Tuesday, September 07, 2010

It Will Cost You, and Rightfully So

My kids aren't all grown up yet. The oldest is 18, but as far as proof in the pudding and all that jazz, I don't have that much of it. (proof or pudding) Yes, my kids are pretty cool and are doing well in many ways. I'm pleased with who they are. But most of my deeper parenting issues are still in the wait-and-see-how-it-will-turn-out phase.

While I try to have a healthy amount of modesty and self-depreciation about my parenting, there are some things I am willing to be brave about and dare to say how I think it should be. If it turns out I'm wrong, maybe I will post a retraction here on this blog in five or ten years. Tune in to see!

What I want to talk about is sacrifice. Good parenting requires personal sacrifice. Many people think they understand this, but they are not really ready to dig in their heels and continue to sacrifice when it goes in directions that are too inconvenient and costly.

Good parenting requires strong leadership and strong character. If you do not have one or both of these traits, hopefully you will develop those muscles as your parenting journey unfolds. If you don't, I hope that you have been blessed with good-natured, hard-working, stable-minded children who will be able to thrive despite those lacks.

We've had a couple things come up recently that I thought I would share as examples of the kind of sacrifice I have found necessary in order to teach and lead my children in the way I think they will most benefit from.

Our oldest son got his driver's permit when he was 16, but the deal was that he was not going to get his license until he could afford to pay his part of the car insurance. While I do not think this is a must for every family, in our case we thought it was important. I had been encouraging him to seek employment since he was 14 or 15 in order to save money for this time in his life, and he had not done it. So now he had no money and no prospects for earning any. And right away he was saying to me, "I see now why I should have tried harder to get a job back when you were telling me that." Uh huh. Yep.

Reasons why we wanted him to pay his own insurance:
-To connect the privilege of driving with the financial responsibility, as well as the personal responsibility to seek, obtain, and maintain employment

Sacrifices we made to wait it out while he got to this point:
-We were driving him around for 12 months that he could have been eligible for a license, including taking up two days every week of driving him 45 minutes each way to some classes he was taking, and disrupting our homeschool schedule and complicating other schedules. This was happening while gas prices were getting pretty crazy too. It cost us a lot of time and money and inconvenience. It would have been cheaper for us to just pay for his insurance ourselves. But the long term goal was more important that the short-term ease.

Eventually he got some odd jobs and earned some decent money and was in a position to pay for his insurance and he got his license. He now pays us monthly for his part of the car insurance, and has also taken over paying his portion of the cell phone bill. Little by little, we will both encourage him to become an accomplished saver, as well as to take over the costs of his adult life. We're raising a man here, not a boy.


My new licensed driver got a speeding ticket, going 24 miles per hour over the speed limit. Not cool. At all. He gets to appear in court (the only option was court) to deal with this ticket and whatever consequences there are. He will be paying for the entire cost of the ticket, and it is possible that he might even have his license suspended because he was still a probationary driver when this happened.

Know what? We're not going to try to fix it or make it softer for him. We will go with him to court. We are not angry at him. We will encourage him to accept whatever happens. He needs to experience the consequences of this. If it means he has no license for 90 days, so be it. Then he can see how that will impact his life. Kinda hard to have a job and pay your bills without a driver's license, you know?

I'm not a hard-hearted parent. I love my kids like crazy. I love 'em enough to let them experience the consequences of their mistakes, because I would rather have him fully experience the costs of his behavior now, rather than be an irresponsible husband or father someday because he never had to face up to his actions.


We have taught our kids for as long as they could understand, about saving, paying cash, and staying out of debt. With our oldest son we are now where the rubber meets the road with this stuff. He is still in his final year of homeschooling, but is 18, so has adult options in the wide world. We will not be buying him a car, but are encouraging him to work and save his money to buy one. What we have done is kept a third vehicle of ours for him to drive since when he works it would be difficult for us to just have two vehicles. We're not giving him the car, but it is available to him on a temporary basis while he gets up on his own two feet with a car of his own.

