They want independence and freedom; you want them to take responsibility for their actions. They want decision-making power; you want them to make the right choices. They are struggling to break away; you can't bear the thought of letting go. Welcome to adolescence.
Teenagers long to feel significant. They want to demonstrate to themselves and the world that they matter and are capable of making a difference. Many of the problems teens encounter today exist because their desire to be significant is ignored or diminished.
Having raised two sons, my husband and I now understand a thing or two about teens and money. And if there is one thing we have learned, it is this: If you trust your teens with some amount of money and then allow them to make independent financial decisions on a level commensurate with their ages and abilities -- and allow them to suffer the consequences of their financial decisions -- you will address the following five key motivators that influence kids:
Power. Knowing their parents trust them with money empowers kids, particularly teens, to control some of their environment. This encourages maturity.
Freedom. Managing their own money gives teens the freedom they want to make their own decisions. Give it to them gradually, as they are able to handle it.
Fun. Teens think managing money and being responsible for how they spend it (or don't) is fun.
Belonging. A teenager's participation in managing the family's financial resources creates a sense of community. Teens need to belong and know they are an important part of something bigger than themselves.
Mastery. Once your young adult understands the significance of his role as a money manager, he will be open to concepts such as compounding interest, consumer debt, handling a checking account or credit card, and the basics of investing. Never miss a valuable teaching moment.
Our role as parents is to know our children, to discover their gifts and abilities, and to encourage and train them to keep with those characteristics and tendencies. Money is an excellent tool to help get the job done. As a bonus, your children will go into the real world well-equipped to manage money and possess a level of self-confidence and maturity that is uncommon among young people these days.
If you'd like to read more about how Harold and I raised our sons to be financially confident adults, pick up my book "Raising Financially Confident Kids" ($11 for paperback and $9 for Kindle). It's the story of our journey and the plan we created for our kids. We gave them money to manage and lots of financial responsibility, and stepped back into the position of advisers, even as we were getting our own financial house in order. It's quite a story!