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More Is Caught Than Taught

What if our kids could magically acquire solid money management skills?  Don’t most parents hope their children grow up to be responsible adults with sound judgment on financial matters, even such basic things as making regular payments on their mortgages, setting money aside in advance for emergencies, and avoiding excessive credit card debt.  Have you ever known any parents who couldn’t wait for Johnny and his family to move back in with them because the children lost their jobs and didn’t have a nest egg put away?  Of course not.  It pains parents to see their children suffer.  It puts great strains on parent-child relationships when the parents have to be on continual guard for the dreaded request for financial help.  There is a huge internal struggle between wanting to help Johnny because he’s your son versus letting him learn from his own financial decisions, good or bad, thus risking apparent insensitivity to this need and pain.

Childrearing can be frenetic without adding money management 101 to the mix.  Where do you turn for practical coaching instructions?  There are classes and books and podcasts, but don’t they all seem scripted and, by the way, who has time to add even one more thing to the parenting plate between swimming, softball, piano, school, and family activities?

So that leaves thoughtful parents wishing this was part of Johnny’s school curriculum.  Or maybe the children could just have been born with financial skills.  Or maybe born with an operator’s manual on developing these skills.

Well, to a certain extent they were.  It’s you!  You, parent, grandparent, or any other adult close to your children, whatever your actual relationship to the young person is, you may also be the walking financial instruction manual for that child.  You paint a picture of money management skills, techniques, and emotional responses to financial things more often than you know when you are interacting with your children.  It may not be packaged in the “financial training” you have in mind, but rest assured the training happens daily.  Barring any other influences, it’s ingrained for life.

THE TALK YOU WALK

The financial training you provide every day, by example and whether intended or not, whether verbally communicated or not, and whether positive or not, is the talk you walk.  Think about it.  What are you mumbling about when you open bills?  How do you characterize your job on your cell phone while the kids are in the backseat?  When you are buying a gift for someone, how do you feel about it?  Are you fortunate enough that you can spend spontaneously, and thus give the impression that there doesn’t need to be careful attention given to money?  Do you express worry and anxiety about upcoming bills or purchases?  All these messages and attitudes that you believe is solely in your thoughts are communicated to your children just by keeping your company, and they will be lasting impressions for them.

BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT MONEY

What can you do?  How can you help shape the permanent impressions you make on your children with your daily words and actions?  Be intentional!  Think about what you are trying to accomplish.  It starts with you.  Do you want to have tighter control on your finances?  Do you want to save more?  Do you want to have less anxiety over money?  Do you want to express more open gratitude about your wealth?  Decide what you want.  That’s the first step.  You can read all the books and listen to all the podcasts, but if you haven’t settled with yourself what is important to you about money, and how you want to use this tool in your lives, then none of the training you can absorb will be helpful in the long run to those around you.  And if you aren’t clear on these things, your children may not get the message you intend.

What if they are grown?  It’s not too late!  In fact, it’s never too late.  But just like any other childrearing situation, it’s always different at different ages.  When they are older, you have to talk, share, and explain.  Be transparent.  Talk about the financial mistakes you made.  Talk about what you wish you had done differently.  Explain when you are struggling with the right financial choice for yourself, and why.  Once a parent always a parent.  More is caught than taught.

Every action you take and every word you utter about money shapes your children’s financial perspective.

It starts with you.