parent opinion

'Apparently all the school parents are giving their kids debit cards. Here's why I'm not.'

As if your cute little kids developing into teenagers wasn't hard enough, comes the realisation that those golden, parent-in-control years are becoming a thing of the sweet past.

What you thought might perhaps be a fresh start to parenting, with the kids locking themselves in their rooms or disappearing with friends for hours at a time (and giving you a reprieve from those evening witching hours), doesn't actually feel very fresh at all.

In fact, you feel somewhat haggard, and anxious... and a hell of a lot wrinklier.

Watch: Parents of teenagers, translated. Post continues below.


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It’s been creeping up on me with my girls. I have three of them, aged between eight and 14, so they’re right at that back-chatting, demanding, headstrong, vocal age. So much so that pretty much every conversation between them, and with them, becomes an argument. Even the simplest of things: 

‘What do you want for breakfast?’… Argument.

‘Don’t forget to brush your teeth!’… Argument.

‘Hurry up, we’re going to be late!’… Yet another argument.

Yet the most gruelling interaction with my daughters is when they come at me with the very statements that I know peeved my own parents off the most. Remember these ones?

‘It’s not fair! How come she gets to go and I don’t?’ 

‘EVERYONE has one, except me!’

And now it’s my turn as a parent to cop it. 

What kind of kid are you raising? Check out this episode of Mamamia's parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess. Post continues below.


Everyone’s got Snapchat/Instagram/Facebook/TikTok/Spotify Premium; everyone’s got the latest and greatest iPhone; everyone’s got Netflix/Stan/Foxtel; everyone’s got double/triple piercings; everyone’s got light denim ripped-on-both-knees jeans... 

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And now apparently everyone’s got a debit or credit card of their own.

I think back to the days when my kids knew nothing about the label on their clothes, or iPhones or money in general. 

A time when my eldest was in year one, and thought it was completely acceptable to try and use a Barbie credit card at the school canteen. 

"It’s true mum, they do. Everyone in Year seven has one too", says my middle daughter in support of my eldest’s revelation (which she rarely ever does, so I suspect that this could in fact be true).

I was still slightly sceptical until I was at a sporting event on the weekend and I heard a 13-year-old, amongst a group of iPhone-gazing girls, call out to her mother: "Mum, can you transfer more money into my account? I want to get food."

I didn’t see or hear her mum’s reaction, but I was a bit flabbergasted to tell you the truth. Is this really a thing now? Kids demanding you transfer your money over at a whim?

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I must have missed the parenting memo. Lord help me.

My girls each have a savings account which we started at birth, where most of their birthday money and savings go for when they’re over 18. They know that this is so they will have the funds to pay for further studies or a car, or toward a deposit for a home one day.

We’ve never been the parents that give our kids an agreed weekly allowance, nor do we give them money for doing jobs around the house (it’s not like we're getting paid for housework). 

I think it’s perfectly acceptable for kids to pick up after themselves, vacuum or take out the garbage and not be paid for it. 

We’ve always just given them money on a needs basis (for treats like going shopping, the movies or to the beach with friends, or buying a present for a friend’s birthday, or going on outings with other families). 

And my husband is the kind, sneaky canteen-money-giver, every now and then. 

We’ve been trying to teach them that money is easily spent but not easily earned. My husband and I are both self-employed, running our own family business, and our kids know this firsthand.

My parents didn’t allow me to work until after my HSC, and I honestly think this was to my detriment. My eldest is just about to turn 14 and can’t wait to start work refereeing or in retail, and I think that's awesome.  

I want my kids to be enthusiastic about earning their own money, then applying for their own debit cards, so they can learn to manage their own finances from a young age. 

I know cash is becoming a thing of the past as online banking is gradually replacing it, but I guess it’s like me trying to get my elderly dad to relinquish his cheque book in favour of a debit card – we’re having difficulty coming to grips with changing technology.

As any parent, though, it’s hard to hear that you're not the ‘cool modern parent’ you thought you were, and that what you’re giving to your kids is not equal to what their peers have.

But such is life. I’ve realised I actually don’t want to let my girls dictate to us how much we should be giving them financially, or otherwise.

Sometimes I hate being the tough mum. But I’m going to keep doing it, because I don't want to raise a bunch of spoiled kids.

Lidija Zmisa is a mum of three girls, wife and writer. You can follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Getty.