One of the best life lessons parents can teach their teens relates to managing their money. So many of us grow up without having an idea about how to make the most of our checking account, how to save for attainable goals, or how to budget and consider taxes.
Teaching your teens how to manage money from an early age can prove to be hugely beneficial.
But what should you do if you notice that your teens seem to be a bit more flush with cash than they should be?
Is your teen obsessed with the idea of making and getting more money?
Have you or others started to notice that money or items are now missing from your wallet or home?
Establishing good money habits as a teen
With a solid financial foundation, your teen will be in an excellent position to approach adulthood with a healthy idea about what it means to earn a living, save for goals, and manage their money.
These habits can start early, with some of the following:
- Setting up a checking and savings account.
- Teaching them how to manage their money using their banking app.
- Reminding them of the importance of setting money aside for a rainy day.
- Teaching them the importance of budgeting and paying bills on time.
- Helping them to understand the benefits and pitfalls of credit, credit cards, and loans.
It’s also important to mirror the healthy financial habits that you are teaching your teen. If you’ve made mistakes, be sure to tell your teen what lessons you learned and how you worked to fix things.
Recognizing signs of financial trouble
Your teen is sure to start to get the idea of just how important money is. After all, he won’t get the things he wants if he doesn’t have the money to afford them.
For some teens, this can motivate them to work more hours at their part-time job or pick up extra side gigs to earn more money. However, for other teens, it can lead to the idea that there must be an easier way to get the money that he wants.
Recognizing the signs of your teen starting to form an unhealthy relationship with money is an important part of keeping him on the right path.
Ask yourself a few questions if you suspect your teen may have an unhealthy relationship with money:
- Is your teen obsessed with high-end clothing, shoes, and other expensive items that should be out of financial reach?
- Does your teen seem to spend a lot of time comparing their lives and lifestyle to those of musicians, actors, and even influencers?
- Does your teen have unrealistic wish lists for birthdays and holidays?
- Do they buy things impulsively? Even when they can’t afford to get it and also pay their bills?
- Does your teen refuse to help around the house unless they are paid to?
- Is your teen showing signs of anger and frustration when they can’t get something they want?
Teens who have an unhealthy mindset about money and material things can also soon lean into stealing as a way to get what they want. Stealing can extend further than just taking a few dollars out of their parent’s wallets. There can be some serious legal consequences.
Why teens steal
Teens could be stealing for any number of reasons related to their wanting to get more money. It can vary greatly, with some teens stealing simply for the thrill of it.
Peer pressure can often be to blame for a fair amount of the negative behavior that we see in teens. They may feel like they won’t fit in with their friends if they don’t have the latest iPhone, the latest game for their gaming console, or the trendiest clothes. This can drive your teen to use any means necessary to get what he wants.
Teens who are engaging in risky behaviors, including taking drugs and drinking alcohol, may turn to stealing so that they can afford to keep up with their expensive new habits. They may also lie about where their money is going when they are pressured.
Your teen could also feel a level of embarrassment to ask you for money for some of his expenses. Condoms, pregnancy tests, as an example, can be embarrassing for a teen to buy or ask their parents for help buying. They may steal to avoid needing to face uncomfortable questions.
Some teens steal and lean into risky behavior because they enjoy the way they feel when they’re getting away with something. They want the extra money but also enjoy knowing that they’ve outsmarted those they’ve stolen from.
The consequences of stealing
As an adult, you know that you face serious consequences if you take even a paperclip from an office supply store. Moral compass aside, the fear of fines, jail time, and other legal fallout can often be the primary reason that people simply don’t steal. Teens may be under the impression that they won’t face severe consequences if they steal due to their age.
The reality is that many cities, counties, and states will have different rules for teens. Your teen could be at risk of facing the same consequences as an adult would, including:
- Large fines paid to the courts and to those they stole from.
- Large legal fees.
- Time in jail or a juvenile detention facility.
- A permanent criminal record that will impact their future.
- Suspension from school. They may also be expelled.
- Loss of trust from friends and family members.
The consequences of your teen’s bad behavior could also impact your financial stability and your future. You may find yourself needing to spend money you don’t have on legal fees. You could also find you need to take time away from work to deal with the consequences of your teen’s poor behavior.
What can you do to help your troubled teen?
Outside of educating your teen about the importance and true value of money, just what can a parent do to help their teen?
A few options include:
- Counseling can prove beneficial for teens who are struggling. Quite often, their struggles extend beyond their need for more money. Addressing mental wellness concerns can help immensely.
- Let your teen feel the brunt of the consequences they face. As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your teen, but when it comes to something as serious as risking their future for a few extra dollars, they must understand the true magnitude of their issues.
- Explore all of your options for getting teens help. Therapy is beneficial, certainly, but removing a troubled teen from a stressful environment that may be triggering their negative behavior can also help. A residential treatment center or therapeutic boarding school can offer the help a troubled teen needs.
Learning the difference between therapeutic boarding schools, boot camp style facilities, and residential treatment centers can help you to determine what your teen can best benefit from. At Help Your Teen Now, we can connect families in crisis with the resources that they need.