Welcome to another article of HelpingKids Parent Academy. Today I want to talk about financial literacy for kids, but first a celebration. 🎉 This is now our 18th article since September 2019 and it seems we are getting a few things right. Thank you for your comments and support. As always, feel free to send us questions or topics you’d like us to elaborate on and we’ll do our best to cover those ideas.
I want to talk about Money. Sometimes a dirty word, sometimes an obsessive word, many times, a confusing topic, especially for parents of younger children who are just starting to think about financial literacy for kids.
I am aware this topic doesn’t rank very high in the list of worries for parents. In fact, it is probably more of a curiosity than anything else. Yet, money and our personal approach to it is one of the most important things that will determine our children’s future. I have heard saying that our relationship with money is our relationship with ourselves. Well, I am not so sure but definitely, it is a strong part of who we are.
In this article I want to share with you:
1. General background ideas about financial literacy for kids and parenting
2. Thought-provokers to help you define what is that you’d like to pass to your children about money
3. Tactical ideas on how to help them learn to manage money. This part is mostly for children from 10 onwards, but I am sure you can adapt it to almost any age.
I am very open to this topic and respect equally those people who are ambitious about their financial goals, as much as those that are not motivated by it. I don’t see it as right or wrong but as an opportunity to teach other ideas.
I see money education as a way to teach responsibility, compromise, planning, decision making, and even empathy.
If you think about it, every financial decision we make will have the above connotations and much more. Buying an ice cream after school in the summer could be just a treat my teenager daughter/son chooses to do, but what happens when those treats escalate, when he or she feels she has to go to Starbucks (or the coffee chain of the day) and spend several pounds on treats just because their friends are doing it. It is not a question of money, but the thought process before spending that money.
On another level, think about children saving or raising money for a specific cause (to buy a new phone or to support a charity project). It takes planning, goal setting, decision making, and, in certain cases, a huge degree of empathy.
The decision-making process before parting with money is an important part of financial literacy for kids, what we teach our children and how it affects future decisions.
In one of the links I include below, they have the following quotes (please be aware I haven’t cross-checked them, but they make sense to me):
“Parents are the number one influence on their children’s financial behaviors”
Basically, our approach to money will dictate our children’s relationship, or lack of, with money. Nothing shocking there, parents are always the first and many times the stronger influence in our children, but an important reminder.
Again, not shocking as we know that our children’s personality is almost fully formed by the age of 6. However, it is interesting how wide an effect it can have.
Considering these ideas, it makes a lot of sense that we take some time to think about money.
Many of you are thinking: darn, my kid is 10, I blew it by now? Or “my kid is only two, I don’t have to worry about this for a while.
In both cases, it’d be better to consider your views. In the first case, because, as a life coach for children, I believe and see every day how we all can change and learn differently. In the second case, because the sooner you start thinking about financial literacy for kids, the easier it will be.
In the following part of the article, you will read a lot of ideas for your children. I would like you to consider them also for yourself. Remember that your relationship with money is their first influence. Basically, you have to talk the talk and walk the walk.
So, up to here, the general ideas on Money. Again, not a concern at the same level of anxieties or challenging behaviour, but an important concept nonetheless.
And now, we start with the part defining what is important to us (and hence for our children) about money.
When I was in the corporate world, we constantly repeated the concept of starting with the end in mind (From the 7 habits of highly efficient people, Stephen Covey). I still use it for a lot of my work and in this case, it is a great example of how to use it.
How do we begin teaching financial literacy for kids?
So, starting with the end in mind, fast forward a few years. If your child is below 10 years old, fast forward to when they are fifteen. They start socialising, their demands are more specific (and expensive), the peer pressure is affecting them, they are becoming independent persons. Maybe they have organised fundraising activities for charity or even they have got a job (babysitting, dog walking, chores around the house or for neighbours, etc).
If your child is in the teenage years, take them forward to their early 20’s. They might be living by themselves. They are either in higher education or working. They organise their meals, laundry, etc and social interactions (trips, concerts, evenings out) are a massive part (in time and importance) of their life. again, they will have friends with more and less money, they will see people with expensive clothes and people who can’t go out every evening as they don’t have the cash. You might be their source of income, a complement or they are managing fully by themselves.
Once you have made a picture of what could happen (remember, this is guesswork, only to help the next part), now think about what is important for you to teach your child about money. How do you want him/her to react to money, money issues, wealth, unexpected circumstances etc.
Place them in different situations and see what comes out. Put yourself in the good, the bad, and the ugly of situations. Think, how would you like your child to respond in those situations. Furthermore, think about how you react and see the pattern emerging.
Here are some ideas for developing financial literacy for kids
· How important is it to save money?
· How do you go about saving?
· Do you save for a short-term reason/goal?
· Do you save for security? (you never know when you’ll need extra cash) or because you have extra cash?
· What happens when they ask for their birthday as a very expensive present?
· How do you want them to understand the concept of value?
· Do you prioritise their satisfaction (getting the present) or the money spent?
· Do you give them a budget to think about?
What about their relationship with their peers and money?
Their friends all (it’s never all but they will claim they are the only ones who don’t have it) have the latest phone/shoes/clothing brand.
· What would you want them to do?
· How would you want them to think?
· what would you like them to say to their friends?
· Their best friend’s birthday is coming. This friend is very important for them and they are looking for a present.
· How do you support them on the money front?
· Give them a budget?
· Look for what is right?
· A combination?
· Want to impress their friend with a great present?
· Or think it’s better something personal with a nice handmade card?
Perhaps financial literacy for kids can develop through games.
They are into a computer game and stuck in one level, they can easily do it by spending money on certain gadgets, or they can work themselves through it. They have tried several times and failed.
What is the reaction you’d like them to have?
Imagine them receiving a small but meaningful amount of money.
What would you like them to do with it?
How would they use it?
Treat themselves because they deserve it, go on a trip of a lifetime, save it, save part and treat themselves to something smaller, invite their friends out…
Now, a more left-field idea. Imagine money was a person. How would this person behave, what would this person do, where would be this person’s priorities. What type of things would this person do in his free time?
One thing I have learnt after 10 years of coaching children and parents, is that many people don’t practice the strategies we develop. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of you don’t do the above exercise. It is fine, but I also know that if you have read so far, you will think about financial literacy for kids. That’s all you need.
