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Our first question for this new monthly advice section deals with money, values, differences, and dealing with Grandparents.
My husband's wealthy family - who we see regularly - is obsessed with money. They talk often about money and judge people by how much they make. How do I minimize this money focus with my kids?
It is difficult to talk about money, even with someone who talks about money too much. Have you tried to approach your in-laws about not discussing money in front of your kids? Sometimes a direct approach works. If you have, with no results, or you can't because that's just not the nature of your relationship, an important word for you to channel is counterbalance. If your kids have high exposure to your in-laws but you want a different message in your home about money, make sure you are modelling ideals about finances that you want your children to understand.
Ron Lieber, NYTimes, Your Money financial columnist and author of The Opposite of Spoiled, says that grandparents can be a menace when it comes to money: “They believe it is their solemn duty to spoil their grandchildren and take great delight in subverting whatever rules you attempt to enforce. As the kids get older, this becomes a source of conspiratorial glee between the grandparents and the grandchildren. Trying to stop it - or enforce some sort of speech code - probably isn't possible.”
He suggests telling your children “different people live in different ways, and because your grandparents are older, they don't need to save as much anymore as we do. They should enjoy the time they spend with their them but should also understand that things are different when grandma and grandpa are not around.” This is a simple explanation and no doubt the truth. Ron says - especially in the information age - how it's important to display honesty in your talks about money.
The decisions surrounding money occur daily and present opportunities for you to have discussions in a healthy way in your home. Discuss individual values, be it yours, your kids', their grandparents, a classmate, or a homeless person; value is not dependent on earning potential. Additionally it is important to model empathy and gratitude; help them imagine what it is like to be in other people's shoes and to show gratitude for what they do have. The needs of others can be easily demonstrated by looking together in a newspaper, by sponsoring a child, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Ron also suggests discussing how they spend and the trade-offs they're making: “What did they decide not to spend on today so they can have more for something tomorrow? How does the family make giving decisions? This helps model the connection between money and all of the values, virtues, and character traits that add up to the opposite of spoiled. Which is, of course, what we all want to accomplish with our kids."
It's important to keep in mind that our attitude about money and how we use it is witnessed by our kids. If weekends are full of shopping and reward systems for good behaviour all focus on earning cash and toys, you may be inadvertently reinforcing your in-laws perspective. However, if you demonstrate charity and love towards people of all income levels, your children will grow to understand that true self worth has little to do with wealth.
Want to read more about relationships? See Need a Fresh New Year's Resolution: Experts Share Theirs and Want to be a Better Parent? Focus Your Energy on This!
I've started a monthly column to answer the YMC reader's relationship questions. Write to me on my Facebook Page, where I regularly share relationship articles and resources or tweet me at @kellyflanniganb for relationship advice from the The Relationship Rescuer.