Teaching Kids About Money

There was a story in the news the other day about a very dumb criminal in Fort Worth, Texas. The guy rode his bicycle up to a taco restaurant carryout window, pulled a gun, and ordered the clerk to give him their money. That’s dumb—but hold on, it gets even dumber.

Apparently, he’d forgotten to eat before the holdup so he ordered a meal while he was waiting for the money. Well, the money came out before his meal was ready. And, believe it or not, this Einstein hung around waiting for his food. In the meantime, one of the employees was calling the police. And, since our biker hoodlum had also forgotten to wear a mask, they recognized him as an ex-employee of the restaurant and gave his name to the police. As things turned out, the law arrived before his meal did and they arrested him right there at the drive-up window! To make matters worse, he proceeded to aim his gun at the police who pulled their weapons and shot him twice. (Fortunately, the wounds weren’t life threatening.) On closer examination, it turned out that he was carrying a toy pistol.

As I thought about this incident, one phrase seemed to sum this guy up: Dumb, but fearless.

Is There A Similar Situation In Your Home?

If you’re a parent, that phrase may have occurred to you several times over the years. I know it pretty well describes some of the experiences we have had with our kids. I can still remember the time when our son Joshua was peeved with me because I refused to believe his assertion that he was mature enough to be trusted with my car. Call me an old foggy—but the kid was just 4 years old!

Actually, it’s part of what makes a kid a kid—more bravado than common sense. By their very nature, children are immature. They believe themselves to be far more intelligent than the facts would warrant. And, to make matters worse, there’s that time somewhere between 12 and 14 when most kids go through a season of omniscience.

That’s where parents come in. Unlike animals who dessert their young (or, sometimes eat them) God gave human parents a greater mandate. For better or worse, it’s our dubious job description to stick around for the first 18 to 20 years. And, if we’re any good at the job, we’ll do more than simply be there. We should aim higher. Our goal should be to be our children’s mentors and key advisors. We’re the ones they should come to for their life-skill advice. Sure, I know that that is a unique idea these days. What with all the buffoon parents on TV sitcoms and the disrespect dished out by society in general, it’s tough to maintain credibility through the full 20-year run. But just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean it isn’t vital.

Many of society’s ills can be laid at the feet of parents who have abrogated their responsibilities. That’s why I want to challenge you as a parent (especially if your kids are still young) to love them enough to direct and discipline them in all areas of their lives. Stay involved. Don’t be shy. Don’t be marginalized or intimidated away from your God-ordained responsibility. Just because some other 8-year-old philosopher teases your child about your involvement in his life—don’t back off. Insist that your beliefs and ideas be respected, honored, and followed. It is your duty, not only to your children but to society as a whole, to teach them about Jesus, basic morality, respect, and the appropriate life-skills.

Three Rules For Teaching Kids About Money

Many people think our society has grown fat and lazy. We have luxuries our parents could only have dreamed of. Imagine—2 or 3 cars, color television with more than a couple of fuzzy channels, family arguments over where we’re going to vacation this year. Pretty cushy living. Many of us also have greater financial resources—and the time to ponder how to invest them. So it behooves today’s parents to help their kids understand money and how it works. But, before we focus on what we want the little banditos to do, let’s spend a minute on what the grownups need to be doing. I believe there are three, all-important rules:

1) The first, and most important rule for teaching your children how to manage money is to set the right example yourself. This is one time when the physician had better heal himself first—before he starts dispensing pills. Kids are smart—their hypocrisy meters work overtime. To tell a child to do something that you are unwilling to do, not only dilutes the impact of the message—it dilutes the respect they have for the messenger. To have credibility and moral authority, a parent has to be willing to go the extra mile and not cut corners simply for short-term gratification.

Does this mean you have to do everything right? What about the past—can a parent regain the moral high ground when the kids know you’ve made previous mistakes? Sure, but it requires honesty and a willingness to admit the obvious—“There have been times when Mom and Dad have blown it. But, we’re learning, and we want to help you kids avoid some of the painful mistakes we’ve made.”

Then, it’s a matter of walking the talk. The kids will be watching. If they see you making the tough decisions and lifestyle changes to get your own financial house in order, it will serve as a powerful motivator and example. But, if you slip back into old habits—that, too, won’t go unnoticed.

2) What parents do with liberty, the kids will do with license. One of the most important things any parent can do is to understand (and, accept) this concept. What you do on a controlled, moderate level as a parent—your kids are likely to take to the extreme. There are lots of Christian parents who insisted on their “liberty to drink socially” when they had small children, who would give anything if they could change things today. Many of them are dealing with grown kids who used their parents’ liberty as a license to drink or use drugs destructively.

The same holds true for family money issues. Whatever your children see you do will tend to have a geometric effect on their behavior. If your children perceive a lack of self-control and good stewardship in the purchasing and savings decisions you make—don’t be surprised if one day you see the same behavior on their part being played out in an extreme, mutated form.

3) Keep the communication lines open. Like my friend Mike Root likes to say, “If you don’t communicate—you’ll speculate.” Nothing takes the place of open communications in a family. One of my regular “go to” passages in the Book is Deuteronomy 6:6-9:

“And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house on your gates.” (NASV)

Although God was here speaking about the spiritual education parents owe their children, the principal holds even more broadly. As parents we must be good communicators with our children. There have been a lot of times over the years when I was able to parlay a drive to get a Coke, or a fishing trip, or just a walk through the yard into a teaching opportunity. As Christian parents, we realize that whatever the surface topic (school, friends, or financial issues)—it all goes back to teaching God’s principals for how to live this life—and, prepare for the one to come.

The book No Debt No Sweat! discusses a load of childrearing issues dealing with money, jobs, allowances, how to keep kids spiritually focused in a immoral culture, and:

• The 10/45/45 Rule That Will Help You Teach the Kids to Give, Save and Spend With A Plan
• What About Allowances?
• Neat Ways To Help Your Kids Earn Money
• Salesmanship: Society’s Great Equalizer
• What Could Be More Important Than A College Education?
• Great Money Making & Business Ideas For Kids
• 2 Words of Caution For Older Kids
• Before You Let “Joe College” Get His First Credit Card…
• A Sensible Alternative: Consider a debit card instead of a credit card.
• 5 Tips For Helping Kids Understand Money and Work
• Portable Outhouses—The Road To Riches
• When the Chickens Come Home To Roost

No Debt No Sweat Christian Financial Management

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No Debt, No Sweat! shows Christians how to free themselves from the bondage of financial pain. It is written for people who are financially sound and looking for investment strategies as well as people who are in financial turmoil and need a successful plan for getting out of debt.

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