A few months ago, my 3-year old son picked up a coin that he found lying on the ground and said, “Look Mom, a quarter!” I was shocked! He had been learning all about money as a toddler in daycare and was so excited to tell me about it. As a mother, I couldn’t have been prouder of him. As a financial advisor, I couldn’t have been more…embarrassed?!
It’s a balance a lot of working mothers struggle with,giving up the gift of teaching your children in those precious early years in order to hopefully bring a different set of opportunities back to your family. There’s no easy answer there, and that’s a topic for another time.
That day, instead of stopping at being proud, I took this event as an opportunity to build on top of what he’s been learning and apply the concept of money to his own little world. Surely if he is capable of identifying different coins, he’s ready to start training his behaviors around finance.
A fun place to save!
His Goal! (As an angler myself, I sneak in fishing were I can.)
A way to earn! (My mother had a poster board version for me and my sisters with shining gold star stickers when I was a kid. It was a much more nostalgic approach, but at least we have a chore chart, right?!)
We had so much fun checking the chart each day with him, giving him smiley faces for chores accomplished and awarding him quarters at the end of a successful week. He loved running to his piggy bank and saying, “I did it!” as he slid the quarter into the slot. My sweet Bud. He could have focused on how far he had left to go to reach his new toy goal, but instead he smiled and hugged me because he had made it through a long week of chores. After a strong start, a few weeks of Mom losing focus, and my husband stepping in to help us get back on track, we finally made it to the $7.00 needed to pay for the game! He picked up the piggy bank and ran to rip open the new toy! We went fishing for little blue, red and yellow fish for at least a half an hour on our living room floor. That’s a pretty good attention span for him.
1. Teach your young children about money! It’s fun, and it lays the foundation for establishing good habits early on. I hope my son remembers the fun just like I remember my mother’s poster board and gold stars.
2. It’s not as easy to feel success in the weekly wins of a quarter when your goal is $7.00. Like adult goals we strive for, such as paying down debt, or saving for a family trip, find happiness in what it feels like to hear the clink of a quarter in your piggy bank as you save. You’re more likely to reach your end goals when you recognize yourself for accomplishment in each small step.
3. It’s okay if you get derailed or lose interest for a while. We’re human, big or small, and no one is perfect. Success is never guaranteed in the end, but failure is for certain if you don’t make the decision to get back on track.
At the end of the day, one thing is clear: I can’t teach my children everything they need to know on my own. I needed my own mother to teach money lessons to me early on, my husband to be the encouragement when we lost focus and the real hero teachers to teach us parents that kids are so incredibly capable of learning things earlier than we think.
I kid you not….two weeks later my sweet bud found a dime on the floor and said, “Look Mom, a penny!” I guess we still have some learning to do!? But then again, don’t we all.
Written by: Rachel Stewart