When my daughter was about 10, she came home asking for a Nintendo DS. The DS cost a little over $100, and each game had to be purchased separately. It was late spring, school would be out and I usually got her a few new things to play with for the summer, so I considered getting it for her, when suddenly, I had a brainstorm: she would earn the money for the DS.
We talked about the ways she might earn money – cleaning houses, pet sitting, maybe a mother’s helper. Pet sitting got her attention. She made fliers to give to friends, family, and neighbors. Soon she had three customers.
Within two months, she was close to her goal of coming up with half of the money for the DS and some of the games. It was an auspicious day when we went to the store and picked out a lovely pink DS, a zebra skin case, and three game chips. We even celebrated with a lunch out.
As the next summer approached, she had a new goal in mind, an iPod Touch which was a little over $200, at the time. She continued to care for two of the three pets off and added housecleaning to her offerings. By the end of the summer, she had saved money enough to purchase the iPod Touch. She became more confident in speaking with adults, in developing plans, carrying them out, and the basics of marketing. She also learned from a few challenges, such as the time she cared for a pet for three months and instead of the agreed upon $75 plus expenses, she was given two candy bars and a T-shirt.
As the years went by she earned enough money to purchase a MacBook Air, followed by a MacBook Pro. Pet Sitting and house keeping were exchanged for cookie baking, which grew to small catering gigs. She hosted a garage sale and earned a few hundred dollars selling old toys and clothes.
She learned about pricing, contracts, and going above and beyond the expectations of her customers. As she entered her freshman year of high school a new source of income emerged through a YouTube channel she had been growing, and was now netting $100-$200 per month in ad revenue. She began thinking of how to improve her presentation skills and learned to edit. Soon brands were contacting her to feature products, and she began learning to negotiate.
The summer she began her sophomore year in high school everything changed. It was the season of lethargy. She slept in until noon. Her once tidy room was a perpetual heap of dirty clothes and dishes. Her personal self-care had plummeted. She was diagnosed with a serious, but not debilitating, health problem that seemed to take the wind out of her sails.
Time we once spent together was replaced with her in her bedroom with the door closed. Any money she earned was spent going out with friends. She quickly spent her allowance and asked to be fronted the next month’s money. Mostly, she expected I would foot her bills without question.
Heading into her junior and senior years, most of her friends were driving and many had jobs in addition to the sports activities and the volunteer work required for our state’s scholarship program. Our Brooke taught ballet for an hour a week and was still enjoying the revenue from her YouTube Channel, but felt little motivation to do anything else.
She said she was stressed and overwhelmed keeping up with her school work. Everything seemed engineered to create as much down time as possible. Conversations regarding her getting a job and doing her volunteer hours fell on deaf ears.
Then, I made a discovery. A credit card we had given her for emergencies was over its limit and had been temporarily closed. It was time for the first of several talks, which culminated with our taking the card back.
I told her she would be on her own for any clothes, personal care items, dining out, and recreation. For two years we had been talking about her becoming financially self sufficient, but she always seemed to find a way around it. No credit card, no allowance, no borrowing – she had to pay her own way.
Ever creative, she turned to her friends. It wasn’t long before some of her friends stopped calling. Not only were they saying no, but one friend sat her down and told her he was uncomfortable with her always seeming to have her hand out. Even her boyfriend put his foot down.
Every opportunity she got to spend our money, she attempted to take. By Christmas, we tightened the rules again – no more joining us for food shopping and slipping personal care items into the cart. No more purchases of gifts for friends – in spite of the fact she told us she would make gifts. Over $200 was charged to my Amazon account for a generous gift for her boyfriend. Another loophole had to be closed. Oh she was slippery!
With all financial sources shut down, she approached me, “My friends think it’s really crazy that you won’t even buy me shampoo – I’ve been using samples for a month now.” Her timing, unfortunately, was exceptionally poor. She had just asked me to take her swim suit shopping and said she had the money for it.
As cold as it seemed to say, “No” to purchasing a bottle of shampoo, I did. I pointed out that if she had money for a swim suit, she had the money for shampoo and that the dollar store was another possible option. I told her that I loved her and knew she had what it took to be able to find work and manage money. I told her that being able to support herself was the key to her future – a future I saw as bright and full of promise. A future that required her to take over the reins and learn to support herself.
Since that talk, she has applied for five jobs. She has a second interview with one prospect now, and is getting use to the idea that she will need to make use of the work study program when she enters college next year. We had to put a stop to a few additional things as well, such as allowing her to use stress or anxiety as a reason for not moving forward with her life. Now we say she has to go forward with the stress, with the anxiety – to feel it and go forward anyway.
Life is like a dance, one step forward, two steps back, advance and retreat. I know that within her she has all that she needs. Of that I have no doubt. I also know that cutting her off from my finances was the best thing I have done for both of us.
In the last day or so, I have been feeling as though a weight has been lifted from me. As I watch her coming to life and taking responsibility for herself, as I see her taking the reins, I am encouraged. I know now she has what it takes to care for herself and to succeed.
This article was previously published on Sharing a Journey