5 Relationship Skills to Teach Your Children: 2. How to Discuss Difficult Subjects—Specifically Money In the second installment, Lynne discusses ways to approach, discuss and resolve issues concerning money with your kids. BY LYNNE Z. GOLD-BIKIN
Showing your kids how to deal with monetary disputes will help them develop proper skills.
Money is often a very sore subject for couples to discuss, and it can often lead to fights between you and your spouse. But such behavior doesn’t resolve the financial issues, but instead only adds stress to your relationship with your spouse and provides a poor example for your children, who learn from observing how disputes are resolved in their own family.
These family disputes, mishandled, will set your children up for equally stressed relationships later in life when they need to discuss financial issues with their husband or wife and fall back on the behavior they learned from watching the two of you. This article discusses how you can successfully address and resolve financial issues with your spouse and how you can improve your own relationship while teaching your children a valuable skill.
Money is a sensitive issue because, often, there isn’t enough of it: maybe your spouse is earning more or you are the bread winner. The question of who makes the decision about how it will be spent can be a major problem between couples.
The first question to consider, of course, is whose money is it? The answer is simple, when you are married the money belongs to both. Just because one party makes more does not mean that they are the only one to have an input into how it is spent. The ownership of the money is always difficult because the attitude of "I made it so why can’t I decide" does not lead to a great partnership.
Because it is such a sensitive subject the question is how to talk effectively about money in a way that does not lead to an argument? Possible areas of stress may be:
1. Spending on a major item such as a vacation
2. A purchase of an expensive item such as a TV
3. Over-spending on credit cards
4. When and whether or not to buy a house
5. When and how to trade in a car
6. Even communicating with your children when they request a raise in their allowance.
All of these issues, and many others, can lead to disagreements if there is no consensus between the parties. How then to have a conversation and not a fight? Since it is a potentially difficult issue, the person presenting the question should pick a time to have this conversation. It should not be thrown out in the middle of dinner. It should not be when your spouse is involved in a project. You ought to pick a time and even make an appointment to have the conversation.
If the subject is about how and when to spend the money, leave everything else out. In other words, this is not a "kitchen sink" approach: stick to the issue of money. Be direct about what you would like, why you would like it and how the family can afford it. Phrase in your mind exactly what it is that you want to say and state it simply.
Ask for what you want in clear and concise terms. If it’s to ask your spouse not to spend as much money, state it in those terms. Set out the budget, set out the credit card spending and set out the family’s income. "How much of our budget can we afford to spend on credit cards?" you might ask. If the issue is more about weekly spending money, spell out in clear terms why you need it and what other spending you’re willing to forego.
If you get a negative response to your request, you must carefully listen to the reasons. What is the objection and why? Your spouse should also be setting out, in clear terms, why he/she objects. If he/she doesn’t, ask questions so you can understand the reasons for the rejection of your request.
If the request does not get an unequivocal "yes," listen carefully to the response. There are four possible answers to your request: Agreement, partial agreement, some later time and just plain no. You can, of course, agree with what your spouse says—in the event that you do not completely agree, however, you can suggest some modifications that may get you to an agreement. In the event that there is a problem with no agreement, you can always agree to discuss the issue again while you both think it over and come back to discuss it another day.
In the event that there is no agreement, then you need to make another appointment and, once again, state your issues, but modify them based upon the responses that you have received. The time may not be right for the expenditure, the spending money might be less than requested, the house may be purchased next year, the car may be traded in for a cheaper model.
This is a good template for any potentially sensitive issue you need to confront: appointment, one issue only, straight and clear request, reasons for the request, and, most importantly, listening to the response with respect. It just may lead to an agreement.
It’s very important that the discussion be timed for no more than two minutes. When it drags on longer than that, it can lead into a fight. That is the last thing you want when you are trying to come to an agreed upon result. Rehearse what you want to say and don’t beat it to death. Agreements lead to better relations, while fights do not. Following these steps will allow you and your spouse to respectfully resolve financial issues while providing your children with a positive example of how to handle these situations when they arise in their own lives.