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I was chatting with a good friend the other afternoon and he was telling me about how his son had lost his cellphone and was a bit stymied about how to replace it. When you’re in a contract with a carrier, a lost phone can’t be replaced with another that’s subsidized and suddenly even the worst phone was going to cost $199, $299 or even more. Quite overwhelming for the boy.

The challenge was to figure out how to pay for the new phone, because he apparently had his heart set on a pretty fancy phone with a slide out QWERTY keyboard that was going to cost quite a bit more than he had in his savings account.

Like me, his Dad is a single parent, which means that any time there’s an expenditure it’s complicated. In this case, should Mom chip in? Should they split the cost? Or was it the son’s challenge and he was on his own? In fact, my friend explained, it was his son’s problem and his son needed to figure out how to earn the money.

What made it interesting – and what makes this a hopefully thought-provoking blog entry – is that the mother and father have two very different ways of helping their son learn about money. Dad pays his son an allowance and gives him the opportunity to earn additional money through chores. He tallies things up weekly and his son always knows how much money is in what I’ll call Bank of Dad. Mom, on the other hand, doesn’t offer her son an allowance and doesn’t pay for chores. She just buys things for him that she feels he really needs.

Now guess which parent gets to hear their son whine and complain, asking, pleading and almost begging for them to just buy the phone and not leave him stuck without a way to communicate? Five bonus points if you guessed Mom. That’s what so struck his Dad and why he brought the situation up to me in the first place.

That’s the setup. Now, into the philosophical part of this essay!

From a business perspective, I kinda see Mom as a representative of an overarching organization like the government. Acting out of what she believes is benevolence, she meets his basic needs, but without giving him the opportunity to learn cause and effect and without learning the concept of working towards a goal and achieving it in measurable steps.

Dad, on the other hand, is more of an entrepreneurial force, encouraging the boy to make his own way, not offering to take care of things, and still covering those basic needs. Through Mom their son learns trust, but through Dad he learns achievement and accomplishment.

In my mind, the difference is Dad is giving his son the ability to learn self-empowerment and achievement and that’s why he’s not being subjected to complaints and is instead a partner in his son’s frustration and desire to overcome the obstacle. Mom, on the other hand, more represents the forces of randomness. Maybe she’ll crack and buy him the fancy cellphone he wants, and maybe she won’t, but there’s no real way to know a priori.

Now, both in terms of parenting and how you interact with your employees, are you Mom, taking care of what you believe are their basic needs in an almost random manner, or are you Dad, giving them the gift of self-empowerment and helping them learn how to assess their desired goals and measure their progress towards them?


Dave Taylor is a single dad to three fabulous children and a busy entrepreneur who runs both the tech support site Ask Dave and the film blog Dave On He hopes you’ll add your two cents on this subject after reading his essay too!

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Dave Taylor has been involved with the Internet since 1980 and is widely recognized as an expert on both technical and business issues. He has been published over a thousand times, launched four Internet-related startup companies, has written twenty business and technical books and holds both an MBA and MS Ed.

Dave maintains three weblogs,, devoted to tech and business Q&A,, where he talks about life as a single dad, and, where he writes about cinema and reviews movies.

Dave is an award-winning speaker, sought after conference and workshop participant and frequent guest on radio and podcast programs.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. I grew up in the allowance household (like the dad is doing). My husband grew up in the mom-version household. The way we meld our past experiences with our girls is that we lean toward the mom’s household method, BUT our girls are always provided the opportunity to earn money through extra chores. They have chores that they don’t get an allowance for… part of being in the family. But extra things they can earn money. More often than not they choose not to, much to our wish otherwise. However, when there is something that is not a necessity (in our minds) we provide the chance to earn the money through chores and tasks. If they want it enough, they step up to the plate and do the work… just like in the real world.

    Not the perfect solution, but a compromise on how we both view the money situation.

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