June.17.18Children and Money
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Money Matters with Nimi

“What we must decide is perhaps how we are valuable, rather than how valuable we are”
- Edgar Z. Friedenberg 1959

Anna Jahns in “Spoiling Childhood” discusses how parents today are often “caught up in a guilt driven pendulum, swinging between parenting too little and parenting too much to compensate” for other deficiencies in their parenting. Well-meaning parents are giving their children too much of what they want, but perhaps not necessarily what they need.

Parents are driven by a natural instinct to love, nurture, and provide for their offspring. We all want to see our children blissfully happy and our greatest desire is to give them everything we ever had, or, never had, and more. This desire can push us to spoil them. The danger is that whilst we are deriving pleasure from overindulging them, we may actually be interfering with their development and diminishing their own sense of accomplishment.

One dictionary definition describes spoiling someone as to “overindulge so as to cause to demand or expect too much.” “a spoilt child” – is described as having the character or disposition harmed by pampering or over-solicitous attention.

Interestingly, over 2,000 years ago, the famous Greek philosopher Socrates, made this observation about children in his time. “Children now love luxury; they show disrespect for elders and love to chatter in place of exercise, they no longer rise when their elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs and tyrannize their teachers.”

Doesn’t this sound like far too many Nigerian children today?

Many children, especially young adults are living way above their means. This is not obvious when they are still living at home with a roof over their heads but when they move out, they are often tempted to continue to live an extravagant lifestyle, desperate to acquire possessions they cannot really afford. Such expensive purchases, or first class travel for a child that has never worked for one day, depending upon the child, can be introducing a lifestyle of debt.

Children can turn out to be manipulative and calculating, blatantly taking parents for granted. A young adult that sees their parents as a personal bank, feels no reciprocal responsibility whatsoever, may find it hard to contribute
to society. One may be creating adults that feel no obligation to anyone; the implications of this for society, are far reaching.

The greatest gift of love we can give our children is to value them for who they are. When children have love and affection, respect, attention and unconditional acceptance, the sense of self that this develops in them stretches way beyond what giving in to every material demand can achieve. Perhaps we should search ourselves; if you find yourself giving in to your child’s every whim, try to check yourself to find out whether it is you that has a need to fill in your own life.


Some of the consequences of over-indulging children are discussed below. Lack of motivation and drive in a world driven by naira and dollars, easy money, can slowly make children lack the necessary motivation and drive most people need to achieve their goals. In general, it is human nature to take the path of least resistance to achieve goals.

When children are deprived of the opportunity to be self reliant, they develop a sense of entitlement that shields them from the need for sheer hard work and motivation. Sadly, they may never reach their full potential, if they constantly have their parents’ largesse at their disposal, as the loss of personal self-sufficiency comes from never having to take care of your own basic needs.

Spendthrift lifestyle “Easy come, easy go”. We often hear of stories of those who acquire sudden wealth and just as suddenly spend or lose it all. It is psychologically a lot easier to spend money that suddenly arrives on your doorstep than to spend money you have had to work hard to earn.

Equating Self worth with Net worth Children often identify their self worth with the approval of their peers, which could be linked to how many toys they have, or how expensive their clothes are. Parents must show their children that their true value lies in their inner qualities – their kindness, creativity, compassion, rather than for their looks, performance and possessions. Unfortunately, the materialistic society that is endemic in Nigeria, fosters attaching self-worth and other peoples’ approval for things such as a fancy car or a house or clothes.

Stories abound of children asking to be dropped off before the school gate so that their peers won’t see the car they came in. If it’s not an expensive car or jeep, it could be embarrassing. Their friends jeer, “my daddy is richer than yours”. A Nigerian parent once went to pick his child at a British boarding school in a helicopter – not the norm. The poor child barely survived the teasing that followed that display.

In an excerpt from The Vanishing Adolescent 1959, Edgar Z. Friedenberg writes, “What we must decide is perhaps how we are valuable rather than how valuable we are”.

We must teach our children to be proud of whom they are, to value themselves and not to confuse their self worth with their net worth.

Financial dependency

The 21 or 22 year old living beyond their means may not be mature enough to realize the challenges they will face years down the road; They may never have to make ends meet or save up to be able to buy something they value, be it a holiday, or a car. This could leave them financially dependent on their parents in adulthood, when they deserve to be catering for retirement. Children could become victims of paralyzing debt with no idea of how to save or budget. On the more sinister side, they can become financially irresponsible and out of desperation, be tempted to maintain a certain lifestyle, no matter what.


Teach them to give of themselves instead of giving them too much, encourage children to give of themselves to others. You can provide opportunities for them to be caring, giving human beings. Young children can donate their outgrown toys, books and clothes whilst older children and young adults can do volunteer work giving of their time and talent.

You them to keep things in perspective and strive to help those who may less fortunate. This helps them to appreciate what they have. Be a good role model “Children will do what you do, not what you say.” Actions do speak louder than words, so if we set a good example and show restraint and demonstrate the importance of making an effort to earn a living, it will impact on our children. If our lifestyle displays obscene extravagance, this also impacts on our children in more ways than we can imagine. An anxious head teacher mentioned to me that in her school some children bring in wads of N500 notes to distribute to their friends hoping to gain friendships in this way. Perhaps they are witnessing money being doled out at home in this way.

Teach them about money early in their lives. Bringing up children to understand the value of money and of being self-sufficient as they grow from childhood to adulthood is a challenging but rewarding process. If we want our children to grow up to be financially responsible adults, we must teach them to understand the value of money and how to handle it from an early age.

They need to understand and practice spending, saving and investing, and banking. Encourage them to earn from their early years. One of the most precious gifts you can give your children is the true independence they gain when they learn to earn a living. When they leave home, you can be confident that you have raised a child that can step out into the world and fend for themselves. Both allowances and chores can play a role here. Allowances can teach money management: how to earn, save, budget, and prioritize purchases, whilst chores can teach cooperation and responsibility.

My siblings and I were always obliged to put any talents we had to use in the holidays or find holiday jobs; we were never allowed to spend an entire holiday “loafing” around the house as my father called it. Our jobs ranged from providing home-baked rock buns to Chanrai’s Supermarket, reading the news at a local radio station, working as a shop assistant, helping to prepare stage sets for Cultural Centre plays, to giving piano lessons. I have noticed that my children are much more disciplined and careful with their own hard earned money than they are with their “free” pocket money or allowance.

Lets consciously take time out to examine the values we are imparting to our children. I urge you not to deplete your retirement savings by over-indulging them even where they are pleading for excesses. Teach them that money saved today can create more for tomorrow.

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