Your Child’s Experience of Financial Power

  • DD3 = Dear Third Daughter
  • DH = Dear Husband

When children become teenagers . . . 

That’s my youngest up there – DD3 – when she was still a pre-schooler. At the time that photo was taken, I could not imagine her as a seventeen-year-old wanting a nose piercing. But that’s what happens, all you people with cute little children. They grow up! And the teen years can be . . . special.

Mr. Money Beagle wrote a post this past week on what his children have taught him about finances.  His son and daughter, aged 6 and 4, are saving up for Lego and a Disney trip (That girl dreams big!) respectively, and they’re already showing signs of financial wisdom. As I read his post, I thought about my youngest and her decision to get a nose piercing, and I found myself feeling surprisingly proud of her.

DD3 and money

DD3 was thirteen-years old when DH and I began our journey out of debt in June of 2012, and she has witnessed a lot of money talk through her teen years. With a mother who was newly determined to change her old thought pattern of “money-spent-on-children = love”, DD3 got “No” as an answer more regularly than her older sisters did at her age. “No, we won’t be stopping at Tim Hortons. We can eat a snack at home.” “No, we won’t get your clothes from that store. It’s too expensive.” “No, we won’t buy you those concert tickets. You’ll have to save your allowance.”

She actually took every “No” in stride – and learned from it. She wasn’t afraid to say “No” herself when friends were going to movies or restaurants. She learned to shop mindfully. The next time she wanted to go to a concert, she had saved enough to be able to pay for her ticket. And when she started to work part-time at a grocery store last August, she adopted the habit, of her own volition, of putting away at least 50% of each pay.

Where to draw the line for teens?

“I want to get my nose pierced,” DD3 told me a few days ago. She said it with a hint of “I’m old enough to do what I want” sass, but I could tell she was interested in knowing what my reaction would be.

One of the toughest things about being a parent of teens is to discern “the line” – the one that can’t be crossed – the one that says, “It’s time to intervene and lay down the law!” That line definitely exists, but it’s a moving target, and it varies according to the teen in question. If it’s drawn too severely, the consequences can be just as bad as when it’s not drawn at all. A colleague once told me of a girl from his town whose parents had given her what he considered an overly strict Christian upbringing. “And then I saw her Frosh Week after she’d moved away to go to university. She was absolutely blitzed – walking down the street completely naked.” She turned out alright in the end, he said. But he was convinced that the nude, drunken stroll was a direct reaction against the too limiting lines that had been drawn by her parents.

So was this a time for me to draw the line? “I’d vote ‘no’ if I had a vote,” I wrote in my comment for Mr. Money Beagle’s post. He responded with, “Well, you do have a ‘vote’ at least until she’s 18, no?” Very true, but I think that what I really meant was that I’d vote ‘no’ if I chose to vote. And in the end, I chose not to.

“You can get one if you want,” I said to DD3. “I won’t stop you.” She became more direct in trying to get me to say my opinion. “Do you think I should?” she asked. I told her truthfully that I didn’t like the idea. “Well, I’ve been thinking about it for over a month, and I’m going to do it,” she boldly maintained – perhaps somewhat glad that I was against it – because that made her a bit of a badass.

Proud mom

So if I don’t really want my daughter to get a nose piercing, why do I find myself feeling proud of her? I can think of a few reasons:

  1. She’s thought about it seriously, and has taken her time in coming to this decision – even though she can easily afford it.
  2. She has shown independence in taking the initiative to arrange for the piercing – including setting up the appointment and figuring out the bus there and back.
  3. She’s not doing it to get anyone’s approval. She’s doing it because she “wants change” – and she thinks she has the right nose for it.
  4. She likes being able to exercise the power that her good financial management gives her.

My daughter is not breaking the law or compromising her character. And she’s growing up. I’m glad that she’s careful, independent, unique, and powerful. Isn’t that exactly what I’ve always wanted for her? Ever since she was a little girl? Her job is not to march to the beat of my drum, but to figure out what hers is, and to march to it. So I’m proud – because many good things are in evidence here. And it’s fine that they’re all being represented by the bold sass – that doesn’t, after all, cross a line – of a nose piercing.


Where do you think parents should “draw the line” for their teens? Do you remember feeling financial power as a teen? Your comments are welcome.


33 comments on “Your Child’s Experience of Financial Power

  1. I think it great that DD3 was so willing to ask your opinion on the nose ring matter, to foster an open discussion. That’s a key with teens – open communication. We try and have those discussions with our three teens on all topics. My oldest son wanted to drive to the gym for the first time last week by himself (newly licensed). He wanted to leave right in the middle of rush hour. I explained that it was not the best time for him to go, given this was the first time he was driving alone and the volume of traffic. He was upset, but understood.

    I remember feeling powerful as a teen with money as in powerful spender. I had P/T jobs since I was 16, and never managed my money well.

