13 February 2011

Living Life

I read a comment in the Member's forum this afternoon and it's been niggling at me ever since.  Cheapskater Julie suggested that schools should be teaching a class called "living life". She then went on to clarify her point by suggesting it cover budgeting, shopping, the consequences of debt and how to pick a con.

I wonder when these became someone else's responsibility and not Mum's and Dad's?

School is for the three R's (or the 21st century equivalent), and educating, not raising, children. Some may argue that life skills are a part of education, and they are. They're just not a school's responsibility. Parents ultimately are responsible for their children's education, be it formal which is why we send them to school, or the informal that comes from being a part of a family and from experiences, ethics and morals being shared and passed on from parent to child.

As a mother I have a responsibility to my three children. I am responsible for their health and safety, I am responsible for providing them with a clean and safe place to live, good, nutritious food to eat and suitable clothing. I have the added responsibility of ensuring they are adequately educated. No one would dispute those as a parent's responsibilities.

But my responsibilities don't end there. I am responsible for the adults they grow into. I can nurture happy, contented, kind, generous, hard-working, considerate human beings. Or I can nurture slothful, selfish, greedy human beings.

I'm hoping I've raised my three to be the first kind of adult. Over the years I've taught my three kids to wash, iron, fold, vacuum, do floors, clean bathrooms, cut the grass, wash windows. My mother used to say AJ was the only 6-week-old baby who knew how to wash dishes. They can cook veggies and grill meat, they know how to make a great pasta sauce, they can wrap presents and decorate the Christmas tree and they know how to make a bed properly, complete with hospital corners!

They have also been taught that you work for what you want, that the world does not owe them anything just because they were born, that if you don't contribute you can't take, if you want something you save up for it and to do unto others as they would like to be done to.

All three have had regular pocket money since they were 5 years old, when they would get 50c a week as payment for doing extra chores around the house. I'd give them two 20c and two 5c coins. Five cents went into the offering plate at church (that was their "give" 10%), five cents went into their money boxes (that was their "save" 10%) and the rest they could spend or save as they wished (that was their "living on" 80%).

 I know that not all parents are good money managers, but that's no excuse.  In this day and age, when information is easier to find and more abundant than at any time in the history of the world, there is no excuse for not learning all you can so that you can teach your children good money management skills. The best lessons are taught by example, and what better example than that of a parent for a child?

From the day they are born, they are learning and we are their first teachers. It is our responsibility to teach them about love, joy, peace, patience,  kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and money management.

If you're not good at managing your finances, it's not too late to change. You can learn along with your kids, and lead and teach by example. Here is just one place you'll learn how to manage your money. The Cheapskates Club is another. If you're not getting the weekly newsletters or Tip of the Day emails, you should be. You should also be logging in to the Member's Centre and reading the Journal at least once a month and visiting the forum every couple of days.

Little ones need to learn at their mother's and father's knee how to cook, clean, sew, garden, laugh, have fun, share, give and yes, budget. Learn all you can (and not just about finances) so you can raise your children to live the life you want for them. I think that's teaching our kids "living life" skills and what being a parent is all about.


  1. Having spent years working in the hardship department of a major finance company, it is very clear that adults do not know how to budget. They simply do not understand compound interest and why MMP will not pay down their debt. If you have the skills and implement them in your own life children will learn by example, but literally thousands of people I have spoken to over the years, do not know this. As for cooking and ironing my parents both worked long hours away from the home, if it were not for home ec classes and my grandmother I would not know how to cook or knit or sew. Possibly Julie has come across this too. I was actually taught to stay away from budget stores and op shops because "they were full of junk". It's only because of desperation that I found this not to be the case. I love cheapskates and the job you do, because sometimes you don't learn these skills growing up, my parents paid others to do these things, it didn't occur to me that I wouldn't be doing the same. Nor did it occur to my parents.

    Please don't take this as criticism, it is simply personal experience that shows me why some may find these classes necessary.

