Where Kids Get Their Money Messages

Where Kids Get Their Money Messages

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Where Kids Get Their Money Messages

In a big house up on the hill …

As always, the house is perfect.  My mother starts decorating about a month early and by the time the holidays get here, I can’t stand the smell of Christmas trees and those sticky-sweet candles.  What’s worse, I know what’s coming.  Another big night – just Mom and me – opening all kinds of presents, pulling off paper and ribbons.  “Ooh, ahhh!”  And pretending everything’s okay.  When it’s not.  Dad’s gone.  Sure, there are all sorts of things under the tree with his name on them.  But I bet he got his secretary to order them and have them sent.  Big deal, Mom got the house.  She keeps saying, “I took him to the cleaners because I had a better lawyer than he did.”  So now he doesn’t come around to see me at all, just texts me when he’s out of town to say he thought of me.  Sure.  And the presents?  Mom thinks I should be grateful because I have so many and other kids don’t.  Doesn’t she know I’d rather have my Dad?”

Meanwhile, across town …

I hate Christmas.  I like it when I go to church and we sing pretty carols, with all the little lights and other kids to play with.  But after that it means another loud meal, where Mama and Papa are going to get into another fight.  It’s always the same thing.  Starts out okay, everyone sits down for Christmas turkey.  Uncle Joe always brings the beer.  We’re just making a swimming pool in our mashed potatoes for the gravy when Papa starts complaining about how much Mama spent on the presents for us kids.  Or the wine.  Or her dress.  Or something.  They’re always arguing about money.  Even on Christmas.  Aunt Marion tries to make it okay, saying, “C’mon guys, for the kids …”  But by then Papa’s screaming, “I work myself to death to bring home some money, and it goes for crap.”  Before we even finish eating, he pushes his chair back so hard it hits the wall, and he stomps out of the house and gets in his car.  Ms. White, my teacher, says he shouldn’t be driving if he’s had so much beer.  And then my Mama says, “Well, everyone, we still have a really nice pie for dessert.”

And in a nearby apartment …

My Aunt Jill is with me, staying with me again this Christmas Eve.  We’re watching that old movie about a father who brings presents to his kids, just in time.  My mother’s a nurse, working late shift like she does every Christmas.  But she says someone needs to do it, and it pays her extra because no one else wants to work tonight.  We’re lucky she can do it, because it helps pay the rent and keep us safe.  The other day she showed me how we know we have enough to pay all the people we need to pay each month.  And sometimes have a little left over.  I told my teacher about it and she said it was a good thing to know.  So when I go to a store and want something, my mother says yes or no.  Because we always want to have a home … and food … and stay safe.  So it’s okay that we put up last year’s little make-believe tree and that there are only a couple of presents under it.  I made some things at school for Aunt Jill and Mom, I hope they like them.  And I hope the envelope from Grandma has more than $10 in it this year.

The Money Messages

Everything we say and do has the power to impact how our children think about money, their self worth, what they deserve and what’s important in life.  So what messages do you think these three children will carry forward as they build their lives in the future?

Closer to home, what messages are you embedding in your children?

Then, as you think back to holidays as a child, what messages did you pick up from how your parents acted around money?  What memories do you have of the holidays?  What behaviors do you have today that might be a result of things you saw or heard back then?

Understand that your parents were living their lives as best they could, doing what they thought was best for them and for you.  It’s unlikely they intentionally said and did things that would handicap you in the future.  They probably figured you’d take the best of what you learned as you grew up and, like them, would do the best you could.

What That Means Today

Today, I believe the ongoing economic uncertainty calls for being infinitely more grounded in our beliefs about money.  That means going back and looking at what messages we received, to see what ones might still be affecting us negatively.

Just knowing the origin of those beliefs gives us the ability to revisit them and decide if they make sense from our adult perspective today.  Many don’t.  Releasing those beliefs that are not serving us well will make us all the better prepared to flourish, not flounder, as we go forward.

Let me know in the Comments section below if there are any limiting money beliefs you’d like to release.


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers are shared in her tell-it-like-it-is posts and articles. Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • The way we Grew up most definitely Impacts our Beliefs, and how we view most things in life from money to family… Great Post and Happy Holidays…

    • Most people realize they were influenced generally by their upbringing, but some don’t realize how their money habits were affected, Carly. Here’s to a great 2013 for you too!

