Growing up in a large family, my basic financial needs were always taken care of but as for the extras — it was like a bakery: “Take a number and get in line.” It annoyed me and, at times, it embarrassed me when a friend had the latest and greatest gizmo and I did not. But, it also motivated me to find a way.
I remember getting my older brother to let me clean his room for money, I took local babysitting jobs, and the moment I was old enough to put in for my working papers, I did. Now my first job paid peanuts, because it was a “seasonal” job and didn’t have to pay minimum wage. So for $2.75 an hour, I worked at the local pool; but I was happy as a clam, because I was earning my own dough.
When I left for college, my parents paid the lion’s share and I took out the standard $2,500 government loan and paid all my expenses: books, entertainment, clothes, etc. A funny thing happened. Because I had earned money in the past, I wanted to earn again, and I did not want to have to ask anyone (even my parents) for money. So, I started tutoring for $10 an hour (nice pay raise)! And just as I was getting comfortable and into the groove the boom was lowered: my Dad was retiring and we were moving to Florida. He wanted me to transfer to a state school there. Immediately I knew I had to do something to stop this. I didn’t want to leave, but what could I do? That’s when I learned about becoming a Resident Advisor or “Den Mother.” This job would single-handedly pay my Room and Board and pay me a stipend, and provide me with a phone. Thankfully, I got the job — now I had to sell it to my folks. My father’s reaction was not at all what I was expecting. I thought he might be angry at the lengths I had gone to, to foil his plan. Instead he said that I had thought it through well, had planned it well, and clearly it meant a lot to me to stay where I was. I will never forget the look on his face: it was one of satisfaction. He had done his job well.
Tips for Raising Do-It Yourself Kids
1. Let them have skin in the game. If they want something big, let that be a motivator for them to earn and save their money. You can help them out, but let them “own” a piece of it. It builds confidence, pride, and encourages a work ethic.
2. Don’t let them think that you will always step in. If you practice the law of natural consequences, they will learn very quickly that their actions (or inactions) produce results (good and bad). If they know that they will have to live with these consequences they will tend to be less impulsive and make better choices.
3. Guide them out of the box. Give them creative ideas on how they can achieve their goal, whether it be how to earn extra cash, or how to find something at a better price. Show them how they can “make” their own solution.
4. Clap hands. When they rise up to the task, let them know how proud you are and how proud they should be.
5. Let their youth be an asset. Enthusiasm and energy are great attributes of youngsters. Harness it and direct it toward a goal and watch them accomplish wonderful things. Don’t discourage them with words like, “You’re not old enough.”
6. Build confidence. Let them know that if they want something badly enough they have the power to make it happen for themselves.