Take a bit of time when on the bus or the car or walking the dog to think about it. We don’t need a lot of time, just a few ideas and you’ll be able to form yourself with your own concept of money and understand if that is the one you want to share (pass down) with your children or you need to make some changes yourself.
Maybe you only need one of those questions above, take that one and explore it.
And this part concludes the second area I wanted to share with you: the thought provokes.
Finally, as I said at the beginning, I wanted to share a simple approach that I believe has helped my own daughters and many others. If you have read any of my previous articles, you know that no idea will work for everybody. Hopefully, you will get the important concept behind it and take it or adapt it as you see fit.
Again, there is a lot of information online about pocket money, when to start giving it, how to do it (a fixed amount, based on chores, etc).
I personally think that before the age of 11, the children can get the concept of money, saving and decision making in a general way. Financial literacy for kids will be influenced by the talk and behaviour you display.
It is normally between the age of 10 and 12, when children are about to move to secondary school when they will start managing their own money. It is also here when independent, decision-making and responsibility towards their “income” becomes important.
At this time, parents are faced with important decisions. Do I give them money, how much, what is included in that money, what if they ask for more money. Do I give them money once a week, once a month, or as and when they need it? As before, my job is not to tell you what to do, but to expose you to ideas so you can make your own choice.
An approach that I like for financial literacy for kids is the following:
We start with defining the weekly amount of pocket money you can provide to your children. Be mindful of their lifestyle and how much they truly need. Include what areas of spending are their responsibilities (treats and special purchases) and which ones are yours (i.e. birthday presents for friends, school/sports equipment, etc.
Once you have done this, have a conversation with them. Tell them that they are old enough to manage it and that you trust them to make their own choices. Be also clear on what is included and not. If needed, write it on paper. Likely, you won’t get all the eventualities. When new occasions happen just think for yourself and tell them whether it is within their responsibility or yours.
I recommend then, to open a bank account just for this, set up a direct debit for their allowance, and ensure they have a debit card they can use. Most banks will offer this for young people and you will have access to their transactions. In the UK, when the kid is over 13, they can have direct access to their transactions. At this time most kids will have a smartphone and can download the bank’s app. This is a hugely important part of the process. They have the money, but they also have the mechanism to track their expenditure. It is important they take ownership of this with the full resources.
When they get extra money (birthday, Christmas, etc), ask them (or strongly suggest) if they want to put it in their account so they can keep track. It is very important you also consider how relatives or other adults might be affecting the learning of financial literacy for kids. Sometimes we have “uncle or Auntie” who will give them money for no specific reason. Ensure your children can share that with you as it might mean they are finding themselves with too much money for your goals.
Now, they are ready to start using their money (or not). Give them two or three weeks of no control whatsoever (the card won’t allow them to spend more than they have). After this period, simply ask them: how are you getting on? How much money do you have left? How have you spent the money?
Some children will be able to give you full detail of their expenditure. Others will be very vague, and a few will avoid the topic altogether. This is a very important part as you will start noticing their default approach. Are they keeping track, do they even bother about it? And you can check if those approaches are aligned with what you want them to learn.
Repeat that conversation every week or every other week. Talk to them casually about it, if they go out, ask them how much they spent and how that computes with their allowance (i.e. well if you went to the cafe and spent £2.95 in there, that is more than half/third/a fifth of your allowance, how are you going to get by the rest of the week?).
So far, this will only prepare the groundwork for financial literacy for kids. The interesting conversation happens when there is something they really want and they don’t have money, when they run out of money altogether, or when they are stopping themselves from doing things because of money.
These are the important talks. Whatever you do, be mindful of rescuing them. If you step in, they will likely create the idea that mum and dad’s bank will be there. You will not allow the learning to happen.
Some kids will ask you permission to get a job (or will find a way to get money). Again, that is another decision you might want to help them make. Is it right, is it the priority, what implications it has in their social, academic, and personal life?
I wish I could explain all the possible eventualities, but we would be here forever. Also, I don’t think you need it if you have done your thinking and thought-provoking about how you want to teach financial literacy to kids. It will not give you all the answers, but it might give you the criteria to make the decisions.
I now want to leave you with a personal story.
My daughter, 14 at the time, was not much into saving. She would manage her money, don’t ask much but wouldn’t have much in case of “need”. One day, while doing the supermarket shopping, I asked her: Me: how are you doing with your money? Her: ok Me: how much do you have? Her: I am not sure Me (thinking): hmmmmm what’s going on here. Alarm bells are starting to show Me: well, you have your phone. Why don’t you check? Her: I will later at home when I get wifi Me (thinking): ok, this promises to be interesting. Alarm bells are all going now. Me: It won’t take much, please do it. Her (moaning and not wanting to do it, eventually caves in) Her: I have £7 Me: oh… as it is Saturday morning, you got your direct debit for £5 yesterday and you didn’t go with your friends, it means you had £2 in your account. Her: ……. Me: oh well. You better think about it. I was tempted to give her some money. I didn’t want her to stop doing things with her friends or to feel less than them. But I didn’t do it. She didn’t ask for it either which was very encouraging. She blew it up but owned it. Now, the not-so-clear part. A couple of days later, we met the lady selling their Big issue in a supermarket close to our house. I frequently stop and have a chat with her. I was walking with my daughter. When the lady sees us she says: oh, this is your daughter? I didn’t know that? She is so nice, every time she sees me here she asks me if I want something. She gets me a chocolate bar or something. She is so nice. And that’s when I melted. I struggled with the decision. She has to own/manage her own money, but she is also showing generosity and not even asking for emotional credit from me. I had no idea she was doing this. I then opted to top her account a bit, ensuring she knew it was because of her good heart and generosity. We still had a chat about her managing her money and she came across as a lot more conscious of the need to do so. I found that this process was a huge learning for them as well as for me. It has clearly opened conversations that we wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for it. And that is for me in this article. I hope you enjoyed it and gave you some food for thought.
As always, please take the ideas and adapt them to your situation. There are many ways of going about any topic, the important part is to be clear on what you want them to learn and how you contribute to it.
