September 10, 2020

Food for Thought

Teenagers talk like adults, but they are not yet ready for the real world. They don’t realize that they are acting like assholes. Although they can reason, it is conveniently reserved for explaining why they are angels, which is why high schools are filled with angels who think everyone else is an asshole.

I find that the best way to prepare a teenager for the real world is to mimic the real world at home.

The first step is to get your child a real bank account. You Venmo her a fixed amount of money every week and let her manage her own financial needs.

Let’s say your child often leaves dirty dishes in the sink, and you are constantly nagging her to clean it up. You tell her, “If you leave dirty dishes again, I’ll send you a Venmo request for $10.” Teenagers are incapable of imagining a future pain, so she will likely leave dirty dishes in the sink again. When that happens, swiftly send a request for $10 and label it clearly “nagging fee”. If she doesn’t clean it up, you send her another request. If she refuses to pay, simply deduct the amount she owes you from her next allowance.

Every time you come across the need to nag her, give her a warning: “If I have to nag you about this again, I’ll request a nagging fee for this also.” I generally give my kid three chances to correct her behavior before I start sending Venmo requests.

This strategy is not practical with cash because you and your child are not likely to have the exact amounts. Also, collecting the money would be more work than nagging. The beauty of Venmo is that you can send not only money but also requests.

Be consistent about enforcing this. Don’t enforce it whenever you feel like it. Inconsistent enforcement would leave room for negotiation. If you enforce it systematically, she’ll see that negotiation is futile. Consistency can avert many unnecessary conflicts.

If you keep nagging, it will be background noise to her. She might as well wait until you give up, or until it reaches volume 11. If she is smart, she will wait and see. The real world won’t be kind enough to keep nagging her. So, instead of nagging, Venmo her.