There’s a fine line between providing for a child’s wants and needs and unintentionally spoiling them. In this financially distressing era with the rising trend of accumulated debt and the number of youths declared bankrupt by 25, it’s shocking that financial literacy isn’t taught in schools. So if it’s up to us parents to teach the Ringgit’s worth, here are some ways to start:
Begin with math
Scientists say early math skills develop kids’ minds. Play with counting games, numbers in songs, geometric shapes, sizes, position, direction and patterns in blocks and on the wall as well as sorting, matching and stacking together.
To sharpen memory and logical skills, teach them your home address and phone numbers; let them help in the kitchen where there’s lots of opportunity to measure, add and estimate; take them shop with you and show them how to use the calendar, tell the time and read the weather.
Explain basic money concepts
Experts say that kids can start learning about money as soon as they’re old enough not to put it in their mouths. It comes in metal and paper, so it’ll be fun to help them identify the different types. Talk to them about how money is made, what it’s used for and the different markings on coins and notes. The children’s section of Bank Negara Malaysia’s Museum and Art Gallery has loads of trivia and fun facts.
When you travel, showing them different currencies helps them understand the diversity of trading within cultures – an abstract concept to benefit from by appreciating early.
Teach them to earn everything
The first time they ask for something at the store, reply with “do you have money?” This is a great opportunity to explain the concept of earning. Describe how the family can live in a house and buy things because Mum and Dad works hard for money, then provide them opportunities to earn themselves.
Parents of eight kids David and Jill Fagan, authors of Guerilla Parenting: How to Raise an Entrepreneur has some zany but inspiring ideas. Also show them that they can earn non-monetary rewards like respect, kisses and hugs through good behaviour.
Once they’ve grasped how earning works, they’ll naturally learn the idea of appreciation. Because they’ve worked hard to get something, extend the lesson by teaching them not to take anything for granted. Explain that everything (like toys and relationships) lasts longer when they’re taken care of.
Remind them to say thank you – to God and to people – and count blessings for all the things to be grateful for. Talk to them about world issues without sugar-coating poverty or hunger and how we can play a part through charity.
Valuing money and spending responsibly
Once kids start owning their own dosh, teaching them how to use it is a critical part of shaping healthy spending habits. The Three Jars money system of Saving, Spending and Sharing provides for a way for kids to make money, set financial goals, be included in transactions and learn to budget.
Let them take ownership of their money by owning their own bank account, allowing them to order their own food when you’re out – from getting the waiter’s attention to looking through the menu – and encourage them to pay for things themselves.
Favour frugality, set limits and help them work within these limits. When making choices and purchases, teach them to identify value like discounts and bargains. Identify freshness, read food labels and understand that you’re not just paying for food or playthings but nutrition, experience and entertainment.
Not forgetting: money isn’t the only currency
Introduce the non-monetary economy, like barter trade and care giving. Help them learn that some things can’t be bought and returns can come in many forms like love, spiritual blessings, self-satisfaction or even someone else’s happiness.
Teach them to do things for others and for God, as part of being honourable, selfless and giving. Hopefully, through good examples to follow, we’ll be setting them on the right path towards life-long financial security.
Khairun is a mum to two kids and owner of Recovr Resources Sdn Bhd, a growing social enterprise in the recycling and equal employment industry. She and her family are currently living in Jakarta.