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The opposite of spoiled: Can money create well-rounded children?

“The Opposite of Spoiled” by Ron Lieber is an interesting book. The author argues that children are getting spoiled, but his recommended remedy is what…

“The Opposite of Spoiled” by Ron Lieber is an interesting book. The author argues that children are getting spoiled, but his recommended remedy is what draws attention. 

Teach them about money, he says. He maintains that money, whether a responsibility for it or an education in it, can keep children from getting spoiled. 

He listed the characteristics of spoiled children as (1) having no chores and are not responsible for even their younger ones, (2) they don’t have have schedules or have to follow rules, (3) the parents pay them too much time and attention and (4) they own plenty material possessions.

Even though only the fourth has something to do with money, he maintains that you should teach children about money immediately they’re able to count, because doing so would take care of all the four problems and create well-grounded children. 


By doing five things: (A) Answer their money questions honestly;  (B) Let them play with money; (C) Make them wait for things they ask for to avoid raising materialistic children; (D) Encourage them to get a job and (E) Make them know the importance of generosity.  Now let’s discuss each. 

One: Answer their financial questions honestly 

Rather than being embarrassed, let your children know how much things cost. Children usually don’t know the value or cost of the things they use. 

Once, when my five-year old son grew tired of Nigeria, he packed his luggage and started saving money for air fare back to Malaysia. He didn’t know that his N5 here and N10 there weren’t going to save him. 

If you asked a child how much is a new car, he may say 100 naira. But if you have conversations about prices of things, they may get it. 

Two: Let them practice with money

By giving children weekly allowance, you offer them the opportunity for budgeting, savings and responsibility for money. It doesn’t have to be much money. N100 weekly would be a good start. When they ask for something, you ask them to save enough of their weekly allowance to buy it, or you both contribute to the purchase. 

Three: Avoid raising materialistic children by making them wait for things they ask for

It’s not always a good idea to buy what children ask immediately they ask for it. If you make them wait you would see on their faces the joy of receiving the gift, making the whole enterprise a joyful experience for the children and parents. 

How do you do this?

When my son wanted a bicycle  (his third) and at the same time he had cracked his Lenovo tablet (his third tablet) and wanted it fixed or replaced, we asked him to choose one. Bicycle or tablet? 

Through manipulation, we nudged him to choose the bicycle. Then we asked him to wait until his birthday for the bicycle. Then we went to three different shops with him before buying one, so that he could contribute his labour to the purchase. 

Four: Encourage them to get a job

You shouldn’t pay children for chores. When they ask for payment, tell them you also do it for free. Ask them to do the dishes or wash Mom’s car. But encourage the older ones to get a job. The interaction between them and customers and colleagues is valuable. 

The job however doesn’t have to be at a professional setting. I’m actually planning for a way to make my 7-year old a kid entrepreneur by making him sell his handcrafted art or something else. This way, he can hire his plucky 3-year old sister and have the genuine grounds to boss her around or even be the first person fire her from a job. 

Five: Make them know the importance of generosity 

My son once asked me why do we buy ice cream for the help. I told him that even though she’s the maid she has the right to eat what we are eating. At least that’s what the Prophet taught. 

You may want to take them to the orphanage to have the perspective of the haves and people who don’t have much. Then get them involved in what they think they should contribute as charity to others including poorer relatives. 


What I like most about these insights is that they facilitate quality time between children and their parents. Also, money becomes another tool they can intelligently interact with. Because I’m a firm believer that the more quality interaction children have with things/people, the smarter they become. 

But what do you think? This is only an opinion of one person, Ron Lieber, seasoned with my own examples. It’s not as if he did empirical studies to arrive at all the insights. So you may disagree with some of them. 

However, Lieber comes with impressive credentials in financial management.  He writes “Your Money” column for the New York Times and is the author of three bestsellers, including “Taking Time Off.”

What is your childhood experience of managing money or your children’s? Also, you may join our Prof. Brainy Whatsapp group to contribute to these columns before they’re published. Just send me a text. 

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