Your child is born wanting things. At first, it’s simply a warm cuddle and snuggle, nourishment, a clean diaper, and sleep. In short, like all of us, they want to feel loved and cared for. It’s easy to provide these things when they’re young. You don’t worry about spoiling them. The things they want are needs. But what happens when your child starts asking for wants? That’s when you help them learn to earn.
How we as parents engage with our children from their early years as they reflect their wants and desires to us will have an enormous impact on their personal responsibilities when it comes to fulfilling their wants and desires. An important question we have to ask ourselves as parents is, “Do they ask and you give, or do they ask and they earn?” Four simple tips can help your child learn to earn and set the foundation now for their long-term future.
1. Help Kids Learn to Reach.
Whether we want to believe it or not, our kids can crawl soon after they are born. Yes, newborns struggle with belly crawling, but they can crawl when placed on a mat and you put your hands behind their feet. There is a ton of information about the value of tummy time and how to make it happen, but that’s not the focus of this blog.
What’s important is that early in life, when given the chance, kids will learn to reach for what they want, whether toys or clothes, when their room is set up for their height. The Raising Families Readiness Profile app (available on both the Apple Store and Google Play) shows kids are capable of this when they are six weeks old. Of course, they may not know why they want what they are reaching for, and most likely it will go straight to their mouth, but they know they want it.
As our children get older, and learn to talk, it’s easy to understand what they want. By the time your child is a year and a half old, there’s no mistaking what they want when they put words together, like “more cookie.”
The choice we have, as parents, is to give them what they want or continue the plan of helping them learn to reach for what they want. A fun way to teach your kids the difference between wants and needs goes a long way toward helping your kids (at any age) understand the difference. Our focus as parents should be on providing what our kids need and helping them figure out a way to reach for what they want.
The next step is helping them put a plan together for getting what they want. The gift you can give your kids is your time and thoughts about how they might “earn” what they want. Examples include additional work around the house that is above and beyond the normal things they should be doing, like making their bed, doing their own laundry, putting away their things, helping clean the bathroom, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, cleaning up after the pets, helping to cook and prepare meals, etc.
We know of tweens and teens who babysit, make and sell jewelry, do housecleaning for elderly neighbors, mow lawns, and much more. It is very reasonable to ask your teen who wants a cell phone to help pay for it. We guarantee the more your child learns to earn, the more they will value what they get.
2. Be Consistent.
This is probably the easiest tip to write and the hardest to do as a parent. Consistent, repeated, and regular behavior on our part when it comes to helping our kids “learn to earn” is the best behavior we can adopt. No shortcuts and no giving in. Kids will test, they will try, and they know your weak spots better than you do, so BE CONSISTENT!
3. Teach Kids the Value of Money.
In this digital world where cash is rarely used, our kids have a hard time with the concept of money. It just shows up when needed, and in most cases today, it’s represented by a piece of plastic or an online transaction. In short, our kids don’t see it or know where it comes from, but they know they need it and want it.
We know that the habits our children have when it comes to money develop early in life. The more we talk about it, the more opportunities there are for our children to learn and develop the tools they need to use money wisely. Teaching Kids about Money provides a number of key thoughts and ideas to help you in this area.
4. Celebrate with Your Kids.
Celebrations and pats on the back are great ways to reinforce what our kids do. When they are babies, we smile with them, we laugh with them, we clap with them. It reinforces their behavior, and they do it more. The same is true when they learn to earn and earn what they want.
Remember when you were learning to ride a bicycle or skateboard and the number of skinned knees along the way? Then the joy of pushing off on your own without someone holding the seat. I do! What a sense of pride.
When your kid learns to earn and earns that first thing they buy, the positive emotions with a “congratulations” or a simple hug goes a long way toward them knowing success. It might remind you of the first car your bought on your own or the first apartment you rented. They were yours. Helping them celebrate sets the foundation for them to continue to learn to earn.
Helping Kids Learn to Earn Will Have a Profound Impact on Their Future
Life is full of opportunities and many challenges too! When we help our children learn to reach for what they want, and learn to earn, the opportunities increase and the challenges become less impactful. Being consistent, teaching our children about the concepts of money, and celebrating their successes with them cement the value of learning to reach and learning to earn. When that happens, the sky is no longer the limit of what they can achieve.
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Rick Stephens is a co-founder of Raising Families. With 33 years of experience as a top-level executive at The Boeing Company and having raised four children of his own, he is able to support parents and grandparents by incorporating his knowledge of business, leadership, and complex systems into the family setting. In his “free time” Rick enjoys road biking, scuba diving, visiting his grandkids, and generally trying to figure out which time zone he’s in this week. Read full bio >>