My husband started considering some other options for what to do about this third car. He was seeing financial benefits to us of selling the third car, buying something adequate for our son with the proceeds, and then letting our son pay us for the car in installments. Later in discussing it together, we realized: this was missing the point. I neither want my son in debt for a car to a car dealership or a bank OR his parents. I think it is important for him to work, save, discipline himself, make a purchase within his budget, and reap the satisfaction of having a completely paid for car that he earned by the sweat of his brow. I believe he will appreciate it more, take better care of it, and more importantly, he will have gotten over yet another hurdle in how to manage his money and make wise financial decisions that will have a huge positive impact on the rest of his life and his own family someday.

What it costs us to live this out:
-The cost of maintaining a third car.
-Also, the third car is a gas guzzler, so that costs my son more to drive.
-The risk of our son damaging the third car (which he already has, mildly) and us losing the resale value even further.

What I believe will be gained by sticking with it:
-A young man who knows how to work, save, discipline, plan, and appreciate what he has.
-A young man who sees that he is capable of doing what it takes to be smart financially.
-Helping him live out what we have taught him is important.


Tonite was a new one, this time from my 12 year old son. Back in June we were at a Christian music festival, and a speaker was recruiting new sponsors for Compassion international. My 12 year old was moved (maybe manipulated) into raising his hand, and eventually standing to his feet, to take on the responsibility of sponsorship for a child in Ethiopia. After discussing it ourselves, my husband and I talked to our young son about the cost of sponsorship ($38/mo), and what we were willing to do to help him take this on (we would pay half), and what we were willing to do to help him do his part (provide extra chore opportunities that he could earn money from). Basically, if our son works for 15 minutes a day for 19 days in a month, he will have earned his part of the money.

He was all for it.

We paid for the initial payment.
His birthday money paid for his half of the second payment.
And in three months he has never once asked for an extra job so he could earn money. And I have been waiting to see what would happen when this month's money was due, because I knew it would be crunch time for him.

This child avoids work more than any of my other children, and is the least likely to take the initiative to earn money through work. This has been his tendency for as long as I can recall. So I felt that this was a wonderful opportunity for him to have to work, as well as having to be generous.

Well tonite it all caught up with him. He came to me, starting to cry, because he felt overwhelmed at the thought of being financially obligated to this child in Ethiopia. He was sad because he does not have money to do fun things, and had recently experienced having no pocket money to do something fun that his siblings did have money for.

While I can really appreciate how he was feeling, I pointed out to him the strength and ability he has to rise to the obligation and to be able to bless and care for a child who needs help. While he could agree that he is certainly able to work for 15 minutes most days, the bottom line is that he doesn't really want to any more. *Now* he feels the fruit of emotional manipulation (which I will rant about some other day) and wants out.

Well, I'm not giving him a way out. I am going to provide him with an opportunity to grow and be strong and overcome some of his lazy tendencies.

What this will cost me:
-$19 a month to do the half sponsorship
-coming up with extra jobs for him to do that he can earn $19 a month
-dealing with him doing jobs that he might not do well (either because of attitude or ability) with grace and continue to encourage him and guide him even though I might really prefer to have someone else do the job, or do it myself
-helping him remember to write letters to his sponsored child and taking the lead for all such efforts
-listening to him cry, be sad, feel misunderstood, or whatever for as long as it takes

What I believe we will get for our efforts:
-a child in Ethiopia getting an education, health care, and more
-a son who will learn to work even though he does not like to
-a son who will hopefully come to value his ability to bless others through his strength and heart
-a son who will be wiser in the future when emotionally manipulative speakers try to sway him (he is an easily influenced child), and who will hopefully learn to think clearly and logically about decisions
-hopefully the other kids will see the example of this, and honestly I hope that they all decide to sponsor kids through Compassion. I would go halfsies with each one of them and help them do jobs around the house, too, if they could catch the bug for service, sacrifice, and hard work


I think it is important to remember the big picture, long-term stuff when it comes to parenting issues.

It is important to take the blinders off as much as you can, and see the character strengths and weaknesses that your kids have, and be willing to work on what needs work.

It is important for parents to be able to muster the emotional, physical, mental, and financial STRENGTH to do what is best for each child, even when it comes at a high personal cost. The best things in life do not come for free. When it comes to preparing our kids for the rest of their lives, it's true even moreso.

Good luck to all of my fellow parents! Whether you have one child or a whole bunch, it is a job that demands (and deserves!) the very best we have to offer. Phew!

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