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Ask Dave

Define the Goal

Charlie asks if he should give his kids money to buy Christmas gifts for friends and family. Dave says it depends on the goal.

QUESTION: Charlie on Twitter asks if he should give his kids money to buy Christmas gifts for friends and family. Dave says it depends on the goal.

ANSWER: That would depend on what the goal is. What’s your goal by doing that? That would change by age of child at my house. When our kids were small, they might have given their mom a gift, but a four year old technically does not do much shopping. That would be Dad and maybe the four year old with them, but it might have just been Dad that bought something for Mom and it had Rachel’s name on it. So in a sense, I’m giving them money.

If your kids are 32, I’m not going to give them money to buy their parents and their friends’ gifts. That would be their job to go get some money to do that if they’re 32.

It’s age-appropriate, and the older they get, the more they lean on themselves and the more decisions we want them to make. The whole thing here is unless you went and earned the money and used your money to buy the gift—unless that’s going on and you’re the kid—then there’s really not much discussion unless we’re trying to create a teachable moment. We want the kid to have the pleasure of giving Mom a gift when they’re five or four or six or something. That’s wonderful, and maybe to some degree as they get older some of that, but we’re going to move more toward the kid leaning on themselves for everything the older they get—age appropriately—because the goal is for them to leave your home and stay gone. That’s the goal. We want them to come back to visit, not to live. That’s the goal.

That’s what we’re training for with our giving, with our saving, with our spending, with our work habits, with envelope systems, with budgets, with purchasing of cars, and the changing of oil in the cars, with education decisions. All of these things that we’re coaching them on called parenting we’re doing with the idea of building of not the particular event in question but building an adult that is successful. We want to grow adults that are successful—those of us that parent. That’s who we want to build.

You can just filter your decision-making. If I give a kid money walking through the parking lot of the church and I give them $5 to put in the offering plate while they’re in children’s church, they don’t experience the thrill of giving because they’re not a giver. They’re a courier. They carried my $5 and put it in the plate. If instead the kid has cleaned up their room and fed the dog and earned some money on their commissions and some of that money goes in their giving envelope and their giving envelope money goes into the offering plate at the church, whether they’re five or whether they’re 15, they’ve experienced the joy of giving and you’re training someone to be a giver.

Do you do that to make you look good or because it’s cute for little kids to give? No. None of that. You do that because the best way to be a successful adult is to be a giver because giving people are who we all want to be around. We all want to be around generous people—not hateful, snarling, self-centered crap. We don’t want to be around that, so we’re trying to grow children that become adults who are successful adults.

You can answer almost all of your money questions about parenting your kids through that lens, and you’ll get there. I didn’t realize how strong that filter was until Rachel and I just finished this book called Smart Money, Smart Kids that’ll come out in April. The book is teaching parents how to teach their kids how to handle money. How do you raise smart money kids so they don’t live in your basement? That’s the idea.