Hello and welcome to another article, this time I want to share with you a very hot topic: children and technology
I must admit I have been putting this back in my list of articles. In my conversation with parents and children it is almost as controversial a topic as homework. Also, on a personal level, I wasn’t sure if I was getting it right for either my daughters or myself. This was until a few things happened and the result and feedback encouraged me to go ahead and share my experiences and strategies with you.
There is another reason for me to write this article: I have seen parents taking two strategies to deal with children and technologyand neither of them works in the long term.
Option 1: very limited or no technology policy
Option 2: let them regulate themselves, as long as their work is done it’s ok.
If you are in one of those approaches, I truly wish you the best. If you can make it work, let me know.
Let me start narrating what a 15 years old told me.
“Javier, I wake up at 7, and from the very first minute, I am tense. I know I have a long day ahead of me. I go to school thinking about if I got my homework right, if I will get caught by a teacher doing something I shouldn’t, or maybe they think I am doing something I shouldn’t. I must put all my attention into lessons because it is an important year. All through the day in school, I feel under pressure. When I get home, I am mentally tired, and yet I have two or three hours of homework to do. The only way for me to let some steam out is with the Xbox. I play mostly fortnight because it’s quick, and I am good at it. If I don’t do well, I can have another short game. I evade myself; it is fun and I can do well. There are no expectations. Then, I realise I have wasted an hour or two and now it is late, I am more tired than before and less able to concentrate, yet I have to do the homework, my tension is off the scale. My mum comes and tells me off, I know she is right, but I can’t accept it. She is the one putting pressure on me. Well, she is not always doing it, but my problem is the same. At this point, I am only panicking.” This is often a problem with children and technology as a means of procrastination. I mention tips for motivating kids for homework in a previous article you can read it here.
I don’t want to sound scaremongering. Of course, there are thousands of children who play games and use technology that doesn’t go through this process. However, as a dad/mum, do you want to take your chances?
Now, let me give you another very different example about children and technology.
Lola is a very articulated, charming 10 years old girl. All her school friends have an iPad, they use it in school and most of them are creating groups to text each other or play. She is fuming because her mum has a no-technology policy. This is what she says to me:
“Mr Orti, I don’t get it. I am the only one. I thought there were two or three more in my class, but everybody has the iPad, they are sending themselves messages, I am totally excluded. I must make up excuses to not give them my email or details. I tell them my iPad is being repaired because I am so ashamed of being the only one. They all can do whatever they want. I have all this rules and policies that my mum says, and I am very upset and angry. It is not fair; I am the only one. Everybody else has their iPads”
You can think the two examples of children and technology are very different (a boy, a girl, ipad, Xbox, texting, playing, talking with friends, evasion from pressure) and you are right. However, you would be missing the role that technology has in those kids lives. And that role is the same.
Fundamentally, children are using technology for one single purpose: to connect.
Many children use it to connect with their peer group, other children use it to connect with themselves. The latter is what we normally would see as evading themselves, letting behind the busy life and stress and finding a safe space.
When I see young teenagers using Snapchat, Instagram or Tiktok, what they are doing is creating a virtual world/bubble of safety (or so they think) for themselves.
Imagine their use of technology as your use of imagination when you were a child. I can imagine you are thinking this is a silly analogy, but it is not far from the truth.
When we were kids, we would spend hours (at least I did and not always at the right times as some of my teachers will testify) in our heads, creating a safe world of adventures, or fun, or connection. I can think, for most people, those worlds would be populated and there might be challenges, and good guys and bad guys. And we would overcome those challenges, and we would feel amazing and relaxed and having fun.
Well, when children tell me about Minecraft, or Fortnite, it is not a million miles away. It is just that they are doing it via a device rather than their imagination.
So, we could say, children and technology it is not so bad then? In the end, they are just using their imagination through a device.
Well I don’t believe in black or white statements and there is one part that we haven’t yet talked about.
While our imaginary worlds could be amazing, we would either have it on our head or we would need our friends to create them.
Technology allows them to share those worlds or imagination. This forms an even stronger sense of belonging. They share their experiences and they belong to the group. This fact reinforces the sense of connection to a disproportionate level.
So, when a young person is spending time on their games, they will have many reasons, but the fundamental need that is being fulfilled is the need to evade to a world where they feel connected.
There is a big part, too big for this article about children and technology to go into detail about their need for connection. The reality is that the more connected they feel with their family and physical friends, and stronger sense of belonging they have, the less important that technology will be. So, what is driving their need for connection? or in a different way: what is driving their sense of being left out?
As I said, that is a topic for another whole article as what I want to do on this one is to propose strategies for you to guide your thinking, approach to technology and how your children use it.
Here is my experience from hundreds of sessions of life coaching teenagers.
Let’s start with the basics, according to me. Technology, like most things in this life, is not either good or bad. It is what we make of it. Also, like it or not, our world has changed, and our children are living and will live in a world different from us. They will live in a world in which technology will play a fundamental part in their lives.
I have heard the concept that the future generations will be divided (unfortunately human race does always separate) between those that understand and manage technology and those that don’t.
I am sure you have heard or read headlines about how Silicon Valley parents are raising their kids, technology free. I have done some research and have only found anecdotal information about this and, when expressed, it was more a question of restricting usage rather than avoiding it.
As mentioned, this article is not so much about technology, yes or not. It is about how to manage children and technology in a way that empowers children now, and in the future.
Here are my two principles for what I will share with you next:
1. I believe in teaching and empowering children to make decisions in an age appropriated way.
2. Children are not mature to make many decisions and you cannot delegate the one about use of technology. However, you can help them learn.
What I want to say is that, as much as I love my children and want to empower them to make the right choices, I would not give my 14 years old my car keys or let her open a bottle of whisky.
As parents, we have spent a lot of time teaching our children right from wrong (tell the truth, don’t lie, do your homework, don’t play with knives, look before you cross the road, which movies are appropriated for each age). Yet, we haven’t done the same for technology. In many cases, we have delegated that responsibility to them by the mere fact that we haven’t taken it.
Well, it is our responsibility. Any kid below the age of 16, in my opinion, is not suited to make the call of how they use technology.
Going back to my two principles. It is our responsibility and now the question is to help them make their age appropriate choices.
This works in two levels: firstly, it is which games, apps, etc will they be exposed to. Secondly, it is about how long they can use it.
Start thinking about those but be ready to adapt your decisions to your children and technology (keeping your criteria). Then you can continue with the rest of the article.
I am now going to fast forward and assume that a big proportion of you reading this article are finding themselves in the difficult situation of managing your child’s usage of technology (i.e. time). I am going to assume that your young person doesn’t have any restrictions.
Here is a strategy to adopt that has worked very well.
I have built it up in steps and I hope this helps you see the process. If you have read other articles, you’ll know I do like my processes.
Step 1: First things first: start with the data
Use your phone, tablet, or computer data before you do anything. In general, we will all be poor judges of our habits, (we will tend to overestimate what we are doing well and underestimate what we are doing wrong (have you seen the tv program: secret eater?). Your child, of any age, will struggle to give you an accurate estimation of the number of hours (I don’t think you can do this in minutes) they spend on the screen. Using real data is a must if you want to have a reasonably adult to adult conversation.
If you can’t extract data, time them over a few days before you have the conversation, set up parental controls to time them (not to control them yet).
I can imagine this first step of dealing with children and technology overuse can be painful for some of you and your children. It wasn’t easy either for me, but it is critical to do it. An option is to do this as a group, for instance, you will install and share the same information with them reg your usage.
Step 2: have the first conversation (yes, the first, there are a few more to come).
I call it explain the situation. In this conversation it is fundamental to keep a level-headed approach, simply stating what you have observed. It would go something like:
I want to talk to you about your screen time. I have been observing it and I think it is a bit out of control. I have noticed how; on average you have used your phone/iPad/computer for almost two hours per day.
I know it might seem little but if you consider this is 14 hours per week, it is like a whole awake day per week spent on your screen when you could have been doing loads of other things.
I am a bit worried about this and wanted to let you know.
At this point, stop it there and let them explain themselves. Don’t engage in conversations or challenge their assumptions. Simply mention that it is way too much.
Step 3: Defining the problem and setting up the rules.
After a few weeks (two or three is good enough) of continuous monitoring, you will find out that nothing or very little has changed (if it has improved, give them a medal!). It is time to have the second conversation. Again, remained calmed and fact based. If your kids are struggling with homework, exams or other areas they like it is a good time to bring it in. For instance:
A few weeks ago, we talked about your screen time. I have noticed nothing or very little has changed. At the same time, I have noticed your grades haven’t benefited from this (or have noticed you anxious about your friends, or tired in the mornings). Now I am a bit worried and I am not sure you are conscious of how much you are using the screen/games/etc.
I trust you are a clever boy/girl and you can make your own choices, but unless something changes, I will need to make the choice myself. Should we give it a few weeks and see what happens? But I must warn you that unless you manage this, I will have to step in.
My experience is that this will generate some short-term benefit, however most likely it will quickly revert to usual habits.
It is also important to define what you think is a suitable use forchildren and technology. There are loads of information online about this and you can use some of the links below to make up your mind. Obviously, this will depend by age group and maybe you want to bring some weekend/weekday flexibility.
Step 4: Activating the rules.
Now, assuming your children are like the vast majority, is when the potential argument happens. In order to defuse it, we will take a three-step approach. It is time to limit the usage, but it is important to ensure you don’t make a personal fight of this. There was an agreement, you gave them the choice (in several occasions) and they haven’t full-filled their part of the bargain. Here is a small script:
I am afraid nothing much has changed. We agreed to limit your screen time to certain times and a maximum number of hours, and you are still well over what we decided. I am afraid I need to set up some blocks, but I want to do it in a way that helps you. I understand it is important for you, so we have to get to an agreement.
I suggest blocking it during homework time and at certain times before bed time.
Or: I suggest you have a maximum number of hours (hour) per day.
I am not going to limit you to those hours as I know it can be annoying, but I want to trust you and you will make the right choice.
I must admit I feel a bit bad about this because it is almost setting them up for failure, however it is also a big generation of self-awareness. At this point, please continue to bring up the things they like they are not doing or the things they need to do (homework, grades, reading) that they are not achieving. This part is hugely important as it will dictate the next step.
Step 5: Implement the limits.
Now, there is no need to wait a few weeks. A few days will be enough. Most likely they will not change their habits and after a few days, while the conversation and “agreement” stills clear in their mind, prepare for the difficult conversation. It goes something like this:
This is the fifth conversation we have about this and nothing has changed. I have given you as many chances as I could, but I haven’t seen any result. It is now time for me to totally limit the time you spent on screen and when you can use it.
In this step, technology is your ally again. Use the available blocking technology and parental controls rather than physically engaging in shutting down the computer or taking their phones away, this way you can prevent some friction with children and technology while still creating an important boundary reminder.
“I will block the computer for a number of weeks. You still have X minutes during the day, and I am happy to extend that on the weekend to X more minutes.”
My personal advice here: in for a penny, in for a pound. It will be annoying to them and it is likely you will have at least one argument; you might as well go the full length and limit it as much as necessary. You can always give them something back and they might thank you. The other way around (taking further time away from them) will only result in regular conflict.
Step 6: review.
In my experience, you will need between three to six weeks to establish new habits. It is important you don’t deviate from the plan. Be aware they are crafty kids and they will look, and most likely, find ways to bend the rules (find passwords to unlock it or spend time in their friends’ phone). After this week, you will notice a big change in the family dynamics. They will still not like it and you can give them the sporadic change of routine, however, be mindful that if you break the rules too much, it will be hugely difficult to re-establish them.
Step 7: Give them some lead way.
Assuming all has gone according to plan after one or two months, you can have another conversation with your children and technology use. Think about holidays or weekend flexibility, This is about devolving a small part of responsibility to them, under the agreement of sensible usage. For instance, if you have hugely limited their use of screen (i.e. 15 or 30 mins per day) you can give them special dispensation for the weekends. It is important to use this to rather than break the rules, to reinforce them.
“I have noticed how responsible you have been on your screen time (not that they had an option) and I am so pleased. I have noticed you …. (sleeping better, more focussed, less anxious, talking more with us, spending more time with your siblings/friends). I think we can open up the rules a bit but only a bit, you are still in school and it is important to not change them too much. Also, I am counting on you to be mindful on how you use it.”
In this stage, it is important to understand that you can only give them the time you are happy for them to use. Expecting too much from them will only result in frustration.
And this is it. This is my strategy for helping empower children and technology and the one I explain to many parents. I am aware there are thousand of variations (i.e. I need to use the computer for my school work) but I hope it gives you an indication on how to go about it.
Finally, a hugely important point:
how will you do this for yourself? Chances are that you are also abusing your screen time when at home. What is a good amount of time for you? How will you limit it?
You can take this approach and do it with your children, rather than for them, creating something together, spending time playing, talking, cooking, etc.
Are you finding it scary the thought of parting with your phone? if so, it only says that you really need to get going. If it’s not scary, remember we are all poor judges of what we do, get your screen time data and see what you think.
I hope you liked the article about children and technologyand have got some ideas on how to go about it. As always, take the concept and adapt it to your personal situation. It is important you start a process you feel you can deliver. Changing the rules halfway through or not monitoring or avoiding the conversation will not help them.
Have a lovely day and do let us know how you get on with it.
In that article I explained how life coaching teens is about giving happiness vs helping our children decide for themselves and giving them the tools to learn. In that article, I also explain the key areas for us to educate our children at the different stages of their life.
I think this article, I want to continue with the topic of helping our children be happy, but also giving you a bit of a thinking process to use when teaching decision-making skills
So, why am I telling you all this?
Because during our kids’ formative years, what we tend to do is to provide for our children. We provide material things and give them the best and most supportive environment possible. Nothing wrong there, is it?
However, are we helping them be happy by themselves? Or are we providing the happiness. If it is the latter, then it means that when we are removed (i.e. school, or friend) they might not be as capable of judging by themselves or develop poor decision-making skills. So, how are we equipping them to be happy without us?
When talking aboutlife coaching teens, one key idea that I share with parents is the Sympathy trap. When our children are facing a difficult situation (and this will vary by age) our instinct will be to jump it. More than helping resolve an issue, we will be tempted to do it for them or virtually do everything. These behaviours go from writing a note to the teacher, to ask the coach to give him/her more play time. In some cases, parents might keep away from school (he is a bit tired today) several times, or even ask the young person to ignore what their teachers are saying.
Now, with our hand on our hearts… who can blame the parents? We just want to give them as much happiness as possible. Also, it makes us feel good, loved, great loving parents and that time and those hugs we get when we resolve the situation make us feel like superman/woman.
On the other hand, children will learn, slowly but surely, that when they feel delicate (and this is a vague word on purpose) they will be getting support. As this action-reaction is repeated a pattern might be created with a powerful underlying message: dad/mum will solve it for me. Rather than using their decision-making skills and feeling empowered.
Having worked as a teen life coach for many years, I need to highlight a possible further step, we can also see a potential (as not every kid will develop it) belief being formed: I cannot resolve it by myself because I am….. (insert here your choice of words and you won’t go far off: weak, unreliable, clumsy, shy, etc).
When those beliefs are formed in a child’s mind, it becomes so entrench that will start limiting them. Their confidence, self-esteem goes and they will start either retrieving into themselves (pulling out of things they enjoy), giving up easily or becoming disproportionately competitive (as a way of masking their lack of confidence and lack of decision making skills).
And we have now created for ourselves the sympathy trap.
Our kid is delicate, can we fix it and give them back decision making skills?
Darn, I keep hearing Bob the Builder all around: can we fix it? Yes, we can! And the more we fix things, the more they need us to fix them for them.
Now, I want you to consider an alternative approach to life coaching teens. Of course, you will have to adapt this to your child’s age but I am confident you’ll get the idea.
Step 1: how critical is for my child to resolve this situation?
If it is important go to step 2
If it is not critical: work on active listening and avoid making suggestions. You might want to use some of the ideas in further steps, but your role here inbe coaching teens, becomes more of a listener rather than an active participant.
Step 2: what is the most important lesson my child can learn from facing this situation?
(resilience, confidence, conflict resolution, responsibility, autonomy, etc). Be aware that a lesson had doesn’t mean a lesson learnt. Repetition is crucial to learning and developing their decision-making skills.
Step 3: what is my role in this situation and what are my child’s role and responsibility?
How can I help my child take on his responsibility to resolve this situation? How can he/she also learn that important lesson. As a rule of thumb, it is ok to be involved with your child but the less involved you are in the actual situation and resolution, the better.
Step 4: What support or tools will my child need to resolve this situation by him/herself?
This is a critical step, avoid from giving them the solution, allow them to work this out by themselves. You can make suggestions, but remember it is their responsibility to eventually take on those ideas and use them.
Step 5: Stand back.
Let them do their part.
Step 6: Help them assess how it went.
What worked well, what didn’t work. Help them connect with the key learning they are experiencing. I.e.: “what you did talking to your friends is a sign of confidence. Well done.”
This can be a frustrating step as some kids will either not do anything, or not do as discussed with you. That’s fine. Remember whose responsibility is to resolve the issue in life coaching teens, you are empowering them to take control.
Step 7: most situations will not be resolved in one go. Go back to step 1 and repeat.
As children learn to manage things for themselves, they will gain confidence and resilience. They will become more autonomous and, most importantly, they will learn they have greatdecision making skills to resolve those situations. This will have a great impact on their self-esteem and overtime, a great impact on how they judge their ability to be happy.
Of course, I am not advocating for a robot approach to parenting. Inlife coaching teens, sometimes we will need to step forward and have those conversations. Sometimes we’ll need to give them plenty of cuddles and comfort. What I am advocating is to be discerning about when and how to take each approach.
And that’s what I wanted to share with you in this article how empowering decisions making skills can be! Be mindful of our desire to provide for our kids, as sometimes the best thing we can do for them is to let them fence for themselves.
When using this approach, start with the areas you feel better equipped to delegate and you child better equipped to address. Then start giving them more space to resolve situations by themselves.
If it helps, keep in mind the line of “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
In this article Javier tackles the sense of fairness in children and how to avoid the fairness trap by encoraging uniqueness and individuality.“It’s not fair!”
How many times as parents have we heard this? How many times have we gone over the odds to please everybody only to find the little ones (and not so little) fighting a corner that will only end up in frustration and, most likely, an argument?
I have to be honest, as a dad this was one of the most frustrating things to deal with. I would pride myself on being an honest, fair dad. As a young boy I hated when parents or relatives would award special dispensation to my older brother (oh… how I hated it! It still makes my stomach churn). So, when I became a dad, I made fairness my flag… oh dear, I didn’t know what was coming.
10 years ago, I became a Children and Teenager Life Coach. In this time, I had thousands of conversations with young people and parents and can’t remember how many times this line has come up. As with my own family, it was a source of discomfort as I could sense something was going on and didn’t know how to tackle it.
Let’s illustrate this with a real case with a strong sense of fairness.
We are going to call this girl Gaby, of course, not her real name.
Gaby is a 11 years old girl. She has an older brother. Gaby is showing a very difficult behaviour at home, she is argumentative and would not hesitate to pick up a fight. More importantly, she will not give up until a final decision has been made. In most of the cases, she eventually manages to either get her own way or drag everybody with her, which seems stupid but there is some sense of achievement on this: “now it is fair because everybody is miserable, not only me.”
When I talk with Gaby, she spends most of the time talking about her brother and in virtually every situation, she is comparing herself to him.
Some comparisons made were:
If he does sport, why doesn’t she do it.
If he is not engaging in her arguments, why is he not doing it?
If he engages in argument, why are their parents not punishing him more as he is the oldest one?
If she has to take her exams (her brother already did), why is he not doing them?
If she has to do homework, why doesn’t her brother do more than her, as he is the oldest one?
If her brother was to stay up longer at night or have any specific treat… well, better not think about it.
Ok, granted, this is an extreme case and most parents will not experience this level of conflict, but it is not unusual to find similar situations in our daily parenting duties. Especially where there is a strong sense of fairnessinvolved.
In many conversations I have heard parents (talking about other parents) say things like: they are too soft, they don’t have any rules, they need some discipline with her/him. In my experiences, it is always easier when talking about others than when facing those dilemmas ourselves. My job is not to judge, but to help.
Going back to Gaby and her parents.
Her parents are lost and can’t figure out what to do. If they are too soft, it seems she is taking them for a ride. If they are too strict, hell breaks loose, and the conflict goes to extremes they can’t deal with. It is important to call your attention to the article about control that we published earlier. While the parents will have certain lines, they will not cross, children will not have those lines and will cross every line they can to get their own way.
A lot of the parents are frustrated because they think it is a premeditated behaviour: She is pushing me, she is pushing the limits, she is testing me.
And here comes something I also hear from parents a lot of the time: “but we don’t entertain that behaviour” or “ we never reward those things” “she doesn’t get her way”.
Before I start the next paragraph, I want to issue a disclaimer: I love the parents and children I support. I trust them all. But they tend to be poor judges of their own behaviour. So, take the next part of the article with my best intention in mind and use it to see your actions in a different way.
What are the normal outcomes of this conflict situation? and, most importantly, how it can be perceived by the child and their sense of fairness? Here are a few ideas:
Parents escalate the argument (the kid will not get her way), there are arguments, bad energy, and tension. The whole time is ruined, and everybody is in a bad mood
The child’s potential subconscious perception: “well, at least now we are equal and I am not the only one upset.”
Parents try to sooth the young person (of any age) giving them attention while not giving them whatever they desire
The child’s potential subconscious perception: I got their attention, if I behave a bit more they will eventually forgive me and give it to me.
Parents try to compensate with other options (she can’t have more tv time but she is offered staying around later)
The child’s potential subconscious perception: I got something out of this, I could get something else.
Parents hold for a while, but eventually give up. Maybe you say: “no, you can’t see more telly” and then, after some conflict you concede “ok,you can see five more minutes” which eventually turn to 10 por 15. These events tend to be low to medium intensity, but very frequent. Think about you kid interrupting you as they want you to do something for them right away and you put everything on hold.
The child’s potential subconscious perception: Ok, that worked well.
There is another part of the situation, this one happens a while later after the conflict, in case there has been an argument and/or shouting. Most parents that I know, will aim to make peace at some point, normally before bed time and ensure their kids go to bed in a good mood, as well as them going to bed with the feeling of having resolved the issue. Basically, we kiss, make up and let’s hope for a better day tomorrow.
Do the different situations sound familiar to you? Do you see a sense of fairness causing conflict in your home?
And then, we just have to wait until the next outburst happens.
It is not fair!
But it’s not fair for them, the kids, or for you the parents.
I have to admit the next bit of the writing is a bit hard, but here it goes. If you can recognise yourself repeating one or several of those behaviours: it is not working. It will not work and it will only probably get worse. Sorry to say, but something has to change. You can wait for your child to change but think: who is the adult? who is able to change? who is more mature and can make better decisions?, yeah, it is you. Until you change your approach, your child won’t know what to change.
But let’s go back to thesense of fairness that children feel and how to deal with it.
Well, I have some news. In my personal opinion, my role as a dad it’s not about fairness. In fact, being fair is probably the worst I can do for my children because it doesn’t recognise their individual needs.
As parents, I believe that our job is to provide each of our children with what they need at each time, respecting their uniqueness and boosting their individual opportunities.
From this point, the “it’s not fair” argument doesn’t resonate with me at all, and I hope this article helps you see things in a different light.
If one child is sick, he/she will need more of my attention.
If one child is going through a difficult friendship situation, he/she will need my support more.
If one of my children are struggling with certain work and the others are doing well, then I have a duty of helping the one struggling.
If my teenager daughter wants to go out, it is clear I would not set the same home-time to her than to my pre-teen daughter.
Those are obvious examples, but we can extend that to so many things.
Of course, there are other areas in which fairness is important. Just be careful and clear on which ones they are.
The point of this article is to help you avoid the Fairness trap. When your child tells you “it’s not fair” or displays a misplacedsense of fairness, just stop for a few seconds and consider this: Is this a fairness situation? Or is it a situation of doing what is right for each child independently?
We could complicate this topic as much as possible, but I like to keep things simple and I will leave it there.
Avoid the fairness trap, If you feel it is not appropriate to consider fairness, don’t even go there. Don’t entertain the conversation.
Aim to provide what each of your child needs at each time and they will be fine.
I know, I know
It is a lot easier said than done. But if you ever doubt, just think of the potential of not being clear on this point.
The goal is to make them each feel unique in their own, not by comparing themselves with their other siblings. Reinforce their uniqueness, individuality and self . They won’t take those 15minutes more of tv with them but they will take their sense of self and being appreciated as such with them for the rest of their life.
Young people are delicate. However, there are topics in my line of work as a life coach for kids that are more sensitive than others. Bullying is one of them. With study motivation or anxieties, most of the transformation is internal—in our head. However, when we are working in cases of bullying, many young people and parents feel like it doesn’t matter what they decide in their head, those people will still be at the school gates saying things, or online spreading rumours. That is why I recommend empowering teenagers through parent coaching.
For this reason, I want to encourage you to read this article. Take it seriously like you would with parenting classes. However, also look online for practical help in your area. As always, I’ve put links to some beneficial resources such as Kidscape and Bullying UK at the bottom. It is not an easy topic and parents will need to prepare themselves as much as possible. This is why I had to provide more information below along with links to websites that I like and respect. When it comes to empowering teenagers through the difficulties of bullying, no amount of information is too much.
There are two main areas in which parents can be involved in empowering teenagers to deal with bullying
The first area I will suggest from my kids coaching experience is to ensure your children feel free to speak up. Unfortunately, many teenagers will do a fantastic job of hiding their situations and emotions. Sadly, a lot of parents will only realize when it’s too late. I will share some ideas later on.
The second area is to decide when to intervene and the appropriate intervention. Many times the person blocking your help might be your child as they don’t want to either attract more attention or send the message that he/she needs “mummy or daddy” to resolve the problems because he or she is not strong enough.
What are the signs that my child is being bullied?
Let’s start with what we need to look out for. Probably, no one has mentioned this in your parenting classes before. Again, what I am trying to do here is to provide enough information while keeping a deep topic simple.
Change of behaviour. Behavioural changes tend to happen over time. However, it is unlikely that you will notice any drastic changes. Remember, your son or daughter will become a great actor. It is only by comparing their behaviour over a few months that you will notice the difference. I always advise parents or guardians coaching kids to be very observant. Keep an eye for the sleep patterns; if they are uneasy when going to bed, experience shorter hours of sleep, maybe nightmares or uncomfortable sleep.
Check their enthusiasm about going to school; are they looking forward to seeing their friends or just going automatically with no sense of fun? What activities are they doing? Are they pulling away from things they used to like? Sometimes they will express their suppressed anger towards you or other family members. However, at other times they will let it eat them up. Consequently, they become more closed off, less talkative, less engagement in all their social life.
In parenting classes, I tell parents, “Once your child starts showing less enthusiasm to new ideas, there is a big problem”
The most important thing, I think, as a life coach for kids, is to look for patterns. Some of those changes might be perfectly normal (they don’t want to go to their dance club anymore because their friends are not going or it’s not fun). It is not about one big thing, but many small things.
What is happening in their friendships? Unfortunately, when a person is being bullied, some of the so-call friends will become distant as if they don’t want to be seen with them. Perhaps, they are afraid the bully will turn on them too. I hear this excuse a lot during kids coaching sessions. While this is annoying, it is essential to see it as a natural response for those kids to be safe. In our case, what we want to see is what’s going on and why those friends are not with him/her anymore. Also, what other friends they have. Who do they talk about? Who do they socialize with?
Unfortunately, Sometimes Good Parenting Means Making Difficult Choices
Now, I am aware what I am about to say will probably grant you the title of ‘most hated dad or mum of the year’. However, if you have a cause for concern, go and talk with their friends. Contact their parents and ask them for permission to talk with them. When talking with your child’s friend, mention you have noticed somethings and give some examples. Reassure them that you will keep it confidential and that they are helping, rather than telling tales.
From my experience of coaching kids, it is important to let you know what to expect. I doubt you will get a clear yes or no. However, you will get further insightful information about social dynamics around your child. Also, you are creating a line of communication. Ensure their parents know the situation as maybe your child’s friends would feel better talking to their own parents rather than to you about your son or daughter. Thus, the parents can always revert the message back to you.
During parent coaching classes, I tell them not to neglect the relationship existing among siblings.
Friends are just as important as siblings
They might be disclosing information to their sisters or brothers, and they feel they must keep secret from you. Therefore, ensure you talk with them without making them panic. Ask them about what might be happening. While they might not know anything, maybe through friends, they might catch some important information.
Obviously, the most important part is to ensure you and your teenager are having a conversation. You can’t imagine how many parents tell me in parenting classes, “I thought it was just a phase and let it pass” or “I wasn’t sure what to do and hope it would go away”. I have some videos and articles about how to communicate with our children, please watch or read them.
the Elephant in the room is the key to empowering your teenager.
The key point I am making here is the elephant in the room. Bring up the topic without panic, worry or pressure. You will likely need several conversations before your son or daughter decides to freely express themselves. The most important thing you can tell them is: “I’ve got your back. I am here for you. Whatever happens, we can work something out. I am here to help you.”
Ok, so now, you have an understanding. Something is going on, your teenager will probably ask you to stay away, and you might feel very tempted to do so (I have to believe in my child, I promised him I would not intervene, or I am not sure what to do). As a professional life coach for kids, I tell you this is a bad idea.
What things you can do now to empower your teenager to cope with bullying
1- Avoid normalisation of the issue
By not talking about it or taking action, we are allowing it to become normal. Therefore, talk to your kid on different terms. Use analogies and third person to make it less personal, such as; “If you knew who robbed a bank and hurt people in the process wouldn’t you have the responsibility to tell the police?” “What if somebody stole your car, wouldn’t you want to know who did it and get your car back?” “If it was your friend who was going through it, and you could do something about it, would you just stop and look?” Or “if you see somebody robbing an old lady, maybe you would not face the thug, but you would most likely help the old lady and call an ambulance if needed.”
As with the points above, you might likely need many chats, and maybe you will need help from other relevant people to help the message go through. Coaching kids can be a tough job but persistence always wins.
2- Be honest in what is likely to happen
Your son or daughters’ worst nightmare is that everybody will find out (even if everybody probably already knows), that they will bring even more attention to themselves, that things will get even worse if they talk. These are all valid points and, most importantly, they are very emotional points. This means that our well thought through ideas will not make a difference as emotions will always be stronger than thoughts.
Another issue is that your child sees no solution for what’s happening. Let’s be honest, if they thought there was an answer, they probably would have done something. This creates further paralysis in them.
