When any parent or caregiver approaches their child with lessons about money, the underlying hope is always that the kid remembers at least some of what was taught and applies it to their finances later in life. Although it always takes time for your child to learn the financial concepts you present, four keys can clear the fog of forgetfulness and put your kid on a faster track to monetary security.
Break your routine
Looking at how the brain functions, people form memories based on both emotions and logic. Emotional connections typically form first, and then the rational part of the brain sorts things out. This is a throwback to survival mode and the fight or flight response—if we had to analyze everything first, we likely wouldn’t make it out of some dangerous situations. Connecting this to money and memorable lessons, routine—the same room all the time, the same order, the same tools, etc.—can feel a particular way to your child. Subsequently, if you never vary anything, your child’s brain may pull up particular emotions that make it hard to concentrate or view the new data as important. Breaking your routine—going to a new restaurant to learn about tipping, for example—provides a new experience that the brain will categorize differently.
Use what your child knows and likes
Understanding that memories connect to how your child feels, you can make a strong impression during your money lessons if you attach your financial concepts to something your child cares about. For example, if your child is gaga about baseball, you might use some baseball analogies to drive a financial point home. This way, the emotional response your child has to his favorite things will trigger the retrieval of the memories for the financial points you talked about.
Recognize your child’s cognitive level
Often, the reason parents and caregivers fail to get financial concepts across to their children successfully is that they don’t play close enough attention to the developmental level the kids have. For example, they might try to talk through a concept with a young child instead of using hands-on activities—this might fail depending on the child’s attention span and vocabulary level. Don’t compare your child to anyone else, and remember that your child won’t see basic concepts as basic—he’ll see them as epiphanies.
As you try to teach your child about money, the brain doesn’t just take in the financial data. It takes in loads of other data, too, such as the temperature of the room or the fact a dog is barking outside. Although his brain certainly can handle more than one thing at a time, the less data your child’s brain gets at once, the more likely it is that he will be able to concentrate. If he can concentrate, the brain may see the money information as important and make stronger connections to the data. Getting rid of distractions can be difficult in today’s fast paced, TV-always-on society, but it can mean the difference between your child “sort of” getting it and quickly applying financial independence.