Parents need to use real life lessons to teach kids about money

As parents of a 13-year-old, my husband and I take seriously our responsibility to raise a strong, self-aware and confident young lady.

This responsibility includes tackling two topics that can make even the most secure adult squeamish: sex and money. Fortunately, our daughter’s middle school provides supplemental parental assistance for sex education. However, when it comes to money lessons and personal finance, there’s not so much.

Sadly, only 17 out of 50 states require high school students to take a financial education course, according to the “2018 Survey of the States: Economic and Personal Finance Education in our Nation’s Schools.”

Research findings by the Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy suggest that most states get dismal grades when it comes to student financial literacy. Inadequate financial education leaves parents to figure out the lesson plans — even when they often are not trained effectively to teach the subject matter.

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So, what is a parent to do? I’ll share some stories that may spark your imagination.

When our daughter was 6, she became infatuated with American Girl dolls. The $100 price tag and the lavish accessories astounded me. What’s a mother to do when an only child emphatically proclaims: “Mommy, my little sister [the doll] should have the same things I have [too many accessories]”?

Frantically, I dug deep to find a counter-argument and decided to put her first-grade math skills to work. We ventured to a local store’s toy department in search of her “little sister.” She immediately rejected the dolls for not being the real American Girl doll. Here’s how the rest of the conversation unfolded.

Mom: “You are right. It is not an American Girl doll. Do you remember how much the American Girl doll cost?”

Daughter: “$100!” (She was so excited to share her knowledge of numbers.)

Mom: “Can you tell me how much this doll costs?”

Daughter: “$20!” (The number-trivia excitement continues.)

Mom: “You know your numbers so well! Do you know many $20 bills will give us $100?”

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