Travel back in time to your childhood. When did the concept of money first enter the picture? Was it a grand mystery or did you have people in your life take time to instruct you on its purpose? Were there any bad habits you observed? Any good habits you tried to adopt?
Kids don’t pay the bills, but they are absolutely watching how we live our lives. I believe that includes how we handle money. When better to start the conversation on how to handle things like a paycheck, a spending plan, the dangers of debt, and giving generously than when your children are in “sponge mode,” curious and full of questions?
School may teach them to count money, but I believe it’s on us, the parents, to teach them how to properly use it.
Wondering where to start? Let’s create some teachable moments with these conversation starters.
Tell them why you’re buying the item (i.e. gasoline to keep the car running, a coat to stay warm, etc), how the money was earned, and how much time it took to earn it. Say something like, “It took daddy/mommy three hours of work to pay for the gasoline we put in this car today.” This will help your children realize that money comes from WORK. It didn’t grow on the maple trees in the front yard!
Give your kids a chance to work for money, whether it’s just for one job or a new routine. Tell them about your first job. How did that shape your work ethic? Also, try to be a good boss. Pay consistently. Show, rather than tell, how to have a positive attitude about work.
Children can be so generous at heart. Once they start making money by doing chores, teach them to give a portion to someone in need. For example, my husband and I sponsored a child through Compassion International until she graduated from the program as an adult just this year. When we find our next sponsor child, we plan to involve our children in that process - selecting, writing letters, and donating a portion of their chore money.
As you know, giving doesn’t have to always involve money. Teaching your children to develop a mindset of generosity is far more important. Sometimes, that’s as simple as taking cookies to a neighbor or handwriting a card for someone special.
Label it, put it somewhere everyone sees it, and tell your children your WHOLE family will go on a special trip like the zoo, an amusement park, or camping. Everyone can contribute to the piggy bank. Set a deadline and talk about the concept of planning ahead and patience.
This idea is so fun because you can really get creative. Schedule a night to do something as a family that is intentionally free. Make sure you take a moment to explain that people can still have fun without spending money. Some ideas include:
Picnic in the park - Pack some lunches, grab a soccer ball or a few kites, and enjoy the fresh sunshine.
Camp in the living room - Convert your living space into a campground, play cards on sleeping bags, or watch a movie huddled underneath tent blankets.
Find a storyteller - Did you know Barnes & Noble has a free story hour followed by an activity for kids three days a week? We’ve taken our children there for years and have enjoyed it every time.
Attend a local event - What’s happening in your community that’s fun and free? The library calendar is a great place to start. We discovered a LEGO building club on Saturdays.
Conquer a craft - Our oldest child lives and breathes crafts. We’ve discovered one of the biggest ways to show her how much we care is to sit down and build a craft with her. Since this is meant to be a free event, here are 13 kids’ crafts you can do with common household items (I’m thinking my daughter will love the giant tissue paper flowers).
Remember when I asked you to think back to your childhood? What if you took your children down memory lane with you? For example, what’s the first big purchase you made with your own money? What did your first piggy bank look like? What was your first job? Kids can learn so much from our own experiences. Just start sharing them and you’ll see!
Books are such a great spark for discussion. They may also help you illustrate a lesson you’d like to teach. Here are a few great ones to try:
“One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent” by Bonnie Worth
“Junior’s Adventures” by Dave Ramsey
“Cloverleaf Books - Money Basics” by Lisa Bullard
“The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back” by Hannah Salwen and Kevin Salwen
The world of commerce, credit cards, online shopping, and debt will certainly try their best to teach your child where they think he or she should spend money. You have the incredible privilege of speaking into their life first. May this list inspire you to find your own ways of discussing healthy money habits with your children.
Did any of these ideas inspire you to break ground on the money talk with your children? In what ways have you enjoyed teaching them about money? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!
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