If you speak English in your home, your kids are not likely to come out speaking Italian. Kids learn everything through observation and imitation. And they don’t miss a thing. Kids are shaped at the very beginning of life by the way their parents live. They are ever-attentive witnesses of grown-up behaviors. They take their cues from what they see and hear.
Want your kids to grow up with healthy attitudes about money? Start living the way you want them to become. Let your kids regularly catch you in the act of living financially responsible lives and you’ll be on your way to raising financially responsible kids.
You really cannot start too early modeling healthy money attitudes for your kids. Here are some ways you can start right now to raise financially responsible kids even if yours are still toddlers, excerpted from my book, “Raising Financially Responsible Kids,” which remains my most favorite of all because it’s about my kids and the plan we created.
• Let them observe that you have money and you take good care of it.
• Let them see you use money as an ordinary and normal part of life.
• Let them see you put money in the church offering. Make sure they catch you being generous with others and sharing what you have.
• Tell your kids stories about the ways you are practicing frugality in order to save money.
• Allow them to see you deposit money in the bank.
• Let them see the way you pay for groceries with cash.
• Teach them that money is important in our lives because we can exchange it for things we need and want.
• Talk about money as casually as you talk about other things like sports and laundry.
• Use coins to teach your preschoolers to count. It’s effective and acknowledges their curiosity about money.
• Talk about the different shapes and colors of items in the store. It gives little ones something to do instead of wanting everything they see.
• While a passenger in the grocery cart, allow your little one to hold the coupons or the list. Talk about finding the best value.
• Say, “We don’t chose to spend our money that way” more often than you say “We can’t afford it.”
• Remember preschoolers are listening and learning from everything they see you do and hear you say.
• Use coins to teach the different denominations. Three and four-year-olds can learn to put all the pennies into one cup the nickels into another and so on.
• Visit the library and park with your preschooler more often than the market or mall.
• Give rewards of hugs and praise, not money. Creating the expectation of cash payment at every turn is a habit you’ll regret in adolescence.
• Monitor television time and opt for non-commercial viewing and videotapes when possible.
• Let preschoolers participate in household chores to enjoy the security of belonging — not to get paid.
• Intervene between advertisers and your kids. Preschoolers can’t always tell when the television show ends and the ad begins.
• Make sure your children grow up with a strong sense of gratitude, thankful for all they have.