Am I screwing up my kids?
As a financial professional, I hear that a lot. There are a lot of parents wondering if their good intentions are ruining their children. They fear their children will grow up to be entitled adults who won’t have the resilience and coping skills to handle the “real world.”
Their concerns are not unwarranted given the spate of issues young adults face in the Millenials vs Boomers culture clash.
But what about our kids, the kids of GenXer’s, the iGen (internet generation)? iGen is the first generation to grow up with an iPhone in their pocket and social media as an everyday way of life.
Children of GenXers have grown up in the richest time ever
The concern about “screwing up our kids” isn’t a new one. I think every generation of first-time parents started with a “we’re not going to do what our parents did” mindset.
Despite our vows to be different, we often turn out to be just like our parents even using the same words they did. “Don’t make me come back there!” “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” “When I was your age, we never had blah-blah-blah!”
Sometimes, we find a way to raise our children differently only to mess them up in a different way.
Turns out this parenting stuff is hard!
What are we teaching our kids at home?
Not only do kids have greater access to the world via social media and the internet but they have greater access to more of … well, more of everything.
Today’s high standard of living has ushered in a life many of us GenXer’s could never have imagined.
Going out to eat or ordering in isn’t a special treat, it’s a way of life. How many times per week do we ask “where do we want to eat tonight?”
Vacation used to mean hopping in the car, driving to a state park, and pitching a tent for the week. Today, it’s “where are we flying to this year” or “what beach resort are we staying at this time?” Heck, “where are you going for Spring Break” is an expectant question.
They get all of the latest and greatest tech. And lots of it.
For many parents, the internal conflict is unsettling. They want to give their children the advantages that come with a comfortable life but prevent them from losing respect for why they have those advantages in the first place (i.e. hard work).
Which brings me back to the question that concerns so many parents: are we screwing up our kids?
The short answer is … probably.
Actually, it’s more like definitely. But, that’s true of every generation of parent. It’s a timeless cycle. Brought forth by parental guilt and unrealistic expectations of ourselves. Mom guilt is even worse.
The good news is we can limit how much we screw up our kids if we help them get their money right. Because money is a common thread that runs through every aspect of our children’s lives, it has the unique ability to influence their entire existence.
Teach Your Children Well
There are many tactics for teaching your children about money. The two most important elements of instilling a money mastery mindset in your children are to:
Show kids money talk isn’t taboo.
Talk openly about money in front of them.
Let them see you managing money (i.e. paying bills, reading statements).
Don’t shy away from their questions when they ask (and they will ask).
Be the example you want your children to follow.
Your kids are watching you. Always. And they’re formulating many of their world views based on what they see from you. Parents who model good financial behavior have children who often exhibit the same good financial behavior.
One of the mistakes parents often make is not introducing “money” into their children’s lives early enough.
Here’s a brief guide for introducing money concepts to your children and at the appropriate ages.
7 and under
- Pay them for doing small tasks around the house. Yes, even your four year old will get this.
For example: Pay them $.50 for helping you clean your office. Praise them and their behavior. Tell them you’re proud of them for “working so hard for their money.” And pay them immediately. You need to immediately link the action with the reward. Don’t worry about how “good” of a job they do. Just get them to participate.
- Let them spend their money. This is about reinforcing the idea that money comes from work and, when you have money of your own, you can choose how to spend it.
When you tell your child “no, I’m not buying that candy for you, but you know what? You can pay for it yourself.” And then they actually do! Now that’s something. It’s priceless.
- Tell them how proud of them you are for “working so hard” and they’ll beam with pride. The key is to link your praise back to the work they did not the money. Work is the antidote to entitlement. It’s all about reinforcing the importance of work.
Okay, I know there are some of you who are thinking “there’s no way I’m paying my kid to do something she should do for free. I get it. Don’t worry, this isn’t an all-or-nothing stand you’re taking. If our children don’t experience the work-pay relationship – which is at the heart of good money management – they’re far more likely to become that entitled child we’re so worried about. Plus, there are plenty of jobs that kids should do without pay and we’ll emphasize those too.
7 to 13 year olds
- Make them aware money is a limited resource by teaching these two things:
- The difference between a want and a need
- Every time they spend money, they’re making two choices, that there is an inherent trade-off with each purchase. Namely, when you buy one thing, you are also choosing to not buy something else. Choose wisely.
- Make them aware money is a limited resource by teaching these two things:
- Just say “no.” Really. It’s okay to say no to our children when they want something. Also, you shouldn’t feel guilty or embarrassed to say “we can’t afford it” if that’s the case. In fact, kids need to hear those words – “we can’t afford it.” It impresses upon them that money is a limited and, therefore scarce, resource. It also helps establish boundaries as kids will keep asking for as long as you keep giving.
- Get them used to handling money. I love the idea of paying for chores that don’t benefit the entire household (i.e. cleaning my office or car) or having them use their birthday or “Christmas” money for fun/entertainment purposes. There’s nothing like having kids pay their own way to impress upon them the value of a dollar.
- Time to start moving toward adulthood. This means opening a checking and savings account and helping them understand how to manage their money.
- This is also a great time to nudge your children to get their first real job*. There are tremendous benefits for kids who work while in high school. Not only will they have the opportunity to grow their hands-on money experience but they’ll also learn important life skills such as time management, patience, and being the low person on the totem pole. It’s a lot harder to feel “special,” when you’re the one doing all of the dirty work.
*Being involved in varsity athletics, music, band, or likewise are often good reasons for not taking on a part-time job. They provide many of the same personal growth opportunities as a job but can’t provide the money management experience that is so valuable.
- For kids who don’t work, parents need to find other ways for their children to gain money management experience. One strategy is to deposit a lump sum of money into their checking account at the beginning of the money, enough to cover all of their monthly expenses (i.e. gas for the car, lunch money, spending money), and see how they do. Chances are they’ll be pretty bad at first but then find their financial footing. All under the watchful eyes of mom and dad to ensure they don’t get into too much trouble.
There’s a lot more that goes into ensuring you don’t raise entitled children but this is a good start.
If you teach your kids money is a limited resource, that someone must go to work to earn money to pay for the things they have, and important choices must be made because you can’t afford everything, you can say without guilt you’ve done your part to put your children on the path to financial success.
Most importantly, make money-talk a regular part of your daily lives while being the example you want them to follow.
I think “tonight” sounds like a great time to ask your children what they know about money and if they are concerned about it. You may be surprised at the depth of their answers.
If you want to hear some real life mother-daughter conversations surrounding money, check out this video that captures pinnacle moments at a mom-daughter financial interview session we held.
Would you like to learn more about engaging in healthy financial discussions with your teen? Workshop sign up coming soon!