In the early 1940s, George H. Reavis, then assistant superintendent of. Cincinnati Public Schools, wrote a call to action. He called it 'The Animal School'. Although written for teachers, it maybe a timely reminder for parents as well to 'believe that children learn the best when we develop and challenge their strengths and identify and nurture their weaknesses.
Once upon a time the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a “new world” so they organized a school. They had adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.
The duck was excellent in swimming. In fact, better than his instructor. But he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school so nobody worried about that, except the duck.
The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much makeup work in swimming.
The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of the treetop down. He also developed a “charlie horse” from overexertion and then got a C in climbing and D in running.
The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely. In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree but insisted on using his own way to get there.
At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceeding well and also run, climb, and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.
We had a lovely Connect on September 29 at our usual venue, CCK Library. As always, I am grateful for the love and support the librarian and staff provides us at every Connect.
I am also thankful to the moms from previous Connect, who came back to the 3rd Connect. It is lovely to meet regularly. The power of this forum is in these connections. And a big thank you to all who came, braving the heavy rains and slow traffic. 'Hero's Journey' indeed!
So it was moms again (hope to see some dads too, at forthcoming sessions) and what a wide age group of children we had between us; from 2 years to 13 years. It was a rich discussion, in which we could foresee what was coming in terms of challenges, achievements and also support from your kids, through the eyes of a teenager's mom. We relieved the innocence of our own toddlers through the narration of a toddlers mom. These are the moments that memories are made of! Thank you ladies and I hope to see you in the next Connect on November 24.
Takeaways on Money and kids
These days you ask children in the city ‘where milk comes from?’ and you are most likely to get ‘supermarket’ for an answer.
‘Where does money come from?’ Pose this question to your child and the answer you are likely to hear is ATM - ‘a machine,’ ‘a hole in the wall.’ Many children today think getting money is easier than getting a toy from the claw machine in the malls – you just have to insert a card, key in some numbers and ta da… out it comes, always!
Our modern consumer culture reinforces the unwritten equations being formed in their minds;
More money = More stuff = Being Rich = Better Life = More Friends = Better Self Image = Happiness
And its corollary,
Less Stuff = Less Money = Being Poor or ‘Middle Class’ = No Friends = Bad Self Image = Doom
So when, while reading a book, my 9-year-old daughter once asked;
‘Mom, are we rich, or poor or middle class?’
Despite being a financial literacy professional for more than a decade, I found myself unprepared for this question from my kid.
In those few moments my mind raced to find a proper answer to such a seemingly simple question from an innocent kids. I struggled to find an objective answer to a question that may colour my child’s perspective for the rest of her life. Or will it? While I was thinking all this, my kid asked me a couple of more times, holding on to the book she was reading, ‘mom, are we rich, poor or middle class?’
So, like a smart but stumped mother, who understands the worth of her words in such a situation, instead of giving an answer, I posed a question to her, ‘what do you think? Are we rich, poor or middle class?’
‘I don’t know,’ she shrugged, casually. ‘I don’t think we are poor. But we are also not Bill Gates. So, we must be middle class?’ Good hypothesis and reasoning. In fact, I was thinking precisely on those lines, in those initial moments of bewilderment.
My daughter went back to her reading, but left me with her question a lot longer. It is good once in a while, to ponder on the place of money in our life, our family. In that simple question, I realised that as parents, we look at money on multiple levels. Money is not a number, a fact or a math equation. It comes loaded with our hopes and aspirations, fears and failures, comfort and security, achievements and ego. In the modern world, with ‘World’s Richest’, ‘Most Expensive’ Lists, money has become a concrete measure of who you are and what you are capable of. As an adult, we are consciously or unconsciously following this narrative, and that plays a big part when reacting and answering questions.
How does a parent answer such a question? Here are a few handy tips;
Bounce the question back at the kids, especially any question that you’re unsure to answer.Very often, as the know-all adults, we are tempted to jump to answer, so much so that most parents do not realise the power of a question or that a question could well be a reply to a child’s question.
Posing their question back to the kids, helps parents understand what is already in the child’s mind, where they are coming from, how much they already know about it, what is their direction of thought and so on. This helps in multiple ways;
Do you know, what is the easiest way to improve your child's chances at school and his ability to entertain himself for hours?
