Parenting children is complicated. We love our kids and we want to help them in any way we can. We want them to feel happy and carefree, but we also want them to be self-sufficient and humble. How do we give our children the life we “wish we had” without contributing to the growing problem of entitled, maladjusted adults?

7 Tips to Raise Grateful Kids

1. Say no

And mean it. Saying “no” is a way to teach children that life doesn’t always go their way. That’s an important lesson to learn from a young age. Sure, your child might want something — a toy, candy, pair of shoes, or a new car — but that doesn’t mean they should get it.

The word “no” is only effective if you say it and mean it. When you say no, stick to it and establish healthy boundaries with your kids.

2. Make them work for their money

Children have a hard time appreciating the value of a dollar if they’ve never worked for it.

For younger children, pay them to do household chores or for contributing to the house beyond their normal duties.

The quickest way to get teenagers to respect money is for them to earn and have money of their own. Encourage them to get a part-time job or a side hustle for their “going out” money. And it goes without saying that every woman should have access to “her own” money.


3. Make them pay for their wants

Once your kids are working, they should “contribute to the cause”. Special clothes, upgraded cell phones, or gas/insurance for the car are all “luxury” items (not necessities) that they should contribute to. This is a way for them to start connecting the dots between time and money. Sure, you can have that $160 pair of shoes but is it worth 15 or 20 hours of work?

If you have young children, have them save some of their allowance in order to purchase a toy rather than just buying it for them. The experience of having to part with money that took time and effort to acquire is essential. Just remember the younger the child, the shorter the attention span, the smaller the purchase.

4. Teach them to serve others

If you want your kids to have a more realistic vision of the world around them, let them see it. Set up opportunities for them to volunteer to help the less fortunate. Have conversations about how other people live and go deep into the decisions and circumstances that contribute to their situation.

It’s easy to complain about how “unfair” it is to have to pay for your car insurance until you see someone who literally has all of their possessions in one box. We could all use a dose of humility at times.

5. Teach empathy

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. To be able to see the world through their eyes. If you want to raise grateful children, teach them empathy.

The most effective way to teach empathy is to model it for your children. Both in word and action, be empathetic towards others. Be cautious not to judge others and never disparage them as people. This doesn’t mean you exonerate bad behavior but you can separate the behavior from the person.

If you model this behavior, chances are they will too. Additionally, when the opportunity to “judge” a peer arises, ask your children to put themselves in their shoes and to think about what could be contributing to how they’re acting. Don’t be surprised if you learn as much from them as they learn from you.


6. Teach gratitude

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” – Epictetus.

Having a grateful temperament is one of the greatest attributes you can instill in your children.

Research shows that an attitude of gratitude leads to more positive emotions, improved health, the ability to deal with adversity, and the ability to develop strong relationships. Grateful people also make better friends, spouses, employees, and co-workers. So, do yourself and your children the great service of teaching gratitude.

An easy way to get started is to build the simplest and most fundamental of habits: teach them to say “thank you.” They’re magical words. They do so much for the giver and the receiver.

And they’re in short supply.

I don’t know if parents aren’t teaching it to their children or if children are ignoring their parents (parents and children alike are blaming each other as we speak), but there’s clearly a shortage of “thank you’s” floating around.

Exhibiting sincere thanks when someone does something for us is not only good manners but the cornerstone for cultivating a grateful heart.

7. Teach that money is a tool

It’s important to teach our children what role money plays in our life. They need to know money is a tool to help us accomplish the important things in life. That money is neither inherently good nor evil. That money is a means to an end, not the end itself.

When we view money as a tool to be used to supply us the goods and services we need to live a fulfilled life, we relinquish some of the power it has over us. Money isn’t something to be worshipped, but a resource to be harnessed and put to use to enable us to live our best lives.

There are many other ways to raise grateful kids. What tips do you have for raising grateful kids? What has worked for you?


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Your kids.  They’re your everything.  You give your all to them in the hopes they have a joyful and fulfilled life.

