How to Spoil Your Kids (Without Realizing It)


It’s a simple fact: parenting is a tough job. When you’re trying to raise good and responsible kids, it’s important to teach the value of money and savings. While you may have discussed these topics, your non-verbal messages are just as relevant. Be warned, even well-behaved kids aren’t immune from the subtleties of comfort and familiarity. Don’t let your actions overshadow your words. Avoid the following methods of spoiling. The result will help you save while teaching your kids the basics of money management.
Don’t spoil your kids by:

Paying for lunch every day.

You may believe that paying for your kid’s lunch is innocuous, but think about the long-term implications. Allowing him to buy lunch five days a week means:

  • It’s perfectly acceptable to spend money every day
  • “Fast” is more important than “frugal”
  • It’s okay to disregard other options, e.g., bringing food from home

Moderation is a valuable lesson, one you should teach early. Establishing good habits now will help your kids learn about savings and the drawbacks of overspending. Don’t miss an opportunity to instill this small but crucial lesson.

Say yes to every valid request.

Your kid may be the next Picasso or Einstein, but that doesn’t mean “yes” is the right answer to every request. While you are on the path to giving your child a well-rounded list of extracurriculars (e.g., piano lessons, art classes, a spot on three separate sports teams), consider the message you are sending. Most adults cannot afford to pursue every interest without landing in serious debt. Remember the lesson of moderation and apply it here. Set a budget and allow your child to choose only two or three activities per year. The act of limiting will help them appreciate their perks while developing their reasoning skills.

Buy expensive items with no strings attached.

Here’s a disturbing example for you: An acquaintance of mine recently bought his 19-year-old daughter (let’s call her Kate) a brand-new BMW for more than $40,000. She barely flinched a few weeks ago when her car was scratched on the passenger door. Why was Kate so passé about the damaged car? Because she didn’t earn it.

You don’t have to spend $40,000 to make the same mistake with your offspring. Cars, clothes and even college tuition are easily taken for granted when your kid did nothing to secure it for themselves. In addition to wasting your money, you’re setting them up for failure as well. Without the basic skills of cost vs. benefit, your child is more likely to overspend in early adulthood. Do everyone a favor and avoid this trap. Allow your kids to help pay for the items they need. It’s never too soon to instill the value of ownership.

Reward every smart decision.

Here are some perspective-inducing questions: Does your boss throw a parade every time you come to work? Does your mortgage lender send you a thank-you card for paying your bill on time? Of course not. You may want to encourage and praise your child, but don’t overdo it. Certain responsibilities should be expected, e.g., doing well in school, and completing household chores. Avoid conditioning your child to expect praise at every turn. Help them understand that a job well done is satisfaction enough.

Break your own rules.

Nothing shatters a valuable lesson like ill-placed hypocrisy. If you are trying to teach the value of money, don’t contradict yourself by overspending on living expenses, entertainment and other monthly expenditures. A well-intentioned path of learning is worthless if you can’t walk it yourself. Do your best to set an example. Your actions will carry lasting weight.