Expert Tips: Raising Money-Responsible Kids

Jim Conway, Senior Trainer at Search Institute, and parent education expert, shares his tips for helping young people learn to be responsible with money.

Today’s young people are bombarded with conflicting messages about money. How can parents and parent educators help our youth sort out those messages—particularly when it can be so uncomfortable to talk about money? In my years of training and consulting, I’ve found these tips—based around Search Institute’s eight categories of developmental assets— to be most helpful for parents:


• Talk with your child about money. Explain where it comes from, typical expenses, and both its power and danger.
• Talk honestly about money, commercialism, advertising, and materialism in this culture.
• Remember that there are many more valuable ways to show our children love and support than giving them things. These include genuine expressions of care and gifts of time.


• Involve your child in family decisions about money. Start when they’re small with specific issues and gradually engage them in more and more decisions.
• Guide young people to share or give away a portion of the money they receive from jobs, allowance, gifts, and other sources.

Boundaries and Expectations

• Set limits on spending. As your child gets older, work together to set a budget with limits.
• Teach young people the difference between wants and needs. Set limits on spending.
• Set a good example for your child in how you earn, share, save, and spend money.
• Connect young people with other adults who model responsible spending, sharing, and saving.

Constructive Use of Time

• Balance the benefit of participation in activities with the personal and financial costs of over-participation.
• Don’t think of giving things as a substitute for spending time together.
Commitment to Learning
• Allow for mistakes as young people learn to manage money. Help them learn from the inevitable misjudgments.
• Teach your child to think critically about advertising messages. Discuss the messages that ads send to young people.
• If your young person works during the school year, limit hours to less than 15 or 20 hours per week. Researchers have found that schoolwork tends to suffer when young people work more than this amount of time during the school year.

Positive Values
• Encourage your child to give money to causes and institutions that are important to them. Consider matching their donations.
• Emphasize honesty and integrity in all financial dealings.
• Examine where you shop and invest in light of your values. Teach your children to do the same.

Social Competencies
• Instill money management skills by giving young people responsibility for some money and teaching them how to use it wisely and responsibly.
• Teach young people skills to resist the pressure to consume that they feel from their peers and in the media.

Positive Identity
• Do not give your child messages that suggest that those with less money are less important.
• Help young people discover that their identity is not tied up with things or with money. Guide them to find other sources of meaning and purpose.

Learn more about Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets >
Learn more about Jim Conway >


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