discovery toys blog of billie elias
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October 19, 2008

Letters, we get letters

Jillian asks: "What advice would you give me for raising our children to be responsible, respectful, be good with money, etc...anything to ensure my husband and I are raising decent citizens...Of course we want our kids to be happy - but more than that, we want them to be good, productive members of society...not the spoiled, lazy brats we all hear about on the news every night...we never want them to feel entitled."

Answer: You're right to ask this question while your children are young, for that's when it's easiest to have your advice be absorbed. Here are some of the things that we did when our son was young:

When we saw a homeless person, we explained to our child that some people have less and need help from others.

When we learned that our son's best friend at school lived in a shelter, we reached out to his mom and invited the child to dinner at a cool restaurant to expose him to a part of life he may not have otherwise seen. In this case, it was our child who had reached out first.

We were brought up to be responsible with money, so it was natural for us to teach that. There was a piggy bank to put small coins in. Monetary gifts still go into a "college fund," and every thank you note expresses that's what the gift will someday be spent on. We provide all he needs so that he can save his money from little jobs like dog walking, cat sitting, helping a graphic designer. Now he has a toy "vault" that he keeps his treasures in (great grandpa's medal from WWI, an ivory elephant from grandma's adventures in India, and his money). Periodically he brings us his accumulated savings, which we invest for him.

As our son matured, and began asking questions about money, the environment, the law, right and wrong, that sort of stuff, we were available to talk things through and explain, never infantilizing.

I guess my best advice is to be the kindest, most respectful, gracious parents you can be and your children will see you as their role models. It is apparent to us that our son grasped what we showed him and ran with it. After all, we are our children's first and most important teachers, don't you agree?

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