Children can learn money isn't for play, authors say

Sunday, June 16, 2002

NEW YORK -- Long before they can add and subtract, children know about money. They see their parents put coins into parking meters and take paper money from the ATM, and the plastic card used for substantial purchases probably is on their radar screen.

If parents are attuned to their children's curiosity about money, they'll know when the moment is right to discuss it, advise Eileen and Jon Gallo, authors of "Silver Spoon Kids: How Successful Parents Raise Responsible Kids."

Eileen Gallo is a psychotherapist specializing in issues relating to money and wealth; Jon Gallo is an estate-planning attorney. They live in Los Angeles and are the parents of three adult children.

Some of the more common "money moments" included in their book are:

At a store, your child points at something and asks, "How much does this cost?"

Your child asks you if you're rich.

Your child's friend receives an expensive gift, your child wants the same thing, and you say "no" because you consider it too expensive or inappropriate.

You pass someone on the street asking for a handout.

If these opportunities don't come, or the timing isn't right, make it a point to plan on having a conversation -- and probably multiple conversations -- about money with your children, says Jon Gallo during a phone interview. It's the only way children will learn to see money as a tool, as something you have, not something you are, he explains.

"In a lot of families, the only message about money is 'We don't talk about money, and we don't talk about why we don't talk about money,"' he adds. This attitude could fuel fears and anxiety about money, whether a family has a lot of it or not.

But before parents can talk to kids about having a healthy attitude toward money and what it means to earn it, parents have to decide on their own values.

Eileen Gallo recalls a story about a couple with a 5-year-old child. When the child asked "Are we rich?" he got two different answers -- mom said "yes," dad said "no," at the same exact moment.

Some parents don't want their children to know about family finances because they don't want money to be used as a scorecard, while other parents don't want it to affect how their children treat people.

Jon Gallo says he has worked with families who raise successful children who appreciate money but aren't a victim of it. "Money can be a great opportunity to improve your children's lives if you know how to use it," he explains.

"The issues are the same no matter what the family's wealth is," says Eileen Gallo.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: