When I was a Mum to two small children, in the summer holidays it seemed like there were so many potential expenses. Ice creams, days out, treats, and maybe some extra toys to keep them occupied during the long break. However, mindful of the school shoes and uniforms that needed buying at the end of the holiday, and their recent birthdays, I was not always keen to buy every ice cream/book/toy that caught my children’s attention.
My response? To say what I genuinely felt – “we can’t afford it”. Now, from a child’s point of view that is blatantly untrue – I could afford to spend money in the supermarket, I could afford to pay for petrol, I could afford car parking tickets at Moors Valley Country Park. They could see cash in my purse. So how could I “not afford” an ice cream? No doubt it looked like I was being unco-operative just for the sake of it. And, to be honest, I felt bad when I said it, although I didn’t realise why at the time.
I now know the phrase put me in a feeling of “lack” – my subconscious was taking my statement literally and thinking “hey, if you can’t even afford an ice cream, we’re broke!” I was also in danger of setting up negative beliefs in my children about money and how we control it. Saying “We can’t” suggests we have no control over the matter and could make me and them feel vulnerable about money and the future. So, what would I do second time around?
- Explain that we use money to pay for everyday expenses like rent/mortgage, power, food, clothes etc. Use words like “Needs” and “Wants” to explain bills versus treats.
- Tell them how much we have available to spend this day/week on treats and let them help decide on what to do with it.
- If old enough give them their own personal money to look after so they can begin to make choices for themselves about what to spend on or save up for.
- Use words like “choose” which are more empowering i.e. “we choose to pay for our “needs” first so that we stay safe and warm in our homes.” or “are you going to choose to spend that money now, or save it for a souvenir later?” This way your child can learn that they have a choice about what they do with their money, they don’t have to buy something because the advertising tells them to.
I think these are much more constructive ways to talk about money, with the potential to short- circuit arguments, tantrums and negativity about money both in adults and children. It feels more empowering and stops us from saying/thinking words of lack.
Why is that important? Because our brain is programmed by what we say and feel, it makes us notice more of what we talk and think about and, if repeated often enough, can make us create what we say come true. So what would you prefer to make true in your life?
“I can’t afford it” or “I choose to balance my money for my needs now, and my wants in the future”? Have fun this summer helping your children learn positive ways with money!