We were eating lunch and all of a sudden our two-year-old looked at me and said, "I earned pennies."
I was a little shocked by this statement and wasn't sure I had heard her correctly. "What?" I said to her, requesting clarification.
Again. Clear as day. "I earned pennies."
I sat there, a bit in shock. You see, I was surprised for a couple of reasons.
First of all, I had NO idea that our two-year-old knew the word "earned." I mean, wouldn't most two-year-olds say, "I earn pennies." Nope. Not Maggie. "Earned" with an -ed. Clear as day.
Second of all, in that moment I realized something very critical about how we are choosing to guide our children when it comes to money. Although her understanding at two years of age is remedial, Maggie knows that if she helps Mommy or Daddy with extra things around the house, she will earn pennies.
Our children are not paid to make their beds, feed the fish, get dressed, pick up their toys, or clean up any other messes that they create. However, if they go above and beyond and make Mommy's (or Daddy's) life easier, they will absolutely earn pennies! (By the way, pennies are the name given to all coins in our house.)
And that's exactly what Maggie had done that morning. She had dashed around the upstairs taking clean clothes from the laundry room and putting them away in her dresser, and she had helped clean the bathroom by scrubbing the floor (yes, our two-year-old did those jobs). She helped me with my work, so she had received pennies in return. Her statement, "I earned pennies" proved her understanding of needing to work for money.
So, what happens when our children earn pennies?
First and foremost, they are expected to give a portion back to God. We always have them designate this portion first. They get to choose how many pennies they give to God. (At this point, we have not yet introduced tithe as being ten percent with our 3.5 and 2 year old. We will get there!) But, they know the verse, "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce," and they are expected to do just that.
After they have designated their portion for God, they are then given the choice of whether they want to save or spend the remainder of their money. Any savings goes in their piggy banks, and spending money is set aside for them to use according to their choosing.
You may be wondering, why do our toddlers have spending money?
Let me take you back a few months...
We had taken the girls to see a movie at the theater. Upon leaving the theater, our oldest requested to ride some of the 'mall kiddy rides.' When we denied her request, a full blown fit ensued. (This was totally a teachable moment!) We took the time to explain that Mommy and Daddy had already paid for the movie, the popcorn, and the drinks. Wow! How cool was that?!? We also explained that we were not going to spend more on rides. That wasn't in our budget.
However, we didn't stop there. We went on to explain that if she were to go home and earn some pennies of her own, she could come back and go on the rides. She was thrilled! Because we set this limit once (just ONE time), she has taken full ownership of paying for the mall rides with her own money. She takes earning those pennies seriously, and we've already been back to the mall a couple of times!
Parents, I encourage you to seriously consider how you plan to teach your children about finances. We, as parents, have been tasked with raising our children to be good stewards, and that's no small task! Consider what limits you need to set in place and how you can communicate with your kids (however big or small they might be) about money. Let's raise up a generation equipped with financial literacy - a generation prepared to earn their own pennies, spend their own pennies, and give their own pennies.
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