Recently, I was shopping for a birthday gift for one of my grandchildren, and I saw a little Mickey Mouse cash register. How cute, I thought, but upon closer inspection, I was horrified to see that the toy not only came with pretend money but also with a teeny, tiny piece of plastic.
What is wrong with this picture?!
That’s right! This is our new normal: pretend credit cards for toddlers!
My husband, Gary, and I run a successful financial services business and regularly speak about finances at our church, so, needless to say, I put the toy down and continued my search.
I thought about that toy all day and wondered, What are we inadvertently teaching young children about money?
In March 2018, ABC News published an online article asserting that Americans had reached over 1 trillion dollars in credit card debt for the first time ever. In fact, the average American household carries an average of $8,600 in credit debt alone!!
I know this life all too well.
For 9 long years, Gary and I were in financial chaos. Not only did we owe on our broken-down farmhouse and two rusted-out, bent up, high mileage cars, but also we had 10 maxed out credit cards, 3 finance company loans at interest rates of 28%, more than $13,000 owed in back taxes, more than $26,000 owed to relatives, and judgments and liens filed against us.
To say we lived under intense financial pressure would be an understatement.
I want to give you the tactics that carried us from financial turmoil to financial peace, tactics that we taught our children at a very early age.
Every Dream Needs a Little Elbow Grease
Whatever dreams are in your heart are possible to achieve, but you still have to do the hard work to see them come to pass in your life.
Proverbs 13:4 tells us “A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied” (NIV).
Dreams require diligence!
God doesn’t give us assignments and then expect us to kick back and relax! You have a part to play!
Demonstrating a hardworking attitude and encouraging your children to do the same will set them up for success in the present and in the future!
Activities like a lemonade stand are a great way to teach kids about money. Once they have the money from their efforts, you can talk about whether they want to save their money or spend it.
You may want to tell them how to save it or how to spend it, but it’s important to let them make some decisions about money, so they learn how each purchase affects their bottom line.
Better they make a mistake under your supervision than get into a serious situation later on in life and suffer eviction or crippling amounts of credit card debt.
Avoiding credit card debt is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, and it’s one of the most important lessons you can teach your children.
Don’t forget the toy credit card!! What did that teach us?
It shows us that our kids are receiving messages from the culture about credit very early, so YOU, as parents, need to have EARLY conversations with your children about credit.
This. Is. Everything.
From your credit score to your ability to get a home or car loan, taking on big credit card debt is like throwing a sledgehammer into a perfectly good wall.
It’s never too early to start talking about debt. If you don’t take charge, then the culture will!
Don’t let what’s normal in our culture, i.e., $8,600 in credit card debt, become your child’s future.
Money matters have gotten a bad rap. Any lesson can be fun AND informative with a motivated teacher. That’s you by the way!
Teaching the Difference between Need and Want
Every time your child has a meltdown in a store because they want a toy, it creates an opportunity to teach need versus want.
I know those toddler tears are tough! And I know those toddler screams are even tougher to endure.
Phase 1: Toddler points out toy.
Phase 2: Toddler hears no.
Phase 3: Apocalyptic screaming begins.
Phase 4: Panic. Do I pick them up and carry them out or wait for it to pass as onlookers stare at us both in horror?
No judgment. Been there! Done that!
Stick to your guns! We do not negotiate with terrorists! Ha!
Before going to the store, remember, the phrase “just looking”; it’s going to be your best friend. It’s a hard phrase to stick to when the waterworks or screaming starts, but it’s super important to be consistent.
If a child gets a toy when they have thrown a tantrum, what is that teaching?
No judgment! I know some days it’s about surviving, but be careful of making a habit out of that!
It’s reinforcing the idea that wants are always immediately met, and that’s going to be an expensive message for you and your child in more ways than one!
And don’t forget something called discipline!
Hebrews 12:11 tells us “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Discipline is something we are called to do! Lots of tantrums could be a sign of a child who thinks they are running the show.
I just want to encourage you in any way I can and remind you that parenting is not about shoving the tough stuff under the rug, because, eventually, that rug will start to stink!
Have the tough conversations. Have them NOW. You will be glad you did!
I am right here cheering you on to victory! You can do this!
In a world that has traded the ability to mentor children God’s way for a world of fast-paced instant gratification, we need real answers to the struggles we face as parents. In my book The New Vintage Family: A Vintage Look for the Modern-Day Family, learn to use the four pillars of family, to effectively communicate, and to fit the pieces of family mentorship, business, and home life together for success!