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Do you limit what your kids can buy? Do you feel like you should?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

- I'm wordy.  Feel free to skip to the bold part, below. -

 

Our family has strange circumstances, admittedly.  DH and I have a young son together, but we both have kids from before (17-y-o twins, for me; a 13-y-o singleton, for him), who all live with us.

 

The twins' dad & step-mom live nearby, are very involved, and extremely wealthy.  They'll buy the twins pretty much anything they want.  However, if I anticipate things and ask them to hold off for birthdays or Christmas, or not overshadow something I gave the twins, they will.  They're not intentionally out to "spoil" the kids, but buying whatever crosses their minds - at the moment it does - feels normal, for them.

 

The twins are somewhat Autistic, have learning disabilities, and unrealistically assume that, as adults, they'll live in mansions, drive Cadillac SUVs and own every electronic device the day it comes out, just because.  Many teens fantasize about such lives, but most understand there's some connection between wealth and a good education, hard work, and some amount of good luck.  My kids really don't understand that, and I feel like it would be good for them, if they did.

 

Our 13-y-o has a non-custodial mother who lives far away and is trying to regain custody (which she lost when he was only 8).  She hopes that when he reaches the magic age of 14, he'll help her by testifying that he wants to live with her, instead of us.  She promotes this, in part, by giving him crazy amounts of spending money.  And she does this in a sneaky way, which encourages him to be sneaky.  She lied about his age, to help him get a checking account with a credit-backed debit card.  He buys things online and either has them shipped to friends' houses, or to her, then she mails them to him under the guise that they're gifts from her, so DH and I aren't allowed to have opinions about the goods.  

 

In many cases, what DSS buys himself is nothing we would complain about, anyway.  So the pervasive attitude that he needs to keep his purchases a secret from us is really offensive and creates the impression there's something wrong with what he's doing, when there isn't.

 

Other times, he's just inconsiderate.  For example, he asked DH and me to buy him a new iPod for his birthday (and had every reason in the world to assume we would), then he couldn't wait and bought one for himself, two weeks beforehand.  As parents, we feel we should be able to discuss with him the rudeness of that, and the value of delayed gratification.  The financial dynamic with Mom makes that difficult or impossible.

 

With ALL THREE kids, we struggle between "Should we let them buy whatever they can afford, with 'their own' money?" and "If the money they're given vastly exceeds a reasonable allowance for their ages, or what they'd be capable of earning, if they were paid what their labor's actually worth; then it feels irresponsible to let them spend their teens being accustomed to buying themselves $150 tennis shoes and iPhones...things many hard-working adults - including DH and I - can't afford?  Aren't we setting them up for major disillusionment and dissatisfaction, when they actually start supporting themselves, as young adults?"

post #2 of 7
I would talk about the issue of being self sufficient with the twins dad and get his input. I think it is hard to know how to be self sufficient until you crash and burn but that is because I learned that way despite not having had a large amount of expendable income, except in the form of my earnings. Maybe the two of you can come up with a plan you both feel will work or find a class to put them through until you do. If college is being covered it may be something you can both build up to slowly.

For the other child I would wait things out. The purchases will become to costly eventually and the magic age is a myth in many states. Even if kids get some input or are allowed to voice a preference the court still looks at what is in a child's best interest and that is not being moved away from family and friends because you have been bought off. My ex does things to be the best parent too and I have helped my dd move away from secrecy by letting her believe I am truly happy about all the things her dad lets her do, have, and see that I don't. As angry or horrified as I sometimes am about his lack of judgment I express only joy about it to dd. This has resulted in me hearing more but that is a good thing.

With your dss being older maybe just telling him that you are sad he is being secretive about buying items you guys have no problem with and that you know he is having stuff sent to his moms house when he thinks you won't let him have it and that it will be faster to have it sent to yours. Maybe say it's fine if he likes having secrets but you aren't upset that she saves you guys so much money and brings him joy so you don't want dishonesty to come between you all as a family.
post #3 of 7

At this age, it's a little tricky. We've been very minimalist when it comes to gadgets, tech and general "stuff" for out kids but then, we don't really have outside sources undermining us on it. Lots of family but for the most part, they give very reasonable gifts... mostly books and clothing. My kids both have a stock of money because they did a lot of professional theatre acting when they were younger. My DD 15 also has a part-time job (minimum wage.) Both are very reluctant about spending their money largely because they worked pretty hard for it. DD bought herself a laptop and 13 and then recently bought herself an iphone 4 (and she pays for her own monthly data package.) DS 12 bought himself an ipod a year ago. It was easy for us to allow them to make these purchases because they fretted over the decision greatly and are very protective of their funds in general. They also tend to use items until they are worn-out as opposed to blowing their money to keep up with all the latest and greatest. 

 

If I were you, my instinct would be to pull them back from these frequent and large scale acquisitions but that's also just my nature. At 17, it's a hard thing to do. Certainly easier at 13 but not necessarily easier in your situation. I guess at this point, I'd be focusing less on trying to control the purchases and make sure they are getting some real work/world experience along with some community service. 

post #4 of 7

To be completely honest I think sounds like more of an issue with their parents outside the household than the kids themselves.  It sounds like the twins father might be open to talking about some healthy limits but the 13yos mother may not be.