The sacrifices parents make for their kids is almost a badge of honor amongst parents, especially moms.  “That’s just what you do for you kids” is a refrain repeated over and over by parents everywhere. It’s even said about adult children.

It’s a noble refrain.  What’s more important than taking care of your children?  It’s pure. There’s no quid pro quo when you give to your children.  It’s all about them.

Which is why it’s one of the more abused phrases in the parental lexicon.

“That’s just what you do for your kids” has become a catch-all phrase to justify even the most over-the-top financial decisions.  It’s used as justification for buying things we can’t afford and taking on the financial burdens of our adult children. And it’s become a scourge to a growing number of would-be retirees as they struggle under the weight of their adult children’s financial issues.

What Are We Teaching Our Kids By Giving Them Everything?

Kids need limits.  We know this. And yet, when it comes to money, we often fail to set appropriate boundaries.  We bend over backwards for our kids to pay for the expensive private school, to get them the car they want versus the car they need, so they can play club sports.

We do this even if it means they aren’t saving enough for our own needs.  We retire later or live on less, carry thousands of dollars in credit card debt, deprive ourselves of the things that bring us joy and fulfillment.

Why do we do this?

Queue the refrain – “That’s just what you do for your kids.”

There is so much that is wrong with this way of thinking.



Dividing Lines

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be doing as much as we can for our children but we have to be realistic given our financial situation.

There’s a big difference between overpaying when you can afford and overpaying when you can’t.

While I question the wisdom of overpaying because “that’s just what you do,” I understand it IF you can afford it.  

But, for those who can’t afford to overpay, it’s an absolutely devastating practice.  Putting your retirement, health, and well-being in jeopardy to indulge your children is a terrible idea.

Indulging our children only makes sense if you can afford it – and even then it’s debatable.  The problem is we rarely see our “indulgences” as “indulgences.” We see them as “responsible parenting.”

Private schools.  Overly expensive first cars.  Club sports. Rent for adult children.

It’s easy to justify these expenses.  Private schools tout their track record versus public schools to justify the high price tag.  Car dealers beat you over the head with safety statistics and visions of your girls waiting on the side of the road for the tow truck to arrive.  Coaches talk up your girls’ talents and how they just need a little something extra to get them over the hump.

Faced with these arguments, would you feel like you’re overindulging your kids or just being a good parent, affordability be damned?

Let’s face it, no mom (or dad) wants to think of herself as a bad mom so there is a strong bias to do more than less.  Because “that’s just what you do for your kids.”

Guilt is a powerful motivator.



Where to Draw the Line

One of the problems is parents often engage in dichotomous thinking.

Dichotomous thinking is the tendency to think in terms of polar opposites.  Things are either good or bad; it fails to accept the myriad of options that lie between the two extremes.

Parents often view their support decisions through this “all or nothing” lens.  Private schools are good, public schools are bad. A new car is good, a used car is bad.  Good parents take care of their children even if they’re adults, bad parents don’t.

Real-life is far more nuanced than that.  Which means it’s gonna get messy.

Sometimes, private school is the best option because the public schools in your community aren’t safe or don’t foster a positive learning environment.  Sometimes, not always.

There are pros and cons to paying for club sports even if you can afford it.

Buying a new or expensive car for first-time drivers is almost never a wise thing to do.  Sorry. I see no good reason to buy an expensive car for a first-time driver.

Not paying for your adult children’s expenses doesn’t make you a bad parent.  Paying for them doesn’t make you a good parent. In some instances, it’s actually bad parenting.

The point is life is messy and we need to guard against our tendency for all or nothing thinking.

