Dave Says: Guide them, but let them learn from their mistakes

Published 9:49 am Friday, January 12, 2024

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By Dave Ramsey

Syndicated Columnist

Dear Dave,

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My wife and I have started teaching our five-year-old son about money. Do you feel we should step in and fix things when he makes mistakes, or let him experience the consequences of his actions? It’s so hard on my wife, especially, to see him disappointed when he makes a mistake, and his plans don’t work out. 

— Lane

Dear Lane,

I know this might sound mean to some folks, but sometimes a good financial disappointment when you’re young is the best thing that can happen to you. They’re hard to watch happen, or to experience, but often they’ll teach life-long lessons. No decent parent wants to see their child sad or hurt, but reality is a pretty good teacher when it comes to learning how the world really works.

One of the jobs of a parent is to look for teachable moments with their kids. Of course, when it comes to teaching there’s always a chance the student won’t learn the lesson well enough the first time around. I’m not sure how you’re doing things, but if I were in your shoes, I’d follow these steps. First, give him a chance to earn some money. In my book, that means work. No allowances! There’s a lot of self-esteem and value to be found in accomplishing a given task successfully. Then, once you pay him for the work he does, you have another perfect chance for teachable moments, because you can help him learn about saving, spending and giving, and how to do all three wisely.

It’s always hard on parents when they see their kids unhappy. I know we went through it with ours. As a parent and protector, you want to jump in and make everything okay. But the hard truth is that fixing or doing everything for them is the easy way out. And in the process of doing that, a child will begin to develop a sort of learned helplessness.

Sometimes, Lane, you need to love kids enough to not do things for them. Let them make some mistakes, experience the consequences and fix things themselves. And it’s better for them to do all this while they’re still under your guidance and protection.

— Dave

Dave Ramsey is an eight-time national bestselling author, personal finance expert and host of The Ramsey Show. He has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people take control of their money, build wealth and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for Ramsey Solutions.