“This is going to hurt me a lot more than it is going to hurt you.”
That was an admonition Mom or Dad occasionally gave me and my sister when we were growing up — and I know we weren’t the only kids to hear those words either.
Of course, as a kid, whenever my folks said that, I naturally assumed they were full of, well … you know. I’m sure my sister did too. After all, how could Dad ever make such a ridiculous statement when it was my backside that was getting tanned?
Anyway, it was only after I became a parent myself that I finally realized what Mom and Dad were talking about. It ain’t easy meting out punishment to your own kids, but discipline helps build character.
All parents are forced to make extremely difficult decisions from time to time — and those decisions aren’t always limited to disciplinary issues.
Five years ago, the Honeybee and I made the difficult decision to let our impulsive-spending son, Matthew, spend every last dime he receives for birthdays and other occasions. We felt it was better for him to learn from his mistakes while he was a child, rather than as an adult when the financial consequences are greater.
Since then, we’ve watched Matthew waste hundreds of dollars on some truly ridiculous items — a bad financial habit which has occasionally come back to bite him in a big way. For example, there have been times when my son was unable to join his friends on adventures because he was flat broke, and the Bank of Dad refused to extend him additional credit.
Today, my 16-year-old son still has trouble controlling his free-spending ways, but the good news is he’s finally — finally! — beginning to realize the importance of saving. In fact, he recently gave me $100 to save for him that he had received as Christmas gifts. Hope springs eternal.
My 14-year-old daughter, Nina, has seemingly always had good financial sense. She’s always been a prodigious saver, and she has exhibited a knack for earning money ever since she opened her own neighborhood lemonade stand when she was eight years old.
Unfortunately for her, this month I decided to take advantage of her propensity to save in order to drive home another lesson about the importance of personal responsibility.
Here’s what happened: After Nina had the dental braces on her upper teeth removed last year, she had to wear a removable retainer for an additional 12 months to complete the straightening process. Nina was told, on countless occasions, that the retainer was only supposed to be removed from her mouth when she ate, or for cleaning purposes — but it was a request she didn’t take seriously. At all. In fact, I repeatedly warned her that if she failed to keep the retainer in place, her teeth would eventually fall out of alignment and wipe out all the progress that was made by the braces.
Well, you can imagine my dismay when, last month, during a routine check-up, it was discovered that Nina’s upper teeth had fallen so far out of alignment that she needs a new set of braces. The price tag: $1500. I know.
After the Honeybee peeled me off the ceiling and put me in a straightjacket, I gave Nina two choices: 1) Live with her crooked upper teeth; or 2) get a new set of braces — at her expense.
Guess what. Nina’s digging into her savings and buying herself a new set of braces this month.
Now, I’m sure more than a few of you out there think I’m being an ass, or a cheapskate — or both. Fine.
Not that I care.
Frankly, I refuse to reward irresponsible behavior — especially after repeated warnings — and if I picked up the tab for Nina’s braces the second time around, that is exactly what I’d be doing.
By the way, Nina owes a big debt of gratitude to our dentist who, after hearing her plight, decided to give my daughter a very good deal — she’s only going to have to pay him $500 cash.
I wanted to tell Nina that making her pay for a second round of braces is hurting me more than it hurts her, but I decided to pass. Besides, in the grand scheme of life, I’d like to believe she’s never going to miss the money, although I can’t be absolutely certain.
What I can guarantee, however, is that this time around, my daughter will remember to wear her retainer — and I’ve got 500 reasons to prove it.
Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography
I am telling my 7 year old to save up for her braces which she will definitely need in about 7 years time. I told her how much it would cost and the amount she has to put aside every month to make the savings objective. (But as a mom, I had made a huge discount on the total cost of braces .. I am not that totally heartless).
This is to drive home a point that you need to have patience to save for big ticket items. I do not know yet how I will react in 7 years time if she does not meet her savings objective. Will I cave ? 🙂
Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank says
I like you parenting style and plan to mimic it with my own son when he is older.
Having said that, when you daughter chose to continue with the braces at her own expense, I would have probably chipped in 50% or there abouts, as I think that is a reasonable compromise.
That way she learns that it can cost money when you make mistakes, but at the same time she isn’t too badly financially impacted at such an important age when she is likely to be thinking about college soon.
Good story – thanks for sharing.
