Small Business Marketing by Jillian Shaw Marketing, Advertising & Public Relations for the Small Business

Let Your Kids Balance The Checkbook

06.02.2010 · Posted in Family

kids and money - learning from your small business

If you’re a small business owner with children, you have an incredibly useful parenting resource at your disposal: your business.  You can teach your children a lot about money in the most concrete and hands-on way.

I came across an interesting post by Randy Gage where he asks if money makes you rich.  It got me thinking, and here’s my response:

You know there’s an argument to be made against being rich. Or at least living like you are. My parents were cash-poor so to get things I wanted I worked at a young age, bought my own clothes, shoes and ‘wants’, learned priceless lessons about the value of a dollar, what earning really is, what a good price for strawberries in winter is, and stuff like that.

So why are countless others in my generation now in massive debt, living in houses they couldn’t afford to begin with? Maybe all they learned from their their not-poor parents was that you can buy whatever you want when you want it. I guess if it’s paid in the future with money you might earn someday, maybe, you don’t need to worry about it today.  I believe this starts with candy and trinkets in the checkout lane at the grocery, and just gets worse from there.

I won’t struggle with money like my parents did, but I intend to raise my children similarly. They will share bedrooms and a bathroom, work if they want money, get gifts from mom & dad only on birthdays and Christmas, and pay their own way through college. I’m not buying them cars when they are 16. I’m not going to spend $150/month on a teenager’s highlights. Nada.

I do pay for the best healthcare available, my kids will have braces if they need them, and go to the doctor as often as recommended for their age, of course. I’ll also send them to good private schools that teach the religious values I want them to have.

All that said, I completely agree with everything in Randy Gage’s previous post about money as a measuring stick. That’s exactly, in fact, the concept I want my children to understand. A thorough understanding of the “laws of prosperity”  and “value for value exchange” is one of the most important lessons a parent is responsible, I feel. And the sooner they start handling money, the better.

So what are some things that you can do as a small business owner to teach your children the value of work and money?

  • Give your kids a job.  You can start this as soon as they can follow directions as toddlers.  I’m not talking about officially putting them on the pay roll (wait ’til they’re a little older for that), but give them a dust rag and pay them a dime to dust the display cases.  As they grow, they will probably be eager to take on bigger  tasks and earn a little more petty cash.
  • Balance  the books with your kids.  They probably won’t be able to do much of the math involved until they are ten or twelve, but when they can, break down your book keeping into simple steps and as them to one or two of them.  Teach them how to balance the cash register at the end of the day.  Let them handle cash whenever possible.  Always check their work, of course.
  • Teach math skills using cash.  When your preschooler is learning to count to one hundred, use pennies.  Then explain that one dollar is worth one hundred pennies.  You can even demonstrate the universal acceptance of this concept by taking those pennies to the bank and exchanging them for a dollar (when the bank is not busy).  This third party validation gives your child a sense of money’s true worth.
    Teach your kindergartener to count by fives and tens using nickels and dimes, and repeat the one dollar lesson above.
    When your child’s math homework uses money word problems, pull out real money and physically do the transaction after your child has done the arithmetic.  Follow up the exercise with questions like “What else could you buy for fifty cents?” “What do we sell in our store that costs the same amount?” “What else could you buy with the rest of the money Jane has left?” and so on.  Interactions like these will be the connection between learning the math skill and showing how it’s used in ‘the real world.’
  • Have your child read invoices and check in new shipments of products.  Explain to them how much you pay the vendor, how much you charge the customer, and that the difference goes to pay for the rent, electricity and pay checks of the people that work for you.  Explain that all of those elements are part of the customer’s purchase experience and the convenience you provide to them.
  • Teach your children to count back change to customers.  Few businesses require this of cashiers, but customers really appreciate it.  It also will bolster those math skills.  If your child is slow at counting back change, ask the customer if it’s okay.  Nine times out of ten they are delighted to be a part of the lesson.  This interaction will also teach your child a great deal about customer service, socialization and general politeness.

Within every small business there are a million ways to teach your kids about money.  And the bonus is that you’ll get to spend time with them while you’re working.  Don’t worry if things take longer – it’ll be well worth it in the long run to have a child who can responsibly take some tasks off your plate, and to have a child who knows the opportunity cost of that $20 he wants to see a movie.

Jillian's Currently Reading: Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business
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