Friday, August 11, 2006

Parenting 101 (the class I missed)

Sutton has had a debit card tied to her checking account for almost a year now. We've had few typical teenager, wow-I-have-my-own-money-and-full-access-to-it, kind of problems since she received it. Once, she gave her account number to a sales person over the phone and we had to cancel the card. Another time she misplaced it, forcing us to cancel the card again. These were not huge complications. We just explained to her the possible repercussions of a lost card and how others could use it and take her money. We mentioned, as well, to never give out her card information over the phone and why. These experiences did force her, and us, to be more cautious regarding her use of the card.

As a parent I am learning that, no matter how mature and confident your child may seem, sometimes you still need to "spell things out" for them.

Last night we discovered that Sutton's account was overdrawn for the first time. Since hers is a student account, we have access to her transactions online. As of 10:00 pm she had already been hit with one overdraft fee with three more pending. This morning when I told her about the negative balance, her face went white.

We discussed the fact that the $7 movie she went to last night was, in reality, going to cost her $26 with the overdraft fees. She paid $4 for a friend to get something at the concession. That generous act will cost her $23; a lot of money to someone making only a fraction above minimum wage.

She sank lower and lower into the couch.

I said to her, "Sutton, have you not kept track of all the things you've been buying lately?"

She said, "No Mom. I haven't been keeping track because I've been so busy; but I figured the card wouldn't work if there was no money in my account."

You see, we never thought to tell her that the card would, indeed, work even when she was out of money. I assumed she knew that. She's a smart girl who makes good grades, has a car and a job. Other parents always compliment her on her maturity. But I didn't s-p-e-l-l it out.

Today I did. She's been told now that if you have no money in your checking account, the debit card will still work and you will owe the bank even more money in penalties. I said it several times actually, just to be sure I had explained it sufficiently.

At times I feel like I've got this parenting thing down, only to have one of the kids prove me wrong. My lesson for today: I can't assume and I must spell. Our job as parents is to cover all the bases and, I guess, the dugout. I've determined that sometimes parenting is not just teaching your children the hard stuff, but it's also not forgetting to teach them the easy stuff.

Maybe someday I'll learn.

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