Question: I come from a family that was very tight with our money. We had to earn everything and my parents never gave me anything. I learned a lot about working, but I also admit I have had some hard feelings about the way I was raised. My wife comes from a family that paid for everything for her. I had to tone down her spending when we first got married, but she seems to have a better relationship with her parents than I do with mine. I’d like to raise our kids so it didn’t have to be one or the other. Any ideas on that?
Answer: Parenting is a paradox. It is the most selfless and the most selfish thing you will ever do.
The selfless part is obvious. For 18 (or 21, or 25, or…) years, we birth them, clean them, feed them, house them, clothe them, teach them, discipline them and (hopefully!) love them. And for most of that time, our children fail to realize the incredible sacrifices their parents are making. We get smiles, hugs and the occasional thank you. But from the outside looking in, parenting would appear to be a very one-sided relationship.
So why do I also say parenting is one of the most selfish things we’ll ever do? Because at a very deep level, parenting is a perpetuation of self. Would you do all the things you do for your own children if they were not yours? There are some huge-hearted souls for whom the answer would be yes; but most of us would quickly admit that the sacrifices we make are reserved for our children only.
I believe that’s because we are born with a God-given instinct to love, protect and nurture our children. And at least part of the reason is so the things we value (including ourselves!) will live on through our children. They carry a part of us in and with them and we want that to continue after we are gone.
We might call the two sides of this paradox “parenting to give” and “parenting to get.”
Here’s the funny thing – when you parent to give, you often get the other side thrown in.
But if you parent to get (get love, get appreciation, get approval, get someone to love you, to get someone to carry on your values), you often lose out on both.
Money and wealth are among the most accurate measures of what we really value.
And while your kids may never be able to articulate what they see and sense from your financial dealings with them, they are getting the message loud and clear.
If your dominant parental goal is to control your child, forcing her to obey your will (and ultimately to meet your needs) you increase your chances of losing that child (relationally) and not having your needs met.
On the other hand, if your dominant parental goal is to see her flourish and to launch her into independence, you increase your chances of maintaining and actually expanding your relationship with your (now) adult child.
So, yes, by all means teach your children to be financially responsible by teaching them the skills of planning, budgeting, goal setting, self-control and delayed gratification. You could wrap all these skills up in one word – thrift.
Just be very careful that you aren’t using money as a lever to force your child to meet your emotional or relational needs. Such fiscal manipulation often results in resentment and a tendency to want to distance oneself from the manipulator.
What’s your goal as a parent? Is it to limit them and control them to meet your needs, or is it to launch them to reach their own full capacities?
Like it or not, the way you relate to them financially will let them know.
Byron R. Moore, CFP® is managing director / planning group of Argent Advisors, Inc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Write to him at 500 East Reynolds Drive, Ruston, LA 71270 or call him at (318) 251-5800. The opinions of any single advisor do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Argent Advisors, Inc. No forecasts can be guaranteed. Argent Advisors, Inc. does not offer tax, insurance or legal advice. The information contained in this column should not be construed as a substitute for personalized investment, tax, insurance or legal advice.