6 Money Lessons Your Kids Want You to Know

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Dear Mom and Dad:

We know there's a ton of advice out there on financial lessons you should be teaching us. And we're glad you're reading it. Raising us can't be easy, and it's so cool that you want to help us have a happy and healthy relationship with money.

But there are a few things we'd like to teach you -- things you may not even realize you should be thinking about, or things we really need -- even though we sometimes don't act like we do.

Here they are:

1. We're Smarter Than You Think We Are

We may be young -- like, 6 and under -- but we can still understand money basics, and you'll be helping us out a lot if you start teaching us now.

Even the youngest of us can learn things like how to save our money, how to budget our money for different things, how to tell needs from wants, and how to make spending decisions.

Don't underestimate us. Just keep it simple and start slow, and you may be surprised how fast we pick things up. These are lessons we can take with us our whole lives.

2. We Need to Make Mistakes

Sometimes, we're gonna goof up. We'll blow all our birthday money on candy or use our allowance up before the month is over, then complain that we don't have any money to go out with our friends.

We're not going to like making these mistakes any more than you'll like watching us make them, but you need to let us have these experiences. It's the only way we'll learn how to make the right decisions. And we're better off making little mistakes now, and learning from them, than making big mistakes down the road when we have a lot more money to deal with.

3. Don't Listen to Our Pleading (and Whining and Cajoling)

We will probably whine and beg for things -- a lot. We'll call you mean for not giving us these things or tell you why Jake's parents are way cooler because they give him all the things he wants.

We'll get sad. We'll get mad. We'll probably also get really annoying sometimes, and you'll want to give us something just to make us stop.

But please don't give in.

The thing is, we're kids. We don't understand long-term goals and opportunity costs the way you do. We don't realize you need to put money aside for our college funds; all we know is every other kid in our class has been to Disney (DIS) World and we haven't yet. But please teach us that sometimes we need to not get what we want now, so that we can get something even better later on.

We may not get it just yet, but we will, and it will stick with us.

4. Please Teach Us How to Budget

Stop telling us "money doesn't grow on trees." That doesn't make any sense, and it won't help us manage our money when we get older and have a lot more of it.

Instead, show us how to budget our money for different things -- savings, spending money, etc. Don't give us a piggy bank and let us do whatever we want with it; sit down with us whenever we get some birthday money or an allowance and help us work out how we want to spend that money.

A scary amount of grownups don't even know how to budget, and it gets them in all sorts of trouble. We don't want to end up like that.

5. We Can Handle More Than You Think

When you're having money trouble, we can sense that something's up. (Remember how smart we really are?) You don't need to tell us everything, but you should give us a brief explanation so we don't imagine all sorts of awful reasons for why you're so stressed out.

If you let us know things are tight right now because Dad lost his job, or you spent too much on credit cards, we'll be able to understand why you tell us we can't go on vacation this year or we can't afford a big Christmas. Keep us in the loop at least a little bit, because we can tell when you're hiding something from us, and it freaks us out.

We may even be able to learn from what you're going through -- if we see how worried credit card debt makes you, you'd better believe we'll be careful not to incur it ourselves when we're older.

6. We Learn From You

You can say all sorts of things, but we pay the most attention to what you do.

If you're smart with your money and you show us what it looks like to be frugal, patient and disciplined, we'll pick up good habits of our own. If you're an impulse purchaser or you act like money does grow on trees, we'll think it's OK to act that way.

We follow your lead, so please set us a good example.

Paula Pant ditched her 9-to-5 job in 2008. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental units and runs a business from her laptop. Her blog, Afford Anything, is a gathering spot for revolutionaries who understand that they can afford anything -- just not everything. Visit Afford Anything to learn how to shatter limits and live life on your own terms.
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