Ask the Experts on December Topics
Written by POC Staff Writer
Our Experts on Teaching Financial Responsibility, Teen Dating, and Bullying and Eating Disorders
Teaching Financial Responsibility
Q: My husband and I agree it’s time to give our children a weekly allowance. How can we teach them financial responsibility so they can manage their spending?
A: Giving children a weekly allowance can be a great tool to teach them about financial responsibility. But before forking over cash to your kids, it is important you take the time to explain to them why they are receiving the money, and the different options they have to manage it.
It’s also helpful to teach children the basics of purchase decisions: want versus need, price versus quality, long-term versus short-term impact, among others. But make sure they make the final decision on whether to purchase an item—the result of that purchase, whether positive or negative, is an important life lesson. Also keep in mind that your children are always observing and learning from your actions, so teach by example and demonstrate your own financial discipline—particularly when the kids are around.
In addition to learning how to spend, your children should also learn how to save. From buying groceries with your credit card to writing someone a check, your children have seen the different ways money is spent. However, they may not know how you manage it, as saving is a less visible activity than spending. Saving is a pillar of financial know-how, and teaching your children that saving early—and often—can both enhance future financial success and be as rewarding as spending. It is key to learning how to manage money successfully. You can do this by helping them open a bank account, encouraging them to deposit a portion of their allowance, and showing how savings can grow over time.
Beyond teaching your children financial responsibility through everyday activities, you can also impart financial lessons through significant milestones. According to the August 2011 Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Survey, released by Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management, 88 percent of affluent parents in the U.S. use milestones throughout their children’s adolescence and adulthood to offer financial advice.
The most common milestones include:
• Purchasing their first car (57 percent)
• Graduating from high school (60 percent)
• Paying for college education (62 percent)
Once your children have a basic understanding of personal finance, you can begin to include them in family financial decisions, such as inviting them to meetings with your financial advisor, as appropriate. This opportunity exposes them to discussions about money and how to understand financial concepts that are important for long-term financial success but don’t necessarily come up at home, such as planning for retirement, creating a charitable giving strategy, and more.
Engaging in money discussions while your children are still young can be challenging, but part of the fun in doing so is watching their transition from filling the piggy bank to talking with them about the economy, investments, taxes, and even estate planning. Besides fostering open discussions about money, it is also essential to set boundaries so children respect the value of money and hard work.
—Shirley Quackenbush, Wealth Management Advisor
Struggling With Discipline
Q: My husband and I have been struggling with disciplining our two children—one is 5 and the other is 7. We don’t believe in spanking, but lately the verbal scolding and timeouts are not effectively changing the behavior.
What can I do?
A: How to discipline a child is a very common parental concern. There are a number of ways to manage a child’s behavior without having to spank.
Three common approaches to discipline are as follows:
• Plan A: Parent imposes their will on the child, typically with discipline that assumes embarrassment or motivation can change the behavior, like a timeout. This approach often doesn’t work with challenging kids.
• Plan B: Parents negotiate with the child to take the lead to change the behavior by addressing unsolved problems and lagging skills.
• Plan C: The last resort, when all patience and tolerance has evaporated, parents choose to allow the behavior for now. Plan C is better explained as “choosing our battles.”
What approach do you think is the most effective at changing behavior? In my practice, I recommend working with your child to solve problems and teach the skills needed to succeed, or Plan B. This is also known as Collaborative Problem Solving, developed by Dr. Ross Greene. The main belief of Collaborative Problem Solving is that a child innately wants to do well or “be good.” Children do not misbehave or want to make us angry without a reason or a trigger. But they need to be given the opportunity, guided and taught the skills to be good.
If you choose to use Plan B, listen to your child describe the challenging situation. Even if you know the explanation is not truthful, do not point it out. This step it is more important to understand what the child believes is the truth despite the actual occurrence. From there, you have the opportunity to share your concerns about the behavior. After your concerns are shared, work with your child to think of possible solutions and choose one idea to test out. The child leads and you help as needed. Then discuss how the solution worked. Keep doing it if it works or try another solution if it did not.
The more that you are able to talk to your children about their challenging behaviors and work together to resolve their conflict, the better chance you will have of living in a peaceful home. Additional information about Collaborative Problem Solving can be found at livesinthebalance.org.—Michael Uram, MA, LMFT
Bullying and Eating Disorders
Q: Earlier in the school year, my 12-year-old daughter was being teased by a classmate on her Facebook. We spoke to the parent and she says it has since stopped. (But now she is coming home from school depressed and not eating, saying she needs to go on a diet.) Is there any connection between the bullying and her lack of appetite?
A: Do you remember someone bullying you as an adolescent? I have asked this question to many of my adult patients and they can still vividly remember an incident that occurred in school or home that they cannot forget.
Today bullying is at a whole new level. Now we have cyber-bullying and even bullycide. The U.S. Department of Education’s defines bullying as follows:
• Bullying involves intentional, and largely unprovoked, efforts to harm another
• Bullying can be physical or verbal, and direct or indirect in nature
• Bullying involves repeated negative actions by one or more against another
• Bullying involves an imbalance of physical or psychological power
Verbal bullying includes put-downs related to physical appearance, mannerisms, socioeconomic status, cultural diversity, gender, sexuality, religion, disabilities and IQ. The bullied are often called names, punched, teased, ganged up on, humiliated, ignored, gossiped about, and lied about in person or in social media. Victims often feel shamed, depressed, embarrassed, anxious, sad, lonely, rejected, angry, powerless and fearful.
Bullying comments create a double injustice. Most teenagers will not report that they have been bullied. They keep it a secret. They live in fear. When they have no outlet for these feelings, they push their feelings down. Many start using emotional eating or focusing on their weight, diet, and body image to avoid their feelings. They look for external validation instead of developing a healthy sense of self. Without this sense of self, they are vulnerable to assimilating other people’s beliefs, values, actions and opinions. They lose this valuable opportunity to develop a real and authentic self. They conform to their external environment by putting on a mask that can become a prison.
Bullying can have serious consequences, including body image dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, obesity, anorexia, bulimia, drug abuse, mental disorders, and thinking about and attempting suicide. These symptoms are equally common among the bullies and the bullied victims.
During puberty, dramatic physical changes occur that the adolescent is not prepared to deal with. A healthy girl will gain anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds. This is normal, as their bodies are developing and they are getting taller. They are increasingly concerned about their appearance. They do not have a solid sense of self and are very susceptible to thinking they should look like the models, even if they are airbrushed and really only fantasy. One study recently found that 70 percent of sixth-grade girls stated that they became concerned about their weight when they were about 9 to 11 years old, and that over half of these girls started dieting. Research now is showing that cyclical binge eating and restricting (i.e., dieting) can actually change the chemistry in the brain, creating life-long battles with disordered eating.
Many of my patients report being told that they were fat or criticized at home. Unknowingly the remark is taken in and manifests itself later as an eating disorder. It is not always what was said, but what was heard. Eating disorders are very complicated and require professional help. At Rebecca’s House, we provide eating disorder treatment programs and a free support group for families who are having problems with a friend or family member. We also provide assessments for people who think they may have an eating disorder.—Rebecca Cooper, MA, MFT, CEDS, http://www.rebeccashouse.org/