markforstrom.com

reflections of mine others might find useful

Category: Reflections on Parenting (page 1 of 6)

Influence Optimizer #5: Emancipate Strategically

I once blogged about the importance of parental influence and mentioned five things that can increase it.  In the previous four posts–and this one–I  elaborate on what I call the Five Optimizers of Influence.  While nothing guarantees that our kids will make wise choices, my 31 years of youth ministry taught me that parents who become proficient in these five areas will have maximum impact on their kids.

1. Model authenticity.

2. Avoid relational walls.

3. Cultivate trust. 

4. Verbalize values.

 

5. Emancipate strategically.

At first glance, the thought of “kicking the kids out of the home” might seem antithetical to parents having a positive influence on them, but I contend that this is one of the most important components of influence.

When we strategically parent our kids with their eventual independence as our goal they will be much better equipped to manage their own lives wisely.  That, after all, is the goal of our influence.  As I say quite often, our aim should be to raise adults, not kids.  And let’s aim for well-prepared adults!

Much of what I blog about relates to this, so I’ll let those posts speak for themselves.

Strategically emancipating our kids can involve the following:

  • Decreasing parental control
  • Giving kids increasing levels of responsibility as they age, including chores, and managing their own homework, diet, and sleep
  • Teaching them to manage their own money by giving them hefty allowances
  • Making them purchase their own car
  • Making them clean up their own messes
  • Trusting their ability to  solve their own problems
  • Allowing them to fail (actually loving it when they fail!) so they learn from their failures
  • Teaching them life skills so they can thrive without us
  • Working ourselves out of a job, accepting empty nester-hood

Thank for reading these five posts on Optimizing our Influence.  I hope you found some of the concepts helpful.

 

 

Influence Optimizer #4: Verbalize Values

I once blogged about the importance of parental influence and mentioned five things that can increase it.  In the past three posts, this post, and the following post I elaborate on what I call the Five Optimizers of Influence.  While nothing guarantees that our kids will make wise choices, my 31 years of youth ministry taught me that parents who become proficient in these five areas will have maximum impact on their kids.

1. Model authenticity.

2. Avoid relational walls.

3. Cultivate trust..

 

4. Verbalize values.

Many things are more caught than taught, but some things simply need to be taught.

Scripture gives the Israelites this instruction: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise…You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 & 9; emphasis mine).

It is clear that God expects us to proactively provide spiritual nurturing and instruction to our children; it’s our duty as parents to pass on to our children a legacy of faith.  Transferring our faith to the next generation involves living it authentically before them (as mentioned in the first post of this series) as well as instructing them accurately.

This spiritual instruction includes not only telling them what we believe but–in light of today’s accessibility to alternate worldviews–it’s equally important to explain why we believe as we do and why we reject other views.  We must show that our faith holds up to scrutiny when compared to other belief systems; therefore, we can’t afford to espouse a blind faith that comes across as having our heads in the sand!

It warmed my heart this week to get an email from a college freshman, who had been wrestling with how to explain the Trinity to a Muslim classmate.  She turned to her dad for a deeper understanding of the topic and his perspective was exactly what she needed.  That’s what this post is talking about!

Parents who don’t feel as confident with spiritual guidance have many great resources available to help supplement their spiritual instruction.  The church can certainly help with this, as can worldview training organizations, such as Summit.org.

Besides theological instruction, parents also need to thoroughly teach our kids about the culture in which we live.  This is a world that bombards our kids with a million false ideas, distorted perspectives, and flat-out lies.  Incessantly.  Aggressively.  Relentlessly.

As parents, we must take care to verbalize our beliefs and views on all sorts of topics.  If we don’t provide a running commentary on what our kids are seeing, hearing, learning, and reading our silence effectively hands over the microphone to our culture.

C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “The most dangerous ideas in a society are not the ones being argued, but the ones that are assumed.”  This is so true.  We need to start calling out the sins that the world normalizes rather than let these views slip by without questioning them.  

Fortunately, our culture doesn’t hide its views, giving us plenty of faulty assumptions to talk to our kids about!  If you wonder where to look, you can start with the 6 o’clock news, or Superbowl commercials, or game shows, or video games, or blockbuster movies.  All of them provide volumes of values to talk about.  Every day our kids are being taught specific views about politics, morality, definitions of family, human dignity, justice, success, suffering, etc.  Don’t you want to weigh in on those topics?  Then talk about them!  Kids can’t consider our point of view on things if we don’t discuss them.  (As a bonus, by viewing our culture mindfully, we may discover how some of our culture’s assumptions have subtly tainted our own thinking!)