3 Ways to Guard Against Doing Too Much

    • Throw all of your preconceived notions out the window.  For example, don’t assume private schools trump public schools.  Research both options thoroughly and then make your decision.  Weigh the pros and cons of each school and the costs associated with each option.  The private school may have a slight edge overall but with a price tag of $10,000 per year, perhaps those dollars are better spent on college or retirement.  You have to determine how much bang you’re getting for your buck.
    • Buy (very) used cars for first-time drivers.  They cost far less, insurance is cheaper, and a “safe” used car is still “safe.”  Repairs are cheaper and dents in used cars, which teenagers are prone to, often go unfixed.  Lastly, get them a AAA membership and let them make the call if the car ever breaks down. Even newer cars get flat tires.  Better to deal with these things under the watchful eye of their parents than when they’re off to college and have to fend for themselves.
    • Stop supporting your adult children.  This is a serious problem. For them and for you.  Kids, even adult kids, will take as much as you will give them.  If you keep giving, they will keep taking; it’s not supernatural.  Instead, start setting specific boundaries. For example, set up a schedule that reduces your support by 25% every three months.  After one year, you will not provide any financial support at all. Your support should be a life line, not a way of life.




Let Go of the Guilt

Kids are expensive.  There’s no denying that.  Even if you’re just providing the basics, they’re expensive.  And if all you can afford to do is provide the basics, that’s okay.  In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s awesome. You’re doing everything a parent should be doing for their children.

Anything beyond the basics is gravy.  They’re “nice to-dos,” not “must-dos.”

Free yourself from the pressure, anxiety, and guilt that comes with feeling like you’re not doing enough for your children.  

It’s time we stop saying “that’s just what you do for your kids” as justification for making bad financial decisions or for taking on an adult child’s financial burden.

So, what do you think?  Have you ever fallen down this mental trapdoor?  Have you seen others struggling with doing too much for their children?  Please share this blog or share a comment below!



“Don’t be like Grandma Marie”.

Doesn’t sound flattering, does it?  Makes it sound like “being Grandma Marie” is a bad thing, as if she is a bad person.  Fortunately, that’s not the case.

Grandma Marie is a wonderful lady, a colorful character full of fantastical stories of the motherland (South Korea), a 4’ 11” spitfire who has a way of letting you know she’s not to be trifled with.

When she’s around my girls, she has an intoxicating look of warmth, contentment, and pure joy.  I know that sounds like hyperbole but I am grateful it’s not. If you need further proof, this is a woman who unabashedly stated – once to me alone, and again while in the presence of all of her children – “you love your grandchildren more than your own children.”  Well then.

I don’t know how that tracks with other grandmas but I believe it with this one.  Perhaps, it has to do with the quality of her children … ?

So, why the dire “don’t be like Grandma Marie” warning?  

I won’t get into all of the details – you can read her story here – but the short answer is my mom was not in control of her financial life.  

She was entirely dependent on my father, who at the time, used money to control my mother’s behaviors.  She was forced to remain in an unhealthy marriage for far longer than was desired.

Her lack of understanding and access to her own money led to her biggest life challenges and regrets.

My mom’s story is an unfortunate one.  It’s a story born more out of circumstance than poor decision-making.  (I say this after many years of careful thought and consideration.)

One of my deepest values is my belief that we are responsible for our actions, that we own our decisions and must look inwards first, and that we can’t ever run from the starring role we play in our own lives.  Being a victim of circumstance should be a rare thing.



The story behind “don’t be like Grandma Marie” has taught me many things.  For the sake of this blog, I’ll narrow the learnings to what it taught me about how important money is when raising strong, independent, formidable daughters.

Looking at my mother’s situation, I can clearly see how not having access to her own money severely affected her ability to live life on her terms.  

It taught me “why” it’s critical women gain and retain their financial power.

It also fueled my passion for preventing history from repeating itself with my girls. 

It provided me all of the motivation I’ve ever needed to make money mastery a lynchpin of our job as parents. I’ve always viewed our children as “adults in training.”  Finance needed to be a foundational piece of their training.

Bottom line: no one should have to go through what my mom went through.  If she had access to her own money, she would’ve made different life choices and all of our lives would have been different.

“Prepare the child for the road not the road for the child.”

If my kids fall into the same trap as my mom, it will be by “choice”, not circumstance.  There’s no language barrier to overcome. No impenetrable cultural and social obstructions.  No valid claims of ignorance or misunderstanding.

No, if my girls become like “Grandma Marie,” it will be because I’ve failed them as a parent and they’ve failed themselves as independent decision-makers.




