Money, Debt – Do Those Words Affect Children?

Money, Debt – Do Those Words Affect Children?

Absolutely. First, think back. No matter what your financial picture is now, can you remember overhearing or maybe even having a discussion with your parents about money? Answers would be diverse and numerous; they might look like this:

1. I realized we didn’t have any money when my mother cried about my ripping a jacket;

2. At night I often heard my parents arguing about money;

3. When my father died, my mother had to work two jobs–to support us and pay off debts;

4. If my mother uttered the word debt or money, my father would shush her and take us all for ice cream.

5. From early on, my father focussed on my need to get a job to help the family.

Others reading this might have been fortunate enough to live in a household where money wasn’t a problem or an issue. But with the downturn in the economy and subsequent loss of jobs for great numbers of people, money concerns are now part of many households.  What parents or grandparents say about money and debt can negatively or positively affect how children feel and eventually handle their own money.

True wealth isn’t defined by how much money you have, but by how you use it.

Shannon Ryan grew up with this maxim. Her blog, THE HEAVY PURSE, reflects the lessons that her father began to teach her at the age of 13. He discussed the importance of spending money wisely thus giving a person the ability to purchase what matters most. He taught that financial freedom is definitely related to understanding one’s emotional relationship to money, which could be fear, anger, frustration, even boredom. Fear of money or anger that we don’t have enough can lead to profligate and unwise spending. The result? Emotional spending hinders the realization of goals and disallows living the life we want and deserve.

If you have decided to stop reading because none of this applies to you in your boomer years, please don’t. Do you read money gurus like Jean Chatzky and Suze Orman? Ryan is applying great principles about money to help prepare our children and grandchildren for a future where having enough money might be even more tenuous than it was for us.

1. Consider the emotional aspect of money: if money sometimes meant struggle for you, then consider teaching your progeny that it is a gift, one that can bring good things into life if used properly. Attaching too much emotion to money can make it a burden for the wealthy or something to covet for the non-wealthy—neither is positive or helpful.

2. Give money a purpose: discuss the importance of not spending mindlessly. Ryan advocates family meetings where money is discussed and goals (like a vacation) are set. Though her daughters are young, she and her husband are teaching money’s connection to goal setting. They might ask: which should the family save for this year—a vacation to visit a relative or a backyard climbing gym? They then plan and save for the decided upon goal. Her daughters have input and learn that this household does not spend mindlessly.

3. Set spending examples: Ryan’s children save the money they receive as gifts and from doing chores. A shopping expedition is a test to see if the “flashy new item” is really worth the funds they have saved. Ryan is proud to say the girls often decline spending their money and have learned not to beg Mom to buy the item for them.

4. Share money decisions: Ryan’s openness is healthy. I remember worrying about money as a child; I knew we didn’t have much of it. Once in a great while my mother could not help reminding us that we had to watch our spending carefully. But she also allowed us in on discussions about spending and decision making. We learned to pride ourselves on the money we made through summer jobs and the scholarships we earned to put us through college.

5. At the very least, talk about MONEY: Final thoughts. As parents and grandparents we teach our children so much, wanting them to grow up and succeed in life, become happy, well-grounded, successful adults. We give them the tools they need to reach certain goals: how to practice good hygiene, how to read, learn math facts, talk to adults, meet and become friendly with other children. But Ryan points out that rarely do we talk to our progeny about how to make smart money decisions. Ryan states: “If we really want our kids to succeed, money conversations need to become a priority and not an afterthought. Make the commitment to talk to your kids about money and if you don’t know how, then make the commitment to learn.”

Some money conversations can be difficult, but if debt is a problem and money is tight, Ryan has some great suggestions for budgeting and discussing budgeting within the family.

Money should not be a dirty word in anyone’s household. Honest discussions about a family’s economic situation works toward proper decision-making when it comes to spending. Including growing children and teens in the purpose of spending and the reasons for saving can help them build positive and emotion-free attitudes toward money as they build their own successful lives and careers.

Thanks to Shannon Ryan for her exceedingly helpful blog that can not only make money a positive word in our progeny’s vocabulary, but can also provide us with doable ideas about budgeting. Got a teen who wants to build up credit card debt? Arguments against. Check it out here. Our use and explanation of words like money and debt definitely affect our children’s economic future.

