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Say This, Not That – Talking With Your Kids About Money

April 12, 2016

Posted in Family

Money can help solve many of life’s hurdles and lead to a wonderful lifestyle. Sadly, wealth does not make parenting any easier and, in some respects, can make it much more complicated.

Raising kids in an atmosphere of affluence without teaching corresponding money values can be a recipe for disaster. Many adults do not have a clear view of their own feelings about money and therefore send conflicting or inappropriate messages to their children. With that in mind, here are a few things we encourage you NOT to say when talking with your kids about money and money decisions.

We can’t afford it. There are three problems with this common response to a child’s request:

  1. It’s usually untrue, which the child will clearly see if they witness spending on other discretionary items
  2. It’s a way of avoiding the conversation that you should have about money values (the need to make trade-offs, you already have enough toys, there’s no room in your closet, I already bought you one souvenir and that’s enough, etc.), and
  3. It communicates that the only reason not to buy things is there is no money in your wallet. A better response would be to say, “We are not going to buy it because we are choosing to spend our money on other things.”

Time is money. This phrase teaches kids to place a monetary value on everything. You should not try to impress your kids with your hourly wage. Also, a phrase like “I can’t coach your soccer team because someone has to pay the bills around here” sends negative messages about what is important in life. The number one thing kids want and need is for their parents to be present, not just physically but mentally.

We will pay you $100 for every A on your report card. This could just as easily be $20 for every goal you score, or a million other examples. The bottom line is bribery is not a good parenting technique. It teaches kids that the reason to achieve things is to get paid and please their parents. The better motivation is self-satisfaction and a feeling of achievement.

Aren’t you glad you don’t live there?  Naturally, we all want our kids to be appreciative of their good fortune, but the implication is that people need to live in a neighborhood like yours in order to be happy. You have to be careful about associating happiness with money. When children get this message, they often think money will make them happy and are disillusioned as adults when money doesn’t buy happiness.

That’s none of your business. Kids ask a lot of tough questions such as: Are we rich? How much money do you make? Do we have more than our friends? These questions may be uncomfortable, but they are teachable moments. The most important thing is to develop an atmosphere of open communication with your kids. Curiosity is good, and you want them to feel secure financially, which is at the root of many of these questions. So answer as honestly as you can. You do not want to make money a taboo subject. However, it is okay to tell your children “Some matters should be kept within our family, including our family’s finances.”

You work hard to give your kids the best life possible, and the simplest course would be to give them everything. But the more difficult (and often more successful) course of action is to give them the tools they need to succeed on their own.

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