awareness of the world.
6. Self-Control: When you give your teen $20 to see a movie and get a bite to eat, your teen spends it all. When it’s your teen’s own money, they watch a movie on Netflix and eat at home. Teens quickly learn how long it takes them to earn that $20, and they decide carefully how it is worth spending. They don’t make this calculation if you give them money.
Defeating bad character traits like entitlement, greediness, selfishness and superficiality also are accomplished using money as a metaphor. If you won’t give your teen everything you will help him learn work ethic, contentment, patience, responsibility, generosity, and self-control. Who doesn’t want a kid like that?
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT