Straight Talk from Al Jacobs
HOW TO INSTILL RESPONSIBILITY IN YOUR OFFSPRING
Awhile back a subscriber to my newsletter posed a tough question: “How far should parents go in helping their financially irresponsible son and wife, with 3 kids? My son has a steady job, but bad credit, and can barely afford a place to live. What should I do?” After a few days I cobbled together a reply, stressing the importance of financial responsibility, the virtues of thrift, and the sanctity of family values. Looking back now, what I said didn’t contain one word of practical value.
Now, after a great deal of thought, I understand the inadequacy of my reply. The problem posed doesn’t lend itself to resolution. The predicament may appear to deal with money, but it’s not a financial dilemma. Attempting to instill good habits in offspring by their third or fourth decade will be futile. It’s my belief a person’s attitudes and values are established by the end of puberty. With that said, let me provide a few suggestions that may help you guide your offspring in more suitable directions.
1. Instruct by Precept and Example. Believe it or not, your children really pay attention to what you say and do. As the first authority to appear, a parent becomes a model on which the child fixates and tends to emulate. Through repetition, later supplemented with oral reinforcement, a bond of behavior develops that can become an ingrained pattern – and it must be consistent if the lessons are to be learned.
2. Don’t Encourage Unrealistic Goals. Keep things in perspective. Don’t goad your offspring to pursue grandiose illusions which can never come to pass. If, for example, a high-priced university is not affordable, two years at a community college followed by two more at a local state university is the way to go. A wise parent recognizes reality and seeks to counsel the child accordingly.
3. Don’t Ignore Human Nature. The repercussions of an unwise action is an excellent learning tool. If your offspring conduct themselves badly, don’t step in to shield them from the misfortune they’ll receive. As the old military saying goes, there’s a lot a recruit can learn by merely being kicked around the parade ground for awhile.
A final thought: The ancient adage is correct; as the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Sound financial habits instilled by age eight will prevail at age eighty.