As any parent will tell you, sometimes kids ask questions that are hilarious or surprising. My son asked a question one night at dinner that was a little bit of both. His question was, “Mom, are we rich?”
I paused for a second unsure of how to answer. And then I responded to him with a few questions of my own. “Do you have clothes and shoes to wear? Does our family have food to eat every day? Do you have somewhere warm to sleep at night? Do we have clean water to drink?” After he answered “yes” to all of the above, I told him, “Yeah, I think that makes us really rich.”
I didn’t even mention the fact that he had enough toys, books and games to fill his room. He nodded and we kept eating.
I was feeling pretty good about my answer until a couple weeks later when we were having some friends over and my son announced to our guests in a loud voice, “Did you know that we are really rich!?” *Cue embarrassed look on my face.*
Even though it made for an awkward dinner party moment, I’m still glad that we define being “rich” in this way. The dangers of living in poverty are very real and serious, especially for children. But, as a parent of kids who have never had to wonder if food will be on the dinner table (even though they sometimes protest WHAT it is), I worry about the dangers that potentially come from having relative financial stability and privilege: things like apathy, self-centeredness, materialism, or a lack of compassion.
I want to teach my kids a financial worldview that includes generosity as a part of it. I want them to learn how to use their money well and not be consumed with always wanting more and more. And I don’t want them to take what they have for granted.
The reality is perspective matters. When it comes to money, you can always find someone better OR worse off than you. If you only compare yourself to those better off or define ‘rich’ as having mansions, luxury cars, and designer labels then you’ll likely never feel like you have enough.
Here are signs your kids might need a shift of perspective. (Please note: There is ZERO judgment here because I have seen literally all of these in my own kids.)
- They’re always asking for the latest and greatest toy at Target.
- Once they get that toy, they play with it for one day and then you never see it again.
- With a roomful of said toys, they complain that they “have nothing to do.”
- They don’t seem to understand the value of money or how much a dollar is worth.
- They complain about having to use some of their money for charity.
- They get caught up in wanting something just because a friend has it.
All joking aside, I think this is a real “first world problem” for us as parents. However, with some thoughtfulness, I think we can give our kids the gift of widening their perspective, learning the value of money and taking steps toward being sincerely generous people that will set them up for a strong financial foundation that will last into the future.