The one question my husband and I get asked a lot is “How do you teach your children about finances?” Let’s get back to that in a minute…
What surprised us when we took the Financial Peace University class is the statistic of college graduates not knowing how to handle money. Looking back on my college experience, I don’t ever recall having to take a finance class. I barely remember taking a class in high school that taught me how to balance a checkbook.
Two experiences are etched into my brain about finances.
First, I was 16 and I had a job. I also had a checking account. I remember writing my first check and spelling “dollars” wrong (I spelled dolares…the Spanish word for dollars…can you figure out what language I took in high school?) I also remember my dad teaching me how to balance my checkbook. He had to show me a few times because I couldn’t remember. I finally wrote down a formula to remember it.
My second memory probably happened prior to writing my first check, but I’m not quite sure. My dad drove me to the bank so I could deposit a check. I thought he was going to come inside with me, but he didn’t. He made me go in myself and figure it out. I probably looked like a lost puppy standing in the lobby of the bank. I had no idea what to do and really couldn’t even begin how to figure it out. I was certain my dad would come in and help me, but he didn’t. After quite a long time, I finally got the courage to ask someone for help. I never forgot how to make a deposit. Years later I asked my dad why he did that and he told me he wanted me to learn that when I had questions about money, to ask for help.
Now I may not go to the extreme as to send my children into a bank and say “figure it out,” but I do teach my children about finances in age-appropriate ways. My husband and I are very intentional when we teach about money. We begin early on by teaching the word, “No.” Not just saying that word, but teaching them to say it to themselves.
But what does that have to do with finances?
Well…everything. What happens when you take a child to the store? In my experience it’s usually, “I want…Can I have…” My children usually get the response of “No” or “Did you bring your money?”
We are not saying no to be mean parents, we are teaching them that our trip to the store has purpose and to buy impulsively is not the purpose. To give in to impulsivity is laying the groundwork for the gotta-have-it-now syndrome. Not teaching the word no (and meaning it) when children are young will create misery for the parent when they become teenagers. These teens then become adults who do not know how to say no to themselves turn right back to mom and dad to “help” them out. I have seen it many times.
There are times that they will ask for something small (gum, candy, ice cream) and I will allow them to have it if they earn it. They can either earn it by good behavior, or helping located items, or being a good listener. The choice depends on the age and what I know they can handle. My goal is to help my children succeed. I want them to be rewarded so I will praise and encourage them in their quest for the desired item. Once they earn the item (after a lot of praise from mom or dad) they have a sense of accomplishment and pride because they earned the prize. It strengthens their self-esteem and their awareness of what they can do.
My older child (a tween…heaven help me) will not hear the word “no” so much, but rather she hears, “Did you bring your money?” Usually that is followed by a tongue click, a heavy sigh and a “No…it’s at home, but can I borrow…”
Aha…knew that was coming did ya?
At first I didn’t think too much about that statement, but then I realized that if I allow them to “borrow” money from me, I am teaching them that it is okay to “borrow” money whenever you want something. When they become adults it will become too easy to “borrow” money from a credit card to pay for something they really can’t afford. Or they may “borrow” money from a friend or family member which can cause a rift in the relationship. We teach them that borrowing is not acceptable and that they can buy the item when the money is in hand.
At this point in the post there might be one or two of you thinking that we don’t love our children because we don’t give them anything. Oh those poor, poor children…deprived of love … and stuff…and
Wait a minute!
Let’s get back to the main point of this post. We are teaching financial responsibility. Because we LOVE our children we do this. We know that we are not raising children; we are raising soon-to-be adults who will one day need to be competent and responsible for themselves and to society.
One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 12:11,
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
…A harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Do you know what that means?!?
If I teach my children financial discipline now, when I am able to control their environment – now, when I can make sure they do not go into any type of debt – now, when I can teach them how to earn their possessions – later, they will know how to handle their money properly and I won’t have to worry about cleaning up any messes they will be a blessing, not a curse to others. I will have peace because they will be competent adults who can handle finances and all the ups and downs that go with it. I will have given them the tools to survive in the plenty and the scarcity of life. That is how I show my children love! And don’t worry, our kids get plenty of hugs and quality time from both of us – which are truly what they need and desire.
And although this blog is about finances…the matter of discipline in other areas of life are important, too! There are many visible examples of no discipline via the young celebrities we see in the media. I ran across a show called You’re Cut Off where the young women (mid 20s) did not know how to do basic cooking and cleaning and were disgusted that they were asked to do it. They didn’t know how they were going to survive without Mommy & Daddy’s money. What was even more shocking is when you met the parents; you realized how they got that way in the first place. The fathers couldn’t say “NO!” The parents felt their daughters “deserved” the best, but then cried out for help because their child was out of control with money. Hello?!? McFly?!?
Do you know what the result was at the end of the 8 weeks of this show? Many (not all) of the women felt a certain amount of pride in being able to accomplish things they didn’t know they could do. They felt great when they gave back to the community. These women were lost along the way to adulthood. They lacked real self-esteem and had no one to encourage and teach them on their journey to becoming self-sufficient. The parents did them a disservice by giving them everything and expecting nothing.
Remember, you control the level of pain when you discipline them in their childhood. If the lessons are not learned there, the world will inflict pain on them through adult life lessons – a pain you will not be able to control. I heard a motivational speaker once say “Discipline comes from within [the home] or discipline comes from without. But discipline comes.”
The writer of Proverbs in the Bible certainly knew that and wrote “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” Proverbs 13:24. Really? ‘Hates’ is a strong word. Well, what would you call intentionally sending someone into the world to experience intense pain in their personal life? Perhaps the more PC verse is a little easier to swallow: “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” Prov 29:17
Expect great things from your children.
Expect them to be respectful and earn respect.
Expect that they will be the responsible adults that you are raising them to be.
Expect them to earn their own things.
Because if you expect nothing….that is what you will get.