After reading some of my posts, my 7-year-old daughter requested that I write a post about her sooner rather than later. I told her that I would like to complete writing the food series first. But on second thought, since I finished 2/3 of the food series, I’d like to just humor my kid 🙂 As you can tell, I’m far from being a tiger mom as expected of my Chinese descent.
Here are some things we did as a family.
- We share our value system with our daughter via our deeds, rather than orders and prohibitions. Neither my partner nor I shop for things to adorn ourselves. We believe what’s in our heads and our hearts matter way more than what’s visible and exterior. We both have nice professional wardrobes (mostly from goodwill in the last 5 years and gifts/pass me down prior to that.) We occasionally dress up, often at the request of our artistic daughter, but on a day to day basis we pay very little to our appearance. She often acts quite surprised when I dress up; one time she even apologetically said, “Mommy, I didn’t know you CAN look so good…”
- We ask probing questions to guide her decision making. When she wants to buy yet another dress or toy, both her dad and I will ask her “why.” Does she think it will make her happy? if so, for how long? While she has more toys, dresses, gift funds than many children I know, it is important for us to guide her through deciding whether to acquire yet another ITEM which she will soon outgrow before using it much…
- We value experiences much greater than goods. While she gets on the hot seat to answer probing questions when she ask for a thing, she gets her way easy when she asks for any lesson/learning opportunity. When she was 4 and requested cartwheel lessons, her dad found her gymnastic lessons led by ex-Olympians. She made beautiful progress and transitioned from group to private 1-on-1 lessons. When she outgrew her group choir and wanted more 1-on-1 attention, her dad searched high and low and found an extremely experienced voice teacher with family legacy of prominent musicians; we immediately booked 40 hours of lessons in advance. She’s dabbled in gymnastic, oil painting, horse riding, martial arts, piano, voice/opera singing, chest, rocketry, cheer-leading, acting, swimming. She names it, and we put it as one of our top financial priorities. Her grandparents are also quite supportive of fostering her varied interests.
- We work as a team. We often joke that our daughter has the greatest positive net worth of the 3 of us. i.e. she’s all positive with the generous gift funds from her grandparents, but we still have mortgage and credit card debts (albeit interest free.) Whenever she receives cash or check from her generous grandparents, we ask her permission to let us borrow her money. After learning that we offer her 1% interest vs. bank offer 0.1% interest in saving accounts, she was happy with her financial choice of being a creditor to her parents rather than the bank. We keep a google excel sheet running and log the data in whenever we borrow money from her. HER goal is to save for a while and “buy a part of Toyota” as she believes that the company’s growth will provide faster increase of her savings than the 1% interest we currently offer.
- We widen our perspective. When she laments over to buy or not to buy (dilemma unique to 1st world countries), we remind her of our sponsor child Mariella in Ecuador. For $38/mo, Mariella receives all the food/ medical care/ education she needs. That’s not even a a pair of jeans (new, full price) for US kids. I also share stories of my childhood, and that of my parents’. Through my stories, I emphasize the creativity and content rather than the financial depravity. The caveat is the fine line between teaching her appreciation and contentment vs. guilting her into suppressing/denying her desires.
- While we diligently pay off debt and save, we are NOT slave to our financial goals. My daughter taught me this when she was 2. I have to admit that money is an issue that causes me fear and anxiety, deep rooted in my childhood. At one point in our young adulthood as young new parents, we had lots of credit card debt and a car loan. I was working really hard, multiple jobs while being a full time sole caregiver to our daughter. I found every possible line of work that was amenable to bringing her along with me–tutoring MCAT/college sciences at my house, chauffeuring school aged kids, babysitting… cooking, care taking, translating/interpreter while she was asleep. She was my partner in crime; we had so much fun and worked hard. I’d always remember how she tried to help me feed a non-verbal, wheelchair-bound patient. She was so helpful and loving before she could even utter simple phrases. One day, the stress of working 60-80 hrs + caring for a toddler full time hit me, I cried on the phone while talking to my mom. My daughter was next to me, and she patted my back and said, “Mommy, don’t be scared of moneys. I am here. Don’t be scared.” It was as if she woke me up, I turned from the phone and hugged her really really tight, realizing I had the greatest treasure/gift in this loving, thinking bundle of joy in front of me. From that moment on, a healing process started in how I relate to money. I am A LOT less fear/ anxiety-driven since then.
I deeply believe that our kids teach us as much as we teach them. From co-piloting with my daughter in the past 7 years, I have learned lessons that freed me from deep negative emotions and that reconnected me to the simple and lasting joys of life.
I encourage anyone with kids to share your value system with them and learn from them. It can be so pleasantly surprising when your toddler teaches you a few profound lessons!
- How do you share $ sense with your kids?
- What did they teach you?
- How do you resolve differences in financial values with your spouse and present an united front to your kids?
- Do you use money to reward kids, if so how?
- Does your kid donate to charity?