Fruclassity Commandment #9: Give Your Children The Gift of Financial Wisdom (PART TWO)

Last Thursday, I posted an article that I wrote 3 years ago – but which I couldn’t post at the time – about the struggles my husband and I were having asserting financial boundaries for our second daughter. Today, I’m writing about how things have developed in the time since then. Without further ado, here is Part Two of DD2’s story.

DD2 = Dear second daughter
DH = Dear husband
Holding the line with our strong-willed teen
     “I absolutely love the idea of doing a joint savings account to help your daughter avoid student loan debt …” said Choncé in a comment after last week’s post. Three years ago, as I had written, DD2 was about to start university, and to help her avoid student debt, DH and I decided we would need to share an account with her – in order to oversee savings.
     Well, that plan did not pan out. Neither did any proactive suggestion that we made. With a roll of the eye and an irritated sigh, DD2 would say, “I know!” or “Quit telling me what to do!” All we could do was to maintain our boundaries and give the warning, “We will not bail you out if you cross the line.”
     “I know!”
Brick-wall, Jellyfish, and Backbone parenting styles
     As her parents, it became very important for us to know exactly where that line was ourselves. How much would we contribute to her sport? How much would we contribute to her schooling? Were there any conditions under which we would make a short-term loan? Was there work that she could do for us in exchange for money? DH and I had to put a lot of effort into being on the same page. It did not come naturally.
     In her book Kids Are Worth It, Barbara Colorosso discusses three types of parents:
1. The Brick-Wall parent is inflexible, controlling, and expects obedience from children.
2. The Jellyfish parent is extremely flexible, sets few limits, and gives children free rein.
3. The Backbone parent provides form and structure with measured flexibility and accommodation.
     DH was naturally a Brick-wall. I was naturally a Jellyfish. Never before had our tendencies clashed so severely as they did in relation to our rebel teen. But we both moved towards being Backbone parents. Successfully? Certainly to some extent. For my part, I was and am completely convinced of my need to assert boundaries and structure. And in DH, I have seen a transition, first in succeeding to stifle an inclination to control, then in managing to hold firm, steady boundaries proactively – without the harsh inflexibility of the Brick-wall. We haven’t achieved 100% strong Backbone parents status, but we’ve each recognized the faults in our respective parenting styles, and we’ve each moved in the right direction. (This topic could be a whole post – no, a whole blog – in itself.)
DD2 Last Year: Put to the test
     Last year, I was put to my biggest test. In a post about The Challenge of NOT Financially Rescuing Daughter, I described our daughter’s situation. “DD2 finished her university semester four weeks ago, and she had an unpaid tuition bill. Until it is taken care of, she won’t be able to register for her fall semester courses. This is a situation about which DH and I had cautioned her for over a year in advance as we saw her spend her way towards it. A combination of our savings for her post-secondary education, her savings from part-time jobs, athletic bursaries, and grants have not been equal to her lifestyle, and the consequence has hit home. It took everything I had to say, ‘No, we won’t pay the tuition bill.'”
     And we didn’t. There were no dramatics. No backlash or accusations. Just a response of which I was enormously proud. “DD2 has stepped up. She asked the right questions of the right people and found out about an athletic bursary for which she was eligible. She made the phone calls, set up the appointments, filled in the paper work and got it … She also decided to say ‘No’ to a great opportunity to train and compete – one that involved travel, which she loves. Instead, she’s been pounding the pavement in search of a summer job. It’s a tricky undertaking for an athlete who has to devote every afternoon to training and several week-ends to competition. She needs a morning shift, and she has applied for dozens of postings.” DD2’s efforts led to results. Before the end of the summer, she had paid off her spring semester and was able to register for her fall courses.
DD2 today
     This year, she had her spring semester paid off before it was over. This May, she took advantage of the opportunity to train, compete, and travel that she had missed last year. And, having submitted many applications well in advance, she had a summer job waiting for her when she came back.
     DD2 was in Virginia May 10, and when I checked my Facebook page that day, I saw this message from her. “Happy Mother’s Day to my #1 fan, my rock, my best friend. I love you so much!!” I get goose bumps and a weepy wave of incredulous joy when I read those words. There are still bumps in the road, and DD2 is still strong-willed. But those bumps are absorbed into a well-established framework  now, and that strong-will is channeled into work, school, sport.

