Sunday, July 31, 2011

Teenagers and Cash

  Cash is the third topic in my series which examines the relationship that teens develop with  Cooperation; Curfew; Cash; Cars; and Comrades. 
  Years ago, I found an article in my Sunday newspaper which discussed these issues, and I used them  successfully with my son Matt. The premise was that parents can talk till we are "blue in the face", but we can teach a lot more through experience.  Kids may even learn more from their failures.
  The idea was to teach money management before teenagers got to college.  That way, if the kids got into trouble, they would be still living at home.   Parents could get involved and get them back on track before they moved thousands of miles away.  The article described horror stories of parents sending college kids money for an entire month, and finding out the kids blew it all the first weekend.
  At fifteen, Matt was getting an allowance of $25.00 each week( fifteen dollars for chores, and ten dollars towards school lunches).  It was also time to start thinking about Drivers Ed, and a summer job, and so we decided to set him up with a checking account.  Our bank was offering "totally free checking", which meant that there would be no monthly charges in exchange for no interest.  The account also had a debit card, which was issued in my name because Matt was not eighteen.  All of this seemed low risk to us, because this happened at a time when the bank "ate your card" should you become overdrawn.
  The plan was simple.  I was paid through automatic deposit, and I set up a $100.00 deposit to Matt's account on the 15th of each month.  The summer installments would be used for back to school clothes. We knew Matt handled his allowance reponsibly, but we had no idea how this would play out.  At the end of the first year, Matt had a $900.00 balance.  He said he was saving it for a stereo system for the car he planned to get after he got his license.  One day, someone asked Matt how many checks he bounced.  He said none, and his balance had never gone below five hundred dollars!
  The first thing that Matt did was give two friends a one dollar check because they did not believe him.  At the mall, Matt went to the ATM, and then paid cash for items.  I could also give him a note which authorized him to use the debit card because it was in my name.  Matt asked if he could still take lunches some days, which was fine with us.  We didn't realize that he would spend more when he viewed his allowance  as "my parents money".
   As with the exercises with coupons for cooperation and the curfew, this experience also turned out better than we had hoped.  The best thing was that we all learned that Matt would be able to handle his own finances at college.  He couldn't understand how his friends could get into money trouble and blow money on "stupid stuff".  The article stated that as the kids accomplished each challenge, parents would see them start to ''grow up right before our eyes".   He had a plan and he knew he would be rewarded if he stuck with it!
  I hope you try this with the same success.  Nothing is one size fits all, so take what you like, and leave the rest.......and the beat goes on.... the beat goes on.......have a good week everyone....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dealing with Curfews

  This is the second installment of my five part series dealing with the 5C's : cooperation; curfews; cars; cash; and comrades.  I read an article years ago, and used tips from it with a lot of success.  I hope it gives you some ideas for your family.

When Matt was fourteen, we asked him if he would like be able to NOT have any curfew by the time he was eighteen.  Of course, he jumped at the chance.  It was simple.  We would start out with a curfew of 9pm.  If Matt did not break curfew in six months, we would extend it by 30 minutes, and he could stay out until 9:30.  If he broke his curfew, then we would take those 30 minutes back.  Each six months awarded him another thirty minutes.  It was easy because he wasn't driving, and we usually drove one way to movies and other events.  We only asked that if he could not get home by his curfew, he called and let us know before that time.   We knew before he left the house if a movie was getting out late, or Matt would get a ride home when the game ended.  Matt was learning to be considerate, and he was being rewarded for good behavior.
  By the time Matt was driving, we were comfortable that he knew the routine, and would follow the rules.  We told him that under no circumstances should he ever drive 100 miles and hour to get home on time.  All he had to do was call and let us know what was happening ( getting something to eat or driving kids home), and give us an idea as to when he would be home.  Obviously, we would know pretty quickly if he was ignoring the rules.  As a seventeen year old, Matt realized that at 18, he really wouldn't need a curfew as he would be in college.  I can tell you that he never stayed out all night unless he called, and most of the time he was home by 12:30.  By that time, he had been playing by the rules for so long, there was no reason to screw things up.  We trusted him, and he had earned this privilege by making good decisions for four years. 
   At the time, we did not realize that we were getting many benefits from this exercise.  I believe that kids like to feel empowered.  Matt was earning our trust, and he was not willing to give it back, by doing something  stupid.  We were getting a considerate teenager, who we could see making good decisions.  Once our son wanted to act responsibly, our job was so much easier. 
   This is my experience.  I'm not an expert, so take what you like and leave the rest......have a good week everyone....I'll tackle another one of the C's next time.....gotta run.....

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Coupons for Cooperation

  Many years ago I found an article in the magazine insert of my Sunday paper.  I couldn't wait to use it with Matt, and I believe it contained some of my most used parenting tips.  I'll share one of the five each week.  I hope these might help you all as you get ready for the next school year.
The topics dealt with Cooperation;  Cars;  Cash;  Curfew; and Comrades.

 The ideas behind cooperation were simple.  No matter how badly our kids behave, we get them what they need.  If our child is playing a sport, we make sure they have the proper equipment .  The article suggested getting kids to earn the very things we would eventually give them anyway.  Here are some of my examples.

