How Do You Know When You Are Done Parenting?

5 Categories to Assess Your Child’s Wellbeing

By Erick Lauber, Ph.D.

the-family-unitFor many parents, when their children enter the teen years, things get more confusing. When the kids were younger it was kind of easy, or at least simpler. Keep them safe. Make sure they eat healthy.  Let them know they are loved, etc…

But when the kids are teens, “good parenting” gets harder and harder to define.  Are you supposed to step in and fight their battles for them, or hang back and let them figure it out on their own? Can you prevent heartbreaks or must you only provide counseling afterwards?  And does anyone know exactly what do to about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll?  When are you done parenting?

If you survey your friends about this question you might get responses like, “when your children are independent,” or “when they can take care of themselves.”  But how shall we define “independent?”  When are our kids grown up? Does it magically happen one day, perhaps, the day they graduate high school or move out?  Those seem like arbitrary dates and not all kids mature at the same rate, right?

If we focus on what really worries parents, that their children will not grow up happy, healthy and wise, we are lead in a different direction. For example, most – if not all – parents have been focused on taking care of their child’s “future self,” not just the present one.  Responsible parents have been denying their children candy in the grocery aisle, getting them up for school every day, and making a thousand other decisions knowing that these choices will be best for their child in the long run.

So, one answer to our question is “when the young adult starts making decisions that are in the best interests of their future selves, not just meeting their current wishes or needs.”

So what does that look like?  How shall we define a “happy, healthy and wise person” and how will we know when our children are headed in the right direction?

Wellbeing

Fortunately, these questions are somewhat answerable. The Gallup organization has been studying life satisfaction and individual happiness for many, many years.  Their concept of the good life is informed by millions of survey responses and top notch social scientists.  Their results support our intuitive notion that we all want basically the same things.  Gallup has combined these few universals into a concept called “wellbeing.”  When we are doing well in each of these categories, we give ourselves very high scores on wellbeing.

For our purposes, these five categories allow us to break down the question “is our child headed in the right direction?” into five more specific questions.  Our child will do well in life and have high wellbeing down the road if they are taking care of themselves in the areas of career, social, physical, financial and community wellbeing.

  1. Career

The Gallup organization has discovered that the single most important element of one’s wellbeing is a person’s self-evaluation of their career wellbeing.  This question is not about how much money you make, but instead about how much you enjoy what you do on a daily basis. Part of our job as parents is to help our children select and get in to a career they will enjoy.  This doesn’t mean we have to find the right job for them, or even select their college major. It means we have to help our children understand enjoying your work is very, very important.  As they understand themselves better and better, they have to be responsible for making their careers, and thus their lives, enjoyable.

  1. Social

Similarly, we cannot make relationship decisions for our children, but we can pull back on parenting when we can see they are taking care of themselves and their future selves in this arena.  Are they forming strong bonds with people at work or school? Does it look like these relationships will last for years?  Are they able to navigate brief disruptions in those relationships?  Are they forward-looking in their choice of a spouse?

  1. Physical

We as parents have been taking care of our children’s physical health for quite some time. How are they doing in that department? Are they doing the day to day things that will lead to a long term healthy life style? Are they avoiding major risk factors that could create catastrophic results for their health and wellbeing? We might disagree as parents in the specifics, but if we step back and assess the overall pattern, is our child on their way to being a healthy, productive adult?

  1. Financial

Can our child manage money?  Many parents will “test drive” their teenagers’ financial decisions by either giving them their own money, maybe as an allowance, or encouraging them to get a part-time job.  Though we won’t agree with every buying decision, we want to know is our child learning about the importance of money, and whether or not they can save for big things instead of spending it all right now.

  1. Community

Finally, the Gallup organization has found a significant correlation in an individual’s self-reported wellbeing  and  their involvement in their community. Volunteering is a significant contributor to our happiness and can inoculate us from stress and other negative emotions.  Does our child show any tendency toward this kind of sacrifice and involvement? Do they belong to clubs or service organizations? Do they understand the importance of volunteering?

To answer the question “when are we done parenting?” we must have a goal in mind. Wellbeing is at least one way of answering and describing what we want our children to achieve throughout their lives. As we begin to think about when our jobs as parents might be winding down, we can use the five categories of the Gallup organization’s wellbeing index as a way to ask more specific questions about whether our child is not just taking care of their present needs and wants, but also their future selves.  Though all of us know our roles are parents will never really be over, it is completely acceptable to say the job can evolve.  The kind of parent we want to be is someone who can celebrate, from the sidelines, our child’s happiness and wellbeing.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erick Lauber, Ph.D. is an applied psychologist and faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He speaks and consults on personal growth and development, life balance and change. He has won 19 educational TV/film awards and is published in numerous journals and psychology conferences. For more information, please visit www.ErickLauber.com or call 724-464-7460.

