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Two Parts: A Teenager Shares Some Insight and Teach Your Kids About Finances

December 17, 2010 · 32 comments

in Parenting, Personal Finance

OK, this post is half-part story-sharing, and half-part teaching.

The Story:
We got some snow up here in Michigan over the weekend. The snow was so wet, I was surprised it was not rain. You had to shovel it every couple inches or you would risk breaking your back. We don’t own a snow blower, but I don’t know if a snow blower would have worked in this heavy of snow anyway.

Anyway, midway through the snow storm, Arctic air came rushing in, and all that slushy snow turned to ice.  The roads were a mess, and very treacherous.   Therefore, we got a snow day, hooray!

I love snow days.  I bake cookies, we play games, it is the best.  We have a sledding hill in our backyard that is open to the public, and quite often we will sled on snow days.  My youngest son cannot sled right now because of a back injury, but he was dying to play outside.  He looked out our family room window at some of the kids sledding and he said “Why can’t I go outside?  All those other kids are allowed to be outside.”  I was about to reply when my oldest son stepped in.  He said “How long have you known Mom?  Has she EVER cared what other parents let their kids do?  That argument will never work on her.”  Can I tell you how happy that made me?  Let me explain the ways:

  1. My 16 year old son gets that I don’t care what anyone else is doing.  My rules are my rules, and that is it.  The best part is, he seems to accept it!
  2. My kid(s) are actually listening, and understanding!
  3. I didn’t even realize my kids were listening and understanding!

The Teaching:
The lesson above proved to me that even though kids may not appear to be listening, they actually may be!   What is great is this whole lesson was taught more by example than lecturing.  (I never once agreed to something based on the ‘other kids can do it’ argument.)  If you set good examples and stick to your ‘rules’, then people know what to expect, and may even respect your decisions.  (This is true not only in parenting but also in business or whatever your field is.)

So know that your actions truly do speak louder than words.  If you have no regard for money and buy whatever the latest ‘thing’ is without saving for it, then you are showing your kids that impulse buying is OK.   If your kids see you running up to Macy’s to pay that credit card bill at the last minute, they are learning that not paying attention to your finances is A-OK.  However, if your kids see you saving up for something and buying it when it is on sale, they will learn the importance of a dollar.  If your credit card debt gets out of control and your kids see you cutting up your credit cards, then they will see that people make mistakes and can learn from them (and also the trouble that credit cards can get you into).

My final thought is this:  Be open with your kids.  Share you mistakes and your victories.  Show them how you manage your finances so they can understand how money doesn’t just come flying out of an ATM on a whim.   The more you ‘show’ your kids, the more they will learn.

Have you ever had an ‘AHA’ moment where you wanted to just scream with happiness because you realized that your example just may have made a positive impact?  As a parent, you don’t find out for years if your parenting is good or bad, so I love to take these little victories when I can get them.


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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Centavos December 17, 2010 at 8:05 am

That’s a great thing that your teenager has absorbed this lesson. Firm, fair and consistent is something to strive for. Mrs. 101 and I are sometimes pleasantly surprised by what our kids retain and remember, things that we’ve forgotten saying, but hopefully have become part of their memories.

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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:00 pm

101 – You are very right. I certainly hope their memory is not as good when I had my not-so-good-parenting days! :)

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Nicole December 17, 2010 at 8:07 am

Very nice story!

We’ve been working on a couple things here, though I guess more with words than with showing. The first is perfectionism (there’s a mostly unwritten post on our blog about this)… DC is very frustrated when (s)he can’t do things right away or can’t do them perfectly ((s)he had a melt-down trying to tie hir shoe laces), so we keep talking about how important it is to practice and how of course (s)he can’t do things yet… it takes practice and maybe a little bit of growing. We talk about how when (s)he was just born (s)he couldn’t do anything and how (s)he can do so much, and how when we were hir age we wanted to do all sorts of things we couldn’t, like stand on one leg or whistle or blow bubble gum bubbles or snap. And so we practiced and practiced and practiced. So we were happy when DC said one day that (s)he had been practicing and practicing standing on one leg and now (s)he could, look! Also (s)he’s been asking for help practicing hir shoe tying every night and spends some time on that. :)