But we can’t just be “reactive” to our culture.  In some cases, we need to get in the “first word” so the world’s distorted views are seen in proper context from the get-go.  For example, it was important to me to be that I be the one to inform our daughters about human sexuality and reproduction–in the context of these subjects being beautiful designs of God which are to be enjoyed only within marriage.  I didn’t want their first awareness of these important topics to come from the mouth of a “values-free” 5th-grade health teacher.

To be sure, some conversations will come earlier than we would have wished, and some will be admittedly awkward.  Let that not be an excuse for you to abdicate your parental responsibility of truth-telling.

Finally, it must be said that as much as we may wish to determine our kids’ values this is beyond our control.  Our goal is influence, not coercion. Ultimately, our kids will need to decide for themselves what they will believe about God, themselves, and the world they live in.  Our parental job is to expose them to truth, teach them what we have come to believe and why, etc, but we’ll be wise not to try to force them to believe any of it.  Faith must be chosen, just as love must.  We must be careful to avoid pressure or manipulation.  To prevent this, let’s allow them space to grapple with truth, wrestle with doubts, and ask us hard questions whenever they want.

Here’s an account of a values-laden conversation I had with my daughters ten years ago.  It gives some examples of how I used the current culture to discuss truth with them.

Hopefully, this post has encouraged you to have serious conversations with your kids about the things that really matter.  If you don’t, someone else will!

Tomorrow I will elaborate on the final Influence Optimizer!

Influence Optimizer #3: Cultivate Trust

I once blogged about the importance of parental influence and mentioned five things that can increase it.  In the past two posts, this post, and the following two posts I elaborate on what I call the Five Optimizers of Influence.  While nothing guarantees that our kids will make wise choices, my 31 years of youth ministry taught me that parents who become proficient in these five areas will have maximum impact on their kids.

1. Model authenticity.

2. Avoid relational walls.

3. Cultivate trust.

Picture two little boys at the doctor’s office getting their shots, not understanding why their parents would allow the nurse to inflict such pain.   Boy #1 sees himself as a victim; his parents have betrayed him and he acts out in rage against them, madder than a hornet!   Boy #2 sees things differently.  He is confused about why his parents have allowed him to experience such pain, but he has learned that they care for him deeply and would want only the very best for him.  He knows that they would never willfully harm him.  He is sad, but not mad.

Trust makes all the difference.

Convincing our kids that we are for them and not against them helps us influence them positively.  The old adage is universally true: “Until they know that you care they won’t care what you know.”  Whatever wisdom we may wish to impart will likely be rejected if they see themselves as victims.  They must feel safe and secure with us.

You may be realizing that today’s post is essentially the inverse of yesterday’s.

  • Yesterday I mentioned several things not to do [which build relational walls], creating feelings of victimization.
  • Today let’s look at several things we can do [which build relational bridges], cultivating trust.

Love.  Convince them that you love them, truly love them.  It may help to figure out what their primary love languages are.  It’s easy to think we’re delivering a hefty dose of love, but it may be on our terms and sometimes we may miss it completely.   If we give them Gifts when their love language is Time they may come away feeling unloved and abandoned.  Or if we give them Acts of Service when their love language is Words of Affirmation we may have left them feeling unloved and unrecognized.  Smothering a child with hugs who doesn’t have the love language of Touch may make them feel you’ve violated their personal space.  As I like to say, “Be a student of your student” and find out what makes them feel love from you.

Safety.  Make them feel safe and secure around you, and convince them that your goal is their well being.  Be careful about sarcasm, silly labels, nicknames, and joking around as these may affect their developing self-concept.  Be their protector and provider.  Be consistent.

Empathy.  When they hurt we should hurt with them.  This may sometimes require us to set aside our adult perspective and enter the world of our children in order to feel their pain.  We may even have to suspend our rational judgments for the greater good of connecting to their hearts.  Instead of “I told you that if you didn’t feed that guinea pig he would die” we should say, “It’s so sad that you can’t play with Patches anymore.  It hurts to lose buddy like that doesn’t it?  I care that you’re hurting right now.”

Availability.   You must be present to win!  Too many parents are so busy “adulting” that time with their kids gets pushed out of the way.   I remember hearing Dr. Dobson years ago say that “Quality time is an accident that happens during Quantity time.”  Those words proved true in my own parenting.  Wise parents make their kids a priority in their schedules.  Family vacations, “daddy dates,” family game nights, sleeping in a tent in the backyard, etc. are all examples of ways to show your kids that being with them is important to you.  And in the process, you just might learn what’s important to them.  Be fully present with them by having these be times where everyone turns off their phones.

Respect.  I’ve blogged a lot over the years about the importance of respect, so I won’t elaborate much here.  People feel disrespected when they are being commanded a lot.  They feel voiceless when they aren’t allowed to express frustration.   They feel manipulated when they are pressured to be at their best all the time.   Respecting parents are prone to believe their kids and believe in them as well.

