New York Times Columnist Ron Lieber wants to help parents raise kids who are both money-savvy and grounded in his book “The Opposite of Spoiled”.
If a group of parents was asked what descriptive words they’d most like associated with their kids, most would answer generosity, perseverance, kindness, or maybe even a good work ethic. But whatever you do – please don’t call their kids “spoiled”.
Nearly every parent has a fear their kids will be perceived as spoiled – self-centered, over-indulged, and ungracious.
So how can parents raise kids who are the opposite of spoiled?
This is exactly the question Ron Lieber set out to answer in his book The Opposite of Spoiled that came out in paperback last month.
As a New York Times columnist, Lieber spent many years covering money topics including teaching kids about money. He describes his book as “a generational manifesto first and foremost” by giving kids the tools they need to manage money and avoid many of the financial pitfalls adults find themselves in.
But his book is more than that – it’s also splattered with great parenting advice like “don’t lie to your kids” and the best way to answer difficult questions such as “Are we rich/poor?”. While money is definitely the focus of the book, the goal of The Opposite of Spoiled is to help parents raise kids who are grounded, generous, and have escaped many of the negative influences of growing up in a materialistic society.
Break the Silence
But of course, if parents are to teach their kids about money, they first need to feel comfortable talking about money with their kids – and let’s face it – few parents do.
If we talk to kids about money, won’t that result in money-hungry adults? And if our family has a lot of money – won’t a discussion about money develop a feeling of complacency in our kids?
And so we remain silent, hoping the subject never comes up.
But this silence means kids will find out about money in other ways – through friends, the media – most of which have messages that are not what parents want their children to learn.
“Not only is this fear of money-grubbing kids wrongheaded, but older kids see right through the silence that results and find it completely demeaning.” Nan J. Morrison, who runs the Council for Economic Education, says in the book.
So first and foremost, Lieber encourages parents to talk about money with their kids. What to say (like being truthful about income – as soon as kids are ready) and what not to say (“that’s none of your business”).
How Allowance Can Teach Kids Values
Once we’ve begun discussing money with our kids, the next advice Lieber provides is to give kids an allowance.
The purpose of an allowance is to teach kids how to save and spend money while they’re still young and the stakes are low.
Plus, Lieber says: “the primary virtue of receiving an allowance is learning patience.”
Living in a world where so many aspects of our lives are instantaneous – movies on demand, information at our fingertips – there are few ways kids can learn delayed gratification, but having to wait to acquire enough cash to pay for a desired item is one way to learn this virtue.
To get started with allowance, Lieber suggests parents split allowance money into three jars – give, save, and spend, to get kids thinking about basic budgeting. Allowance can start whenever kids learn to count and the amount of allowance – and purchases kids are responsible for – can increase each year.
Lieber gives a multitude of tips about how parents can successfully set up an allowance, such as whether or not to use a bank, which purchases kids should be responsible for, and whether or not they should be paid for chores (he argues they shouldn’t be).
Materialism and How to Counterprogram
Lieber also takes aim at another cause of spoiled kids – materialism. And let’s face it – with Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook – kids are bombarded with images and messages that money, wealth and possessions lead to happiness and success.
So how can parents counterprogram the materialistic society we live in?
Lieber has a number of suggestions, including making sure kids understand the value of giving back (as emphasized with the “give” jar), getting kids to do work, and he even suggests sending kids to a summer overnight camp – in order to live life at its most basic.
Raising Grounded Kids
By not focusing exclusively on money, Lieber’s book becomes much more than a how-to-teach manual. Instead, his emphasis on values, and how money can help teach them, makes the book relatable to even the least financially savvy parent. Parents will walk away from the book with, not only a better sense of how to steer kids clear of the dreaded “spoiled” association but also how to teach their kids the virtues they want to instill in them. Plus, since The Opposite of Spoiled is written by a New York Times journalist with a penchant for stories – it’s also an enjoyable read.
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