    1. It’s true that teens can feel powerful with money but not be good with it at all. I should have linked the concept of “power” to savings and good management of that income from part-time jobs. You’ve entered a new world with your son being able to drive : ) He will be very glad to avoid rush-hour traffic once he gets a taste or two of it/

  2. Love what you said about “the line” being a moving target. SO TRUE!! We always work hard to let the kids exercise their opinion and make decisions for themselves when it’s appropriate. And once in a while, we lay down “the line” that will not be crossed in this house. So much of learning to parent well is about learning to realize which instances should have us engaged in battle and which should see us giving the kids some wings. It’s important to choose those battles with long-term thinking in mind. What might not seem to be a big deal to a parent might be a colossal deal to a kid, and it’s smart to keep that thought at the forefront when helping your kids make decisions. Great job, my friend. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Laurie. “engaged in battle” is not an exaggeration. It can be intense. That idea that “What might not seem to be a big deal to a parent might be a colossal deal to a kid” can work the other way around too. They can be very nonchalant about something that makes us see red flags everywhere. But a nose piercing isn’t one of them : )

  3. Thanks for the mention. I always like when a comment, whether it be one that I leave or one that someone leaves me, inspires an entire post. Those actually tend to be some of the best ones.

    It sounds like you put a lot of consideration and thought into your decision. That’s great. My comment was merely representing the fact that if your decision led you to say ‘absolutely not’ that you would have a basis to enforce that.

    Honestly, in my mind, the decision is secondary to the fact that you really did put a lot of thought into it, you talked to her about it, and didn’t just make a snap decision. Your daughter will one day, if she doesn’t already, really appreciate that.

    1. Thank YOU for inspiring this post. I’m glad you responded to my comment as you did. You were right, and your response got me thinking about what I really meant by the whole “vote” thing. Reading others’ posts and getting involved in the comments helps me to clarify my own approach to all things financial – and it inspires a post from time to time as well : )

  4. “If it’s drawn too severely, the consequences can be just as bad as when it’s not drawn at all.”

    I completely agree! When I started college, I took my new freedom to a bit of an extreme (though I never walked down the street naked!), but, thankfully, that only lasted a few short weeks.

    I think giving them the freedom to make their own choices, such as a nose piercing, when they are still at home helps to squelch the possibility of them going hog wild when they do go out on their own. We definitely have to choose our battles, but letting them know we trust them to make the best decisions for themselves pays dividends!

    1. I’m with your on that “squelch” idea, Amanda. Making room for some measured badass-ish behaviour gets it out of their system to some extent – at least I’m hoping it does! I’ve seen it come out in middle-age if it’s repressed in adolescence. I’m glad you managed to get that extreme freedom out of your system without the naked walk down the street : )

  5. Wait – my six year old is going to be a teenager some day?? Just the thought makes me whimper a little – yikes!! 🙂

    I would be proud of DD3, too. Like you, nose rings aren’t my thing, but it’s not where I would draw the line. I completely agree that the placement of the line is pretty individual, but I guess it most often comes down to safety for me. These are not decisions I’m looking forward to having, but I hope I have a few years to get ready for them.

    1. Yes, when it comes to safety, the line has to be drawn! But even there, there are all sorts of competing viewpoints. You have many years to go before having to deal with any of this, Amy. And there is so much about parenting teens that is great. You have a lot to look forward to : )

  6. I think that when one is a parent of children, whether they are five or fifteen, there are times when one really has to pick their battles. That is part of parenting. I think you made the right decision concerning your daughter, and hey if she decides down the road she doesn’t want a nose ring anymore, all she has to do is take it out and no one is the wiser! 🙂

    1. That is exactly right. It’s not like getting a tattoo that can’t easily be removed. (That was DD2 . . . ) Choosing your battles with a 5-year-old can be a highly dramatic thing as i remember. It’s a good training ground for what is to come : )

    1. Too late, Kay! She went through with it a few hours ago – my post day – Thursday. And you know what? It’s a little stud that doesn’t look too bad at all. (But I will tell her : )

  7. So tough, parenting is hard. At this age it’s hard because they’re testing the waters of independence and as they do this we parents can’t help but see a reflection if us in their decisions. Would I get a nose piercing? No, but if my very confident daughter came to me, who am I to jade a decision that I’ve allowed her to make through independent thinking? I personally don’t care that much about piercings. When you get sick of them it’s easy to remove and move on. At 18 my mom wouldn’t let me pierce my bellybutton, not because she was against piercing but because it’s a more intimate (arguably sexualized piercing) and she knew I was only doing it because my friends were and that I, Catherine, didn’t *really* want it. I eventually went behind her back and did it myself-dumb…and told her about it. She wasn’t mad but more “just wait and see, you’ll learn”. It took 2 years for me to admit I hated it and removed it. I however in mid 20s had my tragus done and still at almost 32 love it. It’s super tiny and if i do decide to get rid of it my body will heal.

    1. I had to look up “tragus”. Ouch! It looks fine – I can just imagine the pain at the time of piercing though! I think your mom handled your rebellious belly-button piercing well. There was no point in getting angry about it. She had made her sentiments clear to you, and you humbly learned that she was right. It’s tough for teens who struggle with peer-pressure – as I’m sure you did in that case. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Catherine.

