Parenting and Money

Parenting and Money

by Aigul Aubanova on January 6, 2011

in By S.Soloveychik

Here is a field of constant family war – money, things, “give,” and “buy.”  How to invert it into a field of cooperation?

Greed is almost the first childish sin.  “Greedy- stingy” – is the first of childish name calling.  Other bad qualities are yet hidden, but greed seems to us to show itself in the first year: “Give your mom the ball,” he doesn’t, he hides it behind his back, “it is mine.”

Mother is terrified.  The boy is two, but he pulls the plate from his mother, wants to take it for himself.  What will he grow up to be?  For the sake of his light future she makes a decision.  She slaps his hands; she takes the toy from her stingy son with force, “Give me, share!”

She thinks she teaches him to give and share, in fact, as we know, she teaches, “He who is stronger can do everything, the stronger man can take, to take things from others is good, mother takes too; but I need to be as strong as my mother and father; when I grow up, I will take, by myself…”

As such upbringing goes.

A child pulls a toy, a candy, a mother’s plate, because he doesn’t have an idea of “mine, yours, and other’s.”  The whole world belongs to him and we shouldn’t enter these concepts in his consciousness from an infant age.  At home there is no “mine -yours,” but ours, everything is ours, everything is in abundance, and nobody takes anything that is yours, nobody takes anything from you.

But to remove greed is difficult; let’s instead teach generosity.  An old woman, an experienced parent, never gives her grandson one candy, only two so that he had many candies, and could share them if he wanted.  She would even break apart a piece of bread and then would give them to him so that there would be many pieces of bread.  Two cakes, two apples… Or: “Take the candy, and bring it to your mom!”  The boy looks carefully, is there one left for him?  Yes, he goes to his mom.  “Now bring some to your dad.  Have you already done so?  Then this is for you.”  A year or two will pass and the boy will ask, “Where is the candy for you, grandma?”  But it will not happen immediately.

A child must see that I don’t regret about giving something to anybody.  I am tremendously generous; I don’t keep tasteful things for the future or for guests.  If I have anything – please take it.

The later the child learns the mechanics of “you give me- I give you” the better.  I know a family where the father, returning home from work or from a long business trip, never brought anything to his children, so that they would not run to him asking, “What did you bring?”  So that children wouldn’t think that father is obliged to bring them something.  Sometimes, few times a year he appeared with a big box of apples, oranges or toys.  For nurturance children need one apple a day, for upbringing – they need one box of apples for the whole childhood.  In the family, which I talk about, parents didn’t give presents to children even on their birthdays, but they made generous feasts for children.

Children may not know how much their parents earn and the costs of things, but they must know that there is a scarcity of money and therefore they can’t ask for purchases, that this is even useless: if there is no money why talk about purchasing.  They also must know that at the first opportunity parents will not spare anything for them – here is an expensive thing, here is a distant excursion with the class.  In such families a child will not demand, “Mom, give me,”  “Mom, buy me.”  Everything what children need parents give or buy for them without humiliation, fearing it; they buy and give things with joy because they have the opportunity; and when they don’t have it, then they may live without being upset, and children don’t suffer, don’t whimper, and don’t cry: no is no, that is all.

Giving money for a week, as an allowance, is not reasonable.  In this case I become a debtor for children; the time comes to give them money.  What if I don’t have it, then am I guilty before my children?  In a normal family, I repeat, nobody owes anybody anything, but everyone believes in the generosity of every one.

People say that with a weekly allowance children learn to correctly spend money.  But the habit to save doesn’t depend on the amount of money, but on the qualities of the children’s character.  And is it so necessary to teach children to save money, to count, and to deal with money at all?  At the home of Maria Tsvetaeva, in her childhood, children were taught to wash their hands every time they touched money.  Many living skills come by themselves with time, and there is no necessity to teach children everything that will be needed in life.  And besides, whatever sum you settle on, always more money may be needed for unpredictable expenditures, so the problem is still open.

