Who Controls Your Budget? Your Kids or You?

           John Rosemond wrote the article, “Your kids should not be the most important,” detailing how some parents tend to make children the most important focus of their marriage.  He gives a few examples how parents treat their children as more significant than themselves.  I would like to add to his examples of parent’s letting kids control their budgets. 

            Kids controlling the family budget varies in degrees, and it starts when they are young.  For our family, it was subtle.  We didn’t realize what was happening or how we were contributing to it.  For example, when our kids were little, I would take all three of our kids to the grocery store.  Sometimes I would give into the begging or crying.  Sometimes, I would go ahead and purchase the product that magically showed up in the cart.  I know I shouldn’t have given into the impulse.  Shopping with little ones is stressful, people are staring and judging, and you feel overwhelmed, so you give in and your kids learn how to push that button. 

            The focus to make our kids happy extends into our insecurities of wanting them to be good enough.  We let our insecurities about our kid’s future control our budget, too.  We wonder what will become of our child if they don’t receive music lessons, participate in ten sports (okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration), and (not or) experience enrichment classes through the local art center.  Are these things bad?  No, not at all.  Is it wrong to use debt to pay for these things?  Yes.  We had our kids participate in a few things, but we were limited on cash, and we didn’t want to go into debt paying for all the opportunities available to them.  The one time we had every kid involved in multiple things, we had very limited time as a family, and we were exhausted. 

            Our desire of wanting our kids to be happy, successful, and liked by others also goes into the clothes they wear and the activities they participate in as teens.  Our motivation to help them avoid rejection and to experience happiness can lead us to give into buying the latest trendy clothes and more.  The continual reinforcement of wanting the best by giving into paying for external products and services leads them to experience a sense that they are the most important person; more important than balancing your personal budget. 

            We were those parents.  The ones who wanted our kids to be happy and not experience rejection.  We had wrong, though.  We thought giving them as much as we could in the way of opportunities would cause them to be independent, successful adults.  However, we learned it caused them to demand more as they go into their teen and young adult years.  Over time, we were slowly allowing them to control our budget and financial decisions which turned into a financial disaster for them and us.  We realized our focus was wrong.

            Now that two of our kids are adults and one is graduating high school this year, we realize they turned out okay and will be great adults.  However, they had some speed learning to do in the personal financial responsibility department.  Instead of basing our financial decisions on their feelings, we should have been instructing them about the realities of life.  The reality that you aren’t entitled to anything in life, you must earn it. 

            It’s easy to look back now and know where we would have done things differently.  I wouldn’t have given into grocery store tricks, my insecurities about their future, or being fearful of them not always being happy.  We are still repairing the damage we caused with kids, but we have taken back control of our budget by not making them the most important.  We had a recent challenge with one of our kids, and we said, “No.”  It was hard for them and us, but they learned a good lesson, and it felt great to watch them work through their financial dilemma. 

            Taking back control of your budget by not making decisions based on how it will make your kids, or you feel, is difficult.  However, changing the focus now will help them learn positive financial behaviors which will be of significant benefit to them as they become adults.