The other thing is empathy. After a playdate with some mean kids, DC wanted to have long discussions about when it was ok to exclude someone from play and when it wasn’t. Now (s)he has opened up on the playground to playing with lots of different kids and when one of hir friends wants to play with just hir, (s)he tells the other kid that they can all play together. (This report just in from a preschool teacher yesterday.)
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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Nicole- sounds like you are doing a great job. Especially since your child is bright, s(he) may tend to give up when success doesn’t happen immediately (because so many other things do).

Including all kids is so important, as there are a lot of unhappy kids out there in the world. That is a very good lesson to learn young so it is just a part of who they are. Empathy is a wonderful thing.

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DIY Investor December 17, 2010 at 8:41 am

You are exactly right about kids listening and paying attention even when you think they aren’t – which can be most of the time actually. It was only after my son was in his mid 20s that I found out how much he enjoyed family trips to Arizona, Hawaii etc. In fact, he took me across country road trip camping two times because of his love for traveling that he says came from these trips. AQt the time I thought he was totally bored.
The thing is many teenagers see acting bored as being “cool”.
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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:05 pm

DIY- My kids are younger than yours, but getting these small glimpses of actually doing something right is so great. I cannot imagine how wonderful it is for you to hear from your child as an adult what they learned from you as a kid.

You never know what is going to spark someone. Isn’t it funny that you created a traveler?

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Money Reasons December 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

Good to hear that, but also it sounds like you have some smart kids! So I’m not surprised that they are soaking up all that you are teaching :)

I’m sure they will be level headed and money savvy adults once they are fully grown-up!

I think it also shows that they respect you, especially the way your 16 year-old explained your life philosophy to your younger son!
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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm

MR- Well thank you for your kindness, but I am sure I have also taught them plenty of things ‘not to do’ as a parent. They just aren’t bold enough to tell me those yet. (Maybe when they are older than 21 and home having some wine over the holidays one day… :) )

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Money Reasons December 18, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Perhaps, I’m sure there will be a few things, but probably not “too bad” of things! Sounds like your kids have a great foundation! I too, strive to create such a foundation ;)
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Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom December 17, 2010 at 9:21 am

Oh I know what you mean – I still remember my oldest saying to my youngest a few years ago “if all of your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?” And I don’t recall ever saying anything like that! Both are remarkably immune to peer pressure which I’d like to think they got via osmosis.

Because of my past financial issues, both of my kids are much much better with money than I was. I guess one can look at it in hindsight and be okay with going through it if it meant that it never had to happen for their kids.

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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Jacq- very true, hardship can be worth it if it spares your kids, that is for sure.

I love that your oldest ‘taught’ your younger child. I often wonder if it means more coming from a sibling than a harping parent.

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MoneyCone December 17, 2010 at 11:42 am

” If your kids see you running up to Macy’s to pay that credit card bill at the last minute, they are learning that not paying attention to your finances is A-OK”

You know the truth here is profound! I never thought of it that way… what an awesome post!
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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Moneycone- Thank you! I think even as an adult I still learn much better by example than through words. I know certain co-workers would ‘talk a good game’, but when it came time to actually follow through, they were nowhere to be found. It is a lesson for life.

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Squirrelers December 17, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I like this story, and picked up on 2 key points (for me, anyway):

1) Kids notice more than you think. They sure do, and for us responsible people (or so I like to think!), that’s a good thing. Always something to keep in mind.

2) The more you show, the more they learn. Agreed, it’s best not to shelter them too much. Protect, keep safe, guide – of course. But by restricting information and experiences, particularly parental mistakes, they’re robbed of great learning opportunities. I like this point of yours.
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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Thanks Squirrel. One thing I want to do over Christmas Break is collect all our expenses for the month and show the kids exactly where our money goes. I haven’t done an exercise like that in a while. With my oldest being 16, he really needs a refresher course as having money is becoming more important to him. (Life is more expensive when you are 16 than when you are 7!)

