A lot of us grew up with weird attitude towards money, often centered around not having enough, being jealous of those who did, or feeling shame for what we did have. When we become parents, we have the opportunity to undo that not only for our kids, but for ourselves, in the way we choose to teach our kids about money, and our attitudes towards it. As a mom of three (who is a mindset coach with a background in education), here are my top five tips to creating a healthy, balanced attitude towards money in your family’s life and culture.
Allowance is a money management tool
We have our kids help with the activities of daily life (making beds, cleaning rooms, feeding dogs, setting tables…) because those are the necessary tasks of daily life – not because they’re going to get a reward for doing so. It’s our job as parents to guide our kids, giving them the opportunity to learn life skills along the way. Money management is one of those skills.
Consider giving your kids (7+) a small weekly allowance they can portion off into save/share/spend jars; make peace with the fact that the spend jar is theirs to spend – it is so much easier to learn the lesson of overspending, or blowing all your cash on something you didn’t need when you’re 8, versus 28.
Paying bills is an exercise in gratitude
Getting a bill doesn’t have to be the chore we assume it to be. When you think about it, bills are just reflections of pleasures you’ve already enjoyed. “Thank you, Netflix, for keeping me entertained and relaxed. Thank you, heating and water, for keeping my family cozy and clean. Thank you cell phone, for connecting me to the world (and for endless memes to enjoy, obviously).”
Sharing this attitude with your kids teaches them that everything we consume is actually an exchange of goods and services; involving them in the payment process is another incredible way to teach a valuable life skill. Kids as young as 5 can help you find the amount owed on the bill, which vendor it’s being paid to, and circling the amount, writing “paid” and on which date. They will come to love this process, as it’s a trojan horse for one on one time with you, and it becomes really fun.
Modelling generosity matters
It’s easy to get caught up in that old thinking that “we might not have enough,” and the feeling that what we have, we have to keep for ourselves. It’s not true; when we are conscious of sharing what we have, we are contributing to the greater good. When we show our kids to be generous (via donations, volunteering, helping other friends or families in hard times, tipping the delivery guy, you name it), we are teaching them how good it feels to give.
Anytime we do good for its own sake, we are modelling how to be a good human, and how to live with the sense that we are all connected, and we are very fortunate. That attitude alone sets our kids up to be appreciative for what they have, and to create more of it as they grow up.
Overconsumption does not create happiness
We live in this backwards society in which more is considered more. So when we’re parenting, it can be tempting to give our kids everything they want, and replace it when it breaks. But really, think of the things that are dearest to you: chances are the things you worked really hard for, have a sense that you earned them, and feel a real pride of ownership over them.
Sweeping obstacles out of the way for our kids, and catering to their every whim does not raise happy children – it raises children who have a falsely entitled sense of reality, who tend to develop much anxiety in later years when they realize that things don’t fall magically into their lap without their own grit and gusto. Teach them to appreciate what they have, with modesty and grace.
Wealth is a state of mind
Thinking rich is essential to living a rich life. Constantly living in the fear-based state of never having enough instills a fearful mindset in young children that they will carry forward with them, and have to un-do later. “We can’t afford that, we could never go on that vacation, that’s only for rich people.”
All of that language creates a false reality that money is only for select people, and if you don’t have it, you never will. In reality, anything is possible – anything. And we can teach our kids to use that lens by involving them in planning and dreaming. Always wanted to go to Costa Rica and stay in a tree house (so. Much. Yes)? Start a family vision board for that trip. Look up cool places to stay, airlines to use, monkeys to mimic.
Involve your kids in using some of their own savings to put towards the trip. Make them feel a part of it – and give them the sense that they have ownership in making it happen. This is a hugely empowering pattern of thinking and behaving; much healthier than the attitude that “that’s not for us.”
Our children pick up our words, though, and behaviours, and all the patterns that go along with them – often without us noticing. Being open to shifting your own attitude towards creating wealth in your own life is one of the best gifts we can give our kids, and that starts at a very young age.