Saturday, August 30, 2008

Age Old Lessons for Contemporary Times

I believe my children are gifts – given to me for a season, to teach, and try my best to instill family values in them. With this awesome responsibility comes the need to filter what they learn in the world as they observe others and interact with peers. In today’s economy prices rise while income levels remain the same. I am finding it necessary to communicate with my younger daughter differently about the issue of money, gas prices, and the cost of entertainment.

I have always tried to help my two girls learn about money – first, tying this valuable lesson to what my daughters were learning in school. I remember saying, to my now 21 year old, when she was only four, "You have to learn to count your money if you want to spend it." She would be allowed to spend a dollar at a time learning to count the change before progressing to more difficult denominations. This seemed to work well. She learned to count with ease; progressed to being able to count her money back from what was owed; and learned about percentages as we shopped (10% off / on sale 30% off, etc.). But, as my younger daughter enters her senior year of high school I have begun to wonder where has this training gone? Did I exude all my energy on the older daughter forgetting to provide the same lessons to the younger one? I find myself saying to this young “diva” … “Do you think I have endless pockets?” My colleague is having the same conversations with his teenage son about leaving the lights on. I think the key is that parents must not grow weary of guiding – these lessons do eventually sink in and getting stressed out about it is fruitless.

In a world with such economic downturns I'm trying, like others, to cut costs where I'm able. This means I now have to send very clear messages about what my family needs to do to change. In fact, as I write about this I'm planning to implement a new strategy one which I hope will help my younger daughter understand more about cost savings and eco-friendly citizenship. You see, she enjoys long showers, watches television while on the Internet, leaves the television on while she runs a short errand or simply wastes energy. My plan is to have her log the results of usage and costs of our electric, gas, and water bills. Next, I will have her suggest ways “we” might save money and then suggest how “we” might treat ourselves with the savings.

A few cost saving tips that might work with children without causing stress:

 Watch the news together and discuss issues about the economy together
 Reflect on today’s economy in the current presidential campaign
 Provide them with limited choices – i.e., you have extra money for Great America, but that means you are choosing not to go to dinner and the movies with your friends later …(I used this one on my younger daughter and she understood perfectly)

Although more research is needed on the effectiveness of economic and financial education programs, educators do agree on what parents can do to help. Economic educators have long argued in favor of teaching children the principles of financial and economic education early and often. In order to assist with financial literacy, Schug and Hagedorn believe parents must begin as early as possible and enforce these lessons repeatedly.

To learn more about financial and economic literacy programs go to University of Illinois Extension - Consumer Economic Team’s web site:

Schug, Mark C.; Hagedorn, Eric A. (2005). The Money Savvy Pig™ Goes to the Big City: Testing the Effectiveness of an Economics Curriculum for Young Children. Social Studies, 96: (2), 68-71.

Other helpful tips may be gleaned from a well written tip sheet, 101 Ways to Save Money Alabama Cooperative Extension

Learning more about positive ways to have these conversations reduces stress and creates valuable dialog. I chose not to get too stressed and remain in a spirit of “Intentional Harmony” as it pertains to teaching my girls about tough economic times.

This entry submitted by guest blogger, Giesela Grumbach.

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