Most parents fall somewhere on the spectrum that runs between draconian and shamelessly lenient. We aim to remain somewhere in the middle, picking our battles along the way. As a parent of three kids myself, I’m considered by my children hopelessly intolerant in some aspects and a complete pushover in other parts of the childrearing process. For years, I’ve been one of the worst offenders when my college- age children ask for more money. My pushover character along with their powers of persuasion was a lethal combination that definitely dented my bank account. Here’s how I broke my terrible habit:
1. Don’t believe their sob stories.
If you’re kids are going off to college for the first time, it’s only normal to be worried sick. Of course, you want them to have everything they need, but buyer beware. Your kids will likely take advantage of your worry. Your children will likely couch their demands in terms that you’ll buy into. They’ll say they need this and that for school supplies like books, or they need money for food, or something similar. If you’ve established a reasonable monthly budget (my next point), that takes into account all these necessary expenses, then their excuses and stories should be a moot point. I’m not saying your children will outright lie to you; but they will invariably exaggerate how much they actually need.
2. Figure out a reasonable monthly budget and have both of you stick to it.
If you establish a monthly allowance that’s been calculated to factor in all the personal expenses inherent in attending college, then your children shouldn’t need to ever ask you for extra money. Take into account the cost of living in the area your child attends, and work out a budget together. For example, if your child already has a school meal plan, factor in a few meals for weekends or whenever your child may need a break from cafeteria food. Acquire a copy of each of your kid’s class syllabi and calculate the average cost of used textbooks. You can even throw in a small “miscellaneous” budget for random items like occasional clothes shopping, medicines for the cold or flu, and the like. When your monthly budget covers all bases, the need for extra money diminishes to virtually zero.
3. Encourage your children to find ways to make extra money.
Eventually, I established a rule that any and all money used for entertainment or extraneous expenses must be supplied by my child herself. Once I instituted this rule, my kids started coming up with pretty clever ways of making extra money. Whether it was getting an on-campus part-time job, tutoring high school students in their spare time, or setting up an online campus snack delivery website, my kids were able to find small ways to pay for their social lives.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember before giving in to your child when she asks for money is that while it seems like it’s helping your kid, it will only harm her in the end. The practice adds to your child’s sense of entitlement, and sometimes tough love is just what our children need to become mature, responsible adults. Good luck!
This guest post comes courtesy of Mariana Ashley, who frequently gives advice on applying to online colleges to prospective students. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.