Listen instead

Carolyn Johnston, Co-Author of “Power Spending: Getting More For Less,” contributed the following post:

Recently I’ve had several opportunities to observe interactions between parents and their newborns. There was a lot of holding, feeding, diapering, burping, and rocking going on. The parents were anxious to meet their baby’s every need. That’s the way it usually is; parents make sure that their babies are fed, clothed, cared for, and loved.

Babies and young children require a lot of their parent’s time and attention to meet their basic needs. They are totally dependent. As they grow, they move towards independence; their needs lessen until they can completely look after themselves. That’s our goal as parents, isn’t it? We want to raise children who will lead independent, happy, and productive lives in the adult world.

As children get older, their needs may decrease, but their wants usually increase. It’s not always easy for parents to distinguish between children’s wants and their needs. Things are further complicated because we want to give them all the advantages in life that we can provide. We shower them with love–which often means material things. We want them to be happy, and we are determined that they won’t be deprived of anything–especially anything that the neighbor’s kid might have. We know the pain of being the outsider, and we sure don’t want our kids to experience that. So what if we have to pay more for designer labels, shell out money to ensure they have the latest “whatever,” or go into debt to keep them happy?

There is no question that our children are worth it, but maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Perhaps the question we should be asking is whether or not giving children everything they need (aka want) will make them into happy, productive, and satisfied adults.

At this point, I’d like to mention that I have four adult children, and they are not spoiled. They are appreciative when they are given something, and they don’t take their possessions for granted. They don’t feel deprived if they don’t have the latest thing. I want to take credit for that, but I can’t. It had much less to do with our parenting style and much more to do with the fact that my husband and I didn’t have the money to meet all their wants. I’m grateful that was the case. If we’d had more money, it would have been tempting to give them everything we could. I imagine it’s a lot harder to say “no” when you actually can afford to buy what they want. We’ve seen lots of examples of over-indulged children in the news and read about them in magazines and books. It’s not very inspiring.

If you want to raise financially responsible children, then think about teaching them some basic concepts about life:

  • If you want money (things), you need to work to get them.
  • Work is good.
  • It’s okay to dream but very important to know what you need and not just what you want.
  • You can’t have everything.
  • If you haven’t paid for it, it’s not really yours.
  • Things do NOT = happiness.
  • It’s not all about you.

Check for my next blog to see the practical application of these principles.

P.S. Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s a website that will give tips on how you can raise a financially responsible child.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to teach your child?