Saturday, 26 January 2013

Leaving a financial and parenting legacy

BEING a parent is a challenging job. It's a job that requires lifelong commitment, and you cannot resign from it even if you feel you can't cope. And what's more, parenting requires skills that are not obtainable from school, college or university. Parenting and managing money are the two most important skills that we learn from our parents or adults with whom we grew up, be they our grandparents, nannies or guardians.

As you go through the process of considering how to communicate with your parents and siblings about managing family wealth, you will realise the need to teach your children about money so that you are able to leave your own legacy behind for your children to communicate and manage money harmoniously as a family.

There is really not one proven or standard method of parenting and teaching children about money because of different personalities, behaviours and attitudes. We teach children about money based on how we were taught about money by our own parents or guardians, and from the environment in which we were brought up. Recall your childhood days, and how your parents taught you about money. Were you taught to save your pocket money or to spend it wisely?

Think about the environment you grew up in. Were there times when your parents had money problems and you often heard them argue about it? Or did your parents hide the fact that money was hard to come by in the family? Or were you pampered by your parents with toys, clothes and going out for fun activities and holidays?

Some parents have told me that because of the poverty they experienced during their own childhood, they now try their best to give their children a better life by lavishing them with the material goods and experiences that they themselves never had. By indulging their children, they are not allowing their children to experience financial responsibility.

Different parenting styles

While most parents learn parenting skills from their own parents or by observing others, they will accept some practices and discard others. Effective parenting requires interpersonal skills that can create some emotional demands. Experts in early childhood development say an important dimension of parenting is the style parents adopt when they interact with their children. According to Maccoby and Martin's parenting style typologies, there are four different parenting styles. Depending on the child's character, different parenting styles lead to different results:

1) Authoritarian parenting is a restrictive, punitive style in which parents exhort the child to follow their directions. The authoritative parent places firm limits and controls on the child, and allows little verbal exchange. These parents tend to be very strict and may control the children by limiting their wants and desired wants. In this case, the children may either grow up to rebel' by spending beyond their financial means to fulfil their childhood desires, or they may become very good at managing their money.

2) Nurturing parenting is a style that encourages the child to be independent but still places limits and controls on the child's actions. Extensive verbal give-and-take is allowed, and parents are warm and nurturing towards children. These parents often communicate and teach their children to spend their money wisely by explaining to them the importance of money.

3) Neglectful parenting is a style in which parents are uninvolved in the child's life. Children whose parents are neglectful often develop a sense that other aspects of their parents' lives are more important than they are. Children who grow up in this environment are often deprived of parental love and a sense of belonging in the family. As a result, they may grow up spending lots of money to fulfil their need for love from friends, and from their life partner. Or they may spend money to boost their self-esteem because of the lack of parental love.

4) Indulgent parenting is a style in which parents place few demands or controls on the children. These indulgent parents will let their children do what they want. Children with indulgent parents may often be spoilt by a variety of material things or an impressive lifestyle. The spending behaviour of indulgent parents may condition the children to spend more than they need or more than they can afford when they grow up.

Imagine a situation where the father is indulgent towards a child and provides gifts, toys, fun and pleasure, while the mother, on the other hand, is a disciplinarian with strict rules about gifts, toys, fun and pleasure. Who will the child prefer to be with, and who will the child learn more from? You and your spouse should decide on a best way to handle your children's money expectations. It is important to be consistent and fair to lessen potential family strife.

Communication

According to experts of child psychology, even from a tender age of 2 or 3 years old, a child learns by observation, and from conversations and experiences they have with adults. Hence, effective parenting warrants a tremendous amount of proper learning methods and communication skills. Understandably, today's parents are faced with more issues compared with their parents; the fact that today's younger generation is growing up in an era of media influence, technology advancement and the Internet makes parenting an even more challenging job.

It can be painful for parents to discipline and teach children about saving money, particularly when their children are easily influenced by their friends even as pre-schoolers. This is further compounded by the barrage of advertisements on television and online media that tempts your children with attractive toys, pretty clothes and accessories.

It does not really matter how much money you have or how much joy you derive from showering your children with material things. As parents, you have got to show some restraint and boundary. You don't have to feel guilty about scaling back on spending for your children. Your children may already have more than they need more clothes and shoes than they can wear, toys and games than they have time to play with.

Be mindful that while you are conscious of good money habits for your children, you need to ensure that your children's grandparents, godparents, aunties, uncles, or other adults around them do not indulge them too much with gifts. This may send your children the message that if they cannot get what they want from you, they can get it from them.

Family values 

In some situations, a couple may bring different views and values about money and parenting to the marriage. Because of personality, character, family and life experience differences, couples do face conflicting personal and family issues where money is concerned. Therefore, teaching a child about money really begins with teaching your child about the importance and meaning of life values as a family.

Honesty, integrity, teamwork, helpfulness, trust, love, family support, accountability, unity, filial piety, commitment, communication, sharing, spending time with parents and siblings are some of the most important family values that your children ought to know, even if they may be younger than six years old.

Constant messages to your children about how good family values are important in life, and that money cannot buy such values, are more important than parental love expressed in the form of material things for your children.

Teaching them important life values and let them know that money is a means to an end, and not for self-gratification.

Other than sending them to school to gain knowledge and social skills, the money skills that you teach your children from an early age are the most important life education you can provide them with and it actually starts at home. It is as simple as how you and your spouse manage money and communicate about money at home. Your good money skills will rub off on your children.

May this be your new resolutions for teaching your children good money sense!

MONEY & YOU By CAROL YIP

Carol Yip, founder of Abacus For Money, believes that if people understand their money mindset, behaviours and money psychology, they can be financially happy and successful. She actively promotes financial literacy and intelligence within families and for women, youths and retirees.

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