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Tools for Raising Responsible Children
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.
T - Tracking Pathfinder Structures for Children
7.0 Structures for Family Finances

7.1. Allowances

Pathfinders establish reasonable allowances for their children based on the responsibilities they have around the house. Allowances are not freely given just because the children reside in the house. They children are made to realize that they earn their allowances as the natural consequence for the chores and tasks they do around the house and for their level of cooperation and responsibility they take on in the family. Allowances are given by Pathfinders for children to manage on their own to learn budgeting and saving of money. Their children are free to use their allowance in any way they see fit. However, they are made to realize that if they spend their money frivolously that there will not be enough money for things they might want to do like: buy their own lunches, go to movies, buy baseball cards or models or purchase cosmetics, clothes or music albums. Pathfinders make their children responsible for the purchase through allowances of items which are over and above necessities of life. The natural consequence of irresponsible money management is experienced by children when they decide they want to get something on their own and do not have the funds to make such purchases. Parents can set dollar limits on clothing, personal hygiene items and school supplies and allow their children to supplement the purchase of items over and above the budgeted amount with their allowances.

Natural consequences:
  • If you do your chores and tasks around the house, then you will receive an allowance.
  • If you are cooperative with all family members and take on added responsibilities for the family, then your allowance will definitely be insured.
  • If you do not manage your allowance money, then you will not have enough money to buy the extras you desire.
Logical consequences:
  • If you do not do your chores or tasks around the house, then you will not receive a part or all of your allowance.
  • If you display a negative attitude and become uncooperative around the family, then you will be fined all or part of your allowance based on the specific offense.
  • If you need money to buy something over and above what the family has budgeted for your clothes, cosmetics, personal grooming supplies, entertainment etc., then you will need to use the money you get in your allowance to cover these expenses.

7.2. Family budgets

Pathfinders involve their children in developing household budgets so that they have an awareness of the financial state of the family. They involve their children in on discussions concerning the costs of running the household in terms of: rent or mortgage, utilities, food, clothing, household supplies, vacations, entertainment, school tuition and supplies, furniture, electronic equipment, telephone, clubs and sports teams membership fees and costs, extracurricular activities fees and costs, toys and games, cosmetics and personal hygiene supplies, medical and dental expenses, transportation expenses and other household and personal upkeep needs. Pathfinders utilize a portion of their family meetings to discuss family budget issues. This allows their children to have a realistic picture of what it takes to make their family survive and exist. Pathfinders allow their children to know what are the sources of the family income and how much there is for family expenses. Pathfinders establish a reasonable expectation on their children to understand where their money is coming from and where it needs to be going. The notion of unlimited resources for anything I want is not a belief in a Pathfinders home. The belief that there are limited resources which need to be shared among all family members in a reasonable and judicious manner is a principle taught in Pathfinders' families.

Natural consequences:
  • If the family does not keep to a reasonable budget, there will not be enough financial resources to meet the family necessities nor the luxuries.
  • If the family does not keep in mind that there are limited resources from which all family members must share, then there is a possibility that an inequity will exist in providing one or more family members more resources that what is reasonable, fair or rational.
Logical consequences:
  • If you insist on seeking to extend the family budget by requesting more than what is allotted for you, then you will need to come up with the money on your own to cover the difference.
  • If you cannot keep your expenses within the guidelines of the family budget, then you will have to either forego what you are seeking the family to cover expense wise or come up with the money on your own to cover it.

7.3. Care of personal and family property

Pathfinders made their children responsible for the care of their own personal property and the common property of the family. If any property is damaged or lost by Pathfinders' children, it is the expectation that they must go about fixing or replacing it out of their allowances or other personal monies. Respect for other's personal property is also taught. If children have damaged or lost other's personal property, then they must also fix or replace it out of their own personal monies or allowance. Pathfinders emphasize that everything has value and that there is a cost in not handling things in a responsible way.

Natural consequences:
  • If you lose or damage your own or other's personal property, then you must come up with your own money to cover the cost of replacement or repair.
  • If you are careless with your own or other's property, you run the risk of damaging or losing it.
Logical consequences:
  • If you consistently lose or damage property which we have gotten for you, then we will require you to buy such material on your own out of your own money.
  • If you consistently lose or damage other people's properties, then we may in the future not allow you to borrow or use other's' property.

7.4. Payment for household chores and jobs

Pathfinders do not pay their children for jobs around the house if the allowance is given for them. However when children do jobs and chores over and above the allowance related ones, they are paid a reasonable rate for them. Pathfinders teach their children that a job well done is rewarded with the natural consequence of payment. This teaches them the lesson that one is only paid for a completed job done to satisfaction. Pathfinders do not resort to bribing their children to do jobs or chores around the house. They make sure that most jobs and chores are included in the weekly allowance. Children are reminded that food, clothing and shelter are being provided them for the work they do around the house and that the allowance is a privilege which is earned but not required in order to accomplish the household work. Overemphasis on remuneration for household chores and works diminishes the children's understanding that families need everyone to pitch in and help to be strong and successful.

Natural consequences:
  • If you do your expected chores and jobs in this family, then you will receive food, clothing and shelter in this house. The allowance is an over and above side benefit, but not always guaranteed to you.
  • If you do a chore or job over and above the normally expected ones, then you will receive some form of payment as long as it is done well and in a timely fashion.
Logical consequences:
  • If you are resentful of having to do the chores and jobs we ask of you, then you can come up with a plan to pay for the food, clothing and shelter we currently are providing you.
  • If you do not do an extra chore or job we asked you to do, then we will not give you the designated payment we agreed to.

