Important things parents should teach their children - teaching kids about money the hard way

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It's really strange, but sometimes I am happy I was born in a poor family. I grew up watching my parents struggling to make ends meet. It was often a struggle for them to put food on the table everyday from the beginning to the end of the month, or should I say from one week to the next because my father was paid on a weekly basis. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. She never had a full time job, but that was to be expected since she raised 10 children. However, this doesn't mean she didn't contribute to the family budget. She did her best to augment my Dad's income. Sometimes it's impossible for me to comprehend how she managed to do the things she used to do in addition to raising 10 kids.

 

My mom did the following tasks, among other things, to help put food on the table:

  • sew clothes for us (I am not talking about mending here. I mean brand new clothes),
  • made table cloths for selling, 
  • had a garden where she grew vegetables (of course, surplus vegetables were sold),
  • was a member of a so-called burial society where she and her friends would contribute a certain amount of money every week allowing one of them to buy something of greater value than they would otherwise be able to purchase
  • even ran a small poultry business on our tiny front yard that left us with almost no walking space.

"A penny served is a penny earned" - Benjamin Franklin

Experience is the best teacher

The point I am trying to make here is that I learnt the value of money before I even got rid of my diapers. It didn't take me long to realise the difference between a need and a want, to know that budgeting and saving money is a must or that money is usually a scarce resource. There is no way one can't avoid quickly learning these important things when you see your parents working on them every single day. And my parents never tried to hide the fact that things were tough. They involved us in all these activities that made up our daily lives. We worked in the garden, helped with the poultry business, sold vegetables, did the books and saw the money coming in and disappearing. We learnt about profit and loss, how to choose the critical areas where money needed to be spent, when it was available. If I wanted a toy to play with, I first had to make it. That encouraged creativity and manual work. Those were practical lessons that can't be compared to theory dished out by teachers in the classroom. When lessons are practical, as they were in my family, there is no way you can not pay attention. When your parents tell you the money they have has to go to your school fees and as a result there is no lunch today, only supper. How can you afford not pay attention and learn about priorities? The noise coming from your empty stomach will certainly make sure you learn something from this experience. 
 
"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich" - Napoleon Bonaparte
 
Teaching children the value of money
 
How poverty can be a serious motivator
There were other huge advantages to growing up under such conditions. The motivation to work harder that I got from these experiences is undeniable. I had to work as hard as possible to avoid bringing up my kids under similar conditions. My parents came to my rescue here. They taught me the importance of education. They explained to me that there were only 2 ways I could escape from the poor neighbourhood where we lived. I could either be a sportsman or get a good education. Since I sucked at all sports, which I believe is something to do with wrong genes, my only option was education. At the beginning I wasn't that good, but my uncle Edward brought the best out of me and with his assistance I even managed to get a scholarship to study abroad. That experience completely changed my life. I could even go a step further and say that this actually catapulted me a few steps up the social ladder.
 
"No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned" - Theodore Roosevelt
 
A little fast-foward
So now let's fast forward a little to my current situation. I am the Dad of two boys: 
  • who don't have to work as hard as I did when I was young, if at all, 
  • they never have to miss lunch because there is no money to buy the lunch, 
  • They don't have to make their own toys because their room is already full of them,
  • They don't see their parents struggling to make ends meet.
These are hard conditions for me as a parent to teach my children about the importance of hardwork, the need to save money, differences between needs and wants, budgeting or simply providing suitable conditions for them to be creative or improve their manual skills. The playing field has changed and as a parent I need to adapt and find new ways to teach my children the things that the difficulties of life taught me. That is the purpose of this post. To find out from those with experience about ways to teach children, growing up in abundance of almost everything they need, about money and other values parents need to make sure their kids learn to be well-prepared for adult life.
 
Leave a comment below, if you have any clever ideas regarding how to teach chilren about money. I will be tackling the "how" part of this problem in a future post. So watch this space, follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my blog, if you are interested in the follow up post.

Image credit 401(K) 2013

Tue, 05 Mar 2013