A recent blog post on Christian Science Monitor.com took a look at a 2012 Time Business article that claimed 77% of parents say that they are not always honest with their kids about money. The two statistics that stuck out the most for me were:
- Only half of all parents surveyed are willing to discuss saving and spending with their kids
- A third avoid talking about the family’s finances at all
I’m only the mom of a dog, not mini-humans, so I can’t claim to have ever had to struggle with deciding what to tell my children and what to keep from them. That being said, I grew up in a home with a lot of money tension. It seemed as if we were “over budget” every month, and there was a cycle of spending and saving that was irregular at best. We were told to “save our money” but never taught to save our money.
Guess what: your children will model what they see, not what you tell them.
I did the exact same thing that my parents did—I see my siblings doing it too. We get it in our heads that we need to cut back on spending, but then we see a new dress. Or a book we really want to read. Or a movie we want to go see. We start to lie to ourselves about how much we’re really spending. We lie to ourselves about the vast difference between what we say our priorities are and what they actually are, based on the behaviors that we demonstrate.
I don’t believe that you need to tell your children everything. It can cause unnecessary worry and if your family is in dire financial straits, it can be a huge burden for a child to shoulder. Isn’t it important, though, to show your children how to handle that? Maybe they don’t need to know the exact numbers, but what if you included them in family discussions about budgeting? You’ll screw up—we all do. You’ll make a stupid purchase or bounce a check. So what? Show your children how you live with the consequences of those mistakes and then show them how to make better choices in the future.
When they are adults, I guarantee your children will carry your lessons about budgeting and prioritizing with them as they face the realities of an uncertain job market and increased cost of living. What a great gift to give your children.