If a child repeatedly makes the same mistake, should you make them pay for it with their own money? That’s what writer Heather Stephens is contemplating. Heather is auditioning for a staff writer position on BargainBabe.com! Missed the audition announcement? Here it is. We are running the best audition posts this week and next.
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My husband and I have been tap dancing around a touchy subject this week, ”Should we make our 11 year old daughter pay for her own medical bills?”
My youngest daughter has battled swimmer’s ear for years. Every time she hits the water she ends up with an ear infection. She knows it is an issue and we’ve spent almost a decade of summers, reminding her to wear earplugs while she’s in the water and to put in drops after swimming.
She’s wonderful at reminding our 5 year old son, who has tubes in his ears, to put his putty buddies in before his bath, but claims “she forgot” to put them in for herself when she went swimming last week, under the supervision of another adult who didn’t know her situation. My mom’s instinct tells me that it was either not cool, or she forgot to put them in and it was too inconvenient to go get them, after she remembered.
So, as you can predict, she started complaining a day or two later that her ear hurt, requiring a doctor visit the next day to confirm she had swimmers ear, once again.
After shelling out a $35 copay and $40 for medicine she’s on the mend, but my budget is not. And if this summer goes like last summer did, we’ll be visiting the doctor repeated times for this same situation.
The Pros & Cons of Making Kids Pay for Their Own Medical Expenses:
I hate spending money on unnecessary necessities. Having to pay for a doctor visit and medicine falls into that unnecessary necessity category when it’s because my daughter was too lazy or too inconvenienced to put in earplugs. Making her pay those bills is a good example to teach kids about money and it’s a good opportunity to include kids in family finances.
I know money is her “currency” as Dr. Phil talks about. She’s driven to earn it and frugal when spending it, therefore she’s got a nice savings account and heavy piggy bank to cover the cost of her mistake. I am guessing she will feel the pain of paying the bill, more than she does the pain of the ear infection.
Another Pro: In addition to teaching her about money, we will be reinforcing the lessons of taking care of herself. Being responsible for protecting her ears teaches the same skills as remembering to put on sunscreen, wearing a seat belt in the car, or practicing safe sex (but not until she’s married and at least 30).
Con: I don’t want her to avoid telling me if she has an ear infection this summer. I want her to know that my husband and I are there for her, to love her and support her, even when she makes mistakes.
So, what’s your opinion? My husband and I have paid the bill this time. I want to teach our 11 year old a lesson and make her pay for her own medical bills if she has future swimmers ear slip-ups. My husband disagrees. Have I gone completely off the deep end? Please help a parent out and share your thoughts in the comments below.
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About the writer
Heather Stephens is a frugal mom of three who writes about personal finance and shopping for FatWallet.com/blog. She also shares stories on her personal blog, Becoming-Me.com about the embarrassing situations she always finds herself in, money, and personal development.