Kids and Money
Can the love of a child be bought?
We have seen it in movies and some of us even in real life. Divorced parents try to win the affection of their kids by giving them gifts. I have seen parents try to outspend each other. Most kids are smart enough, or become smart to what is going on and take advantage of the situation. While some people do read gifts as love, that is not how every single child works.
My parent’s credentials are more of that of a substitute. I was a full time step parent for over 2 years, one of them without much visitation to the other household. I also grew up around a lot of kids and was always involved indirectly in some kind of parenting. I have learned a lot of things about kids and how hard the job of a parent is, also how the word full time does not even cover it.
Today’s topic is one that has troubled me for quite some time. How early do kids become aware of money? How important is it for them to become aware of it?
While it is very important for kids to know the value of money and how hard it is to earn it regardless of the economic status of the parents, I think how money is handled and how that is presented to the kids is crucial to their formation as responsible adults. Two key factors are very important in my eyes. Beyond teaching the kid the value of money without making them afraid or guilty about enjoying life, the most important is to never judge people in terms of money.
A long time ago I had to deal with a situation with kids and money. I had never been compared to someone else in terms of money or the gifts that were being presented to a child. The situation escalated when a child not much older than 6 said to me, “What did you get me? I know you make a lot of money.” I was pretty furious about the situation because those are not the words of a child. That was my assumption there and it was once again proven to be true not to long ago.
Parents need to be very careful about what they say to their children. Yes, I was probably one of the people earning the most in that circle of people at the time* so I don’t doubt that a conversation between adults could have included how much I was making. It has always bothered me that most people’s first question when meeting people; and I even fall pray to this, is what do you do for a living. Later I found out that there was a lot of comparison going on between who got what gifts and how much did they cost. I find that pretty disgusting but time has taught me that money is a big factor for some people when it comes to relationships.
I am not saying that money should not be a factor. I am very aware that most people do not want to live in a paycheck to paycheck anxiety and want to be with someone that has the same financial goals as them. I am with a woman that would be with me even if we lived in a cardboard box but we were together, but I also know that it is rare and not for everyone and it does not make the people that like comfort evil or gold diggers.
Children should not be included in money conversations when it comes to evaluating other people. People should have have a price tag attached to them. I certainly love giving the kids close to me gifts, but I think my niece will in the future remember and probably value a lot more the book that Bea and I got her for her birthday, rather than the Hanna Montana paraphernalia that we also got her. Daniel took some little gifts to their kids after his visit from Bea and I, his wife was so thankful for them and shared their joy of the simple gifts that had more sentimental value than price tag. I am sad that I have encountered the complete opposite in some other people. I am proud that both my sister and Daniel are raising her kids to be grateful little people and teaching them the importance of money without making other people “Santa Claus.”
* I was consulting and traveling which is a combination for earning more than your peers with similar skills, but at the same time its a sacrifice in other areas. I will probably never earn that much money again, but I am totally happy with that.