Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book Review: The Opposite of Spoiled

This is a subject I haven't given nearly enough thought to - parenting my children with respect to the use of money. Ron Lieber's book, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money, was an excellent way to begin thinking about being more pro-active in guiding my children's experiences with and attitudes towards money. He urges parents to make a point of talking with their kids about money and presents many examples of others who have influenced their children powerfully in a variety of ways.

The author begins by establishing a definition of spoiled and I had to cringe because my kids could easily fall into this category given his four criteria: "1) they have few chores or other responsibilities, 2) there aren't many rules that govern their behavior or schedules, 3) parents and others lavish them with time and assistance, and 4) they have a lot of material possessions." Yikes! Nobody wants to raise kids who will be labelled as "spoiled." Next, he lists the traits he feels are the opposite of spoiled. The target characteristics are: "curiosity, patience, thrift, modesty, generosity, perseverance, and perspective." While I'm sure my boys have gained some sense of thrift simply by watching me save money with coupons and shop for necessities at resale shops, I haven't really made a concerted effort to teach them these targeted characteristics in regards to money.

Reading the examples, while inspiring, also felt a bit convicting. There were parents who encouraged their children by providing them with allowances and teaching the children to divide the money into three categories of giving, spending, and saving. Parents who encouraged their kids to put any purchase to the "hours-of-fun-per-dollar test" (an exercise we tried to illustrate by thinking about the punching bag Trevor requested for Christmas which languishes in the exercise/guest room now). Parents who, spurred by the curious questions and challenges of their children, sold their house to downsize and spent the proceeds on a philanthropic project selected jointly by the family. Parents who gave their children blank checks to fill out for the charity of their choice. Story after story of parents who have risen to this challenge in far greater ways than I ever will.

Still, the book did cause me to think about how I could go about instilling more subtle lessons about money, its value and its purpose. I do want to raise boys who feel a sense of obligation to help others less fortunate. I want them to realize the many blessings they have been given and show gratitude for what they have and can offer to the world. I want them to be smart in their spending. My middle son is the one who bemoans our standards the most. He wants an I-phone because "all the other kids have them." He wants to go to Florida on Spring Break because everyone else is doing it. For the most part, we don't give in to his desire to "keep up with the Joneses." It is communicating why we don't simply rush out and purchase whatever we desire that needs to be more intentional. I think this book is a great tool for introducing parents to the topic and providing examples of ways to be more proactive in your approach to the topic of money with your kids.

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