Would you rather listen to this post? Here is the audio of me reading it to you. Your kid deserves the best as read by Pete the Planner
At some point in the last 5 years I have found that I feel responsible to say things that no one else really wants to say or hear. This is mainly because the truth hurts. I feel like we are letting social pressures ruin our kids. We aren’t standing up for their futures because we are too caught up trying to appease them in the now.
***Disclaimer of the day*** If you do any of the things listed below, then that doesn’t make you a bad person. I don’t think you are a bad parent. I’m not the judge of you, nor am I trying to be. I simply believe that we have socialized ourselves into a corner. We have allowed really strange things to become okay. Just allow the following text to enter your brain objectively. If you still disagree, great. And yes, I will most likely be guilty of one of things too someday. But I sure as hell hope not.
If you are anything like me, then you believe entitlement issues are getting worse as the generations progress. It is increasingly common for younger Americans to feel like the world owes them something, when in fact, we are owed NOTHING. I have more of an entitlement issue than someone in their 40’s. Someone in their 20’s is worse than me. And the 10 year olds are really jacked up. This is because every generation is loosening their grip on sensibility. It’s getting worse. We have to start asking uncomfortable questions in order to stop this awful problem. So you gotta start asking yourself why. Why does a 12 year old think it’s their God given right to have an iPhone? Why does an 8 year old enter you into a Worst Parent of the Year contest if you don’t buy them a Nintendo DS? But what is worse is, why do people think that banks are obligated to give them a mortgage that they can’t afford? Or why do people think that their parents should financially assist them deep into their 20’s?
I have identified a few random pop culture occurrences that are ruining the financial sensibilities of our youth. There are thousands of these things, but here are the first four that came to my mind.
- High end doll company- I’m angry, but not stupid. I’m not going to name the line of AMERICAN made GIRL dolls that are at the heart of pre-adolescent opulence. Why does a child of any age need a $100 doll? Seriously, just evacuate your mind and ask yourself “what good can a child learn from owning a $100 doll that has $14 shoes and a $50 coat?” People keep telling me that I, too, will eventually buy my daughter this type of doll. “She’ll want one, and you’ll want to make her happy.” Man, I hope I’m better than that. Yes, we all want to make our kids happy, but why does that mean that we have to buy a $100 doll? Why is that socially acceptable? Well, because we allowed it to be. Are you a bad person if you have done this? Not at all. But I believe that you are helping to perpetuate an unnecessary reality: buying luxury items even brings status to 8 year olds. Step back, what are we saying to our kids when we buy them something that is this ridiculously priced? We may be trying to say I love you, but I believe that the heinous financial decision casts a cloud over our expression of love. This cloud will rain over their brains longer than your “I love you” will. In retrospect, I’m now more appreciative of my parents for the things that they DIDN’T buy me versus the things they DID buy me.
- Electric lunch money- “Here Billy, take this lunch money,” I hypothetically say. “I don’t need it. Just fill up my cafeteria card and the balance is deducted from the account that you fill up electronically,” Billy says with 21st century sass. Nope, that won’t give then a skewed concept of money at all. Yes American education establishment, let’s teach our children about money by giving them mock credit cards. Let’s COMPLETELY desensitize them to money. Save all of your “convenience talk” and “safety issues” BS for someone else. I’ve been a Nancy-ass my entire life, and no one ever took my lunch money. Okay, so there’s an opportunity for our kids to make a purchase up to five times per week using real money, and we choose to squash this opportunity and instead teach them how to use plastic? Really? Come on. This stuff happens because we let it happen.
- Endless activities– Taking your child to 15 different activities per week isn’t a sign of your love and devotion. It’s a sign that you can’t say no. It’s also a sign that your kids have found themselves to be the puppet master of your world. The higher we lift our children onto pedestals, the farther they will fall when they aren’t the center of the universe anymore. Should you leave them at home in a drawer? No. But when did spending 20 hours a week on your children’s activities start making sense? The reality is that it has never made sense, but we did it anyway. Why did it ever seem sensible to drive three hours to play another 10 year old basketball team? At what point did spending hundreds of dollars per family in travel, food, and hotel rooms to play a “tournament game” against a random group of kids that is 300 miles away make sense? Does your 10 year old really need travel experience? My hand to the sky, I have seen countless middle class families put themselves in terrible financial decisions in order to “be on the travel team.” Not only is that a bad financial decision, but it offers up a terrible decision-making matrix for the impressionable children. If you are trying to support your kids’ dreams, just make sure you aren’t doing it at the cost of their financial future.
- Don’t lie to yourself, video games do absolutely nothing positive for your kids- “It improves their dexterity.” “It keeps them off the street.” “It’s their passion!” Just stop. Stop it. I can’t think of a single item more responsible (in the year 2011) for preventing children from learning the value of dollar than video games. How is it that not only do children have several $40-$50 video games, but in many cases they have several $200-$500 gaming systems. How does this make sense to anyone? Really? Answer me out loud, right now. Ignore your coworker, and answer the damn question. What are we doing? Sure, it’s wasteful. But the damage it does to your kids’ sense of money is worse. And don’t start with the “they save their own money for the game” stuff. Your job is to prevent your kids from wasting money on stupid stuff. If you let them spend their money on whatever they want, then they will do that FOREVER. Forever ever? Forever ever.
I am NOT a parenting expert. I am a financial expert. I fix the poor financial parenting that can be traced to the behavior above. Your kid deserves the best. Give it to them. Don’t give them things. Give them parenting.
My goal is to make this post a discussion. Do you have a different perspective on this? Please leave a comment below, and let’s have some intelligent discourse.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.