A 30-year-old man I know constantly reminds others what kind of car he drives, the fancy places he stays on his vacations and how much his wife spends on her clothes. I wondered why he always felt the need to do so… until I thought of his father.
His dad makes sure you know what brand of expensive watch he wears and that he flies first class. He loves to say that his wife’s favorite sport is shopping. And he seems proud to admit how much of her spending ends up on his credit card. This man places value on letting people know how much money he has and how much he spends. Not surprisingly, his son has thoroughly absorbed that message.
Children develop their value systems in large part by imitating their parents. If you want your children to live meaningful and fulfilling lives, you must teach them healthy values regarding money and materialism. Here are four steps you can take to do that:
- Understand your money values – Your money values are your emotionally backed beliefs, thoughts and behaviors about what’s important to you about money. Examine your attitudes and experiences regarding money and possessions. What do you want your children to learn about them? Are you living the values you want them to emulate? Remember, your kids learn from your behavior and the environment around them.
- Focus on relationship building – People who focus on materialistic goals often do so at the expense of gratifying personal relationships. Materialistic values often crowd out more meaningful pursuits. In contrast, psychological health comes from strong, positive relationships in which children feel close and connected to their families. When your kids feel accepted and secure, they’re less likely to turn to materialistic things.
No matter what your business and social obligations are, you must make time for your kids. The greatest gift you can give your kids is not the one wrapped up with a ribbon. It’s your time, love and emotional support.
- Don’t keep up with the Joneses – Perhaps you’ve discovered that you’re caught up in living an ostentatious lifestyle. Maybe your own measure of success has come to mean having more or spending more than anyone else. If so, you’re fighting a losing battle. There will always be someone with more.
I’ve had clients who’ve spent $80,000 a month on clothes and accessories for just two people. And when they visited their adult children, they spent more time shopping than being with their kids. They were both unhappy and dissatisfied with themselves and each other.
True happiness comes from purposeful actions and concern for others. Take time to identify the relationships and activities that bring meaning to your life. Then structure your life around those things.
- Address the issue of materialism – Kids need to be taught to value the right things. They need to know that personal fulfilment comes from kinship, kindness and compassion, not designer clothes and fancy toys. When you talk to your kids about consumption, status and money, it helps them become less obsessed with those things.
In one family I worked with recently, the father worked himself up from poverty to great wealth. But he never talked with his kids about money. He only created trusts to dole out huge distributions to each of them. His kids never had to work – so they didn’t. Now the father is ill and his children are trying to figure out how to run his businesses. But they’re woefully incompetent and irresponsible.
There’s no substitute for talking with – and listening to – your kids. It creates transparency and develops trust. If you’re uncomfortable addressing these topics with your kids, seek professional help. A skilled facilitator can help you structure dialogues about materialism and family values that can be remarkably beneficial.