When you consider your children’s primary educators, you may picture a particularly impactful teacher or a coach who helped them up their game. But in reality, our kids learn many of life’s most important lessons from us and the way we interact with the world, including the way we perceive and manage money.
Thus, if we truly want the best for them (and what parent doesn’t?), we must be thoughtful about how and what we teach them. As Denis Waitley, author of Seeds of Greatness, so eloquently stated, “The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” It’s hard to bestow those invaluable gifts by accident.
And to do our due diligence, we have to think about how we’ll instill them early on, when our children are first learning how the world works.
As women, imparting these lessons effectively becomes even more crucial, as many of us know all too well that female parents tend to perform most of the child-rearing duties—and as Michelle, a client of mine, has learned.
She and her husband Chris have two children, Madison, eighteen, and Josh, fifteen. Both parents have worked hard to build a wonderful home and lifestyle in an affluent neighborhood. While they have tried to teach their kids about the value of money—and the importance of working for it—by example, Michelle admits that entitlement can be a problem. She shares that her kids assume they can order food or shop online whenever they like, with the help of their parents’ credit cards.
And when she suggested that Madison get a job this past summer—prior to her first year of college—Madison said she’d rather spend it with friends and didn’t feel the need to work before she “has” to. When Josh asked to embark on an expensive summer trip, his parents agreed to subsidize it for him.
While Michelle and Chris have always been proud that they have been able to give their children so many things they never had themselves, they are starting to realize the issues failing to deliberately instill more money-based lessons have caused. But with Chris working longer hours at a new job, Michelle will have to play catch-up, attempting to teach her children a money mindset the couple could have been instituting from the time they were toddlers.
Regardless of how old your children are now—and even if they have yet to be born—start thinking about what you want them to know about money. What are your and your spouse’s attitudes around it? How would you want them to behave when making a purchase for which you will foot the bill, whether it’s as insignificant as a pair of sneakers or as major as a college education? What kinds of choices do you want them to make when they’re in charge of their own purse strings? All these factors should play into what you teach them about money today.