Friday, August 1, 2014

Thrifty Thinking: Talking to Kids About Money

It’s difficult enough to talk about money with children.Here are some tips that can make it easier. 

First, really listen.
Many parents talk first and listen later. Flip flop that for more effective communication. If children get upset because they’re not going to be able to get something they really want, it’s important to first really listen and focus on your child’s concerns, instead of thinking about what you’re going to say. That’s a great way to talk to children about anything, and it’s particularly helpful when discussing money in a tight economy. Just listen.

Address their concerns.

The pitfall parents get into is when you try to justify, explain or argue with your children and don’t speak to their concerns. You invalidate what they’re concerned about by saying things like, “I can’t believe you’re worried about your doll, when our mortgage is late.” However, what’s important in your child’s world is whether they’ll get that toy, not the status of your mortgage payment.

Give your kids some space and breathing room to go through what they need to go through. If you’re ten and wanting to know why you can’t go somewhere or have something, it’s a legitimate concern. The doll matters when you’re 8. The concert matters when you’re 16. Seeing and addressing these concerns can strengthen your family. Your children’s concerns are valid. The opportunity here is to create a way for your child to see how they fit inside the family unit and then see how they can contribute to the overall family finances and well-being.
What doesn’t work is telling your kids that your 401k is down, or the mortgage payment is late, as that will not translate in their world. It’s important to let them know how it’s going to impact them directly. Things like their favorite toy or getting their expensive shoes … focus on what’s important to children and what affects them.

Talk straight.
This is also about clarity. Strive to understand what your child is saying before you speak. If a child is asking something, and the answer is ‘no” parents often try to soften the blow by saying “not now” or “maybe later.”  It actually helps the child (and frankly you as the parent) when you just say “no” and then it’s decided and clear. If during the holidays, a child expresses interest in a particular toy or item and the family cannot afford it, simply talk straight about how the family budget is tight and work to find creative solutions to save money as a family to afford it over time. Create a game where the kids clip coupons and that money is saved for something they really want to buy later. 

Use these three tips to have a conversation with your child, tonight! Listen first, address their concerns and then talk straight when you answer their questions.

Here’s the most important thing that I can actually say is when the conversations get tough, listen first and then speak. Listening is often much more powerful than what you say. See more communication techniques at


About the Author: David Cunningham, M.Ed., is a communication expert and seminar leader for Landmark, a personal and professional growth, training and development company that's had more than 2.2 million people use its programs to cause breakthroughs in their personal lives as well as in their communities, generating more than 100,000 community projects around the world. In The Landmark Forum, Landmark's flagship program, people cause breakthroughs in their performance, communication, relationships and overall satisfaction in life. For more information, please visit

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