Dear Family Coach: My children often receive holiday cards with money inside in the mail from their grandparents. They usually spend the money on stupid stuff they don't need. One time my son gave a $50 bill to the American Heart Association, which is noble but I also thought a bit excessive. Should we let the kids spend their money on anything they want (even if it's a waste of money) or try to show them the value of saving? — Frugal Dad
Dear Frugal: Define a waste of money. My guess is your definition will be vastly different from that of your children. In the eyes of a 7-year-old, a $50 bill is not much different from a $5 bill. Children don't know what money can buy or why it might be worth it to save a bit.
My philosophy in general is that young people learn via experience. They don't learn by their parents protecting them from the consequences of their actions. If your son gives away all his money to charity or spends it on baseball cards or video games, he won't have any left the next time he wants something. Imagine the two of you are walking the toy aisle in Target and he is begging for a pack of Pokemon cards. You say, "Do you have any money in your bank?" Your son will realize if he had saved a little money for an occasion when he wanted to buy something, he would be heading home with those cards right then. Furthermore, if you resist the urge to just buy him the toy anyway, he might feel disappointed or walk away realizing he didn't need the cards. Either way he will learn more about managing his money in that moment than he would in 10 lectures from you.
One more thing: Your son clearly has a compassionate heart. Take pride in that.
Dear Family Coach: My daughter is a goody-goody. She is constantly tattling. She snitches on her brother. She tells her friends' mothers when her friends make a bad choice. And she tattles on the kids at school to the teacher. She is only in fourth grade, so it hasn't been a huge issue. But I can see her friends are growing tired of her ratting them out. How can I get her to mind her own business for everyone's sake? — Tattler's Mom
Dear Tattler's Mom: No one likes a tattler, not the teacher, not the friend's parent and clearly not you. You daughter is probably getting lots of social feedback that squealing on friends isn't a popular choice, and yet she continues. That's because she has a fundamental issue with dishonesty or going against the rules. Some children are extreme rule followers, and it upsets them greatly when others don't follow suit. Even though your daughter may lose her friends, she most likely feels it is the price to pay for righting a wrong.
While being right at all costs might make your daughter unpopular, her behavior isn't all bad. This world needs people like your little tattler to ensure there is equity among the people, and that all are treated fairly. Try to teach your daughter that there are differences in levels of injustice and it is OK to overlook a few minor infractions for the sake of getting along. Work with her to tolerate ambiguity and be more flexible. This will help her deal with the frustration she may feel pushes her to tattle in the first place.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.