We teach what we learn – unintentionally
We have a wonderful opportunity to teach our children responsible and healthy money lessons.
Imagine the possibilities for your children if they grow up with a healthy relationship with money – one where they don’t measure their self-worth by how much money they have … or don’t have. Over the years, many clients have expressed to me their various regrets and happiness around unhealthy and healthy money lessons they had learnt from their parents, and in turn, taught their children.
Some are proud of, and others regret the money messages shared.
As parents, it is our duty to teach our children right from wrong, but at the same time, be aware of not teaching them to be just like us. I am sure many parents have deliberated on messages and behaviours they would like to pass on to their children. And I guarantee you that no parent wants consciously to teach their children bad behaviour and unhealthy habits. or to pass on low self-esteem.
If you had to ask most parents what their number one wish for their children is, the answer will most probably be “happiness.” So how do we teach our children and perhaps grandchildren about money to inspire happy lives?
You can teach your children unintentionally or intentionally. Most communication to our children is probably unintentional. Children learn from what they hear, see and experience while growing up, and if your relationship with money is based on fear, loss and anxiety, then this is the message that you are unintentionally passing on. And in all probability, these were the messages passed on to you by your parents.
Would it surprise you to hear that recent research tells us that children’s money habits are formed by age seven? And that, as adults, we operate on a subconscious level 95% of the time? This means that our conscious mind is really only working 5% of the time while our subconscious mind runs the show most of the time!
Intentional teaching is sharing thoughtful money messages. We as parents can only teach thoughtful messages if we are aware of our own money story, understand our relationship with money and have the wisdom to change the behaviours that don’t serve us, and keep the ones that enable our lives in a positive way.
I recently participated in a Life Planning meeting with a father and son. The father reflected on the money messages he heard while growing up. His father taught him to work hard for his money, and with hard work, comes reward. You may consider this to be a positive money message, but reflect for a moment if the message would have been more powerful if it had been about “earning money by adding value”? This father, now 70 years old, is still working hard for his money. He fears that if he is not working hard, he is not adding value and therefore not deserving of earning.
The father unintentionally passed this same message on to his son. He also works incredibly hard but expresses the wish to be able work “cleverly,” so that he can shape a more balanced life for himself. Father and son wholeheartedly agreed that this is a cycle they would like to break. They don’t mind working hard, but recognise the need for balance: more time to laugh, relax and just living the life they were meant to live. I am sure that the constraining message will not be passed on to future generations in this family.
Ingrid is a client who reflects on a very positive and empowering money story passed on to her by her father. Her father empowered his girls to be independent; he supported and sponsored their tertiary education at a time when most women were not encouraged to study. He instilled a belief in them that anything is possible. This belief Ingrid’s father had in her capability and ability to succeed served her well. Because of this, Ingrid has had the courage and determination to follow her true purpose in life – and make a success of it!
It astonishes me how powerful father and son relationships can be. In honour of Father’s Day this month, I would like to share one more father and son story that has inspired me as a mother of two boys. The son shared with me that his father always asked, “How much pocket money do you feel you deserve for the time it took to do your chores?” This money message has had a wonderful positive impact on the son’s life. Today, he sees earning money as an exchange for time. His most precious commodity in life is “time”. He will therefore always compare the value of his time versus the money that he is earning for his time. He is now planning to retire early from his formal career and re-invent his work so that he and his wife have more time to explore some of their unfulfilled dreams.
My parting thought on learning and teaching is a money message about saving and investing – the value of compound interest. This could be a fun activity to do with your grandchildren. My advice is not to just establish a savings or investment account for them, but rather to involve them in the process, engage with them on how it works – in this way you are helping them to take ownership from a young age.
Wishing you many happy – and intentional – courageous currency conversations in your family!