Sound harsh?  Some may think so.  I don’t. It doesn’t really matter though.  It’s not about me being right and others being wrong or vice versa…. none of us make the rules.  I can’t bend the will of society to fit my view of the world. I don’t live in the world as it “should be.”  I live in the world as “it is.”

So … I’m preparing my children for the road, not the road for my children.

I know if my girls get their money right, they will accomplish two things:

  • Empower them to make life choices that align with the important things in their lives
  • Eliminate being forced to take a course of action against their will or desires


KEY LESSON:  Money is Fungible

(Big word…. Keep reading!)

Because money is fungible – meaning, it can be readily turned into something else of value – it has tremendous power in society.  Being fungible gives money its power. It is why money is so important, and why the pursuit of money isn’t evil or makes you a bad person.  It’s smart and practical and NECESSARY.

Education and work/life skills are also fungible.  

Your education and skillset have broad applications in the world, which is why they’re so valued.  We celebrate our pursuit of education and our desire to increase our skillset. No one looks upon these pursuits as evil or that they make you a bad person.  This is also true for money.

The trick, like just about everything else in life, is to know when your motivations for the pursuit of something end up causing more harm than good.

So, yes, being overly focused on money can lead to very bad things.  But, so too can be said of food, exercise, looking younger, sex, protecting our children, and on and on and on…

We focus on money in our household not because I’m a financial advisor but because it is important for our kids to not repeat the sins of the father.  Or, grandmother in this case.

Women are generally more vulnerable to financial abuse and are far too willing to cede control of their money to men. Being the father of 5 daughters, this makes it even more important to make money an ongoing topic of “conversation” in our household.

I put the word “conversation” in quotes because many of our money “conversations” don’t involve much talking.  At least not in the traditional sense.

Much of what we’ve taught our children about money is done through our actions, our observable behaviors.

It’s all around us for everyone to see.

From the cars we drive to the clothes we wear and the food we eat.  Where we shop, how much “stuff” we own. It’s visible through abstention – what we don’t have, what we don’t spend money on, what we aren’t doing that “everyone else is.”

Half the time my kids think we have a lot of money.  The other half of the time they think we don’t have any.  It’s a tough trick to pull off but it’s possible.

It’s taught our girls that money is really, really important in our lives.

It’s taught them it’s 100% okay to pursue a job that pays you a lot of money.

It’s also taught them you may not need a job that pays you a lot of money.

Based on what you value in your life, you can live off a surprisingly low amount of money.  Or, it can require you to “need” an equally surprisingly high amount of money.

The choice is yours. There is no right or wrong.  

How you live your life is your choice and your choice alone. You shouldn’t concern yourself with what others think, say, or do.

No FOMO.  No ‘keeping up with the Jones’.  No Facebook or Instagram lives to live up to.

This is big-time stuff.

It’s highly emotional.

It’s the stuff that changes a person’s life.

Strong, independent, formidable women




Being financially strong isn’t a guarantee you or your daughters will be strong, independent, formidable women.


Not being financially strong isn’t a guarantee you won’t either.

But, this isn’t about guarantees.  It is about putting the odds on your side.  About putting yourself and your daughters in the best possible position to be that woman.  And in order to do so, obtaining mastery over your money is essential.

Always keep in mind:

Full equality cannot exist without financial equality.

This is why enlightenHer exists.  To help women take control of their financial lives and, in doing so, help them live their life according to their values and aspirations.

I want this for my girls and I want this for all women.  And it’s not just wishful thinking.

Despite the challenges, the thought of financial equality between men and women isn’t that far off.  It won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. And no one is going to do it for you.

But …

It’s within reach.  We just have to go out and grab it.  We hope to help you do it!

If you are moved by this topic or know someone who needs to hear this message, please sign up for our email list to receive our latest blogs and be notified of new resources.   There is plenty more to come!


Written by: Ed Vargo
Financial Advisor.  Father of 5 daughters.  Creator of



As the father of five teenage daughters and a personal finance professional who primarily works with women, I have a unique perspective on what it takes to raise daughters who are good with money. This perspective is borne out of 20 years of immersing myself in the financial lives of the women I work with and how their money decisions have shaped their lives.

