DD3 = Dear Third Daughter
DH = Dear Husband
- The brick wall parent is autocratic and unbending.
- The jellyfish lacks leadership and is easily manipulated.
- The parent with backbone has both structure and some flexibility.
Backbone emerges as the clear winner among these three styles, and while brick wall moms and dads are advised to soften up and develop flexibility, jellyfish are advised to grow a backbone. Dave Ramsey labels the jellyfish among us as ‘wus’ parents, and he gave quite a rant about our kind as the incident with Rachel Canning was unfolding. (Eighteen-year-old Canning tried to sue her parents for living expenses and college fees earlier this year after she left home, unwilling to live by their rules.)
My Challenge as a Jellyfish
Since our journey out of debt began in June of 2012, one of the biggest challenges I have faced has been in confronting my tendency to default to jellyfish mode as a parent. I know logically that as part of our debt reduction efforts, we have to budget what we spend on our children, their allowances, and their activities . And I thoroughly believe that by establishing clear financial boundaries, we are giving our daughters the gift of fiscal wisdom. But despite the fact that I embrace this outlook with my reasoning and beliefs, I still find it a struggle to assert those boundaries in the moment.
DD3 and The Black Keys Concert
“Mom,” DD3 said earlier this week. “Tiffany just asked me if I wanted to go to a concert tomorrow night. It’s The Black Keys. We didn’t know they were coming, and we love them! Her parents will get the tickets for us. They’re $75.”
Notice that DD3 did not ask her father about the concert ticket. DH is a brick wall working on
flexibility. His default mode is “No!” so not much chance anyone is going to ask him for anything
when I’m around.
“How much money do you have?” I asked, pretty sure of what the answer would be. DD3 gets a monthly allowance, and she had gone shopping with friends early in September.
“None,” she said. “Could you give me my October allowance early?”
DD3 puts 20% of her allowance in a savings account which she doesn’t touch, and she gives 10% to charity. Even with a full advance on October’s allowance, she wouldn’t have enough to buy the ticket. Besides, we don’t want her to get a taste of borrowing from the future. I said “No” to the early allowance idea.
“Can I just take the money out of the bank?”
“No,” I said. “The money in the bank stays in the bank.” It was a teachable moment, so I took it upon myself to spell out the lesson. “If you saved $10 or $20 from your allowance every month and put it in the fire-box, you’d be able to do this sort of thing.”
“But I won’t be able to go tomorrow night!”
“No, but something will come up in six months, and you’ll be ready for it.”
DD3 found no comfort in this tidy lesson. All she felt was disappointment about not being able to go see The Black Keys.
I’m always amazed at the “generosity” of other parents. Our children’s friends consistently have money to go out to movies, for ice cream, for clothes shopping . . . and for $75 concert tickets. I don’t enjoy being stingy in comparison. I had a strong inclination to join the crowd and say, “Sure, Honey! Here’s the $75. I love you. Enjoy the concert!” But I caught myself in time, and I stuck to the program. DD3 avoided talking with me for the rest of the evening – another thing I don’t like. But I held strong and trusted it would pass.
Benefits of Backbone
A couple of days later, as I was driving her home from her sport, DD3 started to talk about her plans for October. “It’s going to be an expensive time,” she said. I could see her mind at work, budgeting for the upcoming fair and for her friend’s birthday. She’s gaining an awareness of expenses and the need to plan ahead, I was pleased to notice. Would DD3 have given any thought to such things if I had said “Yes” to the concert? I don’t think so. She hadn’t liked the experience of running out of money and having no options. It had left enough of an impression that she knew she wanted to avoid it next month. My guess is that she’ll manage her October allowance in such a way that she won’t hit zero before the month is over.
And for my part, I’m reinforced in my resolve to “stick with the program”. My inner-jellyfish is still lurking, waiting for an opportunity to take over, but I’m staying vigilant. And I’m growing a backbone.
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