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First Gen American December 17, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Wow. You are such a cool mom. I just happen to be eating cookies as we speak, but my boss sent them as a christmas gift. I don’t think they’ll last through tomorrow though. I still have to make my sugar cookies. Perhaps next week.

My 5 year old is going through the same stage as nicole’s. He has a desire to want to do everything on his first try. Preschool and kindergarten are doing him a world of good though. I hate to say it but part of it is because he’s competitive and because he did head start he’s way ahead of a lot of the other kids. I think it helps him see that others don’t just get things instantly either.
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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:17 pm

First Gen- Baking is a wonderful thing, and I know you spend a lot of time canning and cooking. I still have my Christmas Cooking extravaganza coming up in a few days!

It is great your son is competitive as that will serve him well in life. So often people just give up when they don’t “win” the first try.

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc December 17, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Well, we all celebrate your aha moment as well. I’m glad your lessons are “sinking” in. You are completely right. Your life is your testimony: for better or worse. Your kids and many others are watching you in several capacities, so it is prudent to carry yourself appropriately. I like the part where you show how allowing your flaws and course corrections to be visible can serve your children as well as modeling the right behavior all along.

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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Shawn – I will say I am the first to apologize when I screw up around the house because I am certainly not a perfect mom, employee, spouse, whatever. I want my kids to see that they don’t think that parents have to be perfect. Life is hard and we all make mistakes. Might as well have something good come from it and have someone learn from a mistake instead of hiding it.

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retirebyforty December 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Great story! I need more mom wisdom. It’s good to know osmosis still works. :)
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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:21 pm

RB40- Osmosis does work in everyday life. Take even interactions with adults. Say you are fighting with your spouse and you rant and rave about something they did wrong. Your spouse then rants and raves back at you. Next time you are upset, you don’t rant and rave, but you say that your feelings were really hurt or whatever. Your spouse then sees your side of the story and is nice about it. Which way will you react next time you are frustrated? Tis human nature to respond in a manner that will be most favorable to you.

Did that response have anything to do with your comment? :)

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Suba @ Wealth Informatics December 17, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Great story Kris! You seem to be doing exceptionally well with the kids. I think generally kids learn more by observing the parents than actually listening to what they are saying. And they observe moer than we think. If you were copying other ladies in your neighborhood they might not have got that message. So great job!
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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Suba- well, thank you, but also keep in mind that I do not post about the latest argument I had with my oldest son about not doing extra credit in science or whatever. :)

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Invest It Wisely December 17, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Your kids, especially when younger, are paying VERY close attention to what you say and what you do, and if you’re a hypocrite, they will see right through you. Kids might be inexperienced, but they are much smarter than you in some ways… Kudos to you for realizing this and for engaging your kids and treating them with respect instead of “do as I say, not as I do”
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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Kevin- Kids are truly like little sponges. Some things we would rather they not remember, but they will. I just hope the good part is more prevalent than the bad part.

If you think about how little ones pick up language so easily and it is so difficult as adults (as you know from learning Mandarin), I also think that life in general is also picked up just as easily. It is just harder to quantify. Every moment in life can be teaching someone something, you just never know it.

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Molly On Money December 18, 2010 at 10:52 am

We had a snow day yesterday (our town only needs a few inches to call a snow day)! Love the snow days!!
Your so lucky your son said that out loud in front of you. As a parent we are up against so much pressure to raise our kids in ways we don’t agree with. Going against what every one else does and doing what we think is right can be a daily battle. I think it’s one reason parenting forums are so popular- occasionally we need someone around us to agree that we are not crazy!
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Kris December 18, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Molly – I will admit that I loved hearing that, it truly made my day. Like I said, it isn’t often you get to find out if your teachings are ever reaching your children’s brains, so I will take the moments when I get them.

You are right about the parenting forums, although some can be a little scary!

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Barb Friedberg December 19, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Heartwarming! I’m on a “patience” kick now, trying to practice it more in life. This is the perfect experience of how patience in parenting (and personal finance) is crucial. In life, the results are rarely final! It’s so nice to have some personal validation!
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