Fairness.  Parents are wise if they only set rules that are necessary, majoring on the majors.  When rules are broken, they are careful to implement natural consequences which promote learning rather than using arbitrary punishments to simply inflict pain or get even.  They avoid making hasty decisions that might seem impulsive and unfair.

Each of these components will make kids feel valued, likely resulting in greater parental influence in their lives.

Tomorrow I will elaborate on the fourth Optimizer of Influence!

If you like what I write, you may wish to subscribe to my blog as I don’t post them all on Facebook.  (Note: the “subscribe” box is at the bottom of this page.  Mobile users will have to “view full site” to see it.)

Influence Optimizer #2: Avoid Relational Walls

I once blogged about the importance of parental influence and mentioned five things that can increase it.  In my previous post, this post, and the following three posts, I elaborate on what I call the Five Optimizers of Influence.  While nothing guarantees that our kids will make wise choices, my 31 years of youth ministry taught me that parents who become proficient in these five areas will have maximum impact on their kids.

1. Model authenticity.

2. Avoid relational walls.

Adversarial relationships between our kids and us will only cause them to resent us which will influence them in the exact opposite direction that we intend for them.  Exasperating our children is not only unbiblical (Ephesians 6:4), but it also creates bitterness in them, diminishing any positive influence we might have had.  It makes them feel like victims.

Here are ten things that will make your kids feel like victims, ensuring that you have little–if any–positive influence on them:

  • Major on the minors.  Harp on things that really don’t matter and ignore those that really do.
  • Be unfair, inconsistent, and unreasonable in what you require of them.
  • Make decisions that will affect kids without soliciting their input or explaining why the decision was made.  Say “Because I said so!” a lot.
  • If you ask them questions at all, make sure they feel interrogated, and begin all your questions with the word, “Why.”
  • Be sure you let them know how they are such a disappointment to you.  Use creative labels for them like “stupid,” “lazy,” “brat,” and “worthless.”
  • Treat children like property instead of people, making them feel unworthy, unheard, and unwanted.  Don’t let them make their own decisions.
  • Never admit you might be wrong.  Never show weakness.  Never apologize.
  • Be easily offended, quick-tempered, unpredictable, and volatile.  Make them fear you.
  • Make discipline decisions impulsively, in the heat of the moment, when you’re not thinking objectively.  Be as punitive as possible.  Show no mercy.
  • Let the busyness of life keep you from quality family time.  Work excessively.  Don’t plan family fun.  Don’t let them see you smile.
  • Don’t go on dates with your kids.  Don’t read to them.  Let them put themselves to bed.  Be sure not to spend any one on one time with them.

Foolish parents will do the things on this list without giving thought to the relational walls they are building between them and their kids.  How much better it is to build relational bridges by doing exactly the opposite of each thing on that list!

As mentioned previously, there are no guarantees.  Some kids will resent their parents no matter what we do; they also can create walls of relational separation.  Even so, let’s make it our goal that any walls that exist are caused by their sin, not ours.  And let’s pour our energy into taking down walls and building bridges to their hearts whenever possible.  That will maximize our influence on them.

Tomorrow I will elaborate on the third Influence Optimizer!

Influence Optimizer #1: Model Authenticity

I once blogged about the importance of parental influence and mentioned five things that can increase it.  In this–and the following four posts–I will elaborate on what I call the Five Optimizers of Influence.  While nothing guarantees that our kids will make wise choices, my 31 years of youth ministry taught me that parents who become proficient in these five areas will have maximum impact on their kids.

1. Model authenticity.

Since character and values are more caught than taught, careful management of your own life and character is of critical importance.

