Three mis­takes to avoid when talk­ing to kids about money

Chil­dren are eager to soak up fi­nan­cial di­rec­tion from par­ents, but they of­ten re­ceive mixed mes­sages

Toronto Star - - SMART MONEY - Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Isn’t it funny how most peo­ple have no prob­lem dol­ing out money to their kids, but when it comes to what we should re­quire of our chil­dren in ex­change for all that dough, the de­bate rages.

Some peo­ple like the idea of an al­lowance that has no strings at­tached. Oth­ers think any money a kid gets its grubby lit­tle hands on should be earned. We tie money to be­hav­iour. We tie it to grades. We tie it to chores.

From early on, chil­dren re­ceive mixed mes­sages about money. They watch us spend money in so many forms and for so many rea­sons they form their own twisted and delu­sional ideas about the pur­pose and use of money.

And if mom and dad are fight­ing about money, well, that brings its own lessons.

They’re eager to soak up any di­rec­tion a par­ent will give in terms of the role money will play in their lives. And if you point them in the wrong di­rec­tion, they won’t know. They’ll just fol­low your bad be­hav­iour to their own money hell. Mis­take No. 1: If you don’t smarten up, I’ll cut off your al­lowance! Money doesn’t work as a re­ward for good be­hav­iour. Good be­hav­iour is based on an un­der­stand­ing of right and wrong, thought­ful­ness, car­ing and con­sid­er­a­tion — all of which have to be in­ter­nal­ized. If you want a child who grows to be a con­fi­dent and cre­ative adult, com­pli­ance isn’t the les­son you want to teach. Money shouldn’t be your two-by-four. Mis­take No. 2: I’ll give you $20 for ev­ery A you get on your re­port card School is your kid’s pri­mary job, and good grades are an in­di­ca­tion that they are do­ing their job well.

Don’t ex­ter­nal­ize the re­ward. The re­ward should be in­ter­nal­ized: the self-es­teem and pride that ac­com­pa­nies hav­ing done well. Mis­take No. 3: If you don’t make your bed you won’t get your al­lowance Who pays you to do the chores in your home? Chores are a part of each in­di­vid­ual’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to the fam­ily. Pay­ment for reg­u­lar chores negates a child’s in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity as a mem­ber of the fam­ily unit. Pay­ment for ex­tra house­hold tasks — those above and be­yond a child’s nor­mal chores — is fine when they are specif­i­cally do­ing the task to earn money.

The big­gest prob­lem in ty­ing your child’s al­lowance to the com­ple­tion of her chores comes on the day when you must with­draw the al­lowance. Now you’re teach­ing your child, “I have the money and you’ll have to do as I say to get some of it!” That’s a straight-out power play. “I have the money, so I have the power.” Not a les­son you should want your kids to learn.

A far bet­ter tack for chil­dren who don’t fol­low through on house­hold re­spon­si­bil­i­ties is to do a like-for­like com­par­i­son. “Honey Bunny, if you don’t make your bed, I’m go­ing to have to. And I only have time to do one thing, make your bed or make your lunch. Which one do you want to do?”


If you want a child who grows to be a con­fi­dent adult, com­pli­ance isn’t the les­son you want to teach.

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