Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sharing the Bounty: Money and Unconditional Parenting

Unconditional parenting, what some might also call non-punitive parenting or peaceful parenting (it comes in many terms) reaches every aspect of our lives. Academics, religion, biology, neuroscience, emotional wellbeing...let's not forget finances!

I've been very happy with the way my parents introduced money values and developed financial skills in their family. They have an entrepreneurial streak to them and seemed to have passed that along to their children. More important to me now as a parent, though, they also passed along the feelings of empowerment and bounty when it comes to finances.

Frugality without prudence and monetary discipline without a goal only lead to anxiety, to detachment, obviously not what unconditional parents are striving to communicate to their children. How can we guide them to live consciously, without waste as opposed to being stingy or fearful of the future? How can we encourage them to make their money work for them as opposed to becoming enslaved by money? These are questions that can't easily be summed up as they will vary by age and stage in your family.

Regardless of the stage, I've noticed that words are a powerful tool to use in the money topic. Words direct emotions and form values. For example, a common way of telling children no is, "We don't have enough money for that toy." Or even worse, going into judgment such as, "We don't have money to waste on such a useless toy."

I reframe the situation. "We haven't saved up money for that toy. Are you sure this is what you want? Let's put it on our list, look for the best deal and think about ways to earn money to get it." Sometimes, that means the toy stays on the list. More often than not, however, it means that my children talk about the toy which inevitably leads to talking about why they want that toy.

What is that toy promising you? Fun with friends? Entertainment? Looking pretty like a princess? Just a thrill for 5 minutes? Can you create your own, similar game instead of buying it? Can you find other ways to enjoy the promised emotion? Reframing what I say to them opens up the channels and I learn a LOT about my children, their desires and inner thoughts. And they, by communicating these things to me, learn about themselves and come to a greater understanding of what they really want.

Sometimes after much discussion, the child decides the toy is right. My daughter reached this conclusion about a Dora swimming doll back in May. I cringed at the $22 price tag for what I considered a cheap, plastic toy. But I smelled a lesson so I went with it. First, we practiced patience. It's frugal to wait until something goes on sale or clearance. Sure enough, a month later it was marked down to $10.99.

She went to work, earning the money doing odd jobs. (Granted, she didn't work very hard since there's not much a 4 year old can do for money haha, but I created the situations for her to learn from). I then asked my daughter, "How can we make our money work for us?" We listed some ideas and put them to use. We looked for a coupon and found a 20% off Dora Target coupon. Then we looked in the cartwheel app and found a Dora 5% and she paid me the money, and I used my Target debit card for another 5%.

You could not have found a more excited little girl that day, as she proudly chose her doll, walked to the checkout and paid. She told everyone who would listen all about her patience, her hard work and her coupon deals.

A lot of things can develop when we as parents stop to reframe our statements. Instead of automatically limiting our children by communicating restriction and a lack of power, with a little encouragement, our children can gain a sense of empowerment and develop skills that will last them into adulthood.


  1. Brilliant, I love this post.

  2. Awesome Guggie...You are such a FANTABULOUS Super Momma.....the planet sure needs alot more of your wonderful parenting skills!