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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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