Monday, March 12, 2012

Parenting and Money Decisions

Fuller Youth Institute recently published an article entitled, "Show Me (And Talk To Me About) The Money." Working with youth AND money, it definitely caught my eye.

So although I'm not a parent, I want to take a minute to talk to parents about the value of talking with their kids about money.

Money is one of those taboo topics...especially when it comes to personal finance. Usually if a family is tight on money, they tend to talk about money in a way that creates tension...specifically, what you can't afford. Other families that are well-off can have a tendency to give "everything" to their children...a good father wants to give "good gifts" to his children.

But involving your kids in your decisions and thoughts about money can be one of the biggest pathways to developing values in your kids that you want them to inherit. Over the past few years, I've really come to believe the truth that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." We make decisions with money based on the things that are important to us.

Said in another way...the decisions we make with money reveal our values. When I was 6 years old, I seriously remember thinking, "When I get older, I'm going to buy all the ice cream in the world so I can eat it all the time!" I seriously valued ice cream, and wanted bigger portions than my parents wisely gave me. But at 6, ice cream was what was important to me...and money was the way to get it.

What if we started to involve our kids in decisions about money, sharing, giving, etc. It's never too early to start. A friend of mine decided to teach his daughter about the importance of giving. He asked her to decide which toys she wanted to give away to other kids without toys. The daughter (I think she was 2 at the time) didn't want to give any away at first, but eventually parted with a couple of her favorite toys. She learned a valuable lesson that the "stuff" we have on this earth is not as important as the people surrounding us. For younger kids, including them in giving or serving decisions can instill values in them to care for others and to trust God for provision.

High schoolers, on the other hand, are at a place in their lives where they are learning to articulate their thoughts and opinions. Opening the dialogue can really help them to develop the "why" in their money decisions. In our FutureProfits curriculum, we have an activity where we look at messages about money and discuss whether we agree or disagree. Not only does it give you a chance to hear from your kids what they think, but you can also ask why they agree or disagree.

Freshmen often have a harder time articulating the "why" part, but this activity often helps them to start articulating their thoughts and values. We begin by asking the students to decide whether a certain people group would agree or disagree and why. For example, if they were to represent their parents, or billionaires, or religious leaders, or advertising companies, what would each of those people groups say about money. Then it becomes easier to talk about what they personally think. Here are some of the messages we discuss with our students:

Your value is based on how much money you make.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
Get rich or die trying.
The poor are getting poorer while the rich are getting richer.
The more money you give, the more money you receive.
Money makes the world go 'round.
The best things in life are free.
Money is power.

Here's a fun one:
Parents should give their kids money for anything they request.

There are some more ideas in the article mentioned above, but bottom line is to start the conversation, and involve them in your decisions. Who knows? God may end up speaking wisdom through them!

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