I find it unfortunate that a good majority of parents choose to spoil their kids and give into their every whim. It could be that they think they are giving their children a good life but they are forever crippling them. Their children are destined to be poor financial managers prone to giving in to the pull of instant gratification; that is, when they want something they will get it as soon as possible whether or not it’s a good financial decision.
Being a good money manager and wealth creator does not just happen, I don’t even believe that it’s something that is taught in schools; it 100% has to be taught at home and those lessons need to begin the moment your child is born!
Over the course of June I will impart the lessons I believe set me up for being good with money.
I have loved mandasi forever. People laugh at me when I stop my Mercedes by the side of the road to buy mandasi because they think the behaviour is incongruous with the vehicle. I beg to differ.
Anyway, when I was a child of about five to seven years old I used to go to my father as often as I thought was reasonable to ask for 10 tambala to buy mandasi from the bottom of our road; even then that amount of money was nothing. Did my father always give it to me? Certainly not! Sometimes he said no,
“I gave you 10 tambala yesterday,” I distinctly recall him saying.
“Yes, but I spent that already, I want more mandasi!”
“You don’t have to have mandasi every day.”
He wasn’t being mean, he doted on me, he simply didn’t want to give in to my every want (and he didn’t want me to get fat). This taught me that just because you want something it doesn’t mean you have to have it, even if it is cheap; importantly, I learnt to wait.
Today mandasi cost about 20 kwacha and most parents would be inclined to just say yes if asked for it. Do not. There is a lesson in the word no, especially if the child can see you’re not just being mean. Explain why you’ve chosen to say no.
What should I wear?
I also used to love asking my mother what I should wear, her answer was almost always the same,
“Wear what you want to wear.”
This placed the burden of deciding squarely on my shoulders. However, she didn’t always like what I chose to wear. If she didn’t, she would explain why what I was wearing wasn’t appropriate for the occasion. It’s only when I grew up that I appreciated how much of a role that played in my decision making ability.
Many people I’ve worked with in the past have commented on how they like my ability to make a good decision almost instantly but this skill did not just materialise. It was developed over a very prolonged period of time. I can now make reasonably complex decisions in record time and simple decisions within seconds.
Your child is not going to learn how to make decisions when they start work; you need to get them making decisions now.
If they make a decision you don’t agree with don’t force your opinion on them. Tell them why you don’t agree but allow them to keep their opinion. It’s hard to do this but in doing so you’re setting your child up for success. You’ll be empowering them with the courage to decide.
“The more decisions that you are forced to make alone, the more you are aware of your freedom to choose.” Thornton Wilder
For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.