I was watching Anh Do’s Brush with Fameecently where Anh was painting a portrait of Kyle Sandilands. Those of you who know Kyle also know that he is one of the most controversial radio presenters in Australia. With his co-conspirator, Jackie O, he has been banned from radio several times, fined, prosecuted and nationally vilified for some of his sexist and racist comments. Yet, listening to his story, I could see why he is who he is and how his experience brought him to this place.
Kyle shared with Anh how he lived on the streets as a teenager and had absolutely nothing to his name. Now, as an adult, he has problems buying stuff. Impulsively. His Business Manager is at his wit’s end as to what to do and how to pay for the things Kyle brings home.
Anh also shared how, as a refugee, he and his family never had enough food and now he makes sure, whenever he goes out to eat, that he over-orders lest anyone go hungry.
Many of us have parents who grew up either in the Great Depression or who fell into hard times during the War. Today, some of them are hoarders, have freezers full of food and cupboards full of non-perishables ‘just in case.’
The flip side of this is that we, who went without, often want our kids to have everything we didn’t have. We want their birthday parties to be grand affairs, their dress on prom night to be the most stylish and expensive, their first car to be brand-shining-new, their wedding to be lavish.
There is absolutely nothing wrong to want the best for our kids.
There is something dreadfully awry, however, when we hand it over to them at their every whim and want.
Every family has its own ways of passing on their values to the next generation, Here’s how we managed this.
We taught our kids the value of work. This is a huge lesson. It is not optional. Work pays the bills. Work helps us earn what we need to live. Work also helps us to save for holidays, momentous celebrations, and big-ticket items such as a house, a car and education.
If we hand our children whatever they want in life, we are doing them a great disservice in preparing them to be responsible and emotionally intelligent adults.
(Personally, this is why I believe many marriages are breaking down in the first few years—one or both parties feels ‘entitled’ to not have a job, or have everything they want, or buy that newest and greatest car, dress, phone, house, holiday. They haven’t been taught delayed gratification. They haven’t been taught to plan ahead. They haven’t been shown how to live as a responsible adult.)
Work also gives a sense of purpose, satisfaction, opportunity to grow as a person and relate to other human beings on a daily basis. Meaningful employment has far greater value than just money.
We showed our children the value of their own money. We always gave our children pocket money. At first, they could spend this on whatever they wanted. As they grew older, pocket money increased and so did responsibility. Now they had to buy their own school stationery, then their own toiletries, underwear, gifts for friends’ birthdays. Of course there were times when they couldn’t afford some things and, sometimes, we helped them out. But never without using the opportunity for a life lesson: “When you leave home, you won’t just be able to drop by and ask me to cover your insurance payment every month.”
Likewise, we never used credit (apart from our house and car) and showed our children how credit can be a trap and always ends up costing far more than the value of the item purchased.
We told stories to help keep a healthy perspective on our lifestyle. We told them about the folks we knew in the Philippines who live in a small cinder-block house with no running water, but who still live a full, happy and meaningful life. We told them about our grandparents and how they grew up on farms, milking cows every day, making their own clothes, cooking food from scratch (something we have always been keen to do as well), and didn’t have access to the latest technology. We support people in areas of great need in our world through charities that use our gifts to educate and empower local communities to be self-sustaining and healthy.
We used every opportunity to teach life lessons. Leftover food was ‘recycled’ into another meal, chicken food, or compost. Old clothes were given away. Broken gadgets were fixed or used as a lesson to show how things work (I still remember how we were still vacuuming up little screws from the time #1 Son took that old TV apart!). We had garage sales, went to op shops and markets. We didn’t buy $300 jackets and $200 shoes, ever. We wanted our kids to know that we could be happy and comfortable without over-indulging.
As Dave Ramsey reminds us:
“Little eyes are watching you. If you’re slapping down plastic every time you go out to dinner or to the grocery store, they will eventually notice. If, at the end of every month, you and your spouse are arguing about money, they’ll notice. Set a healthy example for them, and they’ll be much more likely to follow it when they get older.”
We still believe we are stewards of the earth and its resources and, while we can’t do a lot on our own to fix the world’s waste problems, we can take care not only to use well what we have been given but to also be an example to our children.
I never spent time on the streets as a kid. I didn’t experience the hardship of refugee camps. I never went through a worldwide Depression. Yet those who have gone through these troubles have passed on lessons in their own lives that we would do well to heed. In the end, if we bring our children up to be respectful, contented, hard-working community members and family leaders, we will be happy indeed. It is well worth it!
9 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money (Dave Ramsey)
4 Tips & Strategies for Teaching Your Kids about Money (kiva.org)
Five Healthy Money Habits to Teach Your Kids (LA Times)