  • Want them to have high moral character?  Live it.  How can we expect them to be honest if we’re cheating on our taxes?  How will they be truthful if they see us calling in sick on the way to the golf course? How can we expect them to be respectful when we mock those of different political persuasions?  How will they learn patience and forgiveness if we don’t work on our road rage?  How will they be humble if they never see us apologize?
  • Want them to learn?  Show that you don’t know everything and that you have a teachable spirit.  Model a desire to seek truth wherever it may be found.  Show interest in learning from them;  they will likely want to learn from you in return.
  • Want them to open up to you?  Open up to them, speaking about things that really matter.  Be transparent and vulnerable about how you are growing and what your personal goals and dreams are–physically, relationally, spiritually, financially, etc.  Authenticity breeds authenticity just as superficiality breeds superficiality.  Such conversations may help you discover the unique person that they are.
  • Want them to be spiritually strong?   Devote yourself to the spiritual disciplines (prayer, Word, solitude, etc).  Spend less time monitoring their spiritual walks and more time focusing on your own spiritual development.  Let them see you carving out time to get alone with God.   Let them see your open, underlined Bible.  Let them see how developing intimacy with God is a priority in your life–not just lip service–and that it is changing you for the better.  Show joyful obedience, generous giving,  and eagerness to do ministry — all flowing from a heart of thankfulness, never obligation.
  • Want them to be careful about their internet use?  Show them your own commitment to internet accountability by giving your social media passwords to your spouse and not shying away from random checks on your computer use.  Show how you proactively guard yourself against porn and other online temptations.
  • Want their dating life to be God-honoring?  If you’re married, model a God-honoring marriage.   Let them see you reading books to strengthen your marriage and see your eagerness to attend marriage conferences.  Let them see two imperfect people who are committed to relational growth.  Be a team.  Regularly show forgiveness, love, and respect toward one another as well as much displayed affection.  Talk about the importance of exclusivity in your relationship.   If you’re single, explain your beliefs about marriage and expose your kids to healthy marriages.
  • Want them to be plugged into a faith community?  Don’t allow Sunday sports leagues to interfere with church attendance–think what that teaches them about your priorities!  If you make church involvement important to you it likely will become important to them for the rest of their lives.
  • Want them to take care of themselves?  Show how you are taking care of yourself.  Attend to your personal growth needs and show self-respect. Parents who are so busy meeting the demands of their children become doormats, unintentionally teaching that parents are push-overs and that kids can be entitled.

Tomorrow I will elaborate on the next Influence Optimizer!

You can subscribe to my blog, receiving an email each time I post, by using the subscribe tool in the sidebar (only works on a laptop).

What I DON’T pray for my kids

I don’t pray for my kids every day, but when I do, there are a lot more things that I don’t pray for than I do.  

In fact, there are really only three things I do consistently pray for, succinctly summed up in nine keywords.  These are the things — in my view — that matter infinitely more than anything else.

I pray that my kids will:

Know God Accurately

Love God Wholeheartedly

Represent God Authentically

With regard to Knowing God Accurately, I’m asking that my kids will have a real encounter the Creator of the Universe and increasingly understand who He is.  I want their beliefs to correspond to the actual qualities of God, not an understanding skewed by human thinking.  I want them to more fully comprehend His omnipotence, omniscience, sovereignty, justice, holiness, mercy, love, compassion, and grace. 

By Loving God Wholeheartedly I’m asking that my kids would increasingly love God for who He is and continuously turn every part of their lives over to Him as Lord.  Loving God involves more than feelings, it’s a commitment to align their wills with His, surrender themselves to His service, and delightfully obey what He says — regardless of the cost.

In Representing God Authentically, I’m asking that my kids will increasingly become more like Jesus, humbly bear much fruit, and love others — being God’s ambassadors wherever He places them. 

These nine words sum up what matters most to me as a praying parent.  What more could I want but for these prayers to be answered?  That’s why I don’t spend much time praying for the typical things:  success, health, prosperity, finances, careers, or a spouse.  Besides, most of these things will fall into place anyway if these “top three” prayers are answered.

(I pray these same three things for myself, Cindy and others too!)

Btw, here’s what I pray for my kids’ dad — I always pray that I would shepherd, serve, and cherish them more and more…yet hold them looser and looser.

Understanding the “y” in Lying.

The other day a parent messaged me, wondering what to do about a lying teenager.   Her question prompted me to flesh out this post that I started almost two years ago.

Let me start by saying that “lying” is one of the things that ought to be on every parent’s “Majors” list.  I’ve blogged about Majors and Minors elsewhere, but let me just state that few things are more “Major” than having family relationships based on trust.   Lying within the home can’t be ignored.

But just because something is on the Majors list doesn’t mean it has to be dealt with severely or punitively–it just has to be dealt with.  In the case of a child’s lying, I think it may be just as useful to consider the reasons for the child’s lying, rather than be solely punitive about it.  Before jumping to confrontations, it would seem useful to think about what internal things may be going on that might make them (and us–if we were honest) choose to lie.  Rather than immediately react to what they did wrong, let’s slow down, gather all the information, and listen.  Only then can we learn what’s really going on with our children.  Here are six possible reasons they might be lying.

1. Some kids lie out of fear.  Could it be that our discipline methods are overly strict?  Any reasonable child would want to lie to avoid “setting off” an unreasonably punitive parent.  Parents would be wise to consider whether they may be over-disciplining.  An honest heart-to-heart conversation between the child and parents might reveal rules and expectations that are overbearing.  If so, negotiating better rules and expectations might eliminate the need for the child to lie for self-protection.

