Did you know that you can help your children discover and develop positive behaviors by modeling those same behaviours in yourself?

YOU are your child’s first and most important teacher, so you can count on the fact that they are watching and learning from you every day. That’s called Social Learning Theory, a concept proposed by psychologist Albert Bandura in 1977.

We’re not going to dive deep into theory, we’re financial people, but this theory tells us two things pretty clearly. #1 When it comes to children, they learn from observing their environment, and #2 That environment includes the actions and reactions of the people around them. If you REALLY want to know more about the video, just watch this old school video.

On the topic of being a money role model for your children, we’re touching on a few different situations.

Follow Your Own Rules

Following your own rules is something that can be hard to do all the time, but when given some focus, even doing it 90% of the time can certainly pay off. For example, if you watch Netflix every night and are getting push back when you tell your children to spend more time reading before bed, you might want to consider picking up a book to further model the healthy behaviour you are looking for.

The same goes for money. If the rule is to always “shop with a list,” then you must be prepared to have that list ready. We all stop into the store to grab a few things not on the list, overspend, or forget things because we’re unprepared, so keep a pen and paper in the car or your bag so you’ll have it with you to create that all important list every time. Lapse in this habit and children might start thinking that we can buy whatever we want, whenever we want.

Waste Not – Want Not

Learning not to be wasteful is good for so many environmental reasons and it can save you heaps of money. Being a family that takes waste seriously is an important lesson that will affect everyone’s personal finances over time. Here are three quick things you can start doing today.

  1. This one is low-hanging fruit. Filling a water bottle at home and committing to never buying bottled water…cha-ching, savings!
  2. Meal planning. To make it a family affair, sit down with the family before grocery day and let everyone choose a dinner. Build your shopping list from there, and only get what you need on your grocery run. Big cha-ching as it’s estimated that a Canadian family of four will waste an average of $1,100 per year throwing away unused groceries. (National Zero Waste Council, 2017)
  3. Clean with microfiber towels instead of paper. This has an obvious environmental impact, but buying a stack of microfibers from the dollar store to reuse on spills instead of single use paper towels will save you money, and develop an environmentally conscious habit.

If you think these behaviours won’t rub off on your children, consider how many behaviours you personally have on autopilot, just because that’s the way your parents did it. We surveyed our team at Cascho and heard about so many behaviours they do just because of mom and dad, such as:

  • washing out plastic zip-top bags to be reused
  • hard-core couponing habits
  • using only half the recommended amount of laundry soap
  • always paying with cash
  • saving fast-food condiments in a special drawer to be used up later; and
  • our personal favourite: saving a set percentage of every paycheque

Be Deliberate About Your Child’s Surroundings

One way that children learn is through observation of many different people, such as parents, teachers and friends at school, TV shows, commercials, and YouTubers. You have a choice of what you add to their surroundings so make sure it’s valuable! Sesame Street seems to be tried and true, but do your research on shows and their characters, and dive into a YouTube channel yourself and decide if it’s appropriate for your child to watch.

If you want to teach your children about money specifically, purchase board games such as Monopoly, Pay Day, and the Game of Life. Look for an age-appropriate money learning game that they can play online and add some money books to their library, such as our fave 😉 The Bunnies Talk Money. Check it out on Amazon!

Model a Giving Nature

In a previous blog [insert link], we chatted about the SPEND, SAVE, SHARE division of money or allowance. Let’s talk about the “share” portion and where modeling comes in. Whether it’s handing over a bag of bottles ‘n’ cans to a hockey team or giving your child a few quarters to plunk into a charity bin, it all adds up to modeling generous and giving behaviours for your community.

Sharing doesn’t need to cost a lot—or cost anything at all for that matter! You can bake a batch of cookies for an elder or simply volunteer your time. The important thing is that you keep having conversations about the “why” behind each of these small acts. It will resonate over time and show children how they can be helpful and begin to share their time or money.

Now Get Modeling!

We hope you find these tips helpful! Like we said, no one can always model perfect behaviour, but an individual or parent has the power to educate themselves on the topic, allowing them to be more mindful of their small behaviours—especially in front of the kiddos! And yes, Social Learning Theory is also responsible for your toddlers’ swearing problem.