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Money & Kids: Kids DO Listen When Parents Talk about Money But What Are They Hearing?

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
Start thinking about the messages you WANT your kids to hear from you about money so the words and ideas are readily available when those spontaneous, teachable moments come up.  Otherwise you’ll default back to the same old standard phrases.   
I like to tell the story of a discussion I overheard between my two sons because it really reflects the difference in my own mindset based on my own understanding of money, how I talked to my kids and where I was at in life when each of them was growing (they are 8 years apart):

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!

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Making Time for Business & Family

Hello, Holiday Weekend!  So good to see you again – it’s been way too long!  I’m looking forward to catching up…and not feeling guilty for taking time off work!

The great thing about running your own business is flexible scheduling.  The tough thing about running your own business is…flexible scheduling.  Family demands somehow manage to creep into the workday.  Work demands (especially the ‘administrivia’!) often get pushed to the weekend or evening when you can work without interruption or distraction.  The demands never seem to end; there is ALWAYS something else to be done and it can be really hard to keep everything in check without going a little nuts.

There are times when I look back longingly at the days of punching in on a time clock.  Things just seemed so simple back then.  You worked when you were at work; you were off when you went home.  You got paid for the hours you put in.  No need to think about the upcoming quarter or reporting or payroll or making decisions.  Boundaries were clearly defined and made it relatively easy to know when to make time for the demands of work and when you dealt with everything else.  As an entrepreneur, those lines quickly get fuzzy.

Dealing with issues as they come up is one way to get things done but it usually means reacting to events and people instead of being proactive and in control.  Flexible scheduling does not mean no scheduling.  It’s kind of like tax time – the more prepared and up-to-date you are, the faster and easier it is to file the return, and the more likely it is you will do it accurately and efficiently.  It’s the same in business.  Someone once told me that the secret to being a successful entrepreneur was self-discipline and time management.  That concept, like the board game Othello, takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master.

Small business owners wear many hats.  I’ve come to realize that it’s crucial to your business and your sanity to respect each role and dedicate a little bit of time each week to working on specific tasks for each hat, for both business and family.  Notice I said ‘working on’, not ‘completing’.  An on-going business, just like a family, is never actually a finished product.  It will grow and change and evolve, priorities and tasks along with it.  Just like juggling, keeping everything in motion requires that you regularly handle every single ball (task), even if it’s just for a short time.

Making a plan or schedule and sticking to it can really help you stay organized as well as dedicate specific time to personal, family and business matters.  It’s much easier to balance your life when you can actually see it in front of you.  It also reduces your anxiety and stress knowing that important tasks and events won’t be forgotten and that there IS enough time to fit everything in.

  • Plan Daily/Weekly/Monthly/Annual tasks.  Some things need more time than others.  Some things need to be done more frequently than others.  Figure out what works for your strengths and your business and your family and plan accordingly.  Kids and employees alike really respond well when they can anticipate what’s coming up.
  • Be Realistic.  Set up for success by giving yourself the time it actually takes to do the task.  Consider outsourcing personal or business tasks (bookkeeping, writing, groceries/meals, cleaning, etc.) if it makes sense.
  • Be Disciplined.  Stick to the schedule.  If you plan an hour for a lunch meeting, keep it to an hour.  If you set aside a day for the family, don’t bring home work.  You have to respect your own time and trust your own schedule if you want it to work.
  • Give yourself a break.  Not just scheduled breaks (which are important), but mental ones as well.   Don’t beat yourself up when you stray from the schedule.  Things happen and unfold even with the most disciplined of entrepreneurs.  Adjust accordingly and move on.
  • Build in Catch-Up sessions.  Make sure you include a daily or weekly block of time to tie up loose ends or account for unexpected adjustments.  Just knowing that there will be time to finish something up later can help your business and your blood pressure.
  • Review.  Things change, including people and schedules.  Things work for a while, then they don’t.  It’s less stressful to simply recognize and accept when something isn’t working so that you can try something different.

It doesn’t matter what you start with, it just matters that you start.  By no means am I a master of life balance either.  I struggle with all the things above and am constantly trying to find a ‘just right’ formula.  If you have any ideas or tips to add, I welcome and encourage you to comment below and share them.

That being said, it’s now time for me to ‘unplug’ and spend some scheduled time with family and friends.  Thanks to my schedule, I can rest assured that my business won’t suffer while I enjoy the weekend and have some fun!

 

 

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