People of influence

Be careful what you say—your choice of words is affecting your children’s attitude towards money

Given today’s uncertainty around job security, rising food and housing costs as well as infrastructural instability, you parents and caregivers feel added pressure on yourselves.

This understandable stress can take a toll and knowing this, there is a natural desire in you to protect your children from these incursions; after all, they are for adults to handle, not kids. That said, familial protection includes not only financial security but also stability. Introducing your children to the concept of money through having a piggy bank, earning an allowance, having a bank account, or understanding the cost of having extras like a vacation is worthwhile.

However, individual stability goes beyond the allowance, the external, where your unconscious messages about money may have a greater influence on how your son/daughter responds to and experiences money. Let’s look at three key areas that shape your kids’ view of money no matter how generous an allowance they’re getting weekly.

Scarcity versus abundance If phrases like “money doesn’t grow on trees” or “do you think I’m made of money?” are coming out of your mouth, your child is picking up on it. They are learning there is an existing lack of some sort that they must guard against. Conversely, if they hear “we are so fortunate we live here,” and “Friday pizza night! Haven’t we got it good?”, the feeling of having enough and being grateful is part and parcel of their experience.

Struggling versus thriving If your kids frequently hear “back to the grindstone,” “it’s going to be a long week,” or “Sam and Joan are going away again. Wish we had their bucks,” the notion of working is not only about making money but that it’s hard and unpleasant. Being upbeat about your working lives and living circumstances goes a long way to instilling a sense of confidence and anticipation in your daughter to want to grow up and contribute to her livelihood—not see it as a dreaded path.

External value versus internal worth If your children are surrounded by conversation that goes something like this: “you’re only as good as what you do,” “too bad, she didn’t marry up. Love will only take you so far,” or “your brother is a lawyer making good money. Why would you want to be a struggling musician?” this inadvertent messaging gives kids the idea that they’re only good enough when they’re achieving. Doing something for the fun of it or the love of it becomes secondary to “bringing home the bacon.” It’s difficult to build a child’s self-esteem when their worth as a human being is based solely on external fulfillment. As pointed out earlier, being “worthwhile” is not just an outside job.