Give Kids Financial Responsibilities
As a kid, I find your column really patronizing. You seem to think that parents should have complete control over their kids' lives, that we are incapable of making decisions for ourselves and need our parents to say "no."
I respectfully disagree. I believe that kids are definitely capable of making decisions for themselves. That's why this column is called "Money-Smart Kids."
I think you're confusing being patronizing with giving parents guidance on how to teach children to be financially responsible. In survey after survey, young people say that most of their education about money comes from their parents. But parents don't always feel comfortable teaching the financial facts of life or passing along financial values. They're looking for advice on how to get their kids off on the right foot, and I'm happy to do what I can to give everyone a push in the right direction.
Sometimes that does mean parents have to say "no," but that goes with the territory. Parents need to set limits for their kids, and kids need to know that parents aren't going to gratify their every wish.
That being said, once parents establish the ground rules and give children lessons in money management, kids should be free to make their own decisions.
That's why, for example, I'm such a big fan of allowances. Parents should spell out the kids' financial responsibilities and set down a few rules on how the money shouldn't be spent-nothing illegal, immoral or against a family's values.
Other than that, kids should be free to spend the money as they wish, without being controlled or even monitored. It's a great lesson in setting priorities and making choices, which is what life's all about.
That's also why I think teens should have their own checking accounts as soon as they get a part-time job, and should apply for credit on their own (instead of on a parent's card) once they've acquired the experience to manage cash and the maturity to pay their bills. (See Six Money Skills for Kids to Master to learn more.)
The whole idea is to start giving kids personal responsibility for their finances when they're young. Then they can build on that foundation to grow into financially independent adults with a healthy attitude toward money and the ability to manage it. That's freedom.