Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

19 Av 5761 - August 8, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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Home and Family
Money Matters -- or
How to Teach Our Children the Value of Money

by Menucha Fuchs
author of dozens of books for children and adults, parenting guidance counselor

Money is part of everyday reality, and this is unavoidable, whether we like it or not. There are, however, homes in which the topic is a separate issue in itself. From a very young age, children observe their parents' attitude towards money and as time goes on, the topic of money and the attitude become linked in their minds until the two are inseparable. How should we handle the topic of money?

How can we explain what money is without making a child feel that riches are necessary?

First of all, we must never impress a child with the idea that money is all- important. Money IS a very important asset, and it shouldn't be wasted, but this does not make it an important value. If the parents relate to money with avarice, talk about its aspects without end and constantly discuss how to increase their funds, the child will be left with the impression that money is the most important thing in life. This conclusion will be inevitable if the parents constantly bring up the subject at mealtimes.

Parents who live for their money will always bring up and calculate other people's wealth. How much does the new family have? Is the neighbor really rich or is he only trying to impress others? Does that older couple have more or less money than they? And where did Uncle Chaim get the money to go abroad this year? A child listening to this type of conversation will really get the impression that money is of prime importance and that it is worthwhile spending precious time discussing this topic.

On the other hand, parents who don't spend their time discussing money issues, unless it concerns them and their livelihood directly, and even then, do so in a quiet, discreet fashion, transmit a different message: money is essential, since without money it is hard to survive, but it is certainly not of primary value. There are more important things which concern them such as: good communication between members of the family, cooperation and so on. The children will appreciate that money is important, it is hard to get along without it, but it exists for us and not the other way around.

Is the home atmosphere one of waste or thriftiness?

From the day they are born until they reach old age, children and people in general learn by observing what is going on around them. It is therefore not surprising that children notice everything that takes place in their homes and learn from what they see. From a young age, they can tell whether there is a preoccupation with money, not only from the way parents talk but also from the way they relate to the issue: its income and expenditure.

They can also discern whether the parents are stingy or spendthrifts, tight, generous or lavish, if they try to save or cut down on expenses or are continually in debt, whether they think only of their own benefits or are also concerned with their surroundings. And since children really absorb the atmosphere of the home so well, we as parents have to be careful not only in the way we act outwardly, but we must also try to educate ourselves internally. In this way, we can prevent our children from growing up with false values.

Letting children share our concerns about money

The way we relate to money matters is extremely important. From this, children will learn how or how not to relate to money. There might be a poor home with practically nothing in it, and every time the child dares to ask for something, he is refused and berated for asking. The child will learn that it is a sin to ask. After a while, he will decide that it's better to keep quiet. On the other hand, he might learn that it pays to be a nudge because it earns him some attention and he might even get some money if he is persistent enough.

On the other hand, a child can grow up in a similar home, but when he asks about money he won't be reprimanded or hushed up. He will get a clear, simple explanation as to why his request cannot be granted, including a broader account of the family's situation, ending on a note of hopefulness for a brighter future.

When things are set forth clearly and logically, the child gets the following message: as parents, we trust you to understand what we can and cannot afford. A child who feels that he was given a clear explanation about the financial situation of the family will know what is reasonable to request and what not. And since the parents didn't speak of the lack in a negative manner, but in a positive way, chances are that the child will take an optimistic view of the situation. He'll be more hopeful of a better future instead of reacting to the situation with anger and bitterness.

This method will help the child grow up emotionally as a healthier and more secure individual. He understands that there is a lack, he suffers from it, but the fact that he knows how things stand and that no one is putting on an act, plus the good communication between him and his parents, will help him cope more easily with the situation.

Who is the rich man? One who is happy with his lot.

Even someone who hasn't got much has something to be thankful for. If we really look at our situation carefully, we will find positive things to be grateful about. If this is the way the parents look at life, then this is the message the child will grow up with. As we all know, the really rich person is not the one who has money in the bank or seems to have it all, but the one who appreciates everything he has.


* Sometimes a child finds a coin in the house and brings it to us. We have to take it and thank him for this -- as it teaches him that the money is not his and it is his duty to return it to the owner. Also, that even small coins have value.

* When we find money in the street, we should wait a moment and discuss with the child whether or not we have to return it and why.

* Money is a sensitive issue and children can develop a complex concerning it if they are never given any or given too much, too often.

* Children have to help in the house because they are part of the household and it is superfluous to pay them for their assistance.

* Children have to learn and try to do their best. They learn for their own benefit and not to make the parents happy. It is unnecesary and inadvisable to pay children for a good report card or for passing a test with high marks.

[Readers' comments welcomed.]


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