2. Some lie so as to not hurt loved ones.  Perhaps the lying is intended as a way to make the parents less anxious, worried, or crushed by the child’s choices.  Thus, lying could actually be intended as a kindness.  Such children view their parents as fragile; such parents need to convince their children that their own well-being doesn’t depend on the child doing everything perfectly.  As I’ve controversially stated elsewhere, the parents need to communicate that they don’t need their kids to behave in order for them to thrive.  The parents should model a resilient faith in Jesus that doesn’t need to pressure their kids into making perfect decisions all the time.  In fact, it’s ok for them to fail!

3. Some kids lie as a way to protect someone else.  As in the previous case, such lying might actually be intended as a kindness.  The biblical Rahab hid the Israelite spies on her roof–and lied about it to the authorities.  Her lying saved not only the spies but also the lives of her own family–and she was rewarded for doing the right thing!   Likewise, the child who lies to the stranger at the door–saying their absent parent is home but “can’t come to the door”–is being wise, not wicked.  In the same way, the kid who lies to keep a friend from getting in trouble is likely trying to do the greater good.  Parents would do well to have conversations with their kids about when lying may be appropriate, when covering for a friend may be helping them, and when it actually might be hurting them unknowingly.  Discussing how “true friends” should relate to each other is an important concept for them to understand during their years of nurturing in your home.  Sometimes friends need to “wound” others rather than enable them to avoid responsibility.  (Proverbs 27:6.)

4. Some kids lie so as not lose their parents’ approval.  These kids have a perception that their parents’ love and acceptance depends on their good behavior.  Wise parents would do well to communicate that–no matter what good or bad choices their kids may make in life–their love will never be in question.  It is important to keep a distinction between the child’s behavior and their personhood.  They need to be convinced that we unconditionally delight in their personhood, eliminating this reason to lie about their behaviors.

5. Sometimes kids lie to build themselves up.  Each of us has a longing to feel accepted by others, so it’s no surprise that this is a common motive for kids’ lying.  In this competitive “selfie-saturated” world of ours it’s easy to see why exaggerating one’s achievements may seem necessary for social survival.  Lying may also be a defense mechanism to avoid bullying. If self-preservation is the cause of your child’s lying then berating him or her for lying might actually be adding to their feelings of not measuring up.  Rather than punishing such boasting, it would be better to spend time empathetically listening to them while looking for opportunities to convey biblical truth to them about their worth in the eyes of God.  Pray for them–and with them–about this.

On the other hand, if the child is lying as a way to put others down, that should also be addressed with a heart-to-heart discussion.  Beneath the rough exterior of most bullies is insecurity.  Helping them see how their lying may be wounding others is important for them to learn.

6. Some kids lie to cover up their rebellion.  This kind of lying needs to be carefully handled as it indicates a deficiency in the child’s heart.  Since we have no ability to directly change a heart, prayer is the best thing parents can do in such cases.  But we can also indirectly affect their heart by the way we respond to their rebellious lying.  Will it require consequences?  Absolutely!  But as stated earlier, be sure the consequences are reasonable.  Any obvious overreaction will make the child focus on the parents’ faults rather than his or her own bad behavior.   (This is where delayed consequences can really help avoid the perception that parents are being unreasonable and impulsive in their punishments.  Such a delay buys the parent ample time to pray, think, and consult with others regarding which appropriate consequence would help the child learn the best lesson.)

Six Final Considerations:

First, since character is “more caught than taught,” parents must be careful to always model lives of personal integrity.  If the kids overhear the parent calling in sick to work–while heading out to the golf course–no amount of lecturing on life’s virtues will compensate!

Second, reward honesty.  Every time we catch our kids telling the truth, let’s affirm that wise choice.

Third, as I mentioned at the top of this post, lying often results in a breach of trust within the home.  Consequences–if there are any– should be tailored to address this issue. It’s appropriate to reign in the leash if the freedom of a longer leash has been mishandled.  This is a true principle that will apply for all of life.

Fourth, consequences should last as briefly as possible, with the stated goal of wanting to restore their freedom as soon as they show they can handle it.   We want them to have freedom–and we want them to use it responsibly.  Offer hope for a better tomorrow.  “Grounded for a year” will only produce resentment instead of shaping a child’s character.  Trust and verify.

Fifth, consider whether the lying might be age-related.  It should be noted that preschool children typically manifest lying as part of their normal development.  They may not fully grasp the difference between fantasy and reality–an example would be having an “imaginary friend.”  They also are experimenting with reading others’ perceptions and controlling their own actions.  Parents should keep this in mind as they confront the lying of preschoolers in the home.  Kang Lee has done some interesting research (and a Ted talk) on the subject of early-childhood lying if you’re interested.

Finally, is the lying related to mental disabilities or trauma?  I haven’t studied these issues yet, but consideration might need to be made for such cases.  I’ll edit this post as I learn more during my graduate school counseling training.

