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6 Things You Want Your Kids To Be Able To Do – pt 5

April 12, 2019

Money doesn’t grow on trees.  Just offering this as a Public Service Announcement.  You already knew this, but there’s a chance your kids haven’t figured it out yet.  That’s why I want to do some thinking about Number Five on my list.

  • To know the difference between needs and wants
  • To know the difference between suffering and inconvenience
  • To know how to sacrifice for someone or something
  • To know how to express their emotions in appropriate ways
  • To know how to make, save and spend money
  • To know how to say yes and no

You noticed my intentional order.  Make, save, spend.  Your kids won’t need much instruction on how to spend money.  That’s a skill that comes amazingly easily.  If you’ve ever taken a toddler with you to the grocery store, you know that what Darth Vader said of Luke Skywalker is true of your kid, “The Force is strong in this one.”  The force to entice them into wanting most everything they see on the shelves.  Especially in the checkout line.  What evil genius figured out that moms and dads will put hundreds of dollars worth of that stuff in the shopping cart to keep their kid from making a scene in that little space that’s hardly wide enough for you and your cart?

Impulse buying comes naturally.  I know this because I’m in recovery from impulse buying.  Debbie almost never sends me to the grocery store.  And when she does, she has a very specific list of what I’m supposed to bring back.  She even puts it on the list in the order in which I’ll encounter it as I walk through the store.  I got my “Chump Consumer” merit badge early in life, and have kept the certification current.  Oh, the shame of it.

Young kids don’t earn money.  It’s given to them.  But as they grow older, one of the smartest things a parent can do is give them opportunity to earn it.  There’s a mixed bag of ideas on whether kids should be paid for doing their chores.  One line of thought is that doing chores is just part of their contribution to the family,  not gainful employment.  There are others who say paying your kids for doing their chores is a smart way to give them something to work with, and some motivation to do their chores.  I can see merit in both of these.  I say do what seems right to you.  But if you don’t pay your kids for doing their chores, you’ll need to come up with tasks and jobs outside of their chores they can do for cash.  Things like cleaning out a closet (other than their own), or cleaning the garage, or raking leaves, or mowing the lawn, or some other task that them doing would benefit you.  If these things are on their “chore list,” you’ll have to be more creative with figuring out jobs for them.

The point is they need opportunities to earn some amount of income because they did some amount of work.  You see why this is important.  When kids get income without working, they grow up thinking that’s how the world works.  No matter who gets elected in the next election, that’s not how it works.  When kids learn this in their elementary school years, they get a more realistic picture of real life early on, and that’s a very significant advantage for them.

DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND ME!  Your kids should never be slave labor.  You won’t do yourself any favor by cracking the whip until they do what you told them to do.  And you’ll harm your relationship with them if you just give them the dirty work you don’t want to do.

Every job you create should be within their capabilities (as they get older, maybe just barely out of what they think is their reach – this will stretch them toward growth).  But not every job done should bring them income.  It’s a tough balance.  You don’t want to raise your kids to believe that if they don’t get paid, they won’t do the work.  But you do want to raise them to realize that when they get paid, it’s because they worked.  That’s a tough tension to manage.

And when they’ve earned money, you’ve got to teach them how to save some of it.  Every kid is different with this.  All three of our daughters approached their money differently, because they were all three wired a little differently.  But we taught all three of them to save in the same way.  Our rule was give 10% to God, save as much as you wanted to.  We discovered that Dave Ramsey’s advice is right for this. We gave them envelopes to put their money in for all three purposes: tithe, saving, spending.  It’s a simple and imperfect system, but it worked pretty well.  Many thousands of other families will tell you the same.  I only learned the habit of tithing when I was a kid, and I’m grateful for that, but the habit of saving I did not learn as a child, and it has been very difficult to do as an adult.  That’s why you want to work on this with your kids when they’re young.

For most people in our country, saving and spending aren’t really connected.  That’s what credit cards are for.  Right?  You just get what you want, when you want it.  If you don’t have the cash on hand for it, put it on the card and pay for it later.  No biggie.  Except it IS a biggie.  One study I read (from April of 2019) said the average consumer debt per household is $5700.  That may not be as overwhelming a number as you thought it would be, but realize this amount is compounding at 17-20% interest.  The other side of this coin is that the median savings account balance across American households is $4,830. Lots of people can’t support their debt.  My theory on this is that almost none of us were taught how to live within our means, how to spend what we have and not spend what we don’t have.  If you were taught better, good on you!

So how do you teach your kids to spend wisely?  Of course it starts with them seeing you spending wisely, and then it goes to you helping them think through their purchases.  This is another thing that carries a difficult tension.  Don’t be the Spending Nazi who always puts the kibosh on what they want.  It’s not your money.  On the other hand, don’t just look the other way and let them burn through their cash on bubble gum.

One of the keys on this, I think, is helping your kids develop purchasing goals.  In other words helping them think through what they would like, and then set goals for saving toward it.  Some expensive things you’ll want to help them with, but don’t rob them of the satisfaction of knowing that they were able to get this for themselves.

One of Debbie’s and my mentors in our early married life gave us great advice.  He said, “When you think you really need something, find the best price for it you can find, and then wait 48 hours before you buy it.  If after 2 days you still feel you need it, then buy it at the good price.”  This helps cut impulse buying out of the equation.  Enforce this little rule on yourself, and teach it to your kids.  Don’t try teaching it to your kids without enforcing it on yourself first, though.

The younger your child is, the more of your direct help they will need with this.  But give them freedom as soon as they give you reason to believe they can handle it.  And be ready for the fact that almost all of us will fail some in this endeavor.  When they do, DO NOT shame them.  Instead, use it as a teachable moment.  The best question you can ask is, “How could you not have this happen again?”

How you earn, save and spend your money is a huge indicator of your maturity.  Seize this moment with your kids and help them grow up into mature habits with their money.  I think I can say you’ll never regret it.  Well, at least not when they’re up and grown and have money enough to send you on a fabulous vacation.  Just kidding.  Maybe not.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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