My daughter is 18 years old this year, older than I was when she was born. For years we lived on a very low income and barely made ends meet.
She watched me work my way through college, studying hard, often working more than one job to make ends meet. If you were to ask her now if we had any money when she was young she would tell you she didn’t really know. She never went to bed hungry and always had clean clothes to wear. She always had toys to play with and mom was always there for her when she needed her. That is what she remembers.
My daughter is now applying for college herself, and wanted me to read her college application. She had to write about herself and her life, her relationships, etc. I was very surprised to read what she thought about her childhood. We have lived through a lot of tough times and there are a lot of negative stories she could tell. What she described is how thankful she was for the hardships she has endured and how she has become a strong woman because of her life experiences. She credits me for her drive and determination. She attributes her money management skills to my example.
Her essay made me realize that it is not the experiences we go through that shape us–it is how we handle those experiences. When you are enduring financial hardships, if you make poor decisions, your children will see your decisions and feel the impact of those decisions. If you make good choices, your children will learn from those choices also, regardless of your financial circumstances. Every choice you make affects the people your children will some day become. If your children see you charging up your credit cards (regardless of how much money you make), they will think that is normal and will learn those spending habits from you. If you live on a low income and spend your money wisely, your children will learn to manage their money well.
You can not teach your children what you do not model. Your children need to learn to budget their money, however much money that is, to not accumulate debt, and to shop wisely. You can teach them this from a very young age, with even their allowances. Sit down and really take the time to decide what you want your children to learn about money and start modeling those behaviors for your children today.
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of What’s for Dinner?, an e-cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For more recipes, organizing tips, home decorating, crafts, holiday hints, and more, visit Creative Homemaking at http://www.creativehomemaking.com.