Parents play a critical role in shaping a child’s attitude, knowledge and behaviors regarding finances.
At a very young age, many children tag alongside parents during activities that include a financial component, like shopping and going to the bank. As early as ages 3 and 4, they may even have awareness that money changes hands in these activities. As parents go about errands with their children in tow, they may not realize that they are role-modeling behaviors that will have lasting impacts.
Research shows that children will imitate the behavior of adults, even when it’s unclear why an adult is doing something. (Read about the study here).
With this in mind, it is important for parents to aid in their child’s development of positive financial behaviors by modeling them – even if you think they are too young to understand. For instance, when shopping, make sure your child sees you compare two items before choosing one. Or, when you ring out, make it a point to check that the receipt is accurate before tossing it in the bag and running out the door. Your child will begin to imitate behaviors like these.
The best way to help children do what you want them to do is by doing those things yourself – even if they’re too young to understand why just yet.
As your child develops, you can begin sharing more about why you did something, such as why you would compare two items. State, “I’m going to see which of these gives me more for my money”. You can also continue to increase exposure to some of your financial activities
as he or she grows, to the extent you’re comfortable sharing. Visit this helpful resource for ideas about age-appropriate activities and conversations that teach children about money.
Tip – If you begin sharing more personal details, like the household budget, you may want to remind your child that finances are a private family matter.
Remember that you are your child’s most important teacher – even when you’re not trying to be!