Before you try to instill values in your child, you'd better be clear on exactly what those values are. If you hold to one set of values but want your child to adopt a different set, it probably won't work. Your actions in following your own values will undermine your efforts.
But how do you know what your values are? Have you ever thought about them? Have you ever put them in words? This following little quiz might help clarify the issues. Don't worry—there are no failing grades or scoring system. Just be honest with your answers. The function of this quiz is simply to open your eyes to exactly what you value in relation to money matters.
- When a sales clerk gives you too much change, you:
- Pocket the change.
- Point out the error and return the excess.
- Donate the excess to charity.
- When a neighbor gets a new car, you:
- Think it should have been you who deserved it rather than your neighbor.
- Think it's great that your neighbor was able to buy it, and wish her well.
- Don't give it a second thought.
- When you read about young kids shoplifting comic books, you think:
- It's only child's play, and they'll grow out of it.
- It's terrible, and they should be punished.
- It's too bad they got caught.
- The state lottery is up to $25 million, so you:
- Withdraw money from your savings account to buy tickets to increase your odds of winning.
- Spend the same $1 you do every week for fun.
- Don't do anything because you need your money for other things.
- Your credit card bill has a balance that you can't pay in full, so you:
- Continue to shop and don't give the bill a second thought.
- You charge only absolute necessities until you've paid off your bill.
- You charge up a storm because there's still a way to go on your credit limit.
- A portion of your town is damaged in a storm. Fortunately, your house is okay, so you:
- Are glad you've been spared, and that's that.
- Donate your time and money to helping your neighbors.
- Increase your homeowners insurance.
- When you were young, you broke a neighbor's window and had to pay for the repair. When your child asks you about it, you:
- Deny it.
- Acknowledge it and encourage your child to learn from your mistakes.
- Minimize the event, saying it was a long time ago.
- You want a big-screen TV (who doesn't?) so you:
- Buy it on credit and worry about how you'll pay for it later.
- Save up for it.
- Use the money you'd been saving for your child's college fund to buy the TV.
Watch Your Step
Talk about your values with your spouse. If you and your spouse have markedly different views when it comes to values, you need to arrive at some common ground so that you don't transmit mixed messages to your child.
Values are defined by certain concepts you stand behind. Unfortunately, some people's values are viewed as negative by most other people.
Here's a list of words for values—positive and negative—associated with money. Ask yourself which words you stand behind and want your children to follow:
Children who won't share their toys in kindergarten or who cheat on their sixth-grade math quiz are displaying negative values (selfishness and dishonesty). A teenager who takes out the garbage regularly without being reminded, or the middle-schooler who brings to the school office the backpack left in the lunchroom are displaying positive values (responsibility and honesty). Values aren't only used in how your kid behaves in school or at home, though; they play a key role in how your child deals with money now and for the rest of her life.