7 Things to Teach Children About Money
“Mummy, why is the sky blue?”
“Daddy, can you teach me how to drive the car?”
“Mummy, look at Daddy's stomach—is he also pregnant just like you?”
Children, am I right? It is no secret that they often ask the darndest questions, pardon my French. And they should very much do; according to an Independent UK article, curious children ask about 73 questions per day. That is quite the number of questions, and at times, adults find it hard to keep up with the inquisitiveness of these young ones, preferring to either ignore or dismissively scold the children for being too talkative or stubborn.
“Curiosity killed the cat,” someone might say in response to constant questions from a child, even though such innocent inquisitiveness is merely the child's way of figuring things out in an understandably complex world. Of course, it is not a crime to not have all the answers to your child's questions—you have probably done enough by them as it is. You deserve a break, even.
Still, there is one aspect much like those of personal hygiene and sex education that requires you to guide a child off the questions they may want to ask without even knowing it: Money. Finance. Wealth. Yes, and here's the real kicker: your kids can start forming financial habits as early as 7 or 9, but the questions will definitely come earlier.
So, what would you rather have as a parent? Do right by your kids whenever you make them understand money little by little? Or risk letting them be taught by the wildly uncertain forces of the world? Would you let them think that there is nothing wrong in taking money out of your purse or trouser pockets in clandestine fashion? What if they realise too late the value of money because they always expect to receive cash gifts and freebies from you?
Of course, teaching children about money is relatively a rare thing in most Nigerian families, and yet, just like sex education, religious upbringing and reading culture, financial shrewdness at a young age does more than merely making your kids look smart; it adds a layer of development to their personal character. You should also know that children who never get to know how to control, value, and strive for money would most definitely end up holding the short stick of life.
By not teaching your children about money, you risk letting them grow up to lack those skills needed to form a certain level of required self-sufficiency in adulthood. This will not just affect your child’s financial habits in the years to come, but would also create a negative dent on their self-esteem as well as the nature of their relationships with people and the world at large.
Your children don't need you to go all Rich Dad, Poor Dad on them. Nope. Of course, they are brilliant and gifted, but at the age of 7 or thereabouts, they're still very much kids. As such, all you have to do is show them the clearest perceptions of money from different angles, in order to let them understand the workings of money. In order to do this, you might have to prepare seven important lessons for the types of questions likely to come out of their curiosity over money itself.
“Daddy, can you please give me money so that I can be rich like Tobi?”
Here is where you teach them how to save, either through a clear jar (so they can witness daily growth) or a piggy-bank (if they're easily tempted). Part of the cash your kids get from gifts should go straight into savings!
“Mummy, can I have my own bank account just like you?”
This is a lot more advanced than a jar, but savings accounts for children are far from being novelties. And most banks actually offer long-term benefits with a higher security than portable jars or piggy-banks.
“Daddy, can I use my money to buy this Iron-Man watch?”
This one is enough for a brief lecture. After all, impulse spending is the self-destructive bane of any budget. Tell your children that if they want to own the latest superhero merchandise, they should save even more to afford such. Or get them to invest in something more beneficial than plastic toys, like enrollment/access to a financial bootcamp or tech webinar.
“Mummy, is it okay if I give Ada some of my money?”
This question doesn't even need to be asked. The act of giving should be deeply ingrained in all human psyches, and why not teach your kids this early on? Teach your children to exercise the grace of helping others meet their needs. Let them feel that bright tingle that follows true generosity.
“Mummy, please, will you forgive me for taking money out of your bag?”
This one is a bit tough, but we've all been there, haven't we? It's human to be covetous, but to be contented is divine. After the session of discipline, let them see that they should never let money make them pawns to their own desires. Don't let money make them do bad things. Teach them honesty, accountability and the shining value of a clear conscience—the only thing money cannot buy.
“Daddy, why are we not rich like CJʼs family?”
So many adults who should know better often find themselves in huge debt levels or other forms of financial trouble just because of a meaningless need to “belong” or seemingly “arrive”. These people find the very concept of contentment hard to digest, forgetting that it doesn't denote poverty or lack at all. You can save your children from growing up to be such adults by letting them know that it's okay to not have the latest expensive PlayStation or iPhone or fancy mansion. Teach your children that they should never have to feel less about themselves as long as they have enough money to take care of basic needs at home and outside of it.
“Mummy, can you please give me ₦5,000? Aunty Ovayoza said that she will give me back ₦20,000 next month!”
Children from earlier times might remember the rare but curious sight of so-called money doublers in public spaces. Of course, money doublers belong to older times. Or have they simply evolved? Whatever it is, you should do the hard job of sitting your child down and telling them the truth. Sure enough, you will have to watch the excitement disappear from their eyes as their hopes of scoring a jackpot crumbles. But at the end of it all, you would have armed them against the danger of unhealthy scams, not just dubious ponzi schemes alone. Teach them that money is something one has to work very hard for, but at the end, there's a satisfaction that comes from earning what's due, legitimate and sufficient for basic needs, or affordable luxuries. Teach them this, and they will know to always be wary of dubious money-making ventures.
Cash/catch them young, and later in their lives, your children will be deeply grateful that you planted in them valuable lessons around money, lessons that would not only lead to substantial wealth, but richness in character as well.