It has been found that children who are read aloud to by parents get a head start in language and literacy skills and go to school better prepared. Language in books is very rich. A child who hears more sophisticated words has a giant advantage over a child who hasn’t heard those words. What happens during the first few years sets the stage for the rest of a child's life.
And reading aloud to him since young age will help him get a head start and strengthen the bonds between him and you.
Take time to read aloud, in an engaging manner, to your child and see the magic work.
Money is a mere number today as most transactions happen electronically. Children hardly see any physical transactions, except at times witnessing the magic of casting a spell at the 'hole in the wall' to get money called the ATM. Children influence family finances, although they are not fully developed to have a long term view to make decisions. For these reasons, they are the blue-eyed boys and girls of advertisers and retailers; often emotionally manipulated into wanting and demanding.
The media-dominated, peer culture we are raising our kids in, works in opposition to kids developing skills like - responsibility, goal setting, self discipline, drive, and empathy - the skills necessary for their well being - financial or otherwise.
Imagine, what will happen of kids with privileges who grow up getting what they want, when they want - without hard work or painful wait - when they enter the real world, and are on their own.
‘It is what we make of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one from another.’ - Nelson Mandela
Rich kids don't necessarily end up rich
Debt, Student Loans, Mortgages, youngsters living with their parents longer, are the first world problems faced by families across the world. Children from well-to-do families are staying financially dependent on their parents, in extreme (not few) cases, way until their thirties. How can our kids, living in abundance and a virtual financial world, appreciate the value of money and make sane financial decisions as they grow?
The only defense to this continuous targeting for money is a step by step training.
Catch them young! Coz if you don’t, someone else will.
Ever realized how often money and (related) material things creep in your everyday conversations and dealings with your children?
Whether you buy them their justified need of a book/toy/CD or deny them their demand of a latest gizmo or gadget. Whether you make a conscious effort to make your kids/teenagers aware of their responsibility towards money and using it wisely or keep nagging them over their irresponsible financial behavior. Whether you fund all their needs and wants or give them pocket money and teach managing that, you as a parent are consciously or unconsciously shaping your children’s financial attitude.
Bringing up a child and managing finances are perhaps two of the most crucial and challenging activities in the life of a married couple. Bringing up a child in itself, is a financially challenging activity. As you think and plan about your child's development for a bright future, you also need to think and plan about the future of your money. Whether we like it or not, in the today’s world, how you manage your money for current and future needs is arguably directly linked to a bright future for your children and yours. In this issue we explain all that a parent needs to know about parenting and personal finance through a simple story and an inforgraphic.
“I can’t believe you are bored again. You have a play station, DS, so many toys, books and TV channels. When we were your age, we didn't have as much choice but we never complained.”
If you grew up in the 60s, 70s or early 80s in Asia, you can visualise what life with limited choices was like. Fewer toys, no gadgets, no multifunctional phone, limited number of shows for children on TV, rare and far away amusement parks, fewer malls and restaurants. And hence, it may be difficult to imagine why your children today, with access to practically everything – more than you can imagine – are still complaining. About what?
‘We had such limited choice as a child, yet we never complained. We accepted the reality and stayed happy with what we got. Today, our children have so much, things we could not even imagine. Yet they are bored most of the time and complaining. What is with this generation of ‘smart’ kids? They are grumpy despite so much choice.’ A couple quipped at a seminar and the question resonated with a large number in the audience.
Research shows that children are grumpy today, NOT despite but BECAUSE OF too much choice.
Parental behaviour with the child and in front of her has a significant influence on how the child shapes up. This is particularly visible in case of her attitude towards money. Here is a gentle reminder - a few dos and don’ts to influence a healthy financial attitude in your child.
Have you ever been nagged by your 3-year-old into eating junk at a fast food joint because of a special toy that comes with the meal? Has your 4-year-old outwitted you in negotiations for a ‘princess themed birthday party’ costing thousands of dollars? Did you 'have to' buy an iPhone for your 'tween' just because all her friends have one? Have you asked your 12-year-old for an opinion on a brand of car to buy, and then actually bought that brand? Have you gifted your teenager the power of credit card yet?