Young Men are Not OK

I’ve been on a bit of an “avoid CNN” bend for a while after you-know-what, but I’m a big fan of ProfG (Scott Galloway) and this video is absolutely worth watching if you have a son, brother, or husband under the age of 30 or so. As a dad to a teenage boy, I think about this kind of thing quite a bit.

The young men of America (and I’d add Canada in here too) are not OK. They are confused, broken, disillusioned, and it does not bode well for the future of either nation or the world.

And if the idea of being worried about the state of young men triggers your brain in a negative way, I’d encourage you to ask yourself why. As Scott says in this video, compassion isn’t a zero-sum game, and being concerned for the state of young men doesn’t mean you can’t also be concerned about other groups just as much.

Here’s the Washington Post piece written by Christina Emba that shone a fresh light on the issue.

Having The Money Talk With Your Kids: Part 2

In part one of this topic, I discussed why you should have the first of many “money talks” with your kid, busted some of the myths on why parents avoid it, and covered some of the risks if you avoided it. So when should you start talking to your kids about money? My advice is don’t wait too long.

When to start the conversation

Start explaining what money is at age two. Let them touch money (coins and cash), play games with money…then wash their hands because money is pretty filthy (physically, not conceptually).

Start giving your kids weekly money at age three, but don’t put it in a piggy bank and tell them they can never spend it. The piggy bank approach turns money into an abstract concept rather than a real-world tool. They won’t entirely understand this whole “money” thing at first, but it will give you the tangible opportunity to have regular conversations about saving, spending, and giving. It’s also a great way to encourage counting, addition and subtraction skills.

The issue of whether money should be given only for chores – a commission for work as Dave Ramsey would say – or simply as a financial learning tool isn’t clear cut in my view. We chose to implement it in multiple steps based on our son’s age.

Continue reading Having The Money Talk With Your Kids: Part 2

Having The Money Talk With Your Kids: Part 1

In the past six months, I’ve had a few conversations with parents of young kids (8 and under), and none of them are actively teaching their kids about money, instead figuring they’ll do it “later”. According to this study by the UK’s Money Advice Service, basic money habits are formed in kids by age seven. By the time most parents think their kids are “ready”, the money habits are already formed. In these conversations I’ve had, some of the common reasons for avoiding “the money talk” among parents are have included:

The Myth: “My kids aren’t old enough to understand much about money yet.”

The Reality: There’s a great saying that goes “More is caught that taught”, and having been a parent for the past six years, I can vouch for the truth of it. Your kids are watching what you do, and learning from it. They’re watching you spend, and save (or not). They’re watching what you buy, and they’re listening to what you say about money in your home. If you’re having financial struggles, they may be watching you and your spouse fight about money. If you’re not purposefully explaining your actions regarding money, your kids are going to come up with their own interpretations of what money is all about. You’d be surprised what your kids have picked up about money along the way, but don’t leave their education half-finished.

Continue reading Having The Money Talk With Your Kids: Part 1

Kids and Screen Time

A work colleague of mine posted a question on Facebook asking about how other parents handled screen time with their kids. Below was my response. If you’re a parent, how do you handle screen time with your kids?

Most “experts” (and I use that term loosely because there haven’t been many really solid studies on this, so it’s mostly guessing) say 2 hours maximum of screen time per day for kids. So with our five year old, we give him 60 minutes total screen time per weekday, and 90 minutes on weekends. We’ll scale that up as he gets older. We give him little plastic coins (5’s and 10’s) for time counting that go into a little tray so we can also teach him basic math while we’re at it. He decides how he wants to spend his time between iPad, TV, computer, and Xbox. We try to encourage him to use no more than 30 minutes at once, taking a break in between. No screen time before school, ever.

For the most part, this system works out quite well – he rarely uses all his screen time on weekdays. He understands the limits and rarely complains about them. We’ve had the occasional case of him becoming a little obsessed with a game (Tiny Thief and Minecraft on the iPad so far), but by having the preset time limits in place, the answer is always the same: “You can play it tomorrow”. 

For me, what makes this work is defined limits that the kids know about and agree to. Without that, you have “it’s whatever mom and dad say”, which creates uncertainty in your kids. They adapt to that by whining/screaming more if they feel the whim of mom and dad doesn’t go their way. Same thing goes for allowance and buying things at stores – pre-defined solutions (allowance) encourage your kids to think about how they should use the resources they have. I’ll write more about this in a future blog post and it’s something I find very interesting!

Zero screen time for our toddler until she’s two, then we’ll give her a little bit of time with the iPad.

American Idol & Self-Delusion

I’ll be transparent: the above tweet had been ratting around in my head for a few weeks and I think it’s pretty damn clever (yes, I know that’s egotistical, but there it is). I’ve been watching American Idol this season thinking as a parent…wondering how the parents of some of those tone-deaf, completely awful singers could live with themselves as they lied to their kids and told them to “Just go for it!”. Does loving your kids mean lying to them? I don’t think it does. It’s definitely something I want to write more about in the future…in fact, I’ve adding parenting as a new category for this blog, and this is the inaugural post.