      1. First time I saw a cashier in a convenience store with those giant holes, I think the shocked look on my face said it all. I kept thinking, when he gets tired of those , how are his ear holes going to go back to normal.

        1. I don’t think that a return to normal would be possible for him – only fake normal with plastic surgery. So glad the hole in DD3’s nose is tiny. It will easily grow in if she makes that choice.

  8. I bet your daughter looks cute with a nose piercing. I sort of want one again, but I think I would rather spend the $75 on a new haircut. Unfortunately, I don’t know when I would have time or energy to maintain either one.

    I also think its great to give your daughter a bit of independence like this in high school. I think something like a nose piercing is just edgy enough to help your daughter decide if “edgy” is going to be something she’s permanently willing to spend on, or if it is just the type of spending that marks independence.

    1. I’m sure you can’t imagine having the time to maintain anything as far down the list as a piercing or a hair cut at this point! I hope that you and baby are doing well. How does big brother like the big change of scene at home? The shiny little stud in DD3’s nose is very subtle. You’ve summed up the edgy/independence thing very well. I’m sure you are just reflecting upon your own thinking – not so long ago really – when you got your own nose pierced : )

  9. As a parent, it’s tough to always know where the line is, particularly as it is always shifting a little bit as they age and situations become more nuanced. I’m sure the little stud in her nose looks great and strikes me as being on the right side of the line given her age and the subtlety. As Kay notes, the giant ear rings, and the resultant giant holes, are to be avoided and strike me as definitely being on the other side of the line.

    1. I really don’t like those big ear guages. I don’t know how I’d respond to my teen wanting to get those, and fortunately, I don’t think I’ll have to figure that one out. Thanks for commenting, James!

  10. I think it’s great that your daughter talked to you about the piercing beforehand instead of just getting it done and waiting for the fallout. (She did seem to know you wouldn’t love the idea). I hope when my daughter tells me she wants to pierce her nose/shave her head/join a Mylie Cyrus Tribute Band I’ll have a similar conversation.

    1. A Mylie Cyrus Tribute Band? If it involves twerking, the answer should definitely be “No!” I hope much, much better things for you : )

  11. Sounds like a good opportunity to let her exercise her freedom. The stakes are pretty low, and it’s nice that she’s thought it out, taken initiative, and even asked your 2 cents–even if it didn’t sway her. I agree that being too overbearing can backfire and not really let kids develop good decision-making skills. We’ll see if I’m singing the same tune when my daughter is a teen, though!

    1. That’s just it. It’s very hard to imagine how you’ll respond/react when it’s so far in the future. I remember when my daughters were young, I could not conceive of them being teenagers. And each has been so incredibly different from the others. I’m going to bet that you’ll be singing a very fine tune when your children hit the teen years : )

  12. I imagine there is a lot of breath holding when one of you teenage kids walks up to you and says they want to talk. I don’t know what I’d do honestly, but I guess at the very least body piercings can heal? 🙂 She will either outgrow it with little repercussion, or hey, it’s who she really is and good for her for knowing!! I just recently started thinking about a tattoo, and I’m 45….I still can’t quite commit to any one design because, you know, it’s on ya for life!

    1. Body piercings can heal – and the stud in her nose is very subtle, so it’s no worry. Now if she’d said she wanted a tattoo like Tonya, that would be a different story : ) Seriously though, I’m sure you will pick a tattoo that is very you. Clearly, you’re putting some thought into it. I hope you write a post about it when the time comes.

  13. This one is a tough one and I can understand any parent’s issue that they may take with it, but I come from a place where I can easily say that I don’t own my children’s bodies. They are in control of their bodies always and it’s an important thing to teach our children in this day and age. No one should be able to tell them what they can or can’t do with their body. With that, even if my child came to me at 15 and said she wanted to get her nose pierced, I really wouldn’t want her to, but I wouldn’t want to give her the impression that she had to ask someone else’s permission to do something with her own body. That could translate into a whole lot of other issues when she’s dating and her boyfriend won’t give her his “permission” to dress a certain way or wear her hair in a particular hairstyle. That would be an even bigger problem than a nose piercing at 15.

    1. Wow, Latoya. Your comment brings the discussion to a whole other level. I hadn’t even thought of it from that angle. I would say that although no parent “owns” the bodies of their children, we are caretakers of them, and there are times to establish boundaries. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules about when we let our children get piercings or what types of piercings are allowable, but I do think there are certain age-sensitive boundaries that parents are wise to assert for a whole range of things – piercings, tattoos, hair, make-up, clothing . . . And then there are drugs and alcohol. Isn’t that also a case of teens deciding what to do with their bodies? It’s really, really hard to know as parents what comes from a desire to protect, what is rooted in pride, and what stems from prejudice as we put those boundaries in place. The goal is ideally to be nurturing and protective – not controlling. I’d be interested to know where you stand on this question of boundaries for teens.

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