“Oh, Ted would never do that…”
“They’ll just make fun of me…”
“My kids beg money from their grandparents and then ignore the allowance plan we put in place…”
“They just laugh when we suggest they look for a job.”
It’s completely reasonable: We want our kids to be happy. We want harmony. But with so many other issues to take a stand on at home…when Zack or Annie or Jason resist parental efforts to establish financial limits, we back off. After all, he/she doesn’t really have to worry about money. Right? What’s the big deal? She’s young; he has plenty of time…
We don’t talk much about the tyranny of children. It’s embarrassing–comical in a dark way. But adults who are leaders in the community or effective executives at work–powerful outside the house–are often frustrated about feeling ineffective in their own homes, undone by small children and disrespectful teenagers. Rather than confront the bullying behavior of kids, we turn away or nervously laugh it off.
Tyrannical kids aren’t necessarily bad kids. They may get good grades, love their parents madly, have lots of friends, be popular and, in many respects, be delightful company. But this just makes it tougher to counter children’s manipulative bullying.
Children play out their resistance to parents’ requests for financial responsibility in any number of ways. But whether it’s ceaseless requests for more money, money spent in unapproved ways, pressure to get something because it’s a ‘must have’ item, moodiness in the face of any attempt to set limits, meltdowns when they feel a challenge to their financial lifestyle, rudeness or lack of gratitude for gifts and privileges, these behaviors are all ways children can and do dominate their parents.
Although surrender is tempting, there are consequences. Children who can but won’t handle an allowance will be ill prepared to handle a trust fund. Playing the heavy when it comes to financial behavior is no
less critical than making sure kids’ nutritional needs are well met. No responsible parent would let kids eat candy without restriction because that’s the task of being the grown up: to exercise judgment and set boundaries for children not yet able to do it for themselves. However, with regard to money–when plenty of families can satisfy the smallest and largest whims of their children–one dad plaintively asked, “I can afford to give my kids whatever they want. What’s wrong with that?”
What’s wrong with that is that children unaccustomed to the discipline of making thoughtful financial choices or living within limits connected to financial values fail to acquire skills that will help them become independent and self sufficient. Kids who are not required to seek meaning in something other than “what I wear, what I drive, what logos I display,” etc., often become dependent on externals to define “who they are.” They may spend years searching for the self-confidence and well-being that accompanies a healthy regard for something bigger than ourselves, something more important than the “stuff” on which we spend money.