Two weeks ago, I posted about teaching kids about money by playing Monopoly. I have also written on teaching kids about money at the grocery store, and by using chores. After some feedback on Facebook, I wanted to take today’s post to look at the issue on a higher level. What can we as parents do to help our children grow in financial literacy in general terms? Games, stores, and chores are great for teaching specific skills in the moment but what about overall values concerning money management?
I believe that the most important thing we can do is to lead by example. Regardless of what the media says, parents are still the most important role models in the lives of their children. That doesn’t mean that we need to be perfect. We just need to be aware.
My in-laws rent a cottage for a week each summer and we join my husband’s family there for a week by the water. On our way there this past July, I was quizzing my children to see if they remembered their water safety rules. When I asked, “What’s the most important rule to remember about the beach?” I was hoping that they would say not to go into the water without permission. Instead, my daughter replied “Don’t feed the sea gulls.” Hmmm…. where did that come from? Apparently my reaction to the man feeding the gulls on the beach in Florida last Fall had more of an impact than my speech at the time about being careful in the water. My glares of annoyance had not gone unnoticed! Don’t get me wrong, I love birds. I just don’t think we’re helping them by feeding them chips and French fries. And, I don’t really want my towel (or my hair) covered in bird poop, thank you very much.
The point of this is that our actions speak louder than our words. We’ve all heard that before, but we don’t always remember that this applies to money management as well. Our children notice what we do in every area. They observe whether we make a list before we shop or if we decide on what to purchase as we go. They notice whether we buy everything we want right away with our credit card, or if we save up for things and then buy them when we have the cash available. My mother made a point of explaining to my sister and I that she paid off her credit card balance every month. I have never paid a cent of credit card interest. Coincidence? Probably not.
What do you do if you’re not in great financial shape yourself? Does this mean that your kids are doomed too? Not necessarily – particularly if they see you trying to dig yourself out. Watching my father pay small amounts on his credit cards every month had a huge impact on me as a teen. I calculated how long it was going to take him to pay things off and vowed to never let myself get in that kind of mess. If you’re dealing with your own financial struggle, and are not sure where to start, check out my Take this debt and SACK it series for a step by step plan on getting out of debt.
Remember that teaching our children about money is a journey and nobody is going to get it exactly right all the time. However, if we remember that little eyes are watching us, we’ll have even more incentive to make better choices. What financial behaviour would you like to focus on this week?
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