Teffany @ Critical Financial says
That’s a very good decision, your daughter will surely take good care of her retainer! I have a 6-year-old daughter and she already knows how to save.
Jen from Virginia says
I love and whole-heartedly agree with your decision!!! My 9 year old son will have to get braces within the next 2 years I am told and if this same situation occurs you can bet I will follow your example (but may lower the amount if he is still pretty young).
Karen Kinnane says
“Unfortunately for her, this month I decided to take advantage of her propensity to save…” At first I was shocked, although it would be good training for her as a productive member of society to learn that the unproductive will suck her financial life’s blood though taxes with the collusion of the government. THEN I read the rest of the story and YOU WERE TOTALLY RIGHT LEN, the SECOND, and unnecessary set of braces should be paid by your daughter. Good for you! Otherwise she might end up as one of society’s leaches, feeding off the workers while moaning that they aren’t given enough by “the government”. She should pay for the second braces. And how nice of the dentist to give her such a generous frequent flyer bonus!
Len Penzo says
Yes, Karen, we are very grateful for Dr. Todd’s generosity toward our daughter. You can bet Nina will be sending him a nice thank you card with her payment.
Deb E says
Good for you! My two boys are now 23 and 21 – living on their own – and just like your two. I truly believe it’s better to have them learn those lessons early because it can cost them much more when they’re older!
Matt C says
I did not get braces until late, I was 17 – and my dad had me pay for the down payment on the braces (~$1700). At the time I was furious – how could he do that to his son he loved so much? When in reality – it forced me into taking care of my teeth. When the orthodontist said to put bands on – I tripled them up so it would go faster. I had my braces off within 8 months. It even kept me responsible to this day, It has been 9 years since I have had my braces taken off and in that time I have missed wearing my retainer fewer then 10 times.
sometimes the hard lesson’s pay off! I agree with your decision Len.
Medicine isn’t supposed to taste good — it’s supposed to make us better.
Nina will appreciate your decision to make her pay for new braces when she’s older. This is a valuable lesson worth much more than $500 and it will stay with her for the rest of her life.
I paid for my own braces and my teeth are still straight. My parents paid for my brother’s and his teeth are way crooked now. I agree with your decision!
Maybe it’s because Im not a parent, but I don’t see this as a great thing. She’s 14, 14 year olds make dumb decisions and when you became a parent, you accepted responsibility for those decisions. I see that $1500 better served for when she’s in college, but I guess you find being frugal more important.
Len Penzo says
I appreciate the comment, Corrine, but this has nothing to do with being frugal. I could easily afford to pay the $1500 tab.
I find it more important that my daughter learns that there are consequences in life for negligent behavior.
I guess if I was more concerned about being her best friend, I’d let her off the hook — but I prefer being her Dad. 🙂
Kurt @ Money Counselor says
Did the orthodontist say definitely the reason she needs braces again is because the retainer wasn’t used as prescribed?
I don’t know, $1500 is a lot for a 14-year old, feels a little rough to me Len. I might have split it with her, especially if it’s not completely clear that the repeat is 100% her own fault.
Len Penzo says
Yes, Nina’s failure to follow procedures is the reason for her crooked teeth.
The good news is it’s only $500.
I was about to be horrified, but when I realized it was the second set of braces, I got all on board.
Nice of her to get a cash discount too. $1500 is a lot, but $500 is much better.
Money Beagle says
When I was a teenager, my dentist recommended braces as I had misalgined teeth, but said that they alignment wasn’t a problem. It would only be cosmetic. My parents refused to pay for them. So to this day I have slightly crooked teeth. So I have perspective into your decision.
As a 4th grade teacher (and recovering only child) I think this plan is right on the money. 🙂
Even the best kids fail to grasp how long it takes to earn large amounts of money for the big expense items in their lives that they need. By requiring your daughter to pay for her braces for the second time you are teaching her many lessons- cause and effect, prioritizing, responsibility, generosity of others (aka: Dad first time around, dentist second time around), budgeting and goal-setting.
Ignore what others have said and don’t back down on this one. If you do you are teaching her that when push comes to shove Dad will save the day. And that’s not say you wouldn’t when it matters, but braces are an issue of convenience and appearance- not necessity.
Len Penzo says
When Nina really does need me, Dad will always be there to save the day for his little girl.
