Photo: Roni Lambrecht

In teaching our children to use the tools they have been given, we are giving them the ability to make something out of nothing, and, more importantly, the confidence that they have the ability to do so. When we enable them by “giving in” or “breaking down,” we are only teaching them to work just enough to wear us out, so we’ll give in to their expectations. John and I see this in ourselves, our families, friends, and especially within our government.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.”

In our children’s lives, we are their government. Let’s hope we do a better job of it than the real government does.

Life is exhausting. Sometimes it’s just easier to give in instead of saying “no” and dealing with the disagreements that may ensue. We’re all guilty of this, yet by doing so, we are creating a society that believes we are all entitled. The truth is nobody, children or adults alike, is ever going to lose out in life because they didn’t get something they wanted. They can live without whatever it is until they want it badly enough to earn it.

I remember my 18th birthday when my mom wrote something in my birthday card to the effect of, “Happy Birthday! Now that you’re 18, rent will be $200 per month beginning today.” I was upset about it, but I paid rent every single month so I could have a place to live. Little did I know, my mom was teaching me how to budget effectively so that I could soon move out on my own and be able to afford it. She did her research and made sure that using the $200 rent would be the correct amount for getting out on my own. For nearly two years, I paid the rent each month and abided by her house rules. Much to my surprise, she saved every penny of that money and allowed me to use it toward the down payment on my first condo. Back then, my mortgage payment was $160, so the rest went toward utilities and other homeowner needs. These days, that number would be MUCH larger, yet I still recommend this practice, as it’s exactly what we had planned to do for Dalton.

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Straightforward Tips for Parenting at Your Best

One of the biggest tools we use in our society is money. Teaching our children at an early age how to use it effectively is a true gift. And while learning to manage money is equally as important as core subjects required in our school system, it is up to parents alone to teach children what it means to manage money effectively. In doing so, we must give our children the opportunity to fail while it is still relatively cheap to do so – before they are 18 and before their worlds are affected by credit reporting. This means that we need to start early. Age 4 was appropriate to start with our son.

Set a precedent for earning what they want, instead of expecting it. Teach your child about instant gratification and delayed gratification, as well as review how long the enthusiasm lasts after each one. There are several ways this can be done. Below is just one example.

You’re at the store, and your child sees a $3.00 toy they think they need right this moment. Do you buy it? NO! Give them the opportunity to earn that toy on their own by letting them know there are some chores that you need help with at home that will help them meet their goal.

When you get home, write down:

Toy = $3.00

Tax = $0.26 (in a positive way, you’ll need to explain what tax is and why it’s needed)

Total = $3.26

Now, discuss with your child what they can do to earn this money. At age four, with guidance, they are perfectly capable of helping with the laundry by sorting clothes, gathering hangers from the low sections in the closet, folding, and sorting socks. Sometimes they will need the help of picture instructions. They can help with things like emptying and putting bags into small trash cans, dusting tables and chairs, helping set the table, helping empty the dishwasher, helping to dry dishes and many other things. You can even make up other jobs like having them take pictures of your furniture so you can give it to your insurance agent. Be creative. Most important, be patient with them as you teach them how to do each chore. Remember, this training will be ongoing. They will not learn or remember every step you teach them the first or second go-around. It takes repetition; often 15-20 times at that age.

Now get out another piece of paper and make a list of the chores you are willing to teach and pay for along with their values:

Sort clothes = .25

Gather hangers = .25

Sort socks = .25

Dust = .50

Empty trash = .25

Put bags in empty trash cans = .25

Remind them that they will be getting a lot of money while they work, and give them something special to carry their money in. The key here is instant gratification with the money, so make sure you have a lot of change on hand so you can pay them right away for their completed chores. That keeps them excited about the money and helping you. Within a week, they’ll have enough money to buy the toy.

When they have earned enough money, make it an event. Go back to the store. Help them find the toy. Allow them to make the purchase themselves while you watch and help only as needed. (Often, if you tell the store clerk what’s happening, they will be very helpful in cheering your child on too – you can even write the clerk a note before you get to the store and hand it to them before you check out.)

Plan to do this each time your child wants something and they will learn to work for what they want instead of expecting a handout.

There’s a brilliant book and website to help teach your tween/teenager how to manage money effectively. Written by my friend, Craig Kaley, his website and book are called Money Athletics, and I highly recommend his strategy to ALL parents. It’s close to the strategy we used with Dalton, but much more detailed.

Another tip for our kids (and anyone looking to be great in their field of interest) is to locate and offer to work for suppliers/vendors in their field of interest for free for a week as time allows (think of it as a longer and more detailed version of Take Your Child to Work Day). The amount of inside information one can gain from this is incredible. Not only does it increase knowledge within their field of interest, it also increases awareness in their industry that they are willing to go above and beyond to learn new things. It can also create opportunities for growth on both sides (employer/employee or supplier/vendor) knowing why things are done the way they are, and each party can improve their own tasks knowing how it will help the other side. Additionally, when layoffs occur, it prepares them for entrance into other facets of their field.

An example of this is when I first started in the real estate industry as a loan closer. I decided it would be a good opportunity to offer my help to the title companies for free for a week at a time when my business was slow. This gave me insight into how and why their procedures were the way they were, and it gave me some great ideas as to how I could help them with the transactions I did with them. Furthermore, when my business was slow after the 2008 crash, I always had work available when I needed it because I had made so many friends in the industry.

It’s all a matter of asking, “How bad do you want it?” and then helping them learn the steps it takes to get there.

As the accomplished Warren Buffett once said, “Give your children enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing.”

Excerpt from Roni’s book: Parenting At Your Best, which can be found on Amazon in paperback, e-book, and audiobook versions.