One of the issues that worries me as a parent is whether I am doing a good job teaching my children about money. When I look around me I see people who have a totally dysfunctional relationship with their cash and even more so with their credit card, and the last thing I want for my kids is that they end up like them.
There are many different approaches to teaching children about money and instilling a sense of fiscal responsibility in our youngsters. There are those who swear by pocket money, since it teaches children to budget – see my post about a cute Baby Looney tunes episode about saving money. Others give their children jobs and pay them for work done around the house to teach them the value of work. These are all good ideas and I use variations of them for my three children.
However at the end of the day this is a case of monkey see, monkey do. Children observe us as we go about our daily lives and get important messages about our values, including the way we make financial decisions. These messages are internalised and become their norm, the standard against which they measure behaviour.
If you want your children to understand the value of money then you should practice what you preach and respect money yourself.
One of the first examples that come to mind is not keeping up with the Joneses. I shudder to think of how much money is wasted every year by people trying to outdo their “rivals” in a crazy rat race for consumeristic supremacy. If your children hear you talking about “the Joneses” and see you throwing money away just to keep up appearances, then how can you expect them to have the self confidence and restraint not to get caught up in a similar situation themselves? The next thing you know they will be asking for more expensive jeans and a flashy car “because XXX has one.”
Also important is not succumbing to fads. There is always some fad sweeping through my children’s school. If it is not loom bands it is Beanie Boos or football player stickers. My children never get involved in these crazes because they know that they will get short shrift from me. I had a proud moment the other day when I overhead my daughter tell her younger brother that she did not want to buy some stickers because it was “a waste of money.”
Life throws many different challenges our way and each one of them gives us a chance to pass on a healthy message to our children. Resisting impulse buying, not maxing out your credit card every month, having rational conversations about money with your partner, looking at something and saying “I love it but I don’t really need it so I won’t waste my money on it.” These are all important learning opportunities for your children, who absorb them like sponges.
I absolutely do not mean to preach here – God knows I have made many mistakes over the years and my children are likely to remind me of them in 10 years’ time! What I am trying to say is that instead of worrying about ways of teaching children about money, we should focus on actually managing money better ourselves. Everything else will follow naturally, because our children are not fools – they will get the message.