Enjoy this insightful guest post from Mark at BareBudgetGuy. I know I did!
My mom always said that nothing compensates for good, clear communication. This is especially true in marriage. When the kids are finally in bed after a long day, and my wife and I finally have a few minutes to have some uninterrupted communication, we usually discuss what we are most excited about.
The problem is, however, that we are excited about very different things. I usually want to talk about some aspect of our finances. My wife often wants to talk about her latest house decorating or violin teaching ideas. The result is that we end up discussing either how we don’t have enough money in the budget for additional decorating or why some of her students haven’t paid her yet, and we both end up feeling upset.
We have gotten better though. We can now usually have a conversation about decorating or violin teaching without me bringing money into it, and my wife can now hang with the best of them when conversing about personal finance.
The wake up call
Though we’ve come a long way, I still sometimes wonder if I focus too much on money. I had a wakeup call one night just recently before putting the kids to bed. My son, who is 7 and the oldest of our three little ones, was saying a prayer.
Usually the kids’ prayers don’t vary much. They pray that they can rest well, be nice, and that the sick people will feel better. But he said something that night that made my wife and I look at each other with wide eyes. He said “Please bless my dad that he can make more money.”
At first I felt surprise. Then I felt excitement. Maybe the prayer of an innocent 7-year-old would carry more weight than my own prayers. But then I felt a little embarrassed. Did I really talk about money that much? So much that my son took it upon himself to pray that I could make more of it?
What am I teaching my kids?
That led me to think about what it is that I’m really teaching my kids. We consciously try to teach them good manners, to be grateful, and to be service oriented. But what about all the time I’m not teaching them, like when I’m talking to my wife about how the world will end if I’m not retired by 40? Those are the moments when they learn what Dad thinks is really important. They are constantly watching what we do, what we say, and how we react to things.
Here are a few things we’ve focused on lately:
We teach them about working to earn money
We recently started paying our son a quarter here and 50 cents there for additional jobs, not including basic chores like making his bed and keeping his room clean which we expect the kids to do anyway. We discovered that we can get our house cleaned for about $4.00. This kid is motivated!
We teach them the difference between not having money and choosing not to spend money
I used to tell my kids that “we didn’t have enough money” for things they would bug me to buy. In reality, we do have money, but we also have a budget. Instead of telling them we don’t have enough money, we are now careful to tell them that we just choose not to spend it.
I know people who grew up thinking they were poor because that’s what they were constantly told by their parents. In turn, they grew up with a scarcity mindset and a negative view of money.
If we simply say that we don’t have enough money, it’s easy for a child to interpret that if we did have the money, we would spend it. It’s better to teach our kids that we are in control financially and that we can choose where our money goes.
Simple ways we teach our kids there’s more to life than money
Do our kids know by our conduct what is truly important to us? The financial aspect of our lives can only contribute to our happiness when it’s in harmony with the other areas—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.
Less work, more play
How much time with our kids do we voluntarily sacrifice to work? This depends heavily on individual circumstances, but too often we send the message that work (or money) is more important than spending time with family.
Shortly after starting my career in public accounting, I came to dislike the idea that you get to wear some kind of badge of honor for hours worked. For me, it’s much more about efficiency and quality of work. Quantity time with kids, however, sends the right message and does qualify a parent for a badge of honor in my book.
We talk to our kids about current events
We have a world map on the wall next to our kitchen table, which makes it easy to talk to them about things that are happening in the world. It usually leads to discussions about gratitude, how we can help others, and a general awareness of the world.
These make a sample of some of the things we try to teach our kids that we’ve found actually seem to sink in. If we don’t teach our kids, they will still learn. It just might not be what we would have chosen for them. I’m realizing that I have to be more intentional with what I teach. Not only do I have to be in control of my money but also in control of what I teach my kids about money.
Do I feel bad that my son voluntarily prayed that I could make more money? Yes, a little. It was a good reminder for me to make sure I keep myself (and my family) balanced, but I’d be lying if I said I weren’t secretly pleased that he put in a good word for me.
Mark is a proud husband, dad to 3 energetic little ones, CPA, and the man behind BareBudgetGuy.com where he discusses family, finance, and encourages others to bare their budgets. He enjoys reading random tax literature at odd hours of the night, roughhousing with his kids, eating chocolate chip cookies & watching movies with his wife, and of course, all things related to personal finance.