Jillian Wagenheim, Founder & Principal, Sertus Consulting
Farrah Azizi, Private Philanthropy Advisor, Give Great Group
In May of 2018, we facilitated a conversation about Ron Lieber’s book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart about Money for 21/64 trainers. The book’s hallmark continues our theme of asking meaningful questions. In the context of parenting, ‘good’ questions are ones that create clarity and help get to the root of children’s inquiries and possible underlying needs. Lieber describes the importance of instilling appreciation and gratitude in children, and encourages parents to be mindful of generational dynamics.
This book dives into the difficult question of: When? When do I have the money conversation with my child? When do I start giving an allowance? When do I talk to children about inheritance? Lieber asserts that there is no one moment, but rather a long term, continual process of conversations, experiences, and modeling behaviors. This relieves some of the pressure on parents from having to have the perfect answer and instead allows for a continual two-way dialogue. One where parents ask open-ended questions and recognize the different learning types of different children. This long-term process should take the form of several conversations over the years that deepen in response to children inviting additional knowledge. It should follow the cues of your own child’s maturation and curiosity.
Lieber encourages the use of family rituals, in particular, as a tool to create smart money habits. These can take the form of traditional tithing or tzedakah to teach generosity and charity, for example. Parents may consider utilizing family vacations to talk about money and budgeting or to talk about wants versus needs. Tying family rituals to family meetings can help create both consistency and establish expectations. The core of successful family rituals are ones that are authentic to your family. When children are told one thing but have conflicting behaviors modeled by parental figures, the message gets muddled.
The end goal of raising any child, whether from birth or at a later point with an adult child, is to build the soft skills they need to make sound, informed decisions on their own. Allowance is one tool that provides the vehicle to have conversations. These conversations encompass lessons that build competence and confidence and teach delayed gratification and conflict resolution skills. As children graduate themselves by demonstrating skills and interest in further responsibility and understanding, parents need to be mindful to continually reevaluate their frame, timing, amount, and depth of conversations around finances.
So often, conversations around money seem limited to those families with wealth, but the practicability of this book is that its tools can be utilized across the wealth spectrum. Issues of finances, budgeting, and giving are experienced by all individuals relative to their own financial situations. The opportunities to create and teach generosity, gratitude, empathy, and awareness are critical for all parents and what makes the lessons in this book is so accessible for anyone seeking to guide a child of any age to their place in this world.