Self Reliance.

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This pic was taken years ago, my daughter Claire was probably in 5th grade at the time.

She’s in college now, saving money by living at home and commuting to USF down in Tampa. Claire has 3 sources of income; she works at a jewelry store, fills bookings for BD, and gets paid a residual trainer bonus on several entertainers she recruited over the last three years.

When Claire was old enough to drive I made her save $5,000 in CASH before we even looked at used cars. Claire’s Honda was paid for by balloon twisting in restaurants and at events!

Some parents buy a car for their children, but I feel that this is a huge mistake. If we want to raise self-reliant adults we have to teach them delayed gratification, responsibility and accountability. Claire has some friends with over-indulgent parents who buy everything for them. These kids go to college but don’t work, they’ve never had a job, but they’ve become very good at getting high, drinking excessively and sleeping around.

I worked several jobs in college, and it kept me out of trouble. By the time I was 21 years old I went to Taiwan on a one-way plane ticket with $1,000 in my pocket (that I had earned sorting boxes at UPS and delivering pizza). My parents were surprised that I made such a leap, but working and paying for my own stuff taught gave me self confidence in my own abilities. Enough confidence to live 12 time zones away!

At the same time our kids in college need us for guidance, a 19 year old kid like Claire might think she knows everything, but her life experience is minimal at best. Even in college our kids might look like full grown adults, but they still have plenty to learn about life in general.

Claire knows I love her to pieces, but when she recently got a speeding ticket I showed her how to sign up for the driving class (to get the points taken off), made her pay for the class, then made sure she paid the ticket… with her own money.

Paying $279 for an avoidable speeding ticket will teach her a lesson that words will not.

The great thing about lessons learned at an early age is how they are less expensive now than later. If Claire can avoid debt at 20 years old it will be easier to avoid debt at 30 or 40. The same goes for excessive drinking, bad habits, procrastination, low work ethic and all the other challenges that I see in adults much older than Claire.

People are going to screw up, my daughters are going to make boneheaded mistakes, and that’s OK as long as they learn from those mistakes moving forward.

Of course, you never really know whether you’re a good parent or not until your children are grown and out on their own. I want to give my girls the right tools to go forth and prosper, but at some point they are accountable for their own decisions; good, bad and ugly.

Benjamin T. Alexander

January 31 . 2017

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