Reviews, Social Commentary

Book Review: ‘The Opposite of Spoiled: How to Raise Kids who are Grounded, Generous and Smart about Money’


Already when my daughter was three, I had to answer questions such as ‘Why don’t we have a slide in our house, mummy?’ (Considering she had three friends with indoor slides in their homes and we are a rather antisocial family, that seemed like a ridiculously high proportion of people with indoor slides, so it is unsurprising she asked that question. I clearly must have missed the ‘indoor slide’ trend that was happening 5 years ago). Then there were questions of ‘Why can’t I have a birthday party with a bouncy castle, a magician, pony rides, and princesses like so-and-so?’ and ‘Why do I have to walk to school? My friend has Peter, the taxi driver.’

This is West London and no matter how hard we try to avoid it, the subject of money comes up regularly with our children. It may be a very taboo subject, but Ron Lieber, who writes a column, Your Money, for the New York Times, faces the issue straight on with his recently published book, ‘The Opposite of Spoiled: How to raise kids who are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money,’ which has already shot up on the New York Times Bestseller’s List.

For many parents, the idea of your child being ‘spoiled’ is possibly the worst insult on you as a parent. Ron Lieber firstly describes that there are 4 ways of being spoiled:

1. ‘A spoiled child does not have any rules or regulations or behavioural standards, they’re more or less allowed to do as they please.’

2. ‘If a child breaks whatever rules and regulations that do exist in the household, there are no consequences for them or they are short-lived.’

3. ‘Lavishing time and attention on children in a way that is abnormal – so called helicopter parenting – also leads to children becoming spoiled.’

4. ‘It is only the fourth definition that we begin to talk about money. It’s possible to spoil kids by giving them lots of things and doing it in a way where they come to expect things, and feel entitled to them, and don’t express feelings of gratitude or graciousness about the things they have or the things they get to do.’

So if you have ever wondered how to handle the ‘money questions,’ here below are Ten Tips to help you navigate theses questions and teach your children about money, based on Ron Lieber’s book.

Ten Tips on How to teach children the value of money: 

1. Explain the difference between ‘Want’ versus ‘Need’

Although each family will have their own threshold, it is important to explain that there are things that we ‘need’ (food on the table, proper clothes, a house with a roof over our heads) versus our ‘wants’ (birthday presents, new Frozen doll or new Ninja Turtle).

2. Start an ‘allowance’ at the age of five or six

As soon as they are able to add and subtract, you can start giving them an allowance. For example, give them 50p for each year old they are. The idea is to give enough that they can buy something, save and manage their money. Parents should then not buy their children any other ‘wants’ apart from birthdays and christmas.

Ron Lieber although does not encourage linking money to chores. He feels that chores are things that need to be done regardless of whether a child is being paid or not. They should do it for free as a member of the household.

3. Split the allowance into three jars: Give, Save and Spend

‘Spend’ jar can be used for the odd impulse buy, the ‘Give’ jar teaches them to be generous and the ‘Save’ jar teaches about patience and delayed gratification.

4. Use money as a teaching tool:

Money can instil values such as curiosity, patience, thrift, modesty, generosity ad perseverance. It is also one way to show them what kind family you are: ‘a family that values education’ or a ‘family that values experiences over material things.’

5. Money is about Values

Teach your children to be grateful for what they have, to share it and to be generous with others and spend it wisely on the things that make you happiest. Teach them about priorities and a proper way to live.

6. Give your children control over their spending decisions

Around the ages of 10-12 is a good time to give them autonomy over spending, he says. ‘They’ll inevitably make mistakes or spend money on trinkets and regret it later when they don’t money for things they truly want, so letting them make mistakes – spectacular ones even – is a great way to go, because then they learn, and they’re not mistakes when they’re 24.’

7. Children should have a real job

This is a great way to teach children about work ethics, hard work and understand how much a pound can go (which these days is limited to the Pound Shop). The Americans are very good at encouraging their children to have part time jobs, and if it is less than 15 hours per week, it will foster essential skills that will be good for their future: they will have to report to a ‘boss,’ need to be responsible, show up on time, and do it happily.

8. Be open and talk about it when they ask you difficult questions about money

Kids get it. There job is to be curious. They are already sizing people up based on wealth, whether you like it or not. When they ask you difficult questions about money (ie. How much do you earn? Are we rich or poor?), respond by asking ‘Why do you ask?’ to determine why they are anxious or curious about it. Then, be transparent about where money comes from and where it goes; bills, mortgages, school fees, etc…

9. Teach kids delayed gratification

Teach them about delayed gratification by letting them save for something they really want over time. It is a key part of learning to handle money well. “Teaching our children the ability to wait is a big part of our overall goal, and what’s most important about allowance is what will happen when they’re too old to get one.”

10. Practice Gratitude 

Children have very seldom the chance to pause and reflect on what they have and count their blessings. Feeling fortunate is good for kids, so whether you say grace or teach them gratitude in your own way, it is important to show your children what you value. As Ron Lieber says, ‘If you want to feel rich, count all the things you have that money can’t buy.’


Let me know your thoughts about his book!





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