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Children learn what they live, particularly in family financial matters. Everyone needs money lessons. What you do with your kids is up to you. How it ends is up to them. Are you raising a prince or a pauper?
He’s heard you say about a million times “Nothing’s too good for my little Johnny!” On the positive side, the prince personality is confident that he will get what he wants.
If your son is overindulged and you know it, you could be raising him to think that he is a prince. He may expect to live a life of privilege, without ever knowing how much time and effort it took for someone else to give him that lifestyle. Along the way if he learns how to make, save and use money wisely… it may be easier for him to maintain palace he expects to occupy for life.
On the other hand, spoiled boys may not fully appreciate everything it takes to give them what they want. These boys may prefer quantity over quality, always wanting more and could become spendthrifts who don’t know how to save for a rainy day, or delay gratification. Your prince could grow up to become a pauper.
My friend Mel (mother of one son) told me, “There’s not much my son doesn’t get. He has his choice of food, clothing and entertainment on a regular basis. He has more than most.”
Mel read my kid money books with her son and stopped buying more and more toys. She decided that it was time to teach the boy the value of money. It was also important for the boy to learn the value of toys and how much effort it takes to get them. We strategize a simple way to do both. The son had to either give away one of his toys to a charity, or sell a toy to raise money before getting a new one. Or, he could trade one of his own toys for one that was new to him.
His attitude changed from overindulged prince to a thoughtful and frugal consumer when he had to spend his own money. He is also a friend to the local children’s charity.
On the other end of the spectrum, family circumstances may have you feeling like you are raising a pauper. We hate denying our kids when we simply do not have wiggle room in the budget. Parents may also try to compensate for feeling guilty for working and being away from home by replacing their presence with presents.
When budget changes, so does the size and quantity of the gifts. A son may try to make the parent feel guilty about saying “No.” According to my friend Susan (mother of two boys) “No is a complete that sentence builds character.”
But, when a boy is denied what he wants too often, it could lead to feelings of low self esteem or that the family is poor. Sometimes the boy will take up an activity to distract himself from these feelings. He may decide compete and shine in other areas – in sports or an artistic talent.
Or he may decide that he will figure out a way to get what he wants by making money. Boys of a certain age can walk dogs, deliver groceries, baby sit and find other ways to make money for themselves. Even when a boy is too young for these options, there is something the parents can do.
The most important thing is to communicate positive messages to reinforce self esteem and the ability to have something in the future, when “money is not available for that right now. How can we plan for it together?”
The answer “No” to what a child wants is different than saying “Not yet.”
Due to high unemployment rates, many parents are concerned about money. They cannot indulge their kids. These parents may be concerned that they are raising paupers. The trade-off is they give their boys fewer things and more quality time. A boy whose dad shows up at school events has a very high level of self esteem that surpasses the good feeling they get from new sneakers.
Quality time and undivided attention is the real treasure for both parent and child. It will make your boy feel like the prince he will become as he grows up.
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Candi Sparks is the author of children’s books about money Can I Have Some Money?, Educating Children About Money, Max Gets It! and Nacho Money. She is the Brooklyn mother of two and is on Facebook (Candi Sparks, author) and Twitter (Candi Sparks, author). Her website is http://www.sparksfly.org