Share in your child’s emotion and they will easily open up to you
The process of empowering teenagers can take a double approach; honestly using rational thought and helping them see the options they have.
When coaching kids, I help them to deal with the myth that everybody will find out. Well, unless you are living on another planet, I would suggest most people already know this is happening. Even more, I’d be surprised if the bully isn’t telling as many people as they can already. As a life coach for kids, I help them to look the other way.
Therefore, there is no need trying to handle the fear of bringing more attention to yourself—you can hardly bring more. The bully is already focussed on you, and unless something changes, this person is only going to increase their actions. Don’t fool yourself, things only tend to get worse unless we do something about it.
will get worse. Yes, this might happen if we are not clever on how to do it or
if we do it alone. However, if we bring the school and authorities along with
ourselves, we will resolve it together.
It is critical that you not overpromise or lie. It is likely to be a difficult process. However, it is one that needs to happen for things to improve. It is also a process in which your teenager is not alone. There are lots of people who can help and who are willing to help.
3- Have a plan, including a safe area
At this point, you would have reported the situation to school. The Inspection and Education Act, 2006 means that every school will have an anti-bullying policy or behaviour policy that will set out its code of practice to dealing with bullying, find out what it is and work with the school to put a safety plan including a daily routine that needs to change. Another thing parenting classes do is to make parents aware of the rights that affect their children.
Here is when the adults might need to step up. We might have to drive them to school or pick them up if the issue is there. Also, we might need to demand a safeguarding teacher to check on him or her, involve playground supervisors. We might need to ask his or her friends to help him/her or spend more time with him/her. The more people involved, the safer they will feel, and the more open to express themselves they will become. During parent coaching sessions I always advise they never try to go about the problem alone.
The two key ideas here are: 1) we have a plan to make this work 2) you are not alone, and we all have our back.
4 – Finally, give them some tools to empower themselves
There is plenty of information about bullying and empowering teenagers online. However, the usual ones are: avoid engaging with them, walk away, manage your body language and always, always report any incidence.
I have worked with many parents through parent coaching routines, and when we talked about the situation, they broke down in tears. They felt they had let their kid down and had a great sense of guilt. I can totally understand it. For this reason, this process is as healing for teenagers as it is for the parents. By taking action, having a plan, we are taking ownership and responsibility. We might have to adapt the plan, have several conversations with parents, or the school. It’s OK. What is most important is the unshakable belief that we will go through this and succeed.
And this is it for me today. As you know, there are other articles on this blog and more to come to help you. Find time to browse through and feel free to contact me if you want me to address any specific topic PERSONALLY.
As always, If you like the article please share it with your friends. It feels fulfilling for me to share with your family and friends. Therefore, help spread the word and support other parents.
HAVE A GREAT DAY. REMEMBER, KEEP YOURSELF HAPPY AND KEEP YOUR KIDS HAPPY BY HELPING YOURSELF AND HELPING YOUR KIDS
In this week’s successful parenting article about life coaching for children, I want to share my take on talking with teenagers; what works, what doesn’t, and how you can to do it in a better way. I am bringing in all my kids coaching experience on this one. As you will notice, there is a range of articles and videos on this blog on various topics including communication and raising teenagers. Please feel free to browse each of them as they bring a slightly different perspective on the matter.
Many of the parents I help through parenting classes tell me how difficult it is talking with their teenage kids. My answer to them is always the same: maybe you don’t need to talk. Instead, try and see what happens when you listen more to them. We spoke aboutattentive listening as a good parenting skill in last week’slifecoaching teenagers post.
Teenagers, in general, are fed up with being talked to! Every adult under the sun “talks” to them, or rather “talks at them”. What they are not used to is having adults listen to them. This is one of the reasons why they lose connection with their parents and seek it in their friends or other things. To succeed in coaching kids, you need to be a good listener.
Remember when you were a teenager? Everybody was telling you what to do, what not to do, everything that will happen if you cross the line. And, let’s face it; most of those conversations were not calm and mature, rather, shouting and challenging. However, when you become an adult you want to repeat those things you didn’t like as a teenager.
So, let me make this proposal to help you boost your successful parenting skills
Leveraging on my experience as a life coach for kids, I want you to take these three simple steps whenever an argument is brewing with your teenage child.
Prepare to give yourself a timeout. If you engage in the conversation in an emotional state, you will not listen to them and, what will they do? Yeah, you probably got it right. They will not listen to you either. When you do this, I want you to take a few deep breaths and have a line that will always be the same, something like “I think we are not communicating well and this might end up badly. I am going to take a few minutes and come back to you so we can talk like adults.”
Whatever you do, keep it brief and mutual. Successful parenting is about the two of you. I mention this a lot in my parenting classes.
What you are doing here is anticipating conflict and digging deep into your resources to change that by avoiding escalation. As a professional life coach for kids, I have realized that everything we do creates a model for our children to follow. Thus, by giving yourself space you are teaching your children that it’s OK to get upset, but it’s not convenient for a good chat. You are also demonstrating how they can do it by themselves.
Do it. Go for a coffee, walk around the block or to your bedroom. Whatever suits you, but when you do it, make a conscious effort to take deep breaths for as long as you can. In fact, I’d like you to breathe while counting down from 769 to 748.
in. Breath out: 769
in. Breath out: 768
in. Breath out: 767
What you are doing is: 1) creating a safe space for yourself 2) breathing to control your emotions 3) distracting your thoughts by focusing on the numbers.
Go back to your child. Thank them for the time they allowed you and calmly ask them if they want to talk about it.
For example, “Thanks Toby, for giving me the time. I am feeling better now, and I think we can talk about this in a way that I can explain myself and listen to you. Would you like to talk about it?”
What you are doing here is coaching kids by being an example of maturity and, most importantly, respecting their decision to talk or not.
Successful parenting takes time, so don’t give up
Be ready for your son or daughter to be confused, to follow you, or find ways to annoy you and continue the fight. They are probably not used to this approach, and subconsciously, they prepared themselves for battle. As you do it more often, they will eventually mirror your behaviour.
Repetition and consistency are critical parts of kids coaching process. Keep doing it. It gets easier and better. This is another point I emphasize in parenting classes.
ahead and let me know what happens.
I am creating more videos and articles on this topic. However, you might want to browse through these reference articles I found and see if they help you as well.