How Do Your Children Learn From You Without Repeating Your Mistakes?

Do you shield your children from financial worries and discussions? Do you want your children to learn from you and your mistakes?

As a parent you want the best for your children and want to ensure they start off and continue on the best financial path.

You look back at mistakes you’ve made and want to ensure your children don’t do the same.

The thing is you learnt to manage your finances by making those mistakes. Recognizing that you have made a mistake helps you to learn and become the person you are.

Your child often feels invincible as they are growing up.

They’ve had a fantastic early life with a great group of friends, adults and teachers who knew them and parents who dote on them.

Why wouldn’t the rest of the world and their life continue in that vein?

Protecting Them

Because you have always wanted to protect your children you haven’t told them about the mistakes you have made.

Or the consequences. They grow up to have a rose colored view of how things happen and work.

So when you try and have a conversation about making the right decisions about their finances it often falls on deaf ears.

If you can get a discussion going, you will explain what you think they ought to do.

Unfortunately the decisions you encourage them to make may sound like hard work. They may sound boring and not fun.

How do you get your children to listen to you when you have protected them from the harsh realities of the mistakes you and other adults in their lives have made?

Should you try and brow beat them into making the right decisions? Would that even work?

You may also like: The Important of Teaching Your Kids About Money

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Learning Process

Making mistakes can be a helpful learning process.

When you decide on a course of action you don’t do so with the knowledge that it is a mistake.

You usually make your decisions based on the knowledge you have, possibly mixed in with helpful advice from others.

Making the wrong decision is not about waking up the next morning and realizing you were wrong.

Its about watching that decision play out, the consequences coming forth.

And the realization slowly dawning that you have made a mistake and need to sort it.

Delaying your response to this realization is also a learning process. You will learn that procrastination can be costly.

That rectifying mistakes cost less in the long run if you do so quickly.

Your future decision making is influenced both consciously and unconsciously as a result of previous decisions made and how you feel about them.

You may also like: How To Stop Worrying About Money

Age Appropriate Honesty

Being honest and open with your children when age appropriate will help your children in their learning about how to make life decisions.

Sitting down with your children to explain your budget and your saving strategy can help them understand money.

If they understand your budgeting decisions they can gain knowledge of what is realistic to expect when they are earning their own wage or living off their student loan.

A Balancing Act

Balancing the sharing of your knowledge and financial mistakes is a tricky one.

Some of the mistakes you made impact directly on or are because of your children.

Therefore it isn’t always appropriate to give the full facts.

Let’s be honest, there are numerous adults & children alive today who were a result of birth control failures.

It’s probably not a good idea to explain to an impressionable teenager that they were not planned!

Alternatively you probably don’t want to tell your children that you spent a shed load of money on drink, takeaways and stuff if you are also telling them you can’t afford to pay for their college years.

mother gorilla with her baby in between her arms as she is sat down

It’s Their Decision

Be prepared for them to make their own decisions which may well not be the decisions you want them to make.

Your priorities when you were 18 are very different to what they are 10 or 20 years later.

Your children will likely not make the same decisions a 30 year old would make because they don’t have the life experience to do so.

They will learn from their own mistakes eventually.

But they might do so faster if they know about the mistakes you made, the consequences you faced and what you wished you had done.

I wish you luck in having these conversations and getting your messages across.

Sharing My Mistakes

I was a teenage single mum and have done ok for myself despite that difficult start.

What I had never told DD1 was the struggles I had during her early years. The things I did to try and make ends meet, such as:

  • I used an unregistered childminder due to cost
  • At one point she only had 3 sets of clothes
  • I took out my 1st credit card to make ends meet
  • I had lodgers in the house to help pay the mortgage
  • My mother guaranteed the mortgage
  • I never went out for a meal or to the cinema until I got a 2nd job when she was 18 months old

Grandbaby Alert

When DD1 confided in me that she was pregnant at 21 she was confident that everything would be fine because, she told me, I was a role model for young mums.

She wasn’t aware of any of the struggles I had, the choices I had to make.

She didn’t have a permanent employer like I did (UK Government) who offered paid emergency leave, sick leave and flexi working.

And she didn’t have a mother who could afford to guarantee a mortgage.