  • Teaching our children about managing money is so important. Your post shows just how our actions and words can have such a strong impact. I agree with you Sharon that is this uncertain climate we have to be grounded. And instead of looking at what we can no longer afford we have to appreciate what we do have.
    Wishing you a very Happy and Successful New Year!

    • So many of us are actually living in such bounty, Carolyn, if we’d just change our focus a bit! You’re right, that’s part of the need for grounding. I wish you the same for the coming year!

  • Sharon, my Sharon oh how I’ve missed your posts! Reading this took me back to my childhood, it paralyzed me when I started thinking about your questions…how did I feel, what did I remember. You know, the scary part is all I remember is mom and dad struggling with never enough to pay for food let alone those presents under the tree. It reminds me of why they are where they are now…dead broke…still to this day…living beyond their means. You are right, it is NOW time to stop that cycle, teach our children and grandchildren how to be frugal with their hard earned cash, spend wisely on their needs and save for those wants to pay cash instead of going head over heels into debt. Welcome back, Sharon.

    • Good to have YOU back, too, Carla! I missed your open, heartfelt comments … 😉 Yes, that cycle can and needs to be broken for so many who haven’t yet understood how much power they give up over their lives by living in debt. And I know what great work you’ve done to get yourself “right-side up” this past couple of years. Brava!

  • WanderlustWomanLii

    Great post as always! Happy New Year. Xx

    • Thank you, Carmen! Here’s to a superb 2013 for you, too!

  • You are right Sharon! It’s important for children to get the right
    messages for the rest of their lives! I wish you a great year ahead!

    • Tereza, that “little” foundation gives them such a head start in life, both in how far they can go and how easy or hard it is to get there! I wish you the same in this bright, new year!

  • I am very grateful to my parents for creating a can do environment for us when we were kids. My dad was an entrepreneur and boot strapped a business that is going strong at 40 years. My mom always worked even though she didn’t have too, she liked having her own money too. I never saw my parents have one argument about money. I am very proud of them!

  • Pat Moon

    Sharon, what a great article. I grew up in a home where all our physical needs were met. I said needs not wants. My parents never argued about money as far as I can recall but we never wasted anything. I grew up believing we were poor.. to this day I’m not real sure why I felt that way? My parents always gave 10% of their income to the church in the form of a tithe. I believe God blessed them for that.

    • Pat, I think it’s healthy to go back and revisit all those memories. Sometimes we may need to redefine something, or we may even come across a memory that could still be tripping us up unnecessarily … or we may find that they’re all simply good! 😉

  • Susan Schiller

    My heart dropped in reading these stories…. Like you said, most parents are just doing their best and have good intentions, but those embedded messages are loaded with emotion! I really need to be still and see if anything buried within me rises to the surface. Fortunately, my parents were very wise about money and we didn’t have in-house fighting like that… but you never know what might be buried within! Thanks so much, Sharon, for helping us get to the root of money issues! 🙂

    • Sue, you may very well find that the learning and messaging from your parents in those early years weren’t at all problematic. If that’s the case, move forward to where life experiences might have taught you a limiting message. Most of us have some … that we’re willing to shed as not serving us.

  • Thank you Sharon because you make thinking about money in a new way practical and easy to understand. Time for me to throw of the old ways of thinking, be a better steward, and see money with respect and not as my prison maker.

    • I’m happy you are seeing money in a new light, Marvia! Hopefully these examples of how messages are transmitted when we are little will help you clear out any that might be holding you back and allow you to thrive …

  • I remember reading this when you first posted it Sharon and it is just as important today! Funnily enough I have sat down today with my girls who are 10 and 12 for a money meeting. We have them from time to time to review what allowance they get, what jobs they have to do to get it, how much they intend to save, and donate and what they intend to buy with the rest. It is never too early to teach budgeting skills.

    • I brought this article back because I felt it could help this new group understand the power of messaging that is “laid” down upon children unknowingly. I love that you were already having your money meeting with your daughters; how lucky they are to be growing up empowered around money, Carolyn!