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Making sure your kids grow up with awareness and selflessness can be challenging.
In a world of expensive technology, a lack of time and and a culture of disconnect, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start, in giving your children life lessons about appreciating the life and the "stuff" you have provided for them.
Regardless of the reasons for giving them things (laptop needed for school, reward for good behaviour etc) it is still important for them to understand that money doesn't grow on trees.
Many parents go through times where they feel their children are acting spoiled or ungrateful. They do not just automatically behave that way, they learn it from somewhere. Understanding that will help you comprehend why things such as delayed gratification, experiences and life lessons can teach them so much more that growling about how they have turned into spoiled brats.
Instead of telling them should appreciate stuff use ways to show them.
It's so easy to look back at the way your own parents raised you.Phrases might pop into your head similar to the following.
"You are so lucky, I never had anything."
" I had to work two jobs to pay for anything I wanted and most of it went to my parents anyway."
"Do you know how long it takes me to earn enough money to pay for your music lessons?"
All of these things are really counterproductive. If they don't see, touch or feel the experience themselves they can't relate.
Here are some ways you can encourage and inspire them to make good decisions and build empathy, respect and gratefulness.
1. Each time your children want something new, they must find two things in their collection that they are willing to part with to charity.
Not only does this reduce the clutter in the home and maintain a sense of order, they have to weigh up if the new thing is really that much better than the old thing. Giving to someone in need is also a bit of a warm fuzzy for them. Even better if they can physically give it to someone rather that pop in a donation bin.
2. Each month ( or however often they get an allowance) help them choose what charity they wish to donate a percentage of their allowance to.
If you set the bar at say 2% its a good starting point. That way if they get $10 a week, $2 of that can go to someone who needs the money more. It could be as simple as going and popping their gold coin in the guide dog box at the supermarket or buying a charity raffle ticket at a market.
If you can help give them more information about their chosen charity it will help them understand where the money is going and being used for. For example, if they choose to donate to the guide dogs, you could take them to a RSB office where they can look at pamphlets or maybe even meet people who have a dog or are waiting for one. Knowing that their contribution, however small is making a difference to their live's will be a great experience add will teach compassion.
3. Give them a piggy bank ( or a real bank account) for spending and saving money.
Nowadays you can buy piggy banks that have sections in them so that when the child receives their allowance they divide it up into categories in the big such as savings, spending, donating and investing. It's a great entry point to understanding budgeting. Alternatively you could create the same thing with individually labelled jars.
4.Involve them in food preparation and household chores early.
For some parents this kind of cooking might seem advanced but I have been doing various forms of cooking and baking with my son since he was around 13 months and now three is very confident helping me in the kitchen ( supervised of course)
Make sure they are age appropriate and don't be afraid to at least let them try even if they aren't going to do it perfectly. Many of us tend to rush our children through things such as dressing themselves or putting butter on their toast and end up just doing it ourselves because its faster and less mess but how are they going to get better without being allowed the time to practice? Make the time to get them up that little bit earlier so they can go at their own pace.
They will also learn very quickly that if they don't move fast enough or do something to your level of satisfaction, you will do it for them anyway. That will be fun once they are teenagers!
5. Teach them to budget, compare pricing and negotiate the final cost.
Start out simple with the young ones by just talking about what you are doing. Going to the supermarket and telling them what things cost as you put them into the trolley. For example;
"Hey honey, we need to get some cucumbers. They are $2 each and we are going to need three. That means that our cucumbers are going to cost us $6."
Even if they aren't old enough to get the math you are absolutely planting the seed for them to take an interest later on by involving them. If you can get them to take things off the shelf and put in the trolley for you its a good way to make them feel important and they are contributing to the shopping( the right way.)
Ask them to get x amount off the shelf, count each one as they put it in the trolley and thank them for helping. Be aware of what you are asking and make sure that they are items they can handle and not too heavy or breakable.
If you can put them in positions where they have to negotiate a price such as a trash and treasure market for a toy or some other item they want its a great learning opportunity. If they are too young, let them watch you do it.
6. Don't forget to play.
So much learning is done through play and there are some amazing educational toys out there. Things such as mini kitchens, shop fronts with cash registers, sorting puzzles and more you are bound to find an activity your child will love that really engages them and you will be amazed at what they learn. Letting them lose occasionally will also give them the skills to cope with disappointment.
7. Take them to work with you.
Depending on your job this may not be realistic but its definitely going to be an eye opener. For those with teens that have a "work experience" component of their schooling this just might be your opportunity. An few hours of filing papers, digging trenches or washing hair might give them a new found appreciation of how hard you work to provide for them.
8. Encourage any entrepreneurial endeavours.
If your kids tell you their dreams, encourage them. No matter how ridiculous the idea sounds to you chances are they probably gave it a lot of thought before they shared it with you and sometimes the craziest, unlikely ideas become the best ideas.
Encourage them to come up with a business plan and if you think its a goer you will "invest" in it. It might be a lemonade stand, a jewellery making business or a famous Instagram account. Find a way you can help make their dream a reality.
It doesn't even have to be a monetary contribution on your behalf. It could be your time. For example if your 13 year old wanted to start a fashion blog and Instagram page, you could offer to take photos of her outfits for her or sit with her while she researches other fashion blogs. Being present in their passion will build their confidence in bucketloads.
If it doesnt turn out to be a game changer, who cares? At least they gave something a go and will be willing to try something else another time because they feel supported in doing so.
9. Match whatever contribution they make towards a savings goal up to a certain amount.
This is not always going to be practical for every parent but it is a good motivator to save money for something bigger than normal such as a car or house deposit. It is also important to be realistic and if you want your child to still do well at school while they save for a car, working 30 hours a week for two years is going to be very draining for them.
10. Give them opportunities to get ahead without compromising yourself.
The opportunity to live at home as long as they need to, to save for their first home is something a lot of teenagers are doing. While some parents prefer to let their kids "freeload" they aren't really teaching them a lot. Even if you want to be that parent letting them put away every cent they have for their house deposit it is still a good idea to have them pay towards board or bills.
Once they get in the real world with a mortgage they need to be able to manage all that so practising before it gets serious is very beneficial. If you don't need or want the money from them, considering taking it anyway and putting away in an account without them knowing, so that once they reach their savings goal you can hand them back their payments to you and use it as another chunk on their deposit or to furnish their new home.
11. Provide them with humbling experiences.
Exposing them to situations such as homelessness, teen pregnancy or other poverty is a great way to make them realise that not everyone has it as good as them.
Depending on the age and your budget you could do things such as travel to less affluent countries, visit shelters or youth hostels or take advantage of opportunities to volunteer at a soup kitchen or make up and deliver presents to struggling families at Christmas.
Let them talk to these people and learn how and why people got to this point in their life. You could also watch movies or read books with them of people overcoming the odds in their lives. Lastly, fill their lives with positive role models to mirror, including yourself as you are the one who has the most influence.