Dear Dave: I'm a single father with a 14-year-old daughter. I want to teach her to avoid the financial mistakes I've made. Do you think I should open a checking account with a debit card for her? I think the practice in dealing with money before she gets out on her own would be good for her.
Getting your daughter a checking account with a debit card is a good idea at some point. But I'd suggest that you first give her a year or two to deal solely with cold, hard cash.
Have her create four envelopes, one each for giving, saving, entertainment, and miscellaneous spending. Then, anytime she earns some money, she can divide it up and put some into each of the envelopes. Once she's done this for a while and you're both comfortable with the situation, then you can think about opening a checking account for her.
The problem with giving her a checking account right off the bat is that the money is all lumped together. There's no division between the concepts of giving, saving, and spending. These are some pretty important things she needs to learn while she's being educated about money. Also, when the time is right and she can handle the responsibility of a checking account, make sure you work with her every month in balancing her checkbook. Sit down with her, one on one, and help walk her through the process. This will reinforce the idea that it's a necessary part of handling money properly. After a few months she'll get the hang of it and be able to do it on her own. And it will also give you peace of mind that she's taking care of her checking account the right way!