   As an eight year old, Matt could not be bothered doing the spelling assignments.  The teacher wanted one from a list of four done Monday through Thursday, and be ready for the test on Friday.  Matt was a good student and thought it a waste of time.  I asked him if he would like to earn a new baseball glove in time to try out the following month, just by doing his schoolwork.  I had his attention. I told him that he would be able to earn 'coupons  for cooperation'.   I set up a chart using a calendar, with the last block as a coupon.  Matt got a checkmark for each homework assignment that he did without an argument.  We checked the sales papers for the cost of the glove.  He was earning checkmarks easily.  I wanted to keep this going as long as I could.  We told him that if he earned enough points, he could even earn a batting glove!!  It was a win-win.  Assignments got done without a battle, and he got to pick out a glove that we would have gotten him anyway.  The next time, I made it more difficult to earn the prize, and he continued to work for them.
   We used it as an incentive when we were planning our trip to Disney.  Matt earned  money for the trip, and we had easier morning and bedtime routines.  We also decided that we would match every dollar that he accumulated for the trip.  That way he wasn't spending it as fast as he made it.  Our thinking was that Matt would use this money for souveniers because it had already been included as part of our budget.
   The last time I used my 'coupons for cooperation' was when Matt was a senior in high school.  He and a few friends were going on a ski trip during Winter vacation, at the end of the month.    His dad and I decided how much money we would give him for spending money.  I asked  Matt if he would be interested in earning some spending money for his trip, and he said he'd give it a try.  (Money we would have given him anyway).  My coupons were done on the computer, and they would be easy to accomplish. 
 He could earn money for joining us for dinner ( something he never had time to do).  I had five separate meals and he cashed in on all of them.
He could earn money for a smile (hey, I said they'd be easy).   Matt earned it during a basketball game.  He scored a basket , then turned to me and gave me a beautiful smile.  One of the Mom's I was sitting with commented.  I told her about the coupons,  She laughed and said her son was so stressed about college, she'd be willing to pay him for a smile!   If you have ever had a child waiting to hear about college acceptance, I know you can relate!!!
One of the coupons said to 'give Mom a compliment'.  One morning as Matt was leaving for school, he said "Bye Ma, and might I say you look marvelous" !!  Then he turned and check the coupon that was on the refrigerator.  We laughed, because I was still in my pyjamas! I loved it!!!  We were having more fun than we had in a long time!!  It was a win-win in my opinion.
I hope these made you smile, and perhaps give you some ideas as you set up the routines for school next fall.  Just take what you like and leave the rest.....have a good week everyone....
I'll tackle the second installment next time....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Circle of Kindness

I was recently the recipient of a 'random act of kindness'.  I was in line at the drive through waiting to get an iced coffee, and when I got to the pick up window, I was told that my coffee was free !  Apparently, the person in the car ahead of me,  had told the window to apply their change to my bill.  It made my day !  I decided right there that I would try to pass it on.  Since then, I've been able to do a couple of nice things.  I was in the grocery store, and a young man was counting his cash and coins, while checking the prices of sugar.  I got the impression that he was picking the sugar up for someone who was doing some baking.  He was in a hoody, and reminded me of my own son.  I asked him if he needed some money, and he said he was seventy cents short.  I handed him a dollar.  As he tried to give me some change, I told him to keep it , just in case it was a few cents more at the register.  He looked me in the eye, smiled, and said thanks.  I had helped someone out, and it felt pretty good !
 Last week I was picking up dinner to take home.  I had a coupon for buy a meal , and get one free.  Our dinners came with soft drinks that we would not use.  I turned to the customer behind me, and asked if she would like them.  She said yes, and thanked me over and over !  I know it was really no big deal, but sometimes it doesn't take much !  I drove home smiling.
The last time I was in the grocery store, the express lane was closed.  I was carrying a basket and I only had two things .  The lady who got to the  line in front of me, turned and told me to go next.  I thanked her, and said I would pass it on.  We were both smiling , and the cashier and bagger were too!  Tag...I'm it !!  Now I have to find a way to return the favor...If anything like this happens to you ...remember to pass it on....
This was my experience, so take what you like, and leave the rest....have a good week everyone.....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Birthday America !!!! Happy Birthday to You !!

  This weekend we get to enjoy 4th of July celebrations !!  It's one of the best weekends of the summer !  With a long weekend, there's time for cookouts, parades, pool parties, baseball games and fireworks !  Hope you all have a ball !  Whether you watch the fireworks on TV , attend a community event, or have a neighborhood block party, I hope they are spectacular !!  We always watch the Boston Pops from home, because we want to hang out in the pool and backyard as long as possible.  I love to sing along with the crowd, even if I am in my living room. 
  This year I've decided to think about some "birthday gifts" I can give my country.  There are many things that I can do , that take more of my time and thought,  than money.
I can recycle as much as possible. I can donate items in good condition and keep them out of the landfill.
I can check the labels, and choose to buy grocery products made in America, even if they cost a little more.
I can vote, and expect our elected officials to behave with common sense and civility.
I can email any politician that I think promotes fear and hate, and tell them that the sensible center will hold them accountable.
I can work on my gratitude list, and acknowledge the good things in my life.
I can live by the "golden rule" and treat others the way I'd like to be treated.
I can display a flag at our house, and sing the national anthem when we attend a sporting event.
  Have fun making your own list.  If we all do a little, we can make a big difference.  With all her scars and warts, America is still the greatest country on the planet.  I am proud and thankful to be an American. 
  These are my opinions, so take what you like and leave the rest......have a good week everyone.....