Awesome Article by Wilson Moy of Declutter Organize Repurpose!!
As a father of a preschooler, and toddler, my wife and I have found that educating our children on practically anything is really dependent on the core values we have as a family. We are strong advocates of attachment parenting and truly believe in Alfie Kohn’s principles as he expressed in “Punished by Rewards” and “Unconditional Parenting”
With that as a platform, we are planning on working towards a balance between making sure our daughters are raised without money being their primary goal of achievement, while still instilling an understanding of the importance of managing the money they will eventually have.
Our goal as parents is to have our children find what they love doing as adults first, have them understand the hard work involved second, and thirdly, ensure that they have the financial know-how to achieve their dreams and maintain the lifestyle they want to have. Pretty lofty, and like all parental goals, not easily achieved without planning, pitfalls, and sweat on our part.
Understanding Responsibilities and Expectations
We all have responsibilities/jobs in our household, chores that we each have to do in order to maintain our home. So, as my wife and I cook, clean, do laundry, take out the garbage, etc., we have Julia help sort laundry, get the garbage bags from the wastebaskets in the bedrooms and bathrooms, wipe the kitchen counter, wipe the dining room table/place mats and help empty the dishwasher (my younger daughter “helps” take out the forks & spoons from the dishwasher as well).
Do my daughters get an allowance/paid to do these chores? NO.
We see this participation as part of being a member of the family/household. They are expected to help and this does not warrant a reward. Just think, from the age of early toddlerhood, we’ve all sung the “clean up” song and encouraged and trained our kids to put away toys, etc. It’s a learned behavior to put things away and help keep order in a room/house. Work should not be done simply for payment and we try our best to make sure that there is no expectation of rewards for something that they should be doing as part of our family.
This may seem counter to some people’s thinking of starting them early with knowing how to “earn a wage” but we think that often times especially from a young age, children need to first understand how to function in a family, group, etc. and learn good work ethics first before introducing money.
I grew up in a family with very limited funds, I had three siblings, and my father was a waiter, my mother was a seamstress, the money I received was just enough to pay for bus fare and lunch at school.
Contributing to chores at home was a responsibility everyone shared, we all took turns washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning, etc., there was no talk about being “paid” for it, because there was simply no money left – I credit that time in my life for my drive and early start at earning my own money (working at the local independent burger place at 14), as well as my penchant for saving. I believe that just because we have relatively more now does not mean that I take away that key learning from my daughters.
Making Saving a Habit
At the young age of 4 ½ we don’t expect our older daughter to fully understand how much things cost or the value of $5 vs. $50, but we do instill the value of saving for the future. So when birthday/holiday money is received, she knows to put it into her piggy bank and that act itself brings her much joy!
We look forward to the day in the near future when we bring her to the brick and mortar bank and open her first savings account. We are slowly introducing the idea of spending the money, and what responsible spending is.
For now, the concept of “donating” is our focus, we’re starting with things rather than money, since this would feel more concrete to her – contributing to her community is an important component that we are introducing to her as part of her evolving financial understanding. So far she has helped gather and donate items for food/clothing/toy drives at her school.
Stemming “I want-itis” and Learning Delayed Gratification
At this stage in my preschooler’s life one of the hardest thing to reign in are the “I wants”. Almost all parents deal with their children and their “I want…” syndrome.
It’s not the wanting that’s wrong (regardless of what they want at this age – it’s usually something from TV or at their friend’s house anyway), what needs to be curbed is their thinking process before and after the “I Want” comes out. What we tell our daughters when we’re in a store, for example, is that “We are not buying any toys today, we are here for A and B only.”
When she sees a new cereal or cookies or something that she “wants” we tell her “Sorry, but we buy things that we need and look for sales and try to use coupons.” This has sunken in as when we go shopping she’ll ask “Is this on sale?” or “Where is the sale section?” )
In short there should be an expectation of no instant gratification and some level of pre-thinking involved. I admit it hasn’t been easy, and it takes a lot of consistency on the part of both parents to get somewhere with this, but so far we have a 4 ½ year old that knows we don’t just buy something at a store on a whim, daddy works hard for the money we use at the store, and we usually wait for a sale or a coupon to buy something.
Most importantly we always ask her “Do you really ‘need’ what you ‘want’?”
What we’ve also learned is the perfect reply to an adamant “I want” is sometimes the simplest one—(this comes from her Montessori guide) – “bummer”.
We are regular users of Craigslist for selling and purchasing items. So as our oldest daughter outgrows her stuff and our youngest has no need for it, we post it on Craigslist and they know that the cash from the sale goes to their piggy banks.
This has worked in teaching them on a basic level that there is value and worth to our things/toys. So much so that our oldest has asked “Can we sell ABC so I can have money to buy XYZ?” She has also seen us have garage sales or go to garage sales, enough for her to want to do one herself.
It’s a simple beginning introduction to selling items for cash and a quick way for her to see the process from beginning to end.
Each family obviously has their own way of teaching the vital skill of financial know-how, and we still have a long way to go before we can really say that our method has worked for us. But all we can do for now is combine what we know from personal history, from my work with my clients, and finally, our core values, into fulfilling our wishes for our children.
What we do know is that in the scheme of things, financial management is only one wedge in a whole spectrum of knowledge that our children need to know in order to become productive, happy, and fulfilled adults.
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