Children and Money

Tips to Help Your Kids Embrace Setting Goals

Tip to Help Kids Embrace Goal Setting | www.TheHeavyPurse.comKids are truly one of the greatest wonders in the world. They are often more resilient and tougher than we give them credit for being. They embrace what we expect them to dislike and revolt against ideas we thought they would love. This is why I always recommend starting money talks early. Your kids are more receptive and less likely to have any money bias. Of course, whether they are young or old, you will find occasional resistance or non-interest, no matter what you do.

Monday I went back to basics and shared how I taught my girls to give their money purpose through goal-setting. Money is something that is highly coveted by the young and old, but we forget that money’s true value comes from how we use it. After all, money is just paper.

My girls have always been receptive to setting save, spend and share goals, but I know from talking to other parents that isn’t always the case. Today, I’d like to tackle some of the more common problems parents face and how to solve them.

Scenario #1: Kids Set Goals but Only Want to Spend Money

First, don’t panic. This is a common issue. Saving and sharing money are new concepts to them and some kids simply have a harder time embracing them. That said, it doesn’t mean they won’t. You just need to give them a little extra help.

  1. Don’t force the issue. When kids feel bullied into saving or sharing their money, they resent having to do so. You want to make saving and sharing something they look forward to doing on their own.
  2. Push the pause button on their individual save, spend and share goals and instead focus attention on the family goals. Being able to experience goal achievement as a family first can make a big difference. They see how good it feels to achieve goals and give to others. My youngest daughter, Taylor, did not want to share initially, but after seeing how much her big sister loved it and experiencing how good it felt to give as a family, she got on board quickly.
  3. Talk to them. It’s possible the goals they originally set aren’t their “true” goals. Have them set revised goals and see if their interest is renewed.

Success Tip: Make sure your child is old enough and ready to set individual goals. I suggest they be at least six years old. I also recommend that before you have your children set individual save, spend and share goals that they first experience goal-setting as a family.

Scenario #2: Kids Keep Changing Goals

This is understandably frustrating, but it happens frequently, especially when kids are new to setting goals. They are still figuring out what they truly want.

  1. Help them identify what THEY want for themselves, not what the media tells them they want, what their friends want or what you want for them. Kids tend to default to what others tell them that they should want, without really wanting it themselves.
  2. Let them change goals. Goals are not etched in stone. Our goals should reflect what your kids want and sometimes those change, plain and simple. Goals lose their ability to appropriately influence decisions when we no longer want them, so if your kids lack motivation, there is a good chance they need to reconsider their goals.

Scenario #3: Kids Keep Getting Sidetracked by Other Wants

We know kids have short attention spans and move quickly from one thing to another. Even when they have picked goals they truly want, it’s still easy for them to get sidetracked, especially if they are quite young.

  1. Be prepared for them to find other things they want. This will happen ALL THE TIME. And it’s okay. Do not make them feel bad for wanting things. Wanting is normal. What matters is learning how to handle their wants.
  2. Walk them through the process of what to do when they find something else they want. To ask themselves, “Does this bring me closer or further away from my goals?”
  3. Let them make mistakes. One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to watch our kids make a mistake, but sometimes they need to experience it firsthand before they understand. I’d rather deal with tears over a $50 mistake today than the tears of a 25-year-old who made $5,000 mistake.

Success Tip: I taught my girls when they are making choices with how to use their money to also consider how good it makes them feel. Does it make their heart happy? And they really took that lesson to heart (pun intended!). Comparing items to see which one really makes them happy helps them feel confident about their decision. They also consider how long it will keep them happy. An item that won’t keep their heart happy for very long but has a high price-tag, is something they know to avoid.

Scenario #4: Kids Still Want Me to Buy Them Everything

Most parents hope by teaching kids about money that it signals the end of the “I wants” and being asked to buy things. I’m not sure if kids ever stop asking because you might just say “yes” one day. 🙂 Understand that your child asking you to buy them something they want doesn’t mean goal-setting isn’t working.

  1. Be consistent with your “no” and explain the “why” behind it. I remind the girls that we’re saving our family money for our vacation, but also give them the option to use their money to buy the item if it’s something they truly want. These days, I can just ask them if we’re really going to do the “I wants” now. They start laughing and we move on.
  2. Give them opportunities to earn additional money. Your kids may feel as though they cannot fund their goals in a timely fashion, which is why they resort to asking you to buy them things. They need opportunities to earn money. You can pay them for completing additional tasks at home or help them find ways to earn money from others. Most of the time, when the girls find something they want but cannot afford, they don’t ask me to buy it. Instead they ask me to post more jobs so they can earn more money.

Success Tip: It’s perfectly fine to buy your child the occasional I love you gift. In fact, it’s one of the great privileges of being a parent! But make sure you buy gifts mindfully and on your terms, not because your money is at the beck and call of your child. There is a difference.

Scenario #5: Kids Don’t Want to Set Goals

Occasionally parents struggle to get their kids to even set goals. Here are a few reasons why that might happen and what you can do to shift their mindset.

