Alternatives to “We can’t afford it” (why discussing money benefits your kids)
I remember as a child being told, “We can’t afford it.”
I’ve heard myself say to my children, “We can’t afford it.”
It confounded me when I heard it and I didn’t feel right when I said it, so I made a conscious decision to stop saying it.
I thought more deeply not only about what information I was passing on, but also what attitude and what picture of a relationship with money I was modeling.
Because that’s what parenting is almost all of the time: modeling, leading the way, showing our children how it is we believe life is best lived, and providing an example for them.
“My father didn’t tell me how to live; He lived and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Budington Kelland.
The thing about parenting is that it places our strengths and weaknesses under a microscope. How we live now matters a whole lot more.
Now not only does what I say about my money need deeper thought, but also how I spend it.
When I say, “We can’t afford it”, it takes a negative stance on what could be a simple “no”, it implies I am helpless and a victim. But this is not an accurate picture of our financial relationship. We choose, for the most part, where our money goes. We make decisions about what wise stewardship of money looks like in our household.
I do a disservice to my children when I speak passively and negatively about our money.
When one of my three children asks to purchase something now, I give a more honest answer. This can be a “yes” or a “no”.
Sometimes I choose clarification, asking them “Why would you like to buy this?”
This engages us in conversations where I have the opportunity to get to know my child’s mind a little more.
Something interesting happens here. When I ask them “why would you like it?”, they willingly respond and don’t ask again to buy it. Perhaps it is distraction but perhaps it is the interest I show in them that rewards their pleasure centres more than the gaining of a material object or short-lived experience.
Sometimes I choose to discuss our finances deeper and give them more understanding.
My two older children are 7 and 8; it is beneficial for them to have a clearer picture of what family finances and budgeting looks like. This means I will tell them the amount of money I have for the fortnight, what major payments need to be made with it as well as what I may be saving for with what’s left of it.
Sometimes, the conversation isn’t about their minds or our finances, it’s about the thing they ask for.
It is great opportunity to make them think about what the ripples of money transaction create. We can discuss environmental issues and sustainability because of issues such as production and packaging. We can discuss consumerism and accumulation of material items. We can discuss wherever their questions lead.
I am choosing to raise children who ask questions and think deeply and make intentional choices.
“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want” – Anne Lappé
I think it’s best if we, parents, do not waste but invest in these conversations and opportunities.
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Gabriela Antonini chronicles snapshots of her moments on her Instagram @g_and_tribe, in between racing one of her three lively children, sharing chocolate with her theologian husband, feeding her ever-hungry progeny or singing lyrics wrong with the hubs. She is often found with her nose in a book, at the beach, up a tree or carrying around a teapot. Born in Slovakia, a childhood spent in Melbourne, she now lives in Perth heartily appreciating its exquisitely mild weather.