Why you should give your kids HEFTY allowances! (Part 2)

In Part 1 I made the case for why I believe every kid should be given an allowance.   Today I want to make the case for giving your kids HEFTY allowances.

Someone will say, “But we don’t have any extra money in our budget to start paying our kids hefty allowances.”  I’m not suggesting you add even $1 to your overall family budget.  I’m merely suggesting you transfer some of the money you’re already spending on raising your kids–to them!

Think about it–right now, you’re already spending a certain amount of money to buy them treats, gifts, clothes, fashion accessories, cosmetics, games, entertainment, etc.  How about handing them some of that same money and letting them pay for some of their own expenses!  This will lighten your load and teach them a lot about managing themselves.

Realizing that every family’s amounts will be different, let me share how it worked in our house.  We paid our girls $1 a week for each year of their age.   That means when they were three, we gave them $156 a year and by the time they were 18, that had increased to an annual amount of $936. That may sound like a lot, but it’s really not, compared to the total cost of raising a child.

Six considerations

  1. We made them put 10% of it in their savings bank and 10% in their “Jesus bank” to take to church periodically to put in the offering.  From the earliest age, we wanted our kids to learn the importance of generous living and wise saving.  (Savings money could only be used for investments that we parents agreed were worthy ones:  e.g., musical instruments, computers, major school trips, cars, etc.)
  2. Their remaining *80% of “discretionary” money, was theirs to spend as they chose–for the most part.
  3. Parents will need to restrict what purchases are–or are not–allowed based on their own values.  Examples of “outlawed” purchases might be explicit music or violent video games.  Be sure to major on the majors though, and don’t be afraid of letting them waste their money!  (For years our 8-year-old daughter Lexi would spent all of her weekly allowances on frivolous purchases, living from “paycheck to paycheck.”  Then one day she decided she wanted an American Girl doll.  She started saving almost all of her allowance for the next 6 months and when that doll arrived, it was a hard-earned treasure.  She learned an important lesson on how “the best things come to those who wait”–a lesson she’s never forgotton!)
  4. Each year on their birthday, they would get an increase in allowance, and often be informed of new things they would need to start purchasing for themselves.  Parents would do well to envision how much much financial responsibility they would want their kids to have on their first day of college and work towards that.
  5. Depending on the age and situation, parents might physically dole out cash or transfer amounts into an account–perhaps even a debit card.  Admittedly this takes some time and effort, but the benefits from creating financially responsible and independent kids make it worth the effort.
  6. As I’ve blogged about elsewhere, allowance money can easily be deducted from the child’s next “paycheck” to pay for fines, consequences, unfinished **chores, etc.  No arguments required!

What kids might pay.

  • Here is a list of expenses kids might be expected to pay for, starting from age three and progressing through high school:
    • Small Toys, snacks, candy–anything the 3-year-old might beg for at Walmart!
    • Hobbies and crafts (slime comes to mind!)
    • Pet expenses (100%–food, cages, shots, etc.)
    • Bikes, scooters, etc. (parents might choose to pay for safety equipment, helmets, etc.)
    • Electronic games (including batteries), apps, books, magazines, entertainment (movies, bowling, etc.)
    • Hot school lunches (if they don’t want to pack their own)
    • Netflix or Cable TV costs (e.g., parents could charge a fee per movie or show watched to help defray the entertainments bills)
    • Room decorations (paint, themes, accessories, etc.)
    • Clothes/shoes (beyond the basics, such as expensive name brands)
    • Cosmetics/accessories/toiletries (beyond the basics like deodorant, essential hygiene items, etc.)
    • Haircuts/hairstyling
    • School/church trips, proms, club sports (a percentage–see below)
    • Cell phone/data (beyond the basics–see below)
    • Car (purchase, gas, insurance, repairs–see below)
    • Saving for College (see below)

What parents might pay

  • Parents should make clear what expenses they will cover.  For us, in addition to the basics (food, essential clothing & toiletries, school supplies, transportation, housing, utilities, insurance, etc.) we told them we would pay for the following:
    • 75% of church activities/expenses.  (The high percentage shows how this was a priority for us.  Yet, we also wanted them to participate in deciding which church activities were most important.  However, if they had been reluctant to go to church at all we would have gladly paid $100%.)
    • 25% of extra school activities/expenses (such as uniforms, trips, prom costs, club sports, etc.)  School costs were admittedly a lower priority to us than church ones.
    • Birthday presents for friends (However, this was a predetermined “flat rate.”  They would need to pay the extra if they wanted to purchase extravagant gifts.
    • Basic phone and data costs (If they wanted the latest, coolest iPhone or unlimited data, they would need to pay that difference)
    • One weekly music or sports lesson.  We wanted to encourage their skill development, but we didn’t want them burning out.  If they wanted a second type of lesson they would need to pay those costs.  (BTW, if kids are too lazy to practice between lessons, they should pay for those lessons!)
    • A percentage of car insurance or fuel costs once they own their own car (this is because they are saving us money by driving themselves.)
    • Half of college expenses (This helped one of our daughters determine where to attend since it would significantly affect her pocketbook.)

