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Are You Training Your Child into Poverty?

Updated on May 18, 2013

Having open conversations about family finances teaches our children much about money management. Kids will mostly pick up ideas, skills and attitudes about spending, saving and debt, from their parents or caregivers. That's why it is vital to send out the right financial messages within the family.

Money doesn't grow on trees!

Many parents make these kind of statements to their children and can we really blame ourselves? We know things cost money. From nappies, clothes, toys and nursery fees, to car maintenance, broken toasters and toothpaste, most families experience financial stress about money every once in a while. But are we just passing our own negative money attitudes to the next generation?

Money lessons

There is a fine line between worrying our kids with stuff that they are not old enough to shoulder and keeping them in the dark. So should we let kids know that we won't be buying new toys right now because mom and dad are saving up for a new home? Must we tell them dad's hours have been cut and that's why mom is worried? That their little brother needs braces and there isn't enough money for video games until Christmas? The answer is yes, age appropriate ways of addressing money matters are positive for creating healthy money values in our children. Kids pick up stress like radars and almost invariably believe that family tensions are down to something they have done wrong. Therefore it is much better to be open and matter-of-fact about what is going on. If we have honest and straightforward about money discussions with our children, they will learn that money comes and goes, but financial concerns or strategies do not need to upset a family's fundamental balance.

Kids should not feel responsible for their parents

Most kids, once engaged into a money conversation, will feel more integrated and safe within the family unit. Whatever happens, we'll pull through together, is a reassuring message. It is vital, however, to explain that mom and dad will handle the family's well-being. This is the part where we must protect our kids. No child must ever be made to feel responsible for matters that should sit squarely on adults' shoulders. For example, it might be appropriate next time your children want a new Barbie or a video game, for them to participate in a drive to sell old toys on eBay or in a garage sale. This way they can learn to let go of old things in order to generate money (and make room) for new stuff.

Let children fantasise

Adults may come to points in their lives where they feel they'll never be able to realise their youthful dreams. We might have let go of that great career or the round-the-world trip to address other things. Sometimes life does not feel fair and responsibilities, illness and misfortune come our way. We should never stop our kids from dreaming of a better future though. We need to ask ourselves, what financial values do I offer to my children? Am I proud of my job, my home, myself? Do I transmit peace and ease when I talk about money or my job? Do I manage my finances proactively, giving the best possible example to my kids? Laughing cynically when a child says he wants to be a movie star might sometimes be tempting, but if we feel our dreams were once set back, do we really want to crush theirs? Nurturing our kids' optimism and their attitudes to building wealth, identifying and encouraging their real talents and offering them a safe environment where money is just a commodity to be wisely managed, are perhaps some of the best gifts we can offer our sons and daughters.

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    • Michael Tully profile image

      Michael Tully 4 years ago

      An excellent discussion of a very important topic, Johanna. The best lesson a child can take away from money discussions is that good money management consists in choosing wisely from among competing spending priorities. Needs and wants will always exceed available funds. That's just the way it is.

      Voted up++!

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 4 years ago from United States

      I agree with the fact that children should not have to take on the stresses financial matters. It is our responsibility to teach them to be responsible with money. However, kids need to be encouraged. Stressing over what the parents should be worried about is very counteractive to teaching them to be responsible with money.

    • Johanna Bergstrom profile image
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      Johanna Bergstrom 4 years ago from Fuengirola, Malaga, Spain

      Hi Michael, apologies for taking so long to reply! It's always such a pleasure to hear from you: "Needs and wants will always exceed available funds". You know, I'd never looked at it that way and it's a great piece of wisdom I am going to take away with me from your comment. Hope you had a lovely Easter week.

    • Johanna Bergstrom profile image
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      Johanna Bergstrom 4 years ago from Fuengirola, Malaga, Spain

      Hiya! Thanks for commenting. And yes, I really agree with you, it's all about finding a balance between protecting them and urging them on... us aprents have a tough and important (but rewarding) job to do.

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