Can you remember how your parents talked about money when you were a kid? Or, maybe you can’t remember because money was a topic that wasn’t discussed.
The way we think about money in adulthood is largely connected to how our parents talked about and dealt with money when we were kids. Just as you subconsciously transition into adulthood buying the same brand of pasta or laundry detergent as your parents, you also tend to adopt many of their perspectives on money — for better, or for worse.
Now, in your role as a parent, if you feel like you haven’t been a shining role model when it comes to how you use (or abuse) your money, don’t panic.
You don’t need to have the perfect financial track record to raise money-conscious children. However, there are a few money mistakes that you want to avoid making in front of your kids if you can help it.
Fighting about money
No kids like to see their parents fight whether it’s about money or anything else. However, when kids are repeatedly exposed to hearing their parents argue about money it can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. It also provides a negative model in regards to how to talk about money. Kids learn from their parents (shocker!). So, the way you approach your conversations about money will affect how they do so in the future.
The antidote to this issue is relatively easy (at least in theory). If you’re going to bicker about money, do it out of your kid’s earshot. And remember, kids can be sneaky, curious little things so really be sure they aren’t going to overhear.
Sharing all the dirty details
Your kids are kids. They don’t need to know every detail in regards to your financial woes. Definitely have conversations about money and even be honest if you’re having some financial issues. If approached correctly and in a way that is age-appropriate, you can use your money troubles as “teachable moments.”
The best thing you can do is to keep discussions about money simple and light in front of the kids. For instance, instead of saying “no, you can’t have that toy, your dad lost his job and we don’t even have enough money to buy food.” You can say, “money’s a bit tight right now so we won’t be able to buy that toy but don’t worry, we have enough money to take good care of you and your brother.”
Spouting negative money mantras
A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat to bring concentration and focus. When used in a positive light, mantras are great. They can help you to hone in on a specific goal or way of thinking. However, if you’re constantly spouting negative mantras when it comes to money, this can lead to negative associations.
The “easy” fix is to try and talk about money in a more positive way. Avoid saying things like, “money is the root of all evil,” (I mean, this is pretty intense) or, “things will be better when we have more money,” (which will leave you and your kids constantly chasing more). Instead, you can try implementing money mantras that are more positive like, “money is a tool that we use to buy the things we value.”
Trying to keep up with the Jones’
It’s hard not to compare your financial situation to the Joneses, the Smiths, or even some random stranger on Instagram. But for the sake of your kids (and you’re own well being), try. You don’t want your kids to get the impression that what you have is never enough. You don’t want them to think their self worth is measured by their net worth.
Instead, focus on being grateful for what you do have. Teach them that the happiness attached to material things is very fleeting and that true happiness is achieved through close relationships and fun experiences.
Making money taboo
Not talking about money is almost worse than some of these other money mistakes. Why? Because at least if you’re oversharing or arguing about money in front of your kids, they still learn that money is a topic that can be discussed.
If your kids grow up thinking that conversations about money are taboo, how are they going to learn healthy financial habits? Unfortunately, you can’t assume they will learn how to handle their finances in school (I definitely didn’t) and you want them to go in the world with some financial prowess.
If you’re not comfortable talking about money, that’s okay. Buy your kids a book on personal finance, help them search for financial blogs, or take them to the library.
You’ve got this!
If you’re guilty of making some of these money mistakes in front of your kids, don’t worry — you’re not alone. By identifying that you’re making some of these mistakes you’re taking the first big step.
Look, you’re already here and reading this post so give yourself a pat on the back. Now the next step is to apply some of these simple tips — make money a more positive topic, be open about it without oversharing, encourage financial literacy in any way that you can, and try to be consistent when it comes to avoiding these money mistakes.
You’ve got this!
–By Jessica Martel