Most parents are aware that kids are like sponges, absorbing parents’ behaviors and actions and repeating those themselves. You only have to watch a toddler playing with her dolls to see your own actions, good and bad, being mimed by your child.
I’ve experienced this myself, recently. When my son, who is now 10, was little, my husband and I frequently went out to eat. We were both busy, and I disliked my stressful job, so eating out was a way to unwind. It wasn’t unusual for my son, at three or four years old, to say to me, “Today’s been a rough day. Let’s go out to eat.”
Out of the mouths of babes.
A few years later, we cut out all eating out, got our finances in shape so I could quit my job and become a work-at-home mom, and had two more children. While my son has many memories of eating out, my two younger children have very few.
Recently, our family made the move from Illinois to Arizona. We had just moved into our new house and hadn’t unpacked the boxes yet, so we decided to do something we only do when traveling–go out to eat. My four year old daughter piped up from the back seat, “Why are we going out to eat? We only do that when we take trips.” She was genuinely baffled and spent a good 10 minutes trying to convince me not to eat out because we always make our meals at home.
Two different kids reflecting two very different behaviors, based on mom and dad’s attitudes and actions.
Whether we like it or not, our kids are observing everything and learning from us.
What are your behaviors teaching your kids about money?
You may not give much thought to the way you handle money and talk about, but you’re influencing your child, perhaps permanently.
My oldest still loves to go out to eat. It’s a habit we cultivated in him early, and even though we’ve spent the last few years only eating out when traveling, he still misses the times we ate out frequently.
My daughter, meanwhile, never developed the love of eating out because we hardly ever do it. She’s heard us discuss time and time again how much we save eating at home versus going out to eat, which is why she tried so hard to convince us to avoid going out to eat after we moved. She learned from both our words and our actions.
If you want your children to make smart financial choices as they grow older, you’ll need to model that behavior for them.