Would she have listened and taken heed if I had talked about our life earlier?

Would she have been capable of making decisions at say, 16, to make sure she didn’t get pregnant because she fully understood the consequences?

I don’t think so.

As DD2 is 10 years younger I had presumed that DD1 would have picked up hints that having a child is not easy, it’s 24/7.

I thought having a much younger sister would have been enough to put her off having children when she was young.

Belated Conversations

Having that belated conversation about mistakes and consequences can be hard – I certainly found it so.

You have to tread the thin line between being honest about consequences without being all doom and gloom.

Or telling them what they should do even when you didn’t.

As a result DD1 and her husband now have 3 children, my grandbabies.

They made their own decisions, not based on mine.

But they were, belatedly, fully aware of what having children young means and the impact a child has on your life.

As DD1 gets older she does ask for advice more. She doesn’t always take my advice as she has her own ideas.

In fact I swear she sometimes delights in taking the opposite decision just to wind me up!

white duck with her 8 little yellow chicks

Learning My Lesson

I am now more open with DD1 and DD2 about our finances. Not the nitty gritty numbers.

But what our plans are, how much we think is enough. I do so to encourage them to not automatically spend everything they earn.

DD2 is a work in progress but then she is still at university so I guess I shouldn’t expect anything else.

DD1 has very different lifestyle tastes to me but does understand the meaning of a bargain.

I haven’t yet converted her to the idea of early retirement.

But she has followed the family tradition of hunting down yellow sticker bargains when grocery shopping.

Have you had honest conversations with your children? How do you help them not make the same mistakes you did?

How do your children learn from you without repeating your mistakes? Do you try to shield your children from your mistakes and stop them from making their own? Read more to find out why your children don't listen to you and how to help them and guide them through life's tough decisions. #lifedecisions #finances #financialdecisions

Last Updated on 5th April 2023 by Emma

About Emma

I'm here to help you become confident in making the best money decisions for you and your family. Frugal living has changed my life, let me help you change yours.

6 thoughts on “How Do Your Children Learn From You Without Repeating Your Mistakes?”

  1. I think it comes down to the earlier you let them make mistakes the less impact it will have on their lives. So when their young I try to let them make those financial mistakes. Not pregnancy hopefully, but I fully intend to expose our kids to bills, debt, etc long before they make those decisions themselves.

    • That’s a good way to go. The younger they are, the more likely they are to soak up the messages without pushing back on the message ‘because parents said so’. Always better to get into a small amount of debt than multiple credit cards.

  2. I remember my father telling me when I was quite young – primary school anyway – that he once lent a colleague £1000 and he never saw his money again! I have never forgotten this and told my children (now teenagers with expensive tastes!) his story when they were young. I’ve not been in a position where anyone has asked me to lend them money fortunately, but I would refuse and hope my children would too, based purely on my father’s mistake.

    • That’s a powerful lesson that has helped subsequent generations. Kudos to your Dad for sharing that with you as I’m not sure everyone who suffers mistakes like that are willing to share due to perceived embarrassment/failure. Your Dad obviously felt strongly that this was a lesson you could learn from.

  3. I agree with you – you can only protect them for so long and then you have to let them make some mistakes of their own, else how will they learn?
    I think a lot depends on their personalities too. Different children need different lessons.
    I have always been able to trust my eldest with his own money. He looks after it himself and has never been reckless. He always has a stash saved. But with my youngest I keep the money and we have a book where we record all his spending. Within reason, I let him make his own mistakes with this money so that (hopefully) he learns. Like now he is spending a fortune (in my opinion!) on the game Fortnite. I absolutely hate to see all his money being thrown away like that but I’m hoping when he looks back through the book at everything he’s spent on it, he’ll regret it and hopefully learn from it. That’s the theory.
    I think it’s great that your eldest asks for your advice – all credit to you that she respects what you think (even if she does the opposite)!

    • Gosh, you do have to sit on your hands to help them learn don’t you? I’ve been lucky that money has not been spent on gaming. I really like your system of a book to record your son’s spending, I shall mention that to DD1 as GB1 is almost of an age for pocket money so would be good to start from the beginning and get used to the process. That is of course if she takes note of my suggestion!!


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