7.5. Jobs outside the home

Pathfinders encourage their children to gain part-time employment outside of the home as long as they keep up with their household responsibilities. Jobs such as babysitting, cutting lawns, and cleaning homes are encouraged once the children reach 12 or 13 years of age. Other part-time work at places of employment are allowed once children are able to gain work permits. The monies from these jobs are the children's to manage and budget, just like they do their allowances. These monies are to be used for those things which the normal family budget are not set up to cover. Pathfinders require expenses to be covered from part-time work which children want over and above what their families can provide. This could include: automobiles, insurance for the cars, supplement for private school tuition, electronic equipment, extra clothes and supplies, entertainment, private telephones, and other personal items. Pathfinders encourage jobs outside of home because they encourage personal responsibility taking and give children an early introduction to the world of work.

Natural consequences:
  • If you gain employment outside of the house, then you will earn your own money which you can then budget to spend on those things not covered for you in the family budget.
  • If you do not manage and budget your money wisely, then you will not have enough money to do the things you planned on doing with it. 
Logical consequences:
  • If you do not maintain your responsibilities, chores and tasks around the house and do not maintain a reasonable family involvement, then you will not be allowed to keep your outside job.
  • If you do not use the monies you earn in your outside job to pay for those things you want which are not covered in the family budget, then you will need to give us your pay check to be kept in a separate bank account for us to help you to manage your expenses

7.6. Financial independence

Pathfinders encourage their children to become financially independent as soon as possible after reaching 18 years of age. They do this so that their children can experience freedom of dependency on them and let go of the restrictive binds which such financial dependency breeds between parents and their adult children. Early on in the life of the family, Pathfinders outline what they will do for their children when they become adults and either go to college or get employment. These guidelines are fully understood by children when they reach high school age. The children then can begin to make plans to become financially independent early on by getting part-time work prior to graduation and seek financial aid and scholarships for college or career training. Children of Pathfinders know when their parents expect them to leave home and become financially independent from them. Pathfinders assist their children's efforts to gain financial aid by declaring them financially independent and not deduct for them on their taxes once they enter college or the work force. Pathfinders assist their adult children to accept responsibility for their own adult lives by not bailing them out when they get into a financial bind. Pathfinders recognize that it is unhealthy and enabling to rescue their adult children when they get into financial trouble. These parents might loan money to their children, but make an effort to have the money repaid. They clarify their values with their children early on as to what they must do for their adult children financially. Pathfinders role model financial independence for their children by not turning to their own parents and family members for financial bail outs when their finances become tight. Pathfinders establish the tough love philosophy when it comes to the financial independence of their adult children. They state: "We might have the money and resources to help you out, but because we love you and want you to be healthy and personally responsible for your own lives we are not going to give you what you can get on your own in other ways."

Natural consequences:
  • If you earn your own way through adult life, then you will become independent and self-sufficient and gain a sense of self-confidence and self-belief in your own abilities to be personally responsible for yourself.
  • If you turn to your parents to bail you out when you find yourself in financial jeopardy, then you run the risk of becoming dependent on them and lessening your motivation to become financially independent and self-sufficient.
Logical consequences:
  • Once you leave the house when you are an adult, then you will always be welcomed back to visit us. Because we love you and want what is best for your personal growth we will not allow you to move back home permanently, if you become financially distressed.
  • If you desire to go to a college which costs more than what the family budget has allotted for, then you can go to it as long as you seek out on your own, the financial means to cover those expenses over and above those covered by our budget.
  • If you need a loan for money, then we will provide the money to you as long as it does not imperil our family budget and you promise to repay it in a reasonable time frame. Under no conditions are you to consider this loan a gift.

7.7. Family and personal car

Pathfinders make sure that their children learn how to drive and allow them the use of the family car. They require their children to take Driver's Education in school. They require them to have sufficient grades in school to justify their learning to drive or to use the car. They require them to cover the supplemental costs on their car insurance for adding a teenage driver. They require them to abide by the laws of the road and to be safe drivers in order to be given the privilege to use the family car. They require them to use the car within certain hours and other parent directives. They require them to cover the costs of gas and other car maintenance. The use of the family car is used as a natural consequence for academic and home performance. Based on family need and circumstances the children might be given a car of their own, on the condition that they handle all of the financial burdens of the car after that. Children are allowed to purchase their own cars if they have saved up the money for down payment and insurance. The children are then required to meet all further costs of payments, maintenance, upkeep and insurance on their own cars. If children fail to meet their responsibilities with their own cars, Pathfinders do not rescue or bail them out. The consequence of not taking care of or using their cars responsibly falls directly on the children. Any traffic violations or tickets are the children's to pay. Any debts or liens on their cars are also their responsibility. Pathfinders utilize the automobile as an object lesson in personal and financial responsibility taking for their adolescent and young adult children.

Natural consequences:
  • If you take Driver's Education in school, then you will be better prepared to be a responsible driver and therefore more trusted with the use of the family car.
  • If you are responsible in other aspects of your life at home, school, and in the community, then you will be perceived as responsible enough to drive on your own and to use the family car or car of your own.
Logical consequences:
  • If you work and save the money to cover the added expense of covering a teenage driver on our car insurance, then you can drive the family car on your own without one of us in the car with you.
  • If you pay out of your own money the gas, maintenance, and added insurance premium, then you can use the family car or buy your own car.
  • If you have the money to put into a down payment, and cover your own insurance, then you can buy your own car as long as you know that you must cover all ongoing expenses involved in that car.