“Working to help parents raise money-smart kids.”
This week’s installment of 3 Ideas to Share and Save features wisdom from several educators who have helped me think more intelligently about effective teaching.
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Fabrega on Failure: Ana Lorena Fabrega is the Chief Evangelist at Synthesis School. She is in the education vanguard and is a person to watch for her work to rethink instruction. Her recent essay, “The Art of Failure,” provides a useful framework to think about how mistakes can help our kids. Below, I outline three of her five points to demonstrate how failure can be useful in teaching children money smarts.
We learn from our mistakes, and giving kids modest allowances early affords them opportunities for small failures when the stakes are low. Of course, allowances kickstart ongoing money conversations and open doors for reflection and discussion about finances, including failures. I talk about the importance of conversations in my book, The Art of Allowance, and in this essay.
Sharing our own failures with our children models resilience and reflection. The essay I mentioned in last week’s newsletter provides an example of how I used my investing failures to teach my kids.
Words matter, and self-talk matters a lot. Children’s mistakes can feel like the end of the world. Think about your first poor grade. Your first break up. Being ousted from a friend group. We know now that time heals these wounds. Kids don’t yet have that perspective.
“This won’t last that long.”
—Ana Lorena Fabrega on any failure
When we guide our kids along their money-smart journeys, we help them learn that failures happen but are fleeting.
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“Do this, and you’ll get that.”: The carrot-and-stick approach to motivation continues to dominate school systems twenty-five years after Alfie Kohn’s book, Punished by Rewards, shook up instruction by suggesting we must rebuild our system on the basis of trust. Trust that children can self-motivate and discover a love for education to become lifelong learners.
Kohn talks about the importance of emphasizing intrinsic (self-driven) rather than extrinsic (carrot-driven) motivation. As parents, we can teach money smarts in a way that fosters our kids’ intrinsic motivation: by giving them an allowance and control (with guidance, of course).
This approach encourages saving for a goal instead of for a rainy day. The latter carries the message, “We don’t trust you. Get that money out of sight and out of mind.” The former is a powerful way for our children to learn that delaying gratification — even for just a little bit of time — can yield results they want.
“Promising a reward to someone who appears unmotivated — or demotivated — is like offering salt water to someone who is thirsty: it’s not the solution; it’s the problem.”
—Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards
“In the real world, even if not in the laboratory, rewards must be judged on whether they lead to lasting change — change that persists when there are no longer any goodies to be gained.”
—Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards
For parents of tweens and teens, I think you’re wise to be wary of apps claiming that kids will learn about money by taking quizzes to earn points. The question, of course, is the one Kohn poses above: Are they learning money-smart behaviors, or are they learning the best way to get goodies? And what happens when the extrinsic motivation — the reward — is removed?
Have any behaviors changed?
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I‘m not tired of this newsletter … yet!: You’ve almost certainly heard about the growth mindset sometime during your children’s education journeys. My daughter’s fantastic sixth grade math teacher gave kids struggling with math a wonderful example of useful self-talk: “I’m not great at math … yet.” This type of thinking is the growth mindset in a nutshell. Learning takes effort. And anyone can learn.
Carol Dweck developed the growth mindset concept in her perspective-changing book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, over a decade ago. In a world that continues to celebrate prodigious talent over effort, Dweck’s book shines a light on the danger of fixed mindsets. The fixed mindset encounters obstacles and withdraws. The growth mindset knows that effort is what it takes to succeed.
“The effort kids simply thought the difficulty meant ‘Apply more effort or try new strategies.’ They didn’t see it as a failure, and they didn’t think it reflected on their intellect.”
—Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
A pernicious idea that many believe is that people can’t change. This notion is the antithesis of what The Art of Allowance Project is about. We want to raise children who know that change comes from effort. This principle is at the heart of our money-smart journey.
This is not to say that there aren’t differences from person to person and, as we parents know, among the kids in our own families. These disparities can seem innate. But we mustn’t throw up our hands and think that no amount of effort can get our spender to become more of a saver. And though the carrot-and-stick approach can create short-term change, it’s by emphasizing the growth mindset, trusting our kids and putting in the extra effort to guide them that we can inspire long-term behavior transformation.
And remember, please enjoy the journey, however bumpy it may be.
John, Chief Mammal
P.S. Please consult with a financial or investment professional before engaging in any decisions that might affect your own financial well-being.
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