Raising children is hard. It seems that everyone has all the correct answers to raising children until they have kids of their own. All we can do is learn from the triumphs and mistakes of the parents before us. Some questions that they do not answer in the parenting 101 handbook are how to teach your kids to be generous, how to provide for them but not spoil them, or how to help them become financially wise and independent. Here are some answers from experienced parents in our office.
Parents might consider balancing the perspectives of book smart, street smart, and practical learnings as they try to teach their children to become successful, contributing members of society. When parents consider all three areas, children have a better probability of becoming successful in the world. Unfortunately, we see too often that some parents have trouble launching their children into the adult world of self-sufficiency. This is a result of principles not learned by them in their adolescence. A healthy operating family economy that teaches work ethic, responsibility, and deferred gratification vs. spending and instant results increases the chances of success in launching a child into adulthood. What lessons can be learned since every parent and child is unique?
A healthy family economy teaches all members to live within their means. How parents teach responsibility vs. entitlement is critical. For example, chores like cleaning up after oneself, washing dishes, taking out the trash, etc. are all examples of responsibilities for simply being a member of the family unit. The family economy should also teach children to look for opportunities to earn money. Sweeping the garage, washing the car, cutting grass, etc. could be examples of ways to earn money to spend and save.
On the topic of saving, children can easily save 50% of every dollar they receive for their own education or trade school later in life. A parent or grandparent could match 1%-100% of that child’s savings when saved for education (sound familiar to those working today?). Life-changing lessons can be learned by instilling principles of deferred gratification early on. Children should be expected to pay for many of their own wants – candy, toys, etc. A parent can help a child save money for the item rather than automatically paying for everything. For example, rather than outright buying your kid their first car, split the costs 50/50. That child will take more pride and responsibility in driving the vehicle.
What do you expect your children to pay for when it comes to college expenses? Is it the “full-ride parent scholarship?” What skin-in-the-game do they have in higher education? Having children pay for some of the expenses, such as books, living expenses, food, and entertainment, will instill pride in their grades and accomplishments.
How do parents teach the concept of “borrowing money?” Is lending children money teaching them convenience where required repayment is within days (like credit cards are a convenience to be paid-off every month) or living beyond their means because they simply want to buy something now without consideration and plan for repayment? How parents respond teaches children principles of extended living, patience, appropriate borrowing, and repayment terms among other principles.
Parents need unity and consistency to ensure the follow-through of consequences to teach children accountability and empowerment. Successful parenting is trying not to enable children by doing for them what they can do for themselves. Teaching your child when young the empowerment of being self-sufficient builds self-esteem and character. Do not to be afraid to try and fail. Failure is expected and life is practice – and luck is defined when preparation and opportunity come together. A strong family economy is more than money and a heavy parent responsibility to not be taken lightly. Parents need to devise a plan, be willing to revise with each child, and become united on this topic.