This, however, is one of those times where she clearly has the means to save herself if she so chooses — if not today as a 14-year-old, then later in life as an adult with a job of her own!
Belinda R says
Good for you, Len. Nice of the dentist to give her the discount.
I’m not sure I agree with this level of tough love, but you’re the parent, so what you say goes.
What I want to know is, where did you find an orthodontist who’ll do braces for $1,500? My kid’s braces were $4,000 — and that was 15 years ago. I’m told it costs more now.
Len Penzo says
She only needed a second set of braces on her upper teeth, so the original $1500 quote was not a full set. I think it also helps that I have a dentist who does orthodontia. Finally, it might also make a difference — although I don’t know for sure — that we were paying cash and not going through our insurance.
Frank A. Finazzo says
Great post. As a dentist, I can’t tell you the number of young adults who don’t wear their retainers after orthodontic treatment and suffer relapse. It’s a shame and a waste of their parents hard earned money. Make sure she avoids soda, sweets and chips….unless she wants to pay to fill the cavities after her braces come off.
Len Penzo says
Thanks, Dr. Frank.
(Folks, Dr. Frank and I lived on the same street as kids — and he was our family dentist for a long time too before I moved to a new town.)
Oh man, that’s an expensive lesson, but that’s the kind that will stick. That’s a good example for new parents. I’m having a hard time with my 3 year old. He just doesn’t listen to anything I say…
Len Penzo says
Just wait until he’s a teenager.
michelle f. says
this is a perfect way to teach cause & effect. her willful behavior caused the need for a second set of braces then there are consequences to be paid for. more parents should love their children so much.
We also had to constantly remind our daughter to wear her retainer. What a pain. But it did pay off as her teeth have stayed straight. Now we are looking at braces for the soon to be 14 year old son, to start the process all over again.
Jason Cabler (@DrCabler) says
BRAVO! I think you made a great decision that she’ll remember for the rest of her life!
Kudos to the dentist too for giving her the discount!
Done by Forty says
Sounds like the beginnings of a parenting book, Len. Great stuff.
Wow – she is only 14 years old and it was only $1500. And you fully admit you could afford to pay for them. I wonder how long she’ll resent you for that. Bet she’ll love that dentist for giving her such a break on the cost.
I always thought braces were right up there with glasses/contacts – necessities for good health.
Len Penzo says
You thought wrong, Harold. Braces are cosmetic corrections — just like nose and boob jobs.
Now that you know that, would you pay for a second set of braces?
Kendal @HassleFreeSaver says
I love this. I can see your daughter blogging about this experience at some point in the future, highlighting it as a turning point in her adolescence when she learned an important financial lesson. It’s a tough lesson but one that will contribute to her character and help her become a responsible adult. Kudos!
Good parenting. And boys are always bigger risk takers and love to be ‘out with the lads’ whilst girls tend to more responsible in those teenage years.
It is good that you let her pay for the second brace. And it seems nice that your daughter is taking responsibility by saving money for the brace. I guess I should also learn how to save for my brace too. It is also generous for the dentist to give discounts too.
Out of respect for your kids, in this case your son, if it were me I’ve never write anything negative about them. It’s the family’s business and no ones elses. I’m sure your parents were tough on you, but did they plaster it on the internet? I can hear your kids thanking me now. 🙂
As for braces, my only comment there is next comes the retainer. My daughter put hers on the coffee table to get a choc. chip cookie in the kitchen. Crunch! Our dog took a chombing bite out of the retainer – it was ruined and we had to get – buy – another one!
Len Penzo says
I appreciate where you are coming from, Sandy. But I don’t think that saying my son has had trouble controlling his spending as a kid is anything too earth-shattering or something deserving of being kept as a family secret. I’d venture to say it’s a common trait that affects probably half the population. But maybe that’s just me.
I would have done the same thing….after they peeled me off the ceiling, too 🙂
This seems totally reasonable to me. I am paying for a set of braces for my son, the first set, because I figure those genetics are more my fault than his, and he will have to wear a retainer afterwards which I know he will hate. If he fails to wear it, he will have to get the treatment redone and I will try to use your method as motivation.
I would hope he get ample warning before the first braces go on. Id want to know that my own kid *wants* straight teeth and is **committed to retaining them** before I would even consider putting the braces on.
