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Ask Dave

The Kids' Controlled Environment

Jason wants to know if there should be a base amount of money his kids receive even if they don't do their chores. He also wants to know how much control he should have over the money they've saved.

QUESTION: Jason in Nashville wants to know if there should be a base amount of money his kids receive even if they don’t do their chores. He also wants to know how much control he should have over the money they’ve saved. Dave says this is all about creating teachable moments.

ANSWER: You don’t get a basic amount for not going to work, so why should they? Kids need to have a very definite cause-and-effect, sowing-and-reaping experience. Of course, I’m not going to not feed them or not clothe them; I’m their dad. It’s not like they’re going to be evicted or something.

As far as gift money that your children receive, you should have 100% control over that money. They are children, and you are their parent. You love them. You shouldn’t take the money and buy something for yourself with it, but you have 100% control. All we’re trying to do here is create teachable moments; this is not a rights issue. They are children and they don’t have any rights. They only have a right to not be abused. But they don’t have rights in a loving family. It’s a benevolent dictatorship. My children are all functioning citizens.

Let me give you an example of something that happened in my household. We decided that when our kids hit about age 14 or 15, we estimated what we actually give them in support, meaning we buy their clothes, we do a reasonable amount of car gas when they do stuff for us like pick up the other kid, a reasonable amount of entertainment, and so on. We love our children and support them.

We just figured up an amount for that and we said we weren’t going to give them any more money for those things. We are going to give you a lump sum for this amount at the beginning of every month. We think you ought to set aside this much for clothing, this much for entertainment, this much for car gas, and we’ll help you manage your budget with that.

With your clothing budget, you can buy one dress with that, or you can buy 16 because you found them on sale or at a consignment sale. You get to make these decisions within reason. But you are still going to dress in a way that we think is all right. My son will wear a belt because I don’t want to see the brand of his underwear.

My daughters are going to dress in such a way that causes men to look at their eyes. These 13-year-olds who look like streetwalkers are absolutely ridiculous, because their mother thinks that’s cute and their father doesn’t have a spine. We had these discussions at the Ramsey household, and some of them were rowdy discussions.

But we didn’t give up our right to make clothing choices or decisions, while we did allow them the power to make the purchase decisions. And you want them to make some mistakes. You want them to spend all their money even though you told them not to, and then they can’t go to the movie Friday night and have to sit at home.

I want them to make mistakes while they’re under the protection of my wing. I don’t want them to make mistakes when they’re 32, I want them to make mistakes when they’re 12. That forms their decisions so that when they’re 32, they are not living in my basement.

I appreciate you letting me get up on my soapbox because I love the issue of parenting and teaching kids about money. You want to create an environment where they are making decisions in a controlled environment. Just because they are 15 and have a part-time job doesn’t mean you don’t have a say over that money. They still live under your roof. Still have the courage to lovingly, firmly, gently parent.

Some of you think that didn’t sound gentle. But letting them run wild isn’t gentle.