Let’s not rush to replace one thing with new ones.  It’s ok if things are a bit worn out.  The shoes are torn off, and the season is ending, then it is ok to tolerate till the next season.  If the shirt was torn on the sleeve, and mother is too busy to fix it, roll your sleeves up.  Did you lose your bag, well, take an old one for a while; when money is available you will get a new one.

A child must get used to deprivation, but to natural deprivation, not educational ones.

A woman asks me, “My seventeen year old daughter, asks to buy expensive earrings.  Is it worth it to buy them?”

“Do you have money for them?”


“What is the problem then?”

“Is that educationally correct?”

Strange thoughts…If the earrings were ugly, or if there were lots of jewelry on the girl and they were all thrown around in the room, and if this is  waste of money then why buy?  But if the earrings are good and the girl doesn’t have jewelry, and if there is money for them, why not?  And what is more important, the mother will buy them anyway!  She will lament and lecture on the topic of, “When I was in your age…” that will grate on the nerves of the whole family and she will buy the earrings anyway.  In this manner she will demonstrate to her daughter that she was simply greedy.  She will buy the earrings and will remain just as greedy.

But the mother, doesn’t give up, “But I have heard that some millionaires,” she says, “never give their children an allowance and don’t buy them anything; they let them work and earn for themselves!”

Her reason seems to be inarguable.

“But,” I say to the mother, “if we touch on a theme, which we know very little about (about private habits of millionaires), then I will tell you also that, as far as I have heard that when it comes to money, millionaires don’t instill in their children that a man is a brother to a man, but say that children must make money.  You, on the contrary,” I say, “don’t tell your daughter that each invested dollar must bring two, do you?  No?  So, why do you mention those millionaires?”

To buy or not to buy expensive things is a question of affordability, not parenting.  In an ordinary family there is a lack of money for very expensive things, so the problem is solved.  Children shouldn’t be involved in trade relations with parents.  We want them to grow into hard workers, we teach them to love work, but not for the sake of purchases.  When it is needed we buy things, when there is no need we don’t buy them but children must love to work hard anyway.  But to reproach for things already bought?  Because of the reproaching relationships with children are ruined, and children grow up with a conviction that the whole world is kept on the principle: “I give you – you give me.”  If upbringing was reduced to the fact that we shouldn’t buy children extra things, it would be too easy to raise children!

During their whole childhood my older children never requested “Dad, will you buy me?”  I have not heard those words.  But Matvey, he grows up without same aged siblings, and as if to punish us, to equalize, he orders every time, “Buy!” “Buy a chocolate!  Buy an ice-cream!  Buy!  Buy!”

I thought and thought and then invented, “Matvey,” I said, “let’s talk differently.  When you want something you say, ‘Let’s buy ice-cream, huh?’, ‘Let us …'”

Strangely, it worked!  With words “Let us” he involves me, and is involved himself, into a discussion.  “Buy” – is an order, there is nothing to discuss.  “Let us buy” is absolutely a different thing.

When Matvey was five I began to go with him to the toy store.  We go one or two times a month.  In the beginning I was afraid that he would torment me with endless “buy.”  It didn’t appear to be so.  When I say it is too expensive, I don’t have to repeat myself.   He sees a fire breathing expensive automatic gun, a marvel, not a toy.  But we are buying an inexpensive airplane.  The boy concentrates, counts in his mind, “If we bought that airplane, then we may also buy these warriors?”  And we never quarreled about the toys in this store, and never did he put me over budget.  But it is necessary to buy three or four toys, not one, and we shouldn’t count, “You have this one, why do you need more of that sort?”  There is complete trust between us, he chooses, and I, if I can, buy it.

And I know for sure: the boy will grow up, and he will never demand unaffordable things.

Parenting For Everyone, by S.Soloveychik, Book3 Part 2 Chapter 14

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