Fruclassity Commandment #9: If you have children, give them the gift of wisdom in financial management. Their friends might have more expensive toys and go on “better” family vacations, but you can teach your children from an early age what it is to withstand peer pressure and not to give in to it. Guide them in  developing the habits of saving, giving, and value-based spending. Avoid the pressure of spending “to show your love” – and the trap of indebtedness that leaves your children with the burden of supporting you in your old age.

     I don’t think I can adequately convey the despair I felt as the parent of an entitled, rebel teen 3 years ago. And I know I can’t adequately express the gratitude and hope that fills me now, as I consider the strong young woman who is DD2.

Would you say your parents were Brick-wall, Jellyfish, or Backbone? How about you? How has that played into the financial training that you were given? That you give to your own children? Your comments are welcome.


23 comments on “Fruclassity Commandment #9: Give Your Children The Gift of Financial Wisdom (PART TWO)

  1. I didn’t do this well with my daughter at all and now have had to back track to help her gain more financial skills. Luckily she’s been open to this as she saw as a young adult what my personal bad money habits got me (80K in debt). She also has a husband who leans to my current style of living (pay cash, save, invest, pay off debt). Good post thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Maureen. I know that your daughter can learn as a young adult. It’s great that she is open to your influence now. And how fantastic that her husband leans towards your money wisdom. Sounds like she has a good attitude and is being guided in the right direction. I appreciate your comment!

  2. I’m the youngest of 5 children, so if you ask my brothers and sisters, my parents were Jellyfishes towards me. I think we started as Jellyfishes and have grow into a Backbone over the years. Financially speaking we are teaching our children so much more than we we ever taught. Money is an open discussion in our home. Glad DD2 is on the right track and she stepped up for herself.

    1. I am the youngest of 5 too! My siblings were all better money managers than I was as a young adult – and I think it might have to do with the “spoiled youngest” syndrome. It would be interesting to do a study on birth order and debt. I’m glad that you are being proactive, Backbone parents. Your children will benefit big time. Thanks for your comment, Brian!

  3. When my son was perhaps 10 years old, I took him with me when I went to the bank to take out a CD for his college fund. While there, I explained to him that by doing this, the bank was going to hold our money for a year and then give us more money back at the end of the year because it earned what is called interest. He was intrigued. A few weeks later, he came out of his room clutching a fist full of money he’d earned from allowances and gifts. He asked me to put that in his savings account so he could earn more money. Success!

  4. Well that was worth waiting for! I’m so glad your daughter let you tell her story. One of my sisters was like DD2. Oh my. What a battlefield that was. But she became a very strong, successful woman. Looks like that is the fate of DD2. 🙂

    1. I hope that “strong” and “successful” are words that will describe DD2 as she continues to grow. Thank you, Kay, for saying that Part 2 was worth waiting for : )

  5. Yay! So glad it worked out. I think the backbone method is the only way to go with strong-willed kids. Let’s hope I can keep true to this philosophy if we manage to have a kid (whatever way that turns out to be).

    I’ve had to stop being a jellyfish with my in-laws. They’re so passive that I end up trying to come up with solutions for various situations. And they’re adults.

    So I’ve stopped taking the bait on passive-aggression (which has caused a significant reduction) and recently stopped myself in the middle of offering to get her set up with Republic now that we’re going to only have a phone for ourselves.

    It’s a process.

    1. It’s true that the whole Backbone vs. Jellyfish model applies to relationships besides the parent-child one. For people who can’t stand passivity, it’s difficult to watch others live in it – and with the consequences of it. But I’m glad you’re not going to accept the “hero” role for your in-laws – otherwise it would become expected. And you’re right. They’re adults. I’m wishing you very well in your hopes to start a family, Abigail.

  6. It sounds like she has become a financially responsible adult. Learning that lesson before she finishes school will pay off for a lifetime.

  7. Congratulations on juggling all those things that are important to you DD2 and finding creative and pragmatic ways to make them all happen!

  8. Great story! I’m not a parent, but know parenting is really, really, really hard work. I’m so glad everything worked out well. In my case, I’m the oldest of four kids, and I think my parents employed a backbone strategy with me for the most part. I hope to do the same someday.

    1. Backbone is definitely the way to go. Most of us have to modify our tendency towards the brick wall or the jelly fish. It’s important to be aware of it to begin with. What a great compliment to your parents for you to say that you hope to do the same as they did : )

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