Jerevie Canlas, Ph.D, CFLE
Empowering Financial Wellness Program Coordinator
As a certified family life educator, I’ve been asked one too many times about how to best parent children. And here’s my answer – there is no one answer to that question. Parenting is like cooking a dish using a recipe. The recipe guides you through the steps of cooking a specific dish. If a recipe tells you to braise the meat, you don’t stir it – you leave it alone in the pot. Sure, you can choose to keep peeking and stir. That’s ok – but you might not get the dish the recipe described. The same is true with parenting styles. You can parent however you see fit, and each parenting style will have a variety of behavioral outcomes.
The same idea applies when teaching children financial principles. As a mother, I can’t tell you how many times my boys have tried to squeeze the last cent out of my grocery budget. Even my preschooler has learned a few tricks from his older brother. They can become professional negotiators when they grow up, I tell you that.
When you know you really only have enough money to get those items on your grocery list, it is so tempting to just say “we can’t afford that” when your child asks for yet another toy or snack. And this is not just at the store. Remember, your kids are listening to your grown-up conversations. I remember that one time we were watching an episode of a house hunting reality show, and I gasped “Oh my gosh, I could never afford that house!” My son looked at me, and asked, “why mom?” And that was when I realized that my view points about financial behavior can really influence my children’s money habits and attitudes.
So why shouldn’t you tell your children that you can’t afford something? Here’s a few reasons why.
So, what should you say to your kids instead? You don’t have to have a lengthy conversation at the grocery aisle. I don’t think I can commit to that either. The key is to validate your child’s perceived need, to be honest, and to be willing to have that conversation. Here are some things you can say instead of “we can’t afford it”:
The word CAN is very powerful. Saying “we can’t afford it” can be depreciating, but these alternative ways are empowering and relay the message that you can actually afford anything, within reason.
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