If I thought he was going to balk on wearing his retainer, then no go.
Tracie S says
Thank goodness there are still parents with common sense. It appears many of them are your readers. We have had our kids on their own budgets for years (they are now 14 & 15), and are used to getting them to pay for many of their own expenses. But we hadn’t thought of that one. Since my son did exactly the same thing as your daughter, this is very timely for us.
Just commenting to say my mom made me pay for braces round two as well. I never wanted them the first time so when they came off I also skipped the retainer. As a senior in college working a part time engineering job, the stigma of braces for 5 months hurt worse than the $500 out of pocket cost (insurance picked up the rest). Today, I am so glad I made the decision and got my beautiful smile back. And I wear my retainer every night as instructed!
For the parents: I’d recommend having a discussion pre-braces to make sure your kid knows braces aren’t a one and done situation. If they are old enough for the discussion, make sure they are committed to straight teeth and WANT them. As a 16 year old, I thought my smile was good enough (my braces corrected teeth in the back of my mouth) so I didn’t follow through with the retainer.
Braces are not always cosmetic; they are often corrective (speech, swallow, comfort, etc). You are often as dismissive to your readers as you were with your daughter. Wrong decision…
Len Penzo says
Well, Aimee … Boob jobs are also occasionally done for comfort (esp. reductions) or other purposes too. But if you’re going to be intellectually honest, and not split hairs for the sake of making your point, you have to admit that the vast majority of people who choose to wear braces (including my daughter) do it for cosmetic purposes.
You’ve clearly never suffered with crooked teeth. Often braces are to correct overbites, underbites, overcrowded teeth, and move teeth that aren’t getting cleaned. Gosh I’ve heard of parents refusing to pay for braces but your story really topped the cake. Your responsibility is to be the parent and make sure your kids learn the habits of following through with the appropriate behaviors to reel in their spending or wear their retainers. A 14-year old still needs that. My parents had to use a tool to keep my expander working, and as a result they were just as responsible for my braces as I was to keep my teeth clean.
People think things like braces, correcting chin strain, or upper jaw strain are all cosmetic but unless you have lived through having to force your face to keep your lips closed or consciously align your jaw, it’s not cosmetic. People should not have to be conscious of those things.
I have relatives whose parents refused braces and to this day (all approaching their 40’s) they won’t show teeth when they smile. Or they hardly smile at all.
Len Penzo says
That’s all very true … but Nina didn’t have those issues; her teeth were simply out of alignment, but not so badly that they forced her to face to keep her lips closed or constantly align her jaw.
But if that WAS the case, I would have paid for the retainer (and then gradually taken it out of her savings over time).
Despite what you may believe, I’m not a heartless tyrant to my kids. I’m just trying to teach them the concept of personal responsibility, which seems to be a rare trait in most people these days.
Cailyn Harley says
I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite because my parents are currently paying for my Invisalign, but you have a point here and I do agree that you have to stand your ground if you want your child to learn a lesson. You didn’t actually lack in giving warning and so this is definitely an experience your daughter can look back on whenever she come to face a situation that she doesn’t want to regret.
You’re my parental hero! 😀
All of these naysayers are the reason we have so many entitled adults running around.
What you did is called PARENTING. I know…it’s a foreign concept in 2014…but I thank you for raising responsible children that can be ‘unleashed’ on the rest of us 😉
Chris M says
As a teenager, my teeth were so misaligned that they gave me pain and untold suffering no matter how much I cared for them. My parents chose to get braces for my brother, due to the expense, who did not care for them and now is needing several extractions to the point of needing dentures. He is financially responsible as an adult. My point is, as a kid-and these are kids-14 years olds-don’t always make the best decisions. Withholding something that is actually a medical necessity for many of us is something that they will indeed suffer for in the future, as I currently am. I cannot afford the implants I am told will help with the bone destruction which has been occurring since my 20’s. Several teeth were extracted as a child due to the severity and crowding of my teeth. I am ashamed of my appearance and have to wear a painful partial which only helps slightly with the gappy appearance of my mouth. Can’t chew well. All from not getting braces…I am writing this to appeal to those of you who are thinking of using this same idea to ‘help’ your child become more responsible with finances. It won’t work. Get them a small allowance bank account and limit what they can have every week. or whatever works.
This was a very interesting (and informative) post! Good read.