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Mothers of affluence: blessing or curse?

By Dave Specht

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 17 2012 4:33 p.m. MST

“Mom, are we rich?”

“Oh, well, no dear.”

The child's eyebrows raise and the woman follows his gaze around the comfortably decorated dining room, the heavily draped large windows, the leather upholstered chairs and gleaming broad table. His eyes come to rest on his after-school snack, a pile of delicious out-of-season fruits coupled with gourmet meats, cheeses and crackers. He looks back up at his mother, confusion battling disbelief in his expression.

“I mean, yes, we are,” she tries to amend quickly, “but not really rich, that is…”

As strange as it may seem, this scenario is not uncommon, and this mother’s lack of a clear answer is pretty ordinary too. What is it about parents' financial success and teaching children about it that makes these conversations so awkward? Should you feel guilty, proud or embarrassed about achieving monetary prosperity? How do parents help their children to understand that the family is “financially wealthy” without it affecting them negatively or causing them to feel entitled?

These are all common questions. Mothers of affluence have a unique opportunity to shape how their children feel about financial success and how comfortable the children are in all things dealing with money. Mothers need to be mothers of influence in how they engender the concept of money and attitudes towards it in the minds of children.

It is common for mothers to struggle in knowing how to handle these early conversations about money. Fathers struggle with them too, but mothers have a unique opportunity to influence children. Let me offer a few tips.

Carefully determine what it means to be “wealthy.” You might consider broadening your definition of “wealth” to include things that are not quantified in dollars and cents. One example is to be relationship rich. Do you have people around you that love and care about you and have the ability to help you to become successful in life? If you do, you should consider yourself wealthy from a relationship perspective.

Another example is spiritual wealth. Do you know who you are and do you have a personal relationship with God? If you do, you might consider yourself spiritually wealthy. Defining wealth only in terms of things with cash value is short-sighted and cannot provide the depth of understanding that your children need to have healthy concepts concerning true wealth and plain old money. Too many people who consider themselves rich are impoverished in many ways.

Define what money represents to you. As a mother, you have many opportunities to speak to your children about money and what it means. As you become intentional about seeking opportunities to “define your money,” you will find that your children will absorb those teachings.

Example: If you always need the newest car in the neighborhood or the most fashionable clothes, you are defining your money as a status symbol or a measuring stick against others. You may not ever say that is what money means to you, but you are teaching it. At the same time, if you include your children in charitable giving from a young age, you are teaching them that an important context money has in your life is the good that can be done with it.

Mothers should take every opportunity to express what money represents and what role it fulfills for their family. Get intentional about defining your money before it defines you.

Think of money as a magnifier. To magnify is “to enlarge in fact or appearance.” As you think about money, this is exactly what it is: It simply enlarges in fact or appearance what attitudes, ideas and intentions already exist. Money is not inherently good or evil; it is simply a tool of facilitating transactions.

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