I want to write about something today that may annoy a good bit of you. I would ask you hear me out and give some real thought to these concepts… with an open mind. I’d love your responses, and even more, your creative ideas and experiences concerning the ideas I’m going to offer up for debate.
Though I’d like to think any parent might find what follows useful, I suspect those that understand, have adopted, or just naturally exist in a mindset similar to that which fits with “unschooling” will be the most responsive (and least offended). I say this because these families tend to have a greater trust in their children’s development and intelligence, as well as tend to be more willing to take upon themselves (the adults) the responsibility to actively demonstrate what they hope their children will gain from their developing years, instead of “instructing”.
Today Mamapedia offered up an article on helping kids learn to save money. The published responses/suggestions/ideas mostly consisted of chores, savings accounts, tithing, and delayed gratification. If I’d written this article, I’d have entitled it, “Helping Children Learn to Manage Finances & Wealth”. And to that, I want your ideas and experiences on how your own children have learned, through observation of your family’s choices and mindsets, how to manage finances and especially, attain the mindset and properly handle financial abundance.
From the article “Dollars and Sense“, I agree with the value of delayed gratification, but believe this is something learned by observation, not imposition or expectation (which teach resentment and superiority/hierarchy). In our home, delayed gratification (as opposed to debt) is demonstrated, and the concept is the prevailing mentality of the adults. The development of the child dictates whether they comprehend, and whether they follow suit or not. This development is not linear either, but bounces around, and the environment in the home must honor them and give them the space to bounce.
The article also talks about savings accounts, tithing, and chores, which all seemed to trigger a response within me that just doesn’t sit right. Perhaps you and your family also have a bit different take on these.
To me, chores are first and foremost, diminishing. They demonstrate that the adult not only has the power to force the child to do something (like the kid doesn’t already inherently know this), but chooses to use this power (whether it be direct order, or coercion – bribery), and that the child is therefore less/under in the mind of the adult.
Often people will state that the imposition and expectation of chores for children teaches them responsibility. In my opinion and experience, responsibility isn’t taught. Responsibility comes from an inner choice governed by compassion, discipline, and intelligence. These are gained by observing them being demonstrated and valued. That topic, however, is for another post.
Second, chores are the adult’s way of getting contribution in the home, but it’s the lazy way. Imposing chores, instead of encouraging a sense of united contribution, makes it so the adult doesn’t have to provide an example (that is then observed over the LIFE of the child while a child), just a requirement. Instead, the adult could provide a continuous environment of mutual respect and mutual contribution, coming from a heart filled with compassion and intelligent foresight, (foresight being, if you don’t do the laundry, you will wear dirty clothes). Offering this sort of consistent environment in a way that is positive and mutually beneficial, allows the child to develop a sense that contribution and generosity are valuable ruling (inner) concepts, instead of responding to expectation (which develops resentment) or out of a need for approval. I have often heard parents say “I have to, so, you -kid- do too” and it is so diminishing to the child, as well as very loudly demonstrates just how emotionally immature the adult really still is.
Expectation (and requirement of such things like chores, schoolwork, milestones) on the adult’s timeline prevents trust in the process of the child’s intelligence, observation skills, and resulting capabilities and choices. Not fearing that your child will turn out a selfish adult, unwilling to share and contribute to society, often drives these parental expectations and impositions. Herein lies the need for a paradigm shift, which if successfully completed, would result in a society responsible for itself, compassionate toward all that has life, and respect and acceptance of each other and self.
Third, and perhaps the most important to me for the future, chores imposed upon my kids teaches them how to have a job, a boss, collect a paycheck, and decide where the money goes. This is NOT something I think I need to teach them… society will do that. This may sound arrogant, and please forgive me if it does, but I think rather than teaching them to simply fall in rank and form, I would rather demonstrate to them how to manage wealth, and live a life where their mind is free from the constraints and restrictions imposed by a fearful society, ruled by conformity. To me, chores teaches how to have a job, just like school teaches how to be an employee. I’d rather teach them to fly (and not set the limits of that flight to our Earth’s atmosphere, either!).
Savings? Yes, useful. How to demonstrate/instruct this concept to a young child seems somewhat premature however. I think that in a family where there is more than what is needed to survive, the child will absorb how the adults -wisely- manage the abundance.
As the child becomes mature enough to understand the concepts of managing finances and financial abundance (wealth – in whatever form, really, but here we’re discussing $$), it is then the parent’s job to step up the “demonstrations” by involving the child in decisions. This involvement means giving the child an opportunity to make a decision, and then honoring it (not stepping in/guiding/intervening), regardless of the outcome. Real decisions, with real results, in the real world (both the adult’s and child’s).
Tithing – Mandatory charity. I think this goes back to chores #1, and the concept of contribution coming from a spirit of compassion and generosity, not mandated. Trust in the experience is necessary here… Giving has its own rewards that compel repetition,. Being taught to give is not required, and is counterproductive.. the only required aspect of giving with children is demonstration and opportunities be offered.
So, what are you thinking? Does your family practice fiscal responsibility (and responsibility in general) in a way that your children are allowed to simply observe? As they grow, is your guidance something they seek because they know they have your respect for their intelligence, that you appreciate all they have already learned and are capable of, and they know they have your trust in their process of growing?