While it’s common for couples to have arguments from time to
time, figuring out the most common cause for the fights can be an easy way to stop
them from happening in the first place. As it turns out, a recent
survey from the American Institute of CPAs discovered that money is the
most common reason married or cohabiting couples fight.
When you become a parent, it might seem like those arguments
come more frequently, and perhaps even more intensely. With things like work
schedules, day care payments and college funds on the line, there’s more of a
chance to disagree over financial options than there were before kids came into
“Dealing with an argument, no matter the topic, generally
follows the same steps,” says Olivia Mellan, therapist and author of Money
Harmony. The first is to determine what you and your partner tend to fight
about the most. According to Mellan, most arguments regarding children and
finances take the following patterns:
1. Spending too much on kids’ stuff. Often, one parent will want to overindulge on spending for the children, while the
other worries about spoiling or considers spending too much money on toys and
games a waste, says Mellan.
2. Not saving enough in the college fund. Parents
might find their money personalities in one of two categories, says Mellan,
which is either a “worrier” or an “avoider.” “Worriers want to do things like
max out the college savings funds, while the other type just wants to avoid
anything having to do with money at all,” she said.
3. Whether to pay for college in the first
place. This is a big one, says Mellan, because some parents believe deeply
that it’s their responsibility to help their children afford the college of
their dreams, while others argue that children take school more seriously if
they are responsible for funding some, or all, of it themselves.
4. What to do about inheritance. Often, parents argue over how much money should be left to children, or even whether
or not any money should be left at all, says Mellan.
5. Teaching the kids financial responsibility.
Another financial category that parents might find themselves falling into is
the “planners” and the “dreamers.” The problem with planners and dreamers is
that the planners tend to come across as responsible, while the dreamers could
be considered fun, and when you’re teaching kids about financial responsibility,
it’s important to be on the same page.
If any of these arguments sounds familiar, don’t worry; the
fixes are easy once you recognize the pattern of fighting, says Mellan. “What I
teach people is empathetic communication, and the importance of not attacking
each other,” she said. Once you recognize the problem, find time to have
regular check-ins about the topic so you can hear each other out, and reward
yourselves for following through. “Have a date night, or do something else fun
so that gives you incentive to keep up with the tradition,” says Mellan.
During your meetings, keep a running of list of each other’s
arguments and valid points. That way, you’ll always have something to look back
on while you’re coming up with a solution. “It’s not always easy negotiating
something that works for both people. But determining the problem, having
regular money meetings and making a promise not to attack the other person will
certainly put you on the right path,” says Mellan.