Who’s Got the Steering Wheel?
by Crown Financial Ministries
Time to Take Control of Your Kids’ Demands for More New Stuff
Driving the carpool doesn’t have to be all that bad. In fact, it can be quite entertaining. I remember driving my older daughter and some of her friends to a local restaurant. One friend changed the conversation.
“Oh, here’s that intersection where my dad got so mad at me.”
“Why?” my daughter asked. (These girls recently had acquired driver’s permits).
“Well, my dad said to turn left, but I started to turn right. But I do that all the time ‘cause I really get that stuff mixed up. It’s just hard for me to tell my right from my left, unless I do this.”
She had me looking in the rearview mirror to see her holding both arms outstretched to the extreme right and left, up over her head. I thought to myself, Now just who has the steering wheel while her hands are stretched out like that? I made a mental note not to let my daughter ride with her anytime soon.
Do you, as a single parent, ever wonder who’s really at the wheel? I imagine there are times you aren’t sure which way is left and which way is right. In the area of finances and your kids’ demands to buy them more new stuff, you can take the wheel.
These demands, or the “I wants,” from today’s Millennium Kids are at epidemic levels – everything from new video games to the hottest brand-name clothes, soccer cleats to registration for yet another summer camp, and more CDs to add to the million they already own (and can’t even find). Unfortunately, if you are trying to be frugal, you have stiff competition. TV commercials, magazine ads, peer pressure, and other competitive, materialistic parents–all can make you unpopular for saying “No.” How do you get a grip on the spending demands from your children and teens?
It begins with your mindset. You shouldn’t feel guilty about refusing to provide for all of your children’s “I wants.” Not only is it detrimental financially, but it isn’t good for your kids. Children’s “want baskets” get empty, refilled, empty, refilled, over and over. What happens when they can no longer be filled?
You are not denying the needs of your children with excessive buying and spending. Many of today’s parents do everything possible in order for their children never to feel frustration, unhappiness, or want. Please hear this: Saying no once in a while will not damage your child’s self-esteem. Saying no will lead your kids away from self-centeredness and toward a healthy sense of self-esteem. They will also learn patience, frustration tolerance, and that happiness in life doesn’t center on buying more “stuff” and entertainment. Parents should not strive to make their kids happy 24/7. What moms and dads need to do is teach their children to be content. Here are some practical strategies you can remember.
- · No matter what your financial status, adhere to biblical principles and develop a budget. Crown has affordable, user-friendly, and effective materials and resources for single parents and budgeting.
- · Never apologize to your kids for being a single parent and don’t feel guilty when you say no. Don’t let whining, nagging, or your children’s pushing any other emotional buttons influence your decision making. Keeping this in mind will help you not to give in and regret it later.
- · Children love to ambush unsuspecting parents once they are out in public (mainly because it works!). Don’t let this happen to you. Spell it out before you pull out of the driveway on the way to the mall or store. Let your children know that you are sticking to your list and that ambushing you in the middle of the store will only get them into trouble.
- · As children get older and earn some of their own spending money, help them develop a budget as well. Again, Crown has some great resources for children. Got teens? Don’t be the only one teaching your kids the principles of financial planning. Ask the youth leader to teach a series, using Crown’s God’s Way of Handling Money teen study. (I am completing this series with my younger daughter’s Sunday school class and it has been, as they say, awesome). In this way, you are not alone in showing your teens the reality of managing finances.
- · Not all funds in the entertainment/recreation category of your budget are for your children. It’s okay to expect some downtime for yourself, and it often costs a little something to enjoy these relaxing moments. Your children need some time away from you just like you need time away from them. That’s not being an irresponsible or uncaring parent. It’s just being smart. The only way to combat stress of being a single parent is to be proactive—not reactive. Find a good sitter or two you can count on. Swap opportunities to baby-sit for other parents if your budget is tight.
Bryan Greeson is a nationally certified school psychologist, weekly columnist, and freelance writer residing in Gastonia, North Carolina.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.