Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on MadameNoire on September 24, 2015.
By Boyce Watkins PhD
Given that our children are likely our greatest expense and greatest love, perhaps it might be helpful to discuss how we teach them about money. If you raise your kids to be financially responsible, they can be assets to you during retirement. If they are taught about money in the wrong way, they become horrible economic liabilities that leave you riddled with guilt. Although I don’t claim to know everything about child rearing, I thought I’d share some guidelines you might want to consider when it comes to teaching your kids about money.
I want my kids to be independent, so my goal is to make sure they are dependent upon me for the shortest time period possible. When everyone has the ability to carry her own weight, the entire group is stronger. For some reason, we fall into the “Daddy’s little princess” attitude with our kids and believe that it’s our job to ensure that they want for nothing.
If you give a child a wheelchair before he ever learns how to walk, he will never learn to use his legs.
When it comes to my kids, I don’t pay 100 percent for nearly anything; I pay half and they pay half. Also, if they want money from me, they work for it. That’s the way life is, and by giving them welfare, I am not preparing them to be strong, responsible adults.
Power and wealth are built in America by owning something. Even if you are highly paid, if someone else controls the land on which you stand, you may be trapped in a form of high paid prostitution. When it comes to our struggle for equality in America, our ability to be strong and independent is largely driven by how well we control our personal and collective economic destinies. Control of your financial destiny can come from owning your own business. Every black child should be taught the basics of entrepreneurship, even if they don’t plan to become business owners. You never know when they’ll be stuck without a job, needing to find a way to make ends meet.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your life. In fact, if you don’t enjoy life, I feel sorry for you. But in some cases, our inability to delay gratification gives us the opposite of what we seek. We are lazy today and end up working twice as hard later on because we haven’t invested for the future. That’s like driving a car for weeks without changing the oil or getting a tune-up, and then getting upset because your car breaks down. When I was young, I worked hard in college, but it wasn’t because I had an intense love of education (that developed later down the road). Instead, I worked hard because I wanted to “kick it” later on in life. Once I had my education behind me, a high paying job, and my own business, I had more fun than I ever would have expected. Some of my friends who didn’t invest, on the other hand, found that their lives became gruesome toils of non-stop labor and discomfort, which appears to be the exact opposite of what they were seeking.
I don’t know everything and I don’t pretend that I do. But by setting standards and high expectations, you can at least give your kids a chance to become successful in life. Whether they choose to accept the advice is their decision, but at least you’ve given them an opportunity.
Dr. Boyce Watkins, also known as The People’s Scholar, is a leading scholar and social commentator. His thought-provoking (and sometimes controversial) commentary has been featured on every major network, including CNN, MSNBC, and Huffington Post. While he analyzes a vast array of topics, his primary focuses are economic empowerment, social justice, and education.