I’ve recently witnessed some child tantrums in the checkout line.
You know how it goes … many people looking away, some looking on with scowls of judgment and a few kind souls giving smiles and words of encouragement.
Parenting is no walk in the park.
Many parents face a unique tension when it comes to loving and providing for their children … and balancing it with the desire to keep them grounded. It is so hard. So, in the interest of throwing some ideas out there, I thought I’d weigh in with a few concepts that might spark ideas for instilling financial smarts into our children (and the ability to understand that they don’t get everything they want right away).
I know — this isn’t a normal topic for a tax professional to address.
But we see it as our role to come alongside families and individuals where the rubber meets the road: how taxes and money actually affect our daily lives. I happen to think it’s part of what makes us effective … because we care about ALL of the implications for your financial decisions.
I know that every family has its own rhythm and pattern, and I’m no “parenting expert”. It’s risky for me to even write about this stuff! But I hope you understand — these are ideas to spark your thinking. Do with them what you will.[And before I get to them, let me also emphasize that we are here for you year-round. With school right around the corner for many of our clients, there are a slew of school-related tax deductions we could explore for you. Let us know how we can help, by dropping me a note or calling: (205) 715-4488 ]
Children, Finances And Birmingham’s Consumerism Culture
“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” -Saint Augustine
I should probably start this right off by saying that I’m not claiming to be a particular expert in these matters. However, I do watch what other people do well … and I’ve had many conversations with wise clients who have shared a thing or two over the years. I have clients with great material means, who have children that remain “unspoiled”, and who don’t carry an expectant spirit.
Likewise, I have clients who have shared their struggles with us about their children always wanting MORE MORE! (these are brave and wonderful clients to share such private details), and this can even be the case when some of these families don’t have large incomes.
And then there are the holidays — in about four months and coming faster than we all think. And I also have some clients whose children get “back to school” gifts (whether at home or from classmates), and of course the normal decisions about birthday gifts.
So how do we hold back a flood of consumerism, and teach our children the true meaning of gifts, giving and the upcoming holiday season? Well, some of my wiser clients might say …
Explicitly Limit The Number Of Gifts Given
Parents often tend to go overboard buying presents for their little ones around birthdays and holidays — after all, it often feels like an overflow of love AND children sure do love it.
But I know Birmingham families who have always put a stated limit on Christmas and birthday presents — and yet their children don’t seem to act like they feel deprived. Christians can link Christmas gift-giving to the three gifts of the magi; Jewish believers can connect their celebration to the miracle of the oil and others can find different reasons (spiritual or otherwise) to not simply pour a truckload of gifts on their children. The key seems to be in creating a happy atmosphere around it, and remaining consistent.
And because I’m writing this months in advance, you have time to be thoughtful about it, and perhaps prepare your children differently, if you hope to make a shift.
Have Your Children Buy Their Friends Gifts
Why not let your kids experience what it feels like to sacrifice and give? After all, we’d all want to give ALL of our friends a gift, but the truth of the matter is that we simply cannot buy a gift for everyone on our list. We have finite resources and have to allocate them accordingly. There is a line that we all have to draw in the sand for who will get gifts and who will get a card.
Giving your children a certain dollar amount to spend on gifts, or simply making them pay for their friends’ gifts out of their own pocket, will teach them about making the hard choices of whom to give to, and how much, within their very limited resources.
And, of course, this assumes that they ARE giving gifts! If not, that’s a great place to start.
Share Financial Details With Your Children
Children should be protected from adult concerns. But that doesn’t mean that they should be blissfully ignorant about how money works. In fact, we owe it to our children to properly explain where the family’s money comes from, how it gets into the bank account, and how expenses and budgets work. With a little explanation about how your family’s budget is structured, you may be able to hold back the tide of consumerism culture.
Again, they don’t need to feel a pinch — but they SHOULD know that gifts and items have a monetary value, and don’t just get plucked from the shelves without cost.
These are just ideas to start with. It’s extremely hard to curb the allure of consumerism in our culture. But in my opinion, it’s a fight that every Birmingham parent should consider waging in today’s society of overspending and consumer debt.
Again, every family has their own approach … but I do hope that you’ve thought yours through. To your family’s financial health!
Randall M. Hancock CPA, PC