    Thanks Mel

  2. I can see both sides of this - having worked in a bank I have seen first hand how little people (male and female) understand about finance and budgeting.
    My DIL was a Loans Officer in a large bank for a number of years - and during this time got into very large debts - she has no clue about budgeting or saving. They had a big wedding $40-50,000 and an island honeymoon and have had 5 - 6 credit cards as well as two car loans and of course the house mortgage of $500,000. My DS and DIL are still very much in debt but still splurge on luxury items. They were close to losing their house (heavily mortgaged) and their two new cars. DS used to ring us and moan how hard it was, even to buy food. So we sent some money (never to be offered to paid back) even though we are both on pensions. We do not do this anymore, as they seem to be able to have three holidays away each year hiring a unit etc.
    We did teach our son to cook, clean, wash clothes, do simple mending (and knit), save, budget and as a youngster he had his own business of selling eggs from his chickens, which he bought from his pocket money and chores money. He managed very well - UNTIL he and DIL got together. (Her parents had to sell their house because they could not pay the mortgage payments etc.)
    And Julian has a good point - not everyone's parents have the knowledge or understanding to teach money management and cooking cleaning etc. needed to run a successful household.
    So LIFE SKILLS taught at school (compulsory subject) including FIRST AID should really be a main component of the curriculum. (perhaps include a section on good manners too)

    1. Oh Peggy I disagree, especially on the good manners! Children should be taught manners well and truly before school age, that most definitely is no one's responsibility but a parent's.

      Your son has chosen a different lifestyle to yours. You did your best and brought him up to know how to budget and look after himself and he has made the decision to live a different way. He now needs to accept that choice was his and it is his responsibility and his alone.

      Using the excuse of "my parents didn't do it" or "but my parents both worked" or "my parents were too busy" doesn't cut it - if you are bright enough to realise your parents didn't teach you something you are bright enough to get off your backside and learn those skills yourself. The help is there for the taking for those who really want it.

      We live in a world where people blaming anyone but themselves for any situation they are in is socially acceptable. It shouldn't be.

      It is too easy to blame parents, schools, the government, the economy - anyone but themselves for their ignorance and lack of responsibility and it is wrong.

      Here in Victoria, the whole of Year 9 is wasted on teaching supposed "life skills" to kids. Things like how to buy a bus ticket and how to use public transport should not be and do not need to be a part of the school curriculum. These are things any parent should be able to teach their kids instead of them taking valuable classroom time.

      In this day and age, when even toddlers can use a computer, there is absolutely no excuse for not learning how to do something, even something as basic as living within your means.

      And frankly if you bring a child into the world then you need to grow up and accept that teaching that child to be a responsible human being is your responsibility as a parent and not try to pass it off to someone else.

      Perhaps over the last 20 years or so it's been too easy to produce children and let someone else raise them with the excuse of both parents having to work. Maybe if it wasn't so easy to just put babies and children in day care 10 hours a day where strangers get to impose their morals and standards on our children then we'd have teenagers and young adults who were better equipped to live responsibly.

  3. Wow - What a Can of Worms. Dare I comment? You betcha!
    An infamous comment made by Mark Twain springs to mind.(excuse paraphrasing)
    "When I was a teenager I believed my Dad to be SO ignorant, however I was pleasantly surprised at much he had learnt by the time I had turned 21."
    Most of us DO learn by personal experience, some NEVER learn and some DO NOT want to learn.
    I will be very interested to see whether the young lady who now lives with us will be affected by our strict but LOVING budget-conscious, living within our means household/home.
    She is currently awaiting her tax cheque so she can get another tattoo or two.
    However, she is always asking whether I know of any 'CASH' jobs because she is short of money.
    How I praise her when she takes some home-made soup & crackers for lunch @ Uni. And, I mostly bite my tongue when she says she has spent $300 on a latest game or comic artwork.............. Melinda

  4. I once shared our weekly food budget equally between 5 children then aged 5 to 15, to buy whatever they wished..... the eldest tried to decline as he realised how "management" dealt with feeding 7 of us, the others went "oh wow...." and all but one proceeded to buy their choice of junk food. Do you know, none of them wanted to repeat the scheme next week!!! and now they are all parents or heads of alternate family groups, and all are now careful budgeters! I never felt myself to be any good at money management.... but needs must, and I guess the necessity taught them a lot... AJM


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