I hope this gives you some ideas of how you might incorporate allowances into your family structure.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

*Others, like Jeff Anderson, have suggested making kids save a third, give a third and use 33% for discretionary spending.

**I’m not suggesting allowances are given in exchange for doing chores.  I explain the difference here.

Why you should give your kids allowances! (Part 1)

Our goal as parents is not to raise children, but rather to raise responsible adults.  Sadly, too many parents end up with chronically-dependent high school graduates who can’t manage their lives — or their money.

So today I want to make the case for giving your kids allowances!   They will be much better prepared for life.  And that means your life will be better too!

But first, I want to share with you an email I received from a missionary mom in Nicaragua, where I did a parenting seminar a few years ago.   She followed my advice about giving kids allowances, and surprised me with this beautiful testimonial about doing it with her THREE YEAR OLD!    [I’ll insert my comments between hers.]

.Our 3-year-old son is learning the value of $ as he spends all his $1 per week on gum.

We might think of it as a waste of good money, but he’s learning to decide what matters to him.  Someday he’ll figure out that there are better uses for his money, but he’s got to learn that for himself over time.  Most importantly he’s learning that adults are trusting him with the responsibility of making his own decisions.

He is quickly learning which gum pack gets him the most pieces.

Amazing!  Notice how he already is learning to stretch his dollar, to look for bargains, and to do comparison shopping to get the best value!

He is learning not to eat the entire pack in 2 minutes because he doesn’t have $ to buy more.

See how he’s learning about delayed gratification, patience, pacing himself, relishing what he has, and living within his means!  How many teenagers never learn this!

He even paid me a nickel the other day to carry the laundry into the house because he did not want to do it.  I explained to him that it is one of the small chores he is required to help with and therefore would have to pay me for his portion of the work.  Amazingly he looked at me square on and asked, “How much?”  I told him, “One nickel,” and he paused, thought, and finally said “I want to pay you because I don’t want to do it.”

This three-year-old is already learning to weigh pros and cons, to make decisions, to negotiate with others, and to wrestle with priorities regarding his time, money, work & leisure!

I share this because if someone told me that this stuff would work on a 3 year old I would never have believed it.  But, he is the youngest of 3 so we included him in the process because he was feeling SO left out.  Now we know it is effective even at 3.

I love this story because it vividly demonstrates how giving some measure of financial control even to the youngest of kids can serve to build their character.

I’ll blog again soon with Part 2, making the case for HEFTY chores, but let me close this post with some general thoughts about giving kids allowances.

  • It makes children feel valued and trusted and gives them a measure of control over their lives.
  • It gives them money to waste.  Failure is a great teacher.
  • They can experience the joys of giving and the rewards of saving.
  • It minimizes whining in stores about things they impulsively want (“Did you bring your money purse?  No?  Well I guess you’ll have to remember to bring it next time.”)
  • It gives you opportunities for reasonable, non-emotional disciplinary action (“If you forget to do your chores, no worries, it just means you’ve hired one of us to do them!”)
  • It doesn’t cost you anything.  You’re already spending money on your kids — this just transfers responsibility onto them for certain purchases.
  • Because if you hold all the money, they’ll always be coming to you for withdrawals, which can cause conflict.  Better to dole it out deliberately and let them learn to manage it.
  • Parents can still set limits on what money is allowed to be spent for (but remember, don’t prevent them from wasting it.).
  • Instead of butting heads with them about their financial wants, it forces them to make decisions about what matters most, learning important life skills.
  • It gives them assets that can be used to reimburse you for any damage they may cause.
  • It gives us opportunities to help consult with them about their financial choices.
  • It makes you the coolest parents on the block!

Why this room never made our “Majors” list

This is an actual photo of one of our children’s bedrooms.  I won’t mention which child it was to protect Lexi’s identity.

In my previous post, I talked about how parents need to determine which household expectations are essential and which are optional.   In this post I’m going to share two of our “Minors” that may surprise you.  But before I do, please note that I’m not suggesting that our “Minors” should be yours.  Every set of parents needs to determine what they can live with and what is necessary for the well-being of the family and sanity of the parents.   That said, here are two of our “Minors”…

BEDROOM TIDINESS.   We chose to make bedroom tidiness a “Minor” in our home.  We opted to never have a battle over the condition of our kids’ rooms.   We gave them the privilege and the responsibility to organize and manage the stuff in their rooms however they wanted.  The only stipulations were that there could be no dirty dishes or food crumbs left in the room, and any dirty clothes they wished to be laundered had to be put in the hamper in our bedroom.  Other than that, they had complete creative control over the condition of their rooms.  And our girls were creative!

