As parents, we want to help our children avoid the mistakes we made. This is especially true with money mistakes as they can set people back years from achieving their financial goals. (Sad to say, but some adults never achieve their financial goals.) However, there are several reasons why you should let your teen make money mistakes.
My Biggest Money Mistake
I made so many money mistakes when I was young! Probably the costliest one was transferring to a university for the winter semester and choosing a dorm room. I called my future dorm roommate just to say “hi”, and she was so rude and gruff! Because I was shy and fearful about living with someone, I backed out of staying in the dorm, but I couldn’t get a refund on my money. I paid for that dorm for four months, and I never lived there!!
My mom never said anything; she let me make my own choice, and that decision was certainly one I learned from.
Watching My Son Make Money Mistakes
My son is now 15, and while he used to be a great saver, over the last few years, he’s become a spendthrift. If he has any money in his pocket, he will try to find a way to spend it, often on items he doesn’t even need.
I live in fear that he’ll move out, get a credit card, and rack up incredible debt, which will take years to pay off or cause him to file for bankruptcy.
Why You Should Let Your Teen Make Money Mistakes
As hard as it may be, as parents, sometimes the best thing we can do is step aside and let our teens live their lives as they inch closer to independence.
Better They Learn as Teens Rather Than Adults
Keep in mind, it’s better to let our teens make money mistakes now than as adults. My son is trying to save for a school-sponsored trip to visit some college campuses. However, he’s struggling with this goal because any time he makes some money, he feels compelled to spend it.
The worst-case scenario here is that he won’t be able to go on the trip. As an adult living on his own, he’ll face much more serious consequences if he can’t save his money. The worst-case scenario may be that he doesn’t make rent and is evicted. I’d much rather he miss the trip this year and be envious of those who did get to go. Hopefully that will motivate him in the future to save for large goals.
Experience Is the Best Teacher
While our toddlers soaked up every word we said and thought we were the experts, our teens our cynical and eager to break free from parental control. Simply put, they don’t like to listen to us. Sometimes as parents the best we can do is not say anything and let natural consequences take their course.
Think back to your own teenage years. Did you learn best from your parent lecturing you or the experience of making your own decisions and dealing with the consequences?
When your teen stumbles after a money mistake, don’t swoop in with an “I told you so!” No one appreciates that. Instead, be a sounding board and encourage them to make smarter decisions in the future.
Watching our teens make money mistakes isn’t easy, but as they crave more and more independence, letting them experience life, and fail sometimes, is exactly what they need.