You also asked about limiting what they can buy with their own money but the situation you described is not their own money.  Are they even doing chores for it? 

 

I want to go on but I think I'd be bringing in too many personal issues from growing up that may not apply to this situation.  Basically, I think most of us have to learn how to deal with money in the real world when we grow up and move out anyhow.  If it's not their money then yes, I think you should get a say in it.  If they are working to earn it and they are not buying things that are dangerous or inappropriate I wouldn't worry about it too much. 

post #5 of 7

According to your own post, this isn't something that you have any control over with the younger child, so it really isn't a question of whether or not to 'allow' it. As it is, he is lying and sneaking around, so adding more rules and forbidding certain items would seem to me to make the problem worse, not better.

 

You asked how other families deal with this, and it's a really different issue at our house because DH and I are mostly on the same page. We have some minor differences, but nothing huge. Our kids have smaller amounts of money, and sometimes spend it in ways we find foolish, but they really can't do anything too over the top with it because they just don't have the resources for that. We very seldom limit what they can spend on anything -- and we we do, it is usually because of another value (no more permanent hair dye -- we've BTDT, and now only temporary dye is allowed)
 

post #6 of 7

Like Linda, very different situation to what you describe.

 

We limit in some ways by their spending money. They have a certain amount of pocket money per week, some of which MUST be spent on things like transportation to and from school. What they do w/ money left-over is mostly up to them. For example, my son buys potato chips after school sometimes (he's 14). If we notice potato chip bags in the rubbish more than once or twice a week, we DO comment on it a bit (empty calories, too much salt, "yeet hay", pimples... ).  DD used to sometimes like to buy magazines and CDs. Now they mostly save it for stuff they want (like DVDs or an especially desired item of clothing).

 

They get larger sums at Chinese New Year from relatives and those get put in the bank. When they want to spend on something expensive, then we discuss & have power of veto.

 

It sounds to me like you should discuss your concerns w/ both the non-custodial parents and the kids & may have more luck w/ the twin's dad.

 

re: anecdote of 13 DSS buying his own I-pod, you wrote:"As parents, we feel we should be able to discuss with him the rudeness of that, and the value of delayed gratification."

 

Yes,   of course you can. Have you done so? If my kids are rude or hurt my feelings, I talk to them about it; the same way they can raise things to me if they think I was rude or hurt their feelings.

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by skreader View Post

re: anecdote of 13 DSS buying his own I-pod, you wrote:"As parents, we feel we should be able to discuss with him the rudeness of that, and the value of delayed gratification."

 

Yes,   of course you can. Have you done so? If my kids are rude or hurt my feelings, I talk to them about it; the same way they can raise things to me if they think I was rude or hurt their feelings.

Yes.  The message just seemed lost in the lying.  A friend and a brother mentioned to DH and me that DSS had been bragging about ordering it for himself.  We asked him about it and he completely denied it.  The other kids were conspiring to make up stories about him.  (Yeah, sure.)  Then a small box arrived for him in the mail, from Apple, a few days later.  He said, "How could I know Mom would send me an iPod, for my birthday?"

 

So, we did talk about etiquette, consideration and delayed gratification.  We even discussed that, if his mom actually happened to order it (at the exact same time he bragged to his friends that HE did, and even though she was expecting to SEE him, on his birthday), he's old enough to have noticed that both parents always get him the major thing he asks them for (within reason), each birthday/Christmas.  He knows they don't/can't communicate with each other.  So, what did DSS expect to happen, when he asked both parents for the same thing?

 

Maybe the overall message sunk in and he's just too stubborn to let us see that.  But it seemed completely trampled by, "But, I didn't order it.  But I didn't tell Mom to buy it..." and sullen glaring as though this was all so unfair to him.

 

Rather than push and push to get at the truth, DH just said, "Well, however you slice it, this was meant to be a birthday present.  So you can wait 'til your birthday, to open it."

 

Naturally, Mom couldn't possibly support that (IMO perfectly reasonable) lesson.  True to her self-proclaimed role as DSS's "BFF", she emailed DH that she did order the iPod (which she would say, whether she had or not) and angrily demanded that he not confiscate her gift for her child.  DH still made DSS wait until his birthday, to open it.  DSS had a fairly decent attitude, on his birthday, but there was still this underlying "You have no right to tell me what to do about things that are between me and my Mom" thing.  (Just like he and his mom decided if she switched him to her phone plane, DH wouldn't be entitled to tell them they can't be on the phone at 11pm on school nights...)

 

You're right - it's a lot easier, communicating with my ex.  I just have to be on my toes and anticipate things.  If I ask him not to buy a specific thing for the kids - or not to let them buy it for themselves before at least one of us discusses it with them, he will.


Edited by VocalMinority - 11/18/12 at 7:41am
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