[It’s important to note that this rule –or lack thereof — pertained only to their bedrooms.  They were still expected to keep the common areas of our house picked up and had to take care of any messes they made throughout the house.  Keeping our common living space picked up was a “Major!”]

Now I can imagine that some of you reading this might take issue with our lackadaisical bedroom policy and push-back as follows…

  • This teaches them to be sloppy people.  Perhaps, but we’d rather have sloppy kids that we enjoy being around than kids who resent us for constantly nagging them to clean their rooms.   And in our experience, the sloppiness of their rooms didn’t spill over into other areas of their lives: schoolwork, musicianship, work ethic, and doing ministry.
  • Kids like yours won’t learn how to clean and be tidy.  They were required to keep the rest of the house tidy, so they did learn cleaning and organizing skills!  But we wanted them to practice managing their own lives, organizing their rooms when it was important to them.  We found that there were two main situations that motivated them to be clean and tidy:  1.) When they were sick of their mess or frustrated by not being able to find the important things they had buried.  Failure is a good teacher!   When this happened they would sometimes go on a self-imposed cleaning binge until their rooms were immaculate!  This always gave them a peaceful and satisfying feeling!  One time, Lexi uncovered $94 of her own buried money!  2.)  When friends or guests were coming over and they would feel too embarrassed to have them see their messy rooms.  Positive peer pressure at its best!
  • Won’t this teach them disrespect for others?  Making bedroom clutter a “Minor” worked for us because our girls had their own rooms so their mess didn’t affect anyone else.  But because respect was a “Major” value in our home they entered college prepared to keep their dorm rooms tidy  out of respect for their roommates.  
  • How could you parents tolerate living with that mess in your house?   Honestly, sometimes we closed the door — out of sight, out of mind!  At other times we stood at the door and chuckled at the sight,  We chose to view it as entertaining rather than infuriating.   Sometimes we’d ask, “How’s that working for you?”    We made it their problem, not ours.

CLOTHING CHOICES.  We also chose to never have a battle over clothing with our girls (as long as they were modest).   From a very young age (3 or so) we let them choose their own outfits and only rarely would we regulate what they wore (e.g. family pictures, holiday attire, weddings, funerals, etc.)  This meant that we sent them off to school and church wearing what they felt like wearing, which may or may not have matched the fashion etiquette of the day!   We figured it was good for them to choose their attire as a way to express their individuality.  This encouraged them that it was ok to be themselves.  As they grew older and more aware of social norms it also forced them to make decisions on how “conforming” to their peer group they wanted to be.

Let me illustrate this “Minor” with one of my favorite stories about Bren.*

It was a blizzardy, mid-winter Sunday morning and church should have been cancelled, but wasn’t.  I had gone ahead to church already, but Cindy was still at home getting herself ready with our three-year-old daughter, Bren.   Bren had chosen her church outfit for the day: a dressy plaid skirt, a red, tattered, Micky Mouse sweatshirt, and flipflops!  Making mention of the frigid temperatures and pointing out the blankets of descending snow outside, Cindy advised Bren that it might be a better choice to join her in wearing boots rather than flip-flops.  But Bren’s mind had been made up — she was determined to wear those flip-flops!

Rather than engage in a potentially lengthy and emotional battle with a strong-willed child over footwear, Cindy wisely decided to drop the issue completely, and began loading up the car and heading to church.

The trek through the snowy church parking lot to the front door provided the perfect teachable moment for Bren.  By the time they got inside Bren’s feet must have been absolutely miserable, although she tried hard not to show it.

One thing we do know, however:  never again did Bren choose to wear flip-flops in a blizzard!

So what was Cindy’s biggest challenge that cold morning?  It wasn’t Bren or her footwear choice.  It was the awareness that other moms might judge her as being a bad mom because she allowed her three-year old go to church in a blizzard in flip-flops.   Her concerns of being judged were well founded — in fact, just recently, a woman admitted to having done just that on that fateful morning.  But rather than feel guilty, Cindy knows that she did what was best that day:  avoiding a needless battle, letting Bren learn from her mistake, and arriving at church in a joyful mood!

I couldn’t agree more!

[Note: flip-flops in the winter was a “Minor” in this case because it only involved Bren having to walk across a snowy parking lot.  If she would have been walking to school or watching a parade for an hour, that would have been a different scenario.   Having to amputate frostbitten toes pushes the issue into the “Major” category!]

              * the stories and photo above are used with my kids’ permission!

Older posts

© 2019 markforstrom.com

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