What I Want To Pass Onto My Children

With Father's Day so recently past, I've been thinking a lot about my own (future) children.  (Although, every Father's Day that passes is one Father's Day closer to when I will be receiving ties and home-made cards from my own offspring.)  I look forward to having kids, and having the opportunity to share things with them.

I have shared before in this very blog some of the things I wish to teach my children about money, as they get old enough to gain an understanding of the concept.  But money is far from the only, or even the most important, thing I hope to teach my children.  So, if you'll indulge me a bit, here are a few things that I hope I've properly taught to my children by the time they leave the nest (which will hopefully be closer to when they are 18 than 28, but that's a different story):

1. How to Be Self-Reliant: There seems to be very little done in school by way of preparing students for living on their own.  I realize that such skills are perhaps viewed as something best taught by parents at home, but surely there is some room for schools to do something.  Let’s start by rethinking home economics and shop class; while there is little use for most of us in being able to sew a pillowcase from scratch or build a bird house, there’s plenty of need to know how to, say, cook simple yet nutritious meals or successfully task apartment or home repair.  You wouldn’t even have to completely remake the courses, as a few shifts in priority here and there should do the trick.  Regardless of what my children learn in school, though, I fully intend to make sure that they go off to college knowing where to find great financial management tools and take care of themselves in ways that make them financially frugal and wealth minded individuals.

Of course, there is much to be said about making sure my children get at least a basic education before I worry too much about teaching them subjects outside the classroom...

2. How to Get Along With People They Dislike: It might seem a bit counter-intuitive; why bother to spend time with people you don't like, after all?  But let's be reasonable: there's lots of people we have to deal with, sometimes on a daily basis, that we don't really like, if not outright hate.  Being able to work with such people without losing your cool, complaining about them behind their back, or simply being mean is a dying skill, one I hope to encourage in my children, if only to add a tiny bit more civility to the world.

3. How to Avoid Scams: This is a tricky one, as scams change and evolve all the time.  Twenty years ago, who could have predicted the proliferation of 419 scams and similar online thievery?  I don't want to even hazard a guess as to the methods scammers will be using twenty years from now when my children are preparing to go to college.  Still, there are some constants I can pass along to my little ones.  Scammers will play on your emotions.  They will offer you something for nothing.  They will try to get you to do their dirty work, recruiting other people or engaging in illegal activities to benefit themselves.  In short, if sounds too good to be true, it most likely is, and is likely a scam, to boot.

4. How to Manage Their Money: This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone; obviously, I care enough about money and money management to be have written over 500 posts on the subject, so it's obviously something I want my children to know about.  A complete list of everything I want to expose them to would fill up a book (or at least several weeks of blog posts), but the basics are pretty simple: how to save money, how to spend money wisely, how to invest, and how to plan for the future.  If they can master those skills, they'll be in much better shape than most of their fellow classmates come college time (to say nothing of their debt-ridden former classmates come graduation).

5. How to Pursue Entrepreneurial Aspirations: I've discussed ways to help encourage entrepreneur children before, but as you might guess, it's something I would definitely like to pass on to my children.  There's plenty of ways to go about doing so, from limiting their allowance and encouraging them to find a way to make up the different to offering all the help (financially and through advice) that I can when and if they want to start a business of their own.  Now, I don't want to force them into being entrepreneurs if they don't have that desire; someone forced down any particular path in life is likely to rebel, whether that path is entrepreneurship or becoming a doctor.  Instead, I want to encourage them to…

6. Follow Their Dreams (But Still Make a Good Living): It's a rare parent who doesn't want their child to do something that will make them happy in life and not to settle for a dull, unfulfilled life of drudgery.  That said, it's an even rarer parent who wants to watch their child go down a path as, say, a professional musician, only to wind up in their mid-thirties, broke, with no children, useful skills, or hope for the future.  My goal, then, is to help my children to reach the middle ground: gaining the skills needed to hold a decent, at least semi-interesting job, while still having the time and creativity needed to pursue other interests on the side.  Given the expansion of technology and the decreasing prices of just about every creative tool imaginable, it's not hard (or unusual) to picture secretaries who write novels (hopefully not during work hours), teachers who publish their own blogs on subjects they are passionate about (hopefully, the same subjects they are teaching), or yes, doctors who rock out on the weekend.  With a little creativity (something I also hope to cultivate), my children shouldn't have a problem fulfilling their dreams while they keep their pockets full.

What do you hope to teach your children by the time they grow up?  Do you think the lessons you need to pass on are much different than the ones taught to you?  Any parents out there who would care to share some thoughts with this would-be parent on how best to teach some of these things to children?

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