Your buckaroos are watching you.
Terri is a country music fan and always played country music in the car with the kids growing up, and one song we both fell in love with was Rodney Atkins' song, "Watching You." It’s about how his son is watching him and picking up both his dad’s good habits and maybe some not-so-good habits, and saying, "I’ve been watching you, dad. Isn’t that cool? I’m your buckaroo. I want to be like you." This song is impactful when you really see the message. Our children watch all the things we do and don’t do, whether we think they are watching or not.
As we kick off our week talking about kids and money, just know that there is no perfect recipe, but if you try to teach about money with the philosophy of "do what I say, not what I do," then the odds are against you. Kids will eventually learn on their own, but do you really want society to teach them about money when they are the ones fighting for their money?
Like each of us, your kids might be natural savers. Some will give freely. Some might be selfish to no end. Regardless of their natural tendencies, kids will learn more from you by your example and openness with money than from any book or lecture you can give them. Thus, as you gain wisdom, talk openly about it.
I coach people to have family council meetings. Family councils are great for talking about saving for a trip, discussing a month where the budget might be tight, or discussing budget trade-offs that may affect everyone. If we, as a family, do this, then we can’t do that, which opens the question to the family of which option should we choose? If wealth or income is plentiful, your teaching and discussions might be different, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have family councils or shield your kids from the gratitude of wealth. Use family councils to share how you are successful with money. Testify about previous struggles or where you learned your money wisdom. Throughout their development years, kids should be reminded frequently of your testimony about money.
Now some warnings:
If you use the word "budget" as a weapon of money war with your children (or spouse), then they will, sadly, learn that budgeting is bad and they will resist it, maybe even their whole life.
Do not put the parental weight of money stress on the children.
One of my favorite business and finance authors shared an example of a child who brought their piggy bank to the family council because they wanted to help the family. They might have gone too far about the family situation, but it turned out to be a pivotal moment that would have never happened if things weren’t openly discussed. The piggy bank moment opened up the discussion, and the family grew together over the generosity of one of the children.
Let me be crystal clear that having a family council is perfect for kids to see and talk about money, but most importantly, kids will always gain more from your actions than from your words. So, remember, and believe me and Rodney, that your buckaroos are watching you.