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The Hammer Comes Down
on Teaching Kids

Teaching children responsibility is never easy for parents

I remember when I was about 6 or 7, there was a period when I would come home from school invariably with a hole in one or both knees of my leotards. See, I loved to play at recess but in goofing around I would somehow end up with torn leotards.

At the time those leotards cost about $2 a pair, which in today’s dollars is more like $20. My mother, exasperated with her unheeded admonishments to be more careful, decided to hit me where it hurt, IN MY PIGGY BANK ! If I came home again with any ripped hose, I’d be shelling out for the next pair.

Well, that did it. When I was young you see, I was a money hoarder. Every Tooth Fairy pillow deposit, every Birthday and Holiday gift envelope, every nickel of allowance. I’d pick weekly between 2 coins, dime or nickel, and in my very early years, I believed bigger was better (no rude thoughts please) so I always chose the nickel. All went into my china piggy bank, and back then, one had to actually break the china pig open to get at one’s loot, which I only very begrudgingly ever did. So having to cough up $2 was punishment extreme for me.

Can you guess the result of my mother’s new tactic? Right on! I never came home with ripped leotards again.

What is the point of all this you may be wondering? It is that overdoing for one’s children, whether by replacing toys broken, paying for every clothing and game fad, or later on, paying for all their educational costs after they turn 18, their cars, parking tickets and repair bills or not charging them some form of rent, even when they are working, is doing children no favours. In fact, you may actually be hurting their chances to excel.

There’s no need to stand on one’s own feet when mom or dad will shell out.

Often I have clients who tell me that they are still paying for their adult children, be it cars, homes, legal bills, or other needs and wants. There’s no need to stand on one’s own feet when mom or dad will shell out.

Culture may have much to do with this benevolent mindset, but more often than not what started out as doing better and more for the kids than what occurred in the parents’ childhood ends up resulting in raising soft under-achievers who make decisions without real consequences, as they know they will be bailed out, time after time, when – not if – they fail.

Some of the worst miscarriages of benevolence I’ve come across in my files are:

• Repeatedly setting an adult child up in business after that child fails in one after the other after the other.

• Housing 30+ year olds, doing their washing, cooking their meals but charging no rent, even if minimal, only to see that child fail job after job, or worse, sit at home and do nothing productive.

• Somehow working monetary “gifts” to adult children into divorce negotiations because one or both parents “promised” said gifts to their child(ren) when they were an intact family unit; at divorce, it is time to think only about your own needs for your future and not those of your working adult children who are well into adulthood (and I use that term loosely).

The list could go on but those are but 3 examples from cases that I saw over the last few years in a 30+ year career.

So parents, step away from your pocket books and instead raise self-sufficient resilient citizens. If you must give them money, think about universal life insurance policies, trusts, or some other down the road monetary vehicle that may make their life easier later. But teach them also now how to succeed their earlier years by winning, or failing, on their own merits.

Image by Lauri Rantala via StockPholio.com


linda hammerschmid
Me Linda Hammerschmid is an attorney and has been practicing Family Law since 1982. Senior Partner at Hammerschmid & Associates at 1 Westmount Square, Suite 1290, she is a founding and current member, and past Secretary (28 years) of The Family Law Association of Quebec. She is a frequent guest on CBC TV/Radio, CTV and CJAD, providing commentary on Family Law. You can also hear her regularly on the CJAD show “Passion” with Dr. Laurie Betito, the last Thursday of each month. She and her dog Mac are members of Therapeutic Paws giving joy to the less fortunate. Me Hammerschmid can be reached at (514) 846-1013 or by e-mail at <hammerschmid@vif.com>. All inquiries will be treated confidentially.