Most of the time in life we don’t stop to truly consider each idea