More Than Money
Issue #24

What Are We Teaching Our Children?

Table of Contents

“Kids, Money, and Values”

"How much money do we have, Dad?" my eight year old son asked one day, as we were shopping. "Do we have more money than Niko's family?" He looked at me expectantly as my heart beat a little faster.

"How do I answer?" I thought to myself. "A million dollars would mean as much to him as a hundred dollars, within his current frame of reference. What does he really want to know?"

I managed somehow that time to fumble across the vast conceptual divide between us and enjoyed an interesting exchange. I said: "Yes we do have more money than our friends because we were given money by my grandmother. Luckily, both Niko's family and ours have plenty, and plenty to share, and no matter how rich or poor you are, you can always find others with more or less than you." He looked deep in my eyes and said, "Can I buy those Pokémon cards at Walgreens?"

I often have trouble communicating with my son. I get frustrated and a little rigid, and he complains that I'm being unfair or telling him too much what (or what not!) to do. I keep reminding myself (with the reassurance of more experienced dads) that parenting is not a linear process. A child keeps changing, and, as subtle as it may seem in comparison to my child, I keep changing as well.

In the Autumn '95 issue of More than Money (#9) called Children and Money, we focused on how much money is wise to leave our children. In this issue, we offer a glimpse at how affluent people help the children in their lives cultivate financial values, vision, and integrity. Questions we asked interviewees included: "How do you nurture financial independence and competence at different developmental stages? How do cultural forces help or hurt your efforts to cultivate certain values about spending, earning, investing, giving, and community involvement? How do you balance passing on your values and helping a young person to cultivate their own values?"

Some people we interviewed focused on the risks and challenges of talking openly with children about money; others spoke eloquently about the power of parental example and a quintessential challenge of passing values on to children: in this complex and imperfect world, to truly live our values is an art. We need not be ashamed of striving our whole lives to live congruently with our deepest beliefs.

The stories here are primarily from parents and step-parents, yet I hope this issue will stimulate and encourage all of us who have--or at some time may have--a meaningful relationship with a child, whether as an aunt or uncle, neighbor, teacher, minister, trust officer, or even as a friend to other parents.

You know the popular saying that it takes a village to raise a child? The teaching I take from this is two-fold: first, as a parent, don't presume more influence than is your proper share, and second, don't underestimate the possible value of your attention to children who are not "yours." Imagine a world in which everyone claimed full responsibility for the welfare of all the children and there was not a single child who was not fed, loved, and given shelter.

- Christopher Mogil


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