Frugality – Teach Your Children Well

by Claire K. Levison

saleMy dad is a master of frugality.  His brother often remarks that it’s “the family way.”  As a kid, I thought my dad was cheap but as it turns out, he’s just smart.  He knows what’s important to him and what isn’t.  Those priorities are reflected in the way he spends his money.  The car he had when I was in high school was the base model.  It didn’t even have a radio.  When I would ask him why, he would say, “I don’t need a radio in my car.”  When Dad would take me to a fast food restaurant (a fairly rare occasion), he was never willing to buy drinks.  “Those drinks are so over-priced.  We can get a drink at home,” he would tell me.  As a child, I didn’t understand it.  It drove me nuts.  Now as an adult, I can see that where it drove me was down a path of financial success.

As a mother, I’ve vowed to teach my children to be frugal too.  My fourteen-year-old hasn’t fully embraced the concept yet.  She does enjoy seeing her money go further when she buys things that are on sale, but she’s still fairly enamored with high dollar items.  And I’m not always as good as my dad was when it comes to holding firm.  I can’t remember my dad ever giving in to those fast food sodas.  Although I’m sure he must have at some point during my eighteen years of childhood.

And yes, as time goes on in our society, it seems that ante is continually being upped.  Instead of a soda, my daughter wants UGGs. When I bought her first pair, I remember thinking, “I can never tell my dad how much I just paid for these boots.  He will think I have completely lost my mind.”  Although I was buying an expensive pair of shoes for my daughter, frugality was still churning inside me.  When I looked at the price tag of those boots, it set off an alarm in my head.  Even as a grown woman, I was asking myself what my dad would think of that purchase.  It made me feel uncomfortable.  It made me think, “This should be a rare occasion.  This should be a special treat.”

I could tell you that you should never buy your kids a pair of UGGs or some similar name brand item, but I’m not going to. I think as parents we can find a balance between providing a lifestyle that allows our children some flexibility in a world that puts such a high value on material things and providing a lifestyle that shows our children that frugality will ultimately be a roadmap for financial success.

I expect, like it is with so many other lessons we try to teach our children when they’re growing up, that it may not be until my daughter is out on her own that the light bulb will really go off in her head.  I picture her being debt-free, having a solid savings account, and investing for retirement and other future needs she’ll have.  I picture her standing in the midst of her firm financial foundation thinking to herself, “Wow, I guess Mom really did know what she was talking about when it came to all that frugal stuff.  She taught me well.”  I don’t think this is too much to hope for.

But for now, my sweet daughter just rolls her eyes when I drag her to the clearance section at the back of a store.  I don’t go shopping that often but when I do, I always hit the clearance racks first.  Maybe it’s my version of a radio-less car or a soda-less trip to McDonald’s.  Dad taught me well.  Teach your children well too.

Clare K. Levison is a certified public accountant and author of Frugal Isn’t Cheap:  Spend, Less, Save More, and Live Better.  She is a national financial literacy spokesperson for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and has appeared on major radio and television networks across the country discussing various personal finance topics.   She has served as a member of the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) Board of Directors and was named one of the 2010 Top Five CPAs Under Thirty-Five by the VSCPA. Levison has more than a decade of corporate accounting experience and is also an active volunteer, serving as PTA president, Girl Scout leader, and Sunday school teacher.  She lives in Blacksburg, Virginia with her husband and two daughters.

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Tips For Children About the Basics of Money

by Patrick Bet-David

kids-moneyIt’s not that kids shouldn’t have fun, but today’s distractions are taking too much time from more important things like learning about money. Whether kids are going to the movies, shopping for clothes or music, buying a car, trying to help support their parents or even working a couple of jobs to pay for college, money is and always will be an important part of our lives.

 

Use these tips for children to learn about the basics of money:

 

Start a habit of saving money – Whether someone gives you five bucks or you just got your first paycheck, whatever money you are making, try to save at least 10% in an account that you try hard not to touch.

 

Start a budget – Open up your own savings account and learn the basics of having a bank account. Start a budget and learn to manage it.

 

Shop around – It’s tempting to see something we like and buy it on the spot, and that’s called instant gratification. But if you go online or wait a couple of months for a sale, that same item may cost less which saves you money.

 

Avoid credit cards at all costs – If you plan on buying an awesome car, buying a house one day, or being taken seriously in any business venture, your credit score will play a huge role in how much financial companies will trust your spending habits.

 

Focus on earning – Saving is very important, but if you’re not earning money you won’t have any to save. Start thinking like an entrepreneur at an early age. Open a lemonade stand, car washing business or pet walking service. The key is to offer a service that people are willing to pay for.

 

Expect more – People usually make the amount of money they feel they are worth, and most people sell themselves short. Teach children to have a high self-image, and they will create a world for themselves that meets that self-image.

 

Download an app on your phone – There are so many apps for managing your budget and savings on phones nowadays that you can track your money on the go. Get in the habit of keeping tabs on your spending habits.  Kids will have more fun doing this on their phones and tablets.

 

Bet-David says there is a difference between just saving money and building an awesome financial foundation, but it’s a good idea to start with the basics.