Teaching our kids about money looks different when we’re talking with our very different young minds and hearts, and depending upon the different stages of their lives. The younger the child, the more concrete the money conversation is going to be with “what and how” questions, and just a few “whys”. The more your child grows into the teen years, the questions start becoming a lot of “why” and “when you have a place of your own” and fewer “what and how” questions. If you would like more on the brain science and child development reasons behind those statements, contact us! This is part one of a three part blog series this spring.
When your child is young, let’s say Pre-K4 age, everything needs to be tactile and immediate. Translation: your child needs to be able to hear your voice speaking to them about what they did to earn the money at the same time that they feel the money going into their sweet little hand; this needs to happen within a three minute window of the “earning event.”
For instance, if your child gets $3 for keeping his/her room clean this week and doing a quick pick up each evening, then it might look like this:
- You take him/her by the hand, go look at the important “clean up goal points” (clothing is hung up or put away in the dresser, bed covers are pulled up, toys are back in their bin and books are on the shelf, 3 – 4 points that may be written on a chart in their room and/or that you reinforce verbally on a daily basis)
- As you’re pointing out what a good job he/she did, or gently correcting what needs to improve, you remind him/her of how nice it is to live in an organized home and how much you, mommy or daddy, appreciate them doing this hard work as a loved and valuable member of the family. You may extend the positive words to include how good it makes everyone feel to be working towards the same goals as a family.
- A gentle correction might be that the books have all made it onto the book shelf, but they are in an unstable pile just waiting to tump off the shelf. You, being the wise and loving parent that you are, bring your child to the shelf and start rearranging the books together so they won’t fall. You may be asking your child which books they enjoyed reading this week to reinforce that learning is lifelong and books are a quick way to learn through others’ lives. Always remembering, we humans need WAY more reminders than we need instruction. Some children need a bit more “why” behind the what, so invite your children to care for their books by reading them and taking care of those spines and pages in the correct storage place.
- When the room meets your (age-appropriate) standards, you take them by the hand back to where their Save-Give-Enjoy money containers. This cannot be a virtual set of money containers such as on mint.com or Mvelopes.com – that’s too abstract for kids at this age. Your child needs to feel the money and then see where the money goes, visually, and it’s even better if your child is the one placing the money in the container at your direction.
- He/she will feel you give them the $3 earned. One proposed split would be to put $1 in Save, $1 in Give, and $1 in Enjoy. Our goal is to teach them about saving at least 10%, giving 10% and enjoying the rest. This example uses $1 bills. Another way to accomplish this would be to use dimes. PreK are still learning to count, so you can practice counting 30 dimes as the earnings, then put three dimes in the save container, three dimes in the give container and then the other 24 dimes in the enjoy container. Your child will remember the time and attention that you have him/her.
This whole process would probably take 5-10 minutes with maybe another 5 minutes of prep work on your part to have the cash and containers ready.
The important points of teaching your child about money would be 1 – we work together as a family; 2 – we want your child to tie hard work together with money so they don’t see you as a human ATM or Cash Advance machine; 3 – we want this experience of giving, saving and enjoying money to go deep into their developing brain and we’re using sensory experience along with repetition to make sure that the memory is encoded and etched deeply for your child to use out into the future. 0 to 18 years of age covers 936 weeks. How will you use this time to set your child up to be wildly successful?
We all know that teaching good manners like “please”, “thank you” and “yes ma’am/yes sir” are easier to impart at a younger age.
Why would we not teach our precious babies about money that will become such a strong tool in their lives later on to either benefit, or hurt?