I had recently shared on Instagram Stories a highlight of my evening when my oldest daughter (10) thanked me for her day (we had seen Hamilton) and told me how much she appreciated how hard her dad and I work to provide for her and how thankful she is for everything we do for her. This moment brought tears to my eyes because this type of conversation did not come easy. Gratefulness in kids is something we struggle with all the time.
We’ve had a rough couple years during the pandemic (as many kids have) so to be to a place where my child can say this to me truly means a lot. I received an overwhelming number of responses from many of you asking me what changed or what we did for this to happen. I cannot say that there is any magic formula or one book or any one thing we did. I also can’t say that this appreciation towards us will be there 100% of the time as kids are kids and they will have their ups and downs (like we do). But I can tell you some things that (I think) helped us get here…
Exposing Them to (Some of) Our World and What We Do at/for Work
I’ve been reading Hunt, Gather, Parent and so much of what they talk about is including kids in things you previously thought they didn’t need to be involved in. Mundane chores, grocery shopping, errand running, stopping by or being at work, etc. But the more you involve them (in appropriate ways), the more they understand their parents and want to help contribute to the family (by helping out more around the house, helping their siblings, etc.) While we don’t (yet) have kids always jumping at the chance to do chores, it’s getting a lot better with more active efforts to help without having to beg or plead as it has been in the past.
Also, when it comes to work and they ask you, “How was work today?”, tell them some things that actually happened. Tell them the annoying stuff or the frustrating things. Tell them what made you happy at work, and why you like your job. They want to know more than you think.
Ability to Understand Money the Costs of Things
As kids get older, their understanding of money evolves. I started reading Make Your Kid a Money Genius a while ago (which I’m overdue to re-read but some of my notes are here). My 7 year old has no idea what $100 vs $100,000 means when it comes to what those things can buy or not. But my 10 year old has a much better sense. She doesn’t fully know what’s considered expensive or cheap (and that differs from person to person anyway), but she does ask a lot of questions on how much things cost (a car, a house, etc.). I always try to explain the range of possible prices so she understands there is no one normal cost for some of these bigger ticket items, and that it depends on everyone’s situation and how much they can and decide to spend on something like a car or a house. This also helps them realize the full range of what people have (or don’t have) in the world.
Having Them Use Their Own Money to Buy Stuff
My kids don’t get allowance (at least not currently). And, they don’t get money from the tooth fairy (she brings small treasures instead). I personally think they should help around the house to be contributors to our family versus because they are doing it to make money (and I never felt my kids had any idea of the value of money). I know this opinion differs in many families, and we may change this in the future as they get older.
So the only time my kids get money is from birthday or holiday gifts from their grandparents. They save that money and are allowed to use it to buy things they want (which sometimes includes birthday presents for their own friends). All items need to be approved by us in advance but most of the time if it feels like something we know they’ll use and they have the money for it, we will allow it. There have been a few times that my oldest has regretted getting something (like a cheap toy) because it broke really fast or didn’t work as she had hoped. And those are the types of lessons we want them to learn when making a decision to buy something. The impact isn’t real until it’s from their own pocket.
Allow Kids to See You Upset or Vulnerable
I broke down (a lot) during the pandemic as I am sure many of you did as well. The stress of all of the things (financial, work, safety, health, business, and the world at large) was too much to bear at times. At first, I really tried to be strong for my kids so they didn’t worry about this pandemic that was (at first) a new part of our lives. But after 6 months, a year, a year and a half…I couldn’t always keep my sadness, stress, or anxiety inside. They’ve seen me break down and cry, be sad, and feel overwhelmed. And they always come to comfort me in the way that kids are taught to help friends in need. While I felt bad about letting my kids see that side of me, they have since become much more aware of all the things I do for them on a daily basis.
I’m sure there are more things I am not thinking of, but those are the things that I think helped us. Remember I am no parenting expert, just a parent living my life and sharing what I’ve experienced. But what I have learned is that honesty with kids (at a level that makes sense for their age) builds up trust and respect when they feel part of your world – especially as they get older. If you have any of your own tips or experiences, please share with me!
Top photo by Casey Brodley