A friend recently suggested that I write a piece about children and money. At first I thought myself unqualified, as I have no formal education in this area. But then I got to thinking that, as a father and now grandfather, and since I’ve been graduated from life’s School of Hard Knocks, that I might have something useful to contribute. Hence this effort. This is actually Part I of a two-part series. Part II is all about my Second Trip to Europe.
I love children. Always have. I don’t like unrestrained screaming, but I do enjoy hearing children happily play. My wife and I have two married daughters and two grandchildren, all of whom we love dearly. But children, as they are delivered to us, are loud, messy, demanding, have appalling table manners, and think the world revolves around them. Furthermore, they don't come with manuals. Yet it is our job as parents and adults to civilize them.
In another piece, I’ve written about spending guardrails. Have a look, if you haven’t already. As parents, we provide guardrails for our children. The image is that of the highway: if we lose our focus while driving, the guardrails will keep us from drifting into oncoming traffic and preserve our lives. We may get beaten up when we encounter life’s guardrails, but we survive at least, and the general direction of travel remains ahead.
The guardrails we provide our children should include financial guardrails. We’ve all encountered children who are “spoiled” – meaning they are self-centered, insufferable brats, because their parents never showed them the guardrails – never said NO, in other words. They’ve grown up to think the world revolves around them. Those poor kids. Are they ever in for a rude awakening when they realize that the easy road as a parent is to give in every time. How awful for them when they realize that parental indulgence does not equal parental love.
One of the best phrases your child can ever hear from you is this:
There’s so much in that one short and loving statement:
Children come after that. They will be part of the household for 20-something years, but the marriage will endure for decades beyond. Children need to know that Mommy and Daddy put each other first, and they come next. It gives them context and place in the home.
Think of a dinner party two generations ago. Cocktail hour came first. No children present, and adults discussed topics of adult interest. Dinner was in the dining room. During dinner, the children of the host family may be included and even encouraged to participate. No politics or religion, meaning no topics beyond their understanding. After coffee generally the men went one way and the women another, where they were free to continue discussing topics of interest to them.
It seems stilted to us now in this age of open floor plans, but there was a reason for it. Children in this setting knew that they are not the center of the universe, and that Mommy and Daddy were to be looked up to, respected, and appreciated. As they grow, parents hope to achieve an adult relationship with their children, evidenced by mutual respect, appreciation, thanksgiving, and love. This type of relationship can never occur, in my observation, unless the parents know how to tell their children NO.