Modeling the way
Dec 23, 2016 10:44AM ● Published by Neighbors Magazines
by Scott Lebin
As parents, many people search for the perfect balance that will help nurture, limit, support, and guide other family members in their quest for the “Better Life.” When parents are asked about the skills needed to be happy and successful many of them focus on the wealth created or passed on to the next generation.
The myriad of elements we first think about and identify as important to being good parents are related to material goods, stewardship of money, occupational decisions, and education. Although these all can have significance in relation to making important personal decisions, there are many families that nurture successful children without having a great deal of personal wealth or an abundance of material goods.
Unfortunately, the only model we have for parenting comes from our own parents. If they did a good job, then we probably are well on our way to doing the same for our children. However, many times the frailties of being less than perfect human beings can influence how we were also reared. The taboos of what wasn’t talked about at home in past generations carries over into the next generation. Money, death, inheritance, and relationships are some of the things past generations didn’t discuss.
So, let me be presumptuous and explore a limited number of the qualities I have noticed from good parenting and some of the strategies those parents use. The journey of every family is different, but there are some universal qualities that can help children become healthy and productive human beings.
A sign of healthy family relationships is evident in families where parents listen to the passions of each child and help each in his own way feel the support of the family for its acceptance of their individual differences. There is a family wisdom that is shared and each member of the family feels valued, rewarded, and encouraged to achieve their own potential. Family members who accept children for who they are don’t force children into a mold that doesn’t fit with each child’s individual personality, talents, dreams, or unique identity.
Malcolm Gladwell said, “You can’t share values with others until you share meaningful experiences with them.” This implies that we need to have meaningful “conversations” with our children that allow them to understand why we as parents react as we do to the world in which we live. At the same time, the successful parents I have observed, allow their children to express their own feelings, and talk about their experiences, and desires.
We are living at a time when less direct communication exists because of the time people spend on electronic devices even when they are together. How do we account for this fact in our parenting?
A first step to create needed communication would be to make sure that there are times during the year when there are family meetings that require conversation and allow children to talk about their concerns, passions, and desires. Parents set aside a time when children can share how they are feeling within the family structure in terms of support, happiness, fear, success, or failure.
Successful parents model the way not by telling a child what to do but by creating the circumstances under which a child learns and accepts a cherished role as a member of the family unit. For example, parents might feel it is important for children to learn to be charitable because as parents they are charitable, whether it is the gift of time or the gift of money. It would be easy to take a small portion of what parents donate annually and make the children active partners with them.
I know parents who request that their children research on the internet or talk to friends or read the local papers looking for some charitable work that the child feels is important. At a family meeting, children report and explain why their charity would be a good use of family money or time. These parents encourage their children to be advocates for a good cause by stating the following: “If you can make a good plea for your proposal, then we as a family will allow you to contribute a portion of our charitable dollars to that person or organization or we will commit as a family to work together to feed, or collect clothing, or work at the local food bank with you to support your efforts.”
The successful parents I have observed are modeling the way not by telling their children what to do but by having them be active participants by showing generosity at work. The children lead the parents and take charge in a way that allows them to feel good, important, and a positive contributing member of the values that represent the family and society.
Let’s presume that we have concern that our children need to learn about the value and use of money so that when they are young adults, they will understand the importance that money will play in their lives. We could then have a family meeting and invite a facilitator to teach the whole family about investing. Even young children can learn that none of us can spend everything we collect.
First children can learn to save a percentage of what they get from allowances or birthday gifts or any other job for which they are paid for their future needs. They learn to set aside a small amount for their future education, gifts they want to give for birthdays and holidays, and for a special need they may have for a larger purchase in the future. Whatever is left they can either save or spend. It is up to the child to determine what he is going to do but the parent is teaching resources aren’t infinite.
How many of us really were taught about money? How many of us had a bank account at a young age and were taught the value of saving for a rainy day? How many parents talk to children about how much it costs to live in a house, pay income taxes, property taxes, and budget for big ticket items? Many times, children only learn about this as young adults when credit card balances get out of control or taxes don’t get paid when setting up a small business for the first time.
Why don’t we talk about salaries and what a person needs financially to provide for a family today? Are we really protecting our children by not sharing the basic financial realities they must recognize in order to be successful?
Parents can provide a positive and enjoyable learning environment that will enable children to be successful adults and good parents to their children. Successful parents talk to their children, learn from their children, share with their children, and become positive resources for their children. They have fun learning alongside their children and both parents and children share together in a way that binds the family into a loving, happy, and nurturing entity.
Scott Lebin is a Registered Representative and Investment Adviser Representative of an Investment Advisory Services offered through Signator Investors, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC, and an SEC Registered Investment Adviser. 20 S. Second Street, Geneva, IL 60134 199-20161205-336672