If you’re a parent, at some point you’ve probably wondered if your kids ever listen when you speak. Then you hear some of the same words and phrases being parroted back (often some we don’t necessarily want repeated!) and you know that those ears are wide open and taking it ALL in!
Parenting groups encourage us to talk about not doing drugs, not smoking, staying safe, etc. because the mantras we hear over and over again as kids tend to stick with us throughout our lives. The same is true when it comes to money and finances.
But what are your kids hearing from you as a parent about money? Quite possibly, you’re repeating some of the same things you may have heard growing up without really thinking about the messages you’re sending or the way your kids will interpret them:
- We can’t afford it / It’s too expensive
- Money doesn’t grow on trees
- Debt is bad
- Money is the root of all evil
- Rich people are snobs
Kids are capable of internalizing and processing some pretty complex ideas. They may not engage in direct discussion or they might take time to mull things over but kids see, hear and listen, and they make sense of their world by processing all the information and cues around them based on their own limited experiences.
As parents, we are in a unique position of influence that shapes the way our kids think about and treat money. Kids listen to what we say and look at what we do. If we don’t dialogue with them, though, those verbal and non-verbal cues are open to interpretation and the conclusions that your kids draw may not be the ones you intended.
For example, you might think your kids will see you working long hours every day and, by that example, develop a great work ethic and commitment. However, they might interpret it as work/money is more important than family and resent that field/job/industry/you/etc. Discussion is a vital part of communication to ensure that the message intended is indeed the message received.
People need to talk more about money. Not the ‘How-much-do-you-make?’ kind of talk, but conscious conversation, real talk about money, like how you think and feel about it, what it can and can’t do, how to get and how to make more of it.
Although not the main idea of the blog, I read this great post on New Methods that to me, really underscores the importance of talking to your kids about money on an everyday, spontaneous basis. The kid asks his dad how he’s able to go fishing in the middle of the day when most of the other people he knows are at work and dad explains that by owning a business, it can keep working even when he isn’t there. Just a 30 second exchange can have a significant impact on an 8 year-old kid, how he thinks about money and how it can help to shape his life (be sure to read about the author at the end of the post!)
The post also made me think about Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which distinguishes between the mindset of an employee vs that of an owner. The parent in the blog is sending an owner-mentality message about money. Instead of the typical ‘work hard, get a good job’ message, the advantages of being the boss or owner are communicated.
Does that mean that we all have to be business owners to talk about money to our kids? Of course not. Talking about financial alternatives and options just lets our kids know that there are many different ways out there to make a living. It also doesn’t give a free pass from talking about money to those who are well-off. In fact, financially successful people who don’t talk to their kids about money and fiscal responsibility often end up with a very short legacy indeed!
The first step is to be aware of your own thinking and what you’re saying about money. After reading this article, I’m willing to bet you’ll start hearing yourself all the time! Once you realize how you communicate about money, you can decide if those really are the messages that you want to share. If not, you can alter the phrases to convey a different kind of message:
- We’re choosing NOT to spend our funds on X because it isn’t a family priority or goal right now
- Money can grow on ‘trees’ – referral trees and networking that brings more customers/business/revenue
- Some debt (like credit cards) can be dangerous but some debt (like a mortgage) can be a helpful tool to build wealth
- Money is just a tool; the person using it decides how it will be used
- People of character do good things regardless of the amount of money they have
Older Son: One day I’d like to manage a nice restaurant like this. I could do a great job.
Younger Son: Great! You can work for me because one day I’m going to own a nice restaurant like this!
- Straight Talk with Kids About Money (psychologytoday.com)