Money, Debt – Do Those Words Affect Children?

Thanks to Google Images

14 thoughts on “Money, Debt – Do Those Words Affect Children?

  1. Very good information for all families to teach. If children were taught how to manage a simple budget early in life it would become a positive habit. They would then be able to carry this with them through out their entire life. It’s not only about spending less than you take in it is about knowing where the money is being spent.

    • Thanks for reading and responding, Mel. I like that Shannon Ryan points out we worry so much about how to raise our children, yet money is often a taboo subject. Then all of the sudden our kids are teens and want to spend it and we haven’t bothered to teach them how to spend it, save it, and not use it for emotional satisfaction. Beth

  2. This is an excellent post Beth. We worried about money constantly in my house. I very distinctly remember an argument my parents had about money too. I was about 8 years old and I was out with my dad at one of those warehouse stores that no longer exist. It was called McDade’s and they had these neat photos for sale. They were framed and just beautiful. I was drawn to one with a waterfall in a forest in it. I stared at it forever. I didn’t have any decorations in my room at home and my dad thought it would be neat for me to have. There were 2 other portraits he loved as well. He bought all three. I don’t know how much they cost. I remember asking him if we could afford it and he told me not to worry…

    When we came home with the 3 beautiful pictures, my mother had a fit. She yelled at my father for being irresponsible and spending money they didn’t have. My dad stood his ground though. He said us kids deserved to have at least one painting that we admired in our bedrooms. He said our house was somewhat dreary at times and these pictures would add a little spark. I remembered him saying they weren’t that expensive and if we couldn’t let go once in awhile for the kids than as adults we’d grow up being angry… they argued for a long time…but my dad hung every one of those pictures. My picture was hung in my room above a light that shone right onto the waterfall and made it stand out even more.

    I am 41 years old now. I still have that picture. Every place I move too that is the first photo I hang up. I love that photo not just because my dad fought so hard for me to have it but because it taught me that sometimes it’s okay to do something nice for yourself. No, don’t drown yourself in debt and yes, watch your pennies but once in awhile you can do ‘treat’ yourself. My parents didn’t go into the poor house for those paintings. We still lived on a strict budget. We didn’t go out to eat, we didn’t get new clothes at the start of the school year, we didn’t go on many vacations. Once my parents were divorced the money situation became even worse. However, I always kept that picture. I felt bad for my dad that day but I loved him even more for letting me keep it.

    • Natalie,
      This is a truly lovely story. My husband read it too and came to me relating the contents. Very touching and so IMPORTANT. Money is a necessary evil, but if we think of it as sometimes cementing a relationship or providing a memory–it begins to have more meaning. Obviously you learned two things from your childhood about money–that it is precious and should not be squandered, but that it also can provide a moment of grace, a moment that stays with you and unites you to a person you love. Thanks for sharing this. Beth

  3. This is a very important BOOMER HIGHWAY. I think what we learn from this article, is that a child’s fiscal responsibilities are potentially developed in the home at an early age. Just as we learn behavioral tendencies, how one deals with money through out life can be instilled early on……..

    • Thanks, Bill. Yes, at the knee as we used to say–everything can be handled and taught and thus instilled. We were so fortunate to have a mother that honored money and focussed its use in our direction.

  4. Thank you for providing such wonderful posts, information, articles and just overall good stories! I try to pass on some of the amazing things my father showed me. I never once doubted that my father loved me and wanted the best for me. It’s provided me with an important foundation in life and most of all it’s provided me with the ability to keep moving on even when things were terrible.

  5. I grew up working, we worked around the house, farm, neighborhood, and when we were “bored” mother told us to go outside before she found us something to do. We didn’t stop for long My father wanted me to stay home forever, he trained me well..

  6. Work is good for the body and soul. Work fires you up and when you finally do come inside after a long day, you deserve the reward of rest and you FEEL IT.

    Thanks for you comment. Beth

  7. I completely agree children are listening. They may not understand what is being said, but they can feel the tension in his or her parents’ voice.

    • Thanks, Michelle. Such an important point. They feel the tension and later will connect those moments and a possibly insecurity will follow. Upfront, honest explanations can relieve that tension as they grow and hopefully love in a family will remain despite the problems. Beth

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