  1. They are too young. I recommend kids be at least six years old before they set individual goals. And I believe kids, regardless of age, should start with supporting family save, spend and share goals before moving on to individual goals. Let them experience victory as a family first.
  2. They are used to YOU buying them whatever they wanted. It’s a good gig while it lasts. And they don’t want it to end. This is where you need to stand firm. Don’t succumb to tears or fall back into old habits. Make it clear that goal-setting isn’t punishment, but something we do to help identify what we want and then get it.
  3. They don’t understand why goals matters. Demonstrate this to them. Set your own personal save, spend and share goals. Talk about them frequently. And when you have saved enough money to buy your save goal, invite them with you to purchase the item. Let them see your excitement and joy. They will want to experience it themselves.

Patience Will Be Rewarded

Above all, be patient. It takes time. For some kids, this is a whole new way of thinking. Some kids adapt better to change, than others. And that’s okay. Don’t force it, but let them see what a positive impact goals have on you as a family and individually. Kids by nature mimic what they see. So if they see how goals makes your life better and are worth the hard work, then they will want to set their own save, spend and share goals.


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October 29, 2014  •  14 Comments  •  Children and Money

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  1. Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
    Will probably fits into Scenario 3 when he seems to go off-track with his goals. He sets big goals for himself, but then he will spend $2 here or $3 there on an app or something. We let him go off-track a few times, but then help him refocus on his bigger picture. We let him go off-track because it sets him behind on the big goal and it makes our story more compelling to get him back on track.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 30th, 2014
      It's so easy to get sidetracked by all the other wonderful things this world has to offer. And it's even easier to get sidetracked on small purchases like apps, where you might not think it's a big deal, but the money adds up quickly. And more importantly, you can get the habit of ignoring small purchases. It's great he has you to help him get back on track and help him see the bigger pictures of what's it's really costing him.
  2. Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
    My mom let me make a $150 mistake in buying brand new basketball shoes. She didn't balk once and just said "are you sure you want to do this?" but never said I couldn't do it. I spent all my money on a pair of shoes that didn't make me any better at basketball or cooler at school. But I remember that lesson the rest of my life and now it has saved me 10's and maybe 100's of thousands of dollars because I know I don't need the latest, greatest, most expensive to be happy. Thanks Mom!!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 30th, 2014
      I'm sure it was hard for your Mom to not speak up, but you did learn a valuable lesson that has stuck with you ever sense. I know my girls have learned so much from their mistakes too. It's not easy for us to do, but letting kids make mistakes is a learning opportunity for them.
  3. Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
    Scenario #4 is how my mom probably feels about my younger sister! (I hope she doesn't read this:) ). I think it's a great idea to break it up like this because everyone's situation is unique to their family. I would say I was probably a #1 - always having goals but loved to spend. I'm so thankfully I'm learning about money now while I'm still relatively young!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 30th, 2014
      LOL! #4 is a popular one these days as so many parents have gotten in the habit of giving their kids whatever they want. It's a good thing you have goals, since spending can be a problem for you. Learning how to use goals to weigh against other items you see, can be a huge help. Plus, help avoid those feelings of deprivation too.
  4. Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
    I always love your tips, because heck, some can apply to early (and late) adults, too! It's great that it's already ingrained in your girls that if one wants more, then they should earn more rather than just expect it. I bet it definitely curbs the entitlement that some kids have these days by a lot!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 30th, 2014
      Thanks Anna! It really was music to my ears when the girls went from asking me to buy them everything to asking for more ways to earn money. It does curb entitlement, because they look to themselves to buy the things they want. They don't automatically expect me to buy them everything, which sadly, many kids do.
  5. Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
    Great tips! I think all of these can apply to kids at different times. I like how you explained a couple different options of what to do when these issues come up. I don't have kids, but these sound great!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 30th, 2014
      Thanks, Kayla! Hopefully some day in the future if you choose to have kids, these will come in handy. :)
  6. Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
    I really like how you laid out the different scenarios! Definitely a good resource for anyone who has kids. I hope my kids embrace my love of goal-setting!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 30th, 2014
      Thanks, DC! I have no doubt your kids will love goal-setting, excel spreadsheets and being entrepreneurial. :)
  7. Thursday, October 30th, 2014
    Great article, Shannon! I do think that helping kids see the bigger picture is where it's at. I don't think forcing them to share or save is healthy, but if they are able to have an idea of the end goal, it's more motivating. The being said, my wife and I have to remind our kids of their end goal every time they see something they want. lol
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 30th, 2014
      Yes, seeing the big picture and understanding the impact their choices will make is so important for kids to experience firsthand. The girls have really learned to slow down and think through their choices, which is exactly what I want to happen. Kids tend to be impulsive with their money decisions, which increases the likelihood of them being a poor one, unfortunately. Learning to ask themselves a question or two, forces them to think it through. No, you definitely don't want to force your kids to save or share without a specific goal that they want to obtain. Otherwise, it does seem like punishment, which is not the mindset we want to create!
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan