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Your Example is More Important Than Your Words

Michael Lehet

Adult children. Sometimes it seems they just don’t get it, right?

So what can you do to help your adult children not repeat the same financial mistakes you made at their age?

…not a thing.

There is no way to guarantee your kids won’t repeat your mistakes. In fact, most of the time, that’s exactly what happens.

Here’s the problem - your words don’t carry much weight when your way of life contradicts those words.

Hopefully you are living the example of what you want your children to imitate. Because if you think you can live one way and expect something else from your children (of any age!), you’ve still got a lot to learn.

Charles Swindoll said, “The model is what is going to be remembered. Our example outlives our achievements.”

But don’t lose heart. All is not lost. Your kids are not the first young adults to make financial mistakes and they won’t be the last. The big question is when (or if) will they wake up and smell the coffee?

There is nothing you can do to guarantee that’s ever going to happen. But there are a few things you can do to be helpful.

1. Let them fail. I admit, that doesn’t sound too helpful at first. But when someone is stubbornly headed in the wrong direction, sometimes running smack into the consequences of their behaviors is the best way to learn. Many people must experience failure before they are willing to pay the price to be successful.

2. Do not rescue them. This is the counterpart to “Let them fail.” If you let them fail, only to rescue them, you’ve made sure they will end up worse off than before. When they call you for a “little help” to pay off a high credit card balance, buy a new car, pay for private school or whatever…that’s the time to cut out my one of my columns on this topic and send it to them. Or send them this when it comes out in podcast form. They’ll get the message and now they can be mad at me, too (to which I say, take a number).

3. Live it out yourself. You said you made some financial mistakes earlier in your life. And maybe you aren’t totally “perfect” now. The most effective thing you can do to communicate your financial values to your adult children is to live them out. If you are overspending, make a budget that works. If you have credit card debt, make a plan to get out of it (and stay out of it).Take responsibility for your own financial life and believe me, they’ll take notice.

As much as I might like you forwarding an endless stream of my articles and podcasts to others, you might need to cut back on that with your kids – it’s just a form of nagging.

Your children may or may not respond to your words, but they can hardly help noticing your example.

It’s not a guarantee they’ll change, but it’s the best shot you can give them.

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