Not surprisingly, a woman’s money scripts – her thoughts and behaviors around money – are strongly shaped by her childhood experiences. This usually means learning by seeing and overhearing as conversations about money are few and far between

Mistake #1 – Parents aren’t teaching their daughters about money.

A few years ago, I conducted a study on “women and money.” I was surprised to learn how rare it was for women to be taught about money as children. Almost to a person, real discussions about money did not happen.

Whether it was deemed uncouth or rude or whatever, talking about money was verboten. Even in today’s society where the wage gap has dramatically decreased (still lots more work to be done) and the economic power of women has never been higher, there is still this undercurrent of women are not good with money and we shouldn’t be talking to our daughters about such things.

Solution: Don’t be afraid to teach your daughters about how money works. You don’t need to be an expert to know that running up credit card debt is bad and saving money regularly is good. Don’t assume your daughters knows this!!

Mistake #2 – Being afraid to say “we can’t afford it” (even if you can)

Despite mistake #1, our daughters are learning about money from us even if we aren’t talking directly to them about it. Kids are sponges, always soaking up information, always formulating what is appropriate based on the behaviors of those around them. #1 on the list? You got it – us, parents. We are their primary role models not only in terms of the things they say, the foods they eat, the manners they adopt, but also the way they view money.

If they never hear these words – “we can’t afford it” – they are predisposed to grow up thinking that everything is affordable. Do you think “entitled” children became entitled without being taught? Entitlement is learned behavior – no one is born with the “entitlement” gene.

Some parents are afraid to tell their daughters the truth. They fear that they will not be deemed “successful” if they don’t give their daughters the same things the other kids are getting. This is not only dangerous for children but for the parents. Spending money to keep up with the Jones’s is a cliché but

Being successful isn’t creating impression of your life. Be true to yourself and be honest with your children. Life is life. Sometimes we can’t afford the things we want the most. The sooner they learn this lesson, the better they will be for it.

Ah, but what if you can afford it? Be pragmatic. Don’t be afraid to say “no, we can’t afford it” even if you can. Teaching your children important life lessons is more important than being 100% truthful all of the time. Besides, “afford” is a completely subjective term so who is anyone to say whether or not you can afford something? Sidebar: any parent who says they are 100% honest with their children 100% of the time is 100% fooling themselves!

Why is this so important? Unless you plan on bank-rolling your girls for the rest of their lives, they need to learn how to discern what they can afford and what they can’t. Rampant credit card debt often arises early in a woman’s life as she continues living the lifestyle that was created under the shadow of mom and dad’s financial resources and was never taught the consequences of doing so.

Mistake #3 – Bailing Them Out When They Make Mistakes

One surefire way to mess someone up financially is to bail them out whenever they make a mistake. Look, I get it, you don’t want to see your daughters suffer. One of the most difficult, gut-wrenching moments of being a parent is watching your children fail. It’s natural to want to rush in and fix it, to make the pain go away.

Unfortunately, you just can’t kiss the money boo-boo and make the problem go away. All you’re doing is creating a monster. Cute, little monsters in pigtails who grow up into not so cute monsters with agendas of their own. I can give you oodles of real-world examples where adult children are still suckling at the parents’ financial teats because the parents have allowed it to happen, some even using the grandkids as leverage! Note: this is not a “daughter” issue.

Solution: Stop Creating Monsters and Cut. Them. Off.

I know, the kids of today don’t feel like they’re adults until age 30. Whatever. That doesn’t mean you need to support them financially until age 30. This also doesn’t mean you turn your back on them, either. This isn’t “all or nothing” parenting, teaching.


Did you pick up on the fact that these “money” mistakes have less to do with “money” and far more to do with human behaviors? Do you fault the tool (money) or the wielder of the tool (you)? If you want to create financially savvy women, you need to instill in them the proper money mindset. The issue isn’t all that credit card debt they have; it’s how it got there in the first place. Treat