Money Issues Come Down to Gratitude

How parents can teach kids the smartest, most enduring attitude about finances

by Meg Meeker, MD | 26 Oct 2016 at 5:31 AM

Teaching our kids about money can be tricky. We’re not exactly sure what to say and when — and money is a sensitive subject no matter who you’re talking to.

This is why I recently sat down with finance expert and best-selling author Rachel Cruze. She is the daughter of finance guru Dave Ramsey and a parent herself, so she understands how important it is to teach your kids good money habits.

Related: A Family’s Scariest Money Habit: Comparison

In her new book “Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want,” Cruze hits on a topic that is so important for parents to teach their children when it comes to money: contentment.

Contentment is hard — especially with the way social media has taken over in the last few years. We already felt the need to “keep up with the Joneses,” but now we can see what the “Joneses” are up to all the time. The Joneses used to live across the street — now we carry them in our pocket.

As Cruze explains, “We carry the ‘Joneses’ in our back pocket … I feel this need suddenly to keep up, and it’s with people I didn’t even know.” These people are going on nice European vacations, they’re buying their kids matching backpacks for school, they’re sending their children off to fancy, private universities. Watching these people and comparing ourselves to them is damaging not only to us, but to our families, too.

“This comparison game not only affects our emotions,” said Cruze, “it affects our money habits as well.”

Related: How to Parent the ‘Text’ Generation

When you have to keep up with the Joneses, you splurge on the big Europe vacation, you buy the new backpacks for your kids, you take out loans for the fancy private university. And all of these lead to one dead-end — debt.

Comparison causes you to be emotionally spent and financially spent. All the while, guess who’s watching? Your kids. Parents, kids learn the most from what you do, not what you say. That’s just how it is. They absorb everything they see, and if they see you being discontent and spending money you don’t have just to keep up with everybody else, that is what they will learn about money — that it is a way to stay in the “in” crowd, to be included, to get what you want when you want it. And as you know, this will not lead to a satisfying life for your child. This will lead to a life of discontentment.

The point of parenting isn’t to raise a millionaire; it’s to raise a kid of character who loves his life.

If you want to teach your kids the ins and outs of money, you have to teach them contentment first. You do this best by modeling it.

Stop talking about wanting to be like so-and-so. Stop complaining about what you don’t have. If you are living with a sense that you want someone else’s life, you will transfer that to your children. Discontented, dissatisfied parents raise discontented, dissatisfied kids.

Instead, when it comes to feeling content, Cruze suggests practicing gratitude and humility. These are your best defense against discontentment and comparison. Gratitude reminds you of what you have. Humility keeps you grounded and reminds you of what’s really important, which is not your reputation or status. Gratitude is the antidote of discontentment.

So, rather than worrying about teaching your four-year-old how to budget, why not work on your own contentment instead? Why not practice gratitude and humility?

These are the lessons that will really stick with a child.

The point of parenting isn’t to raise a millionaire; the point is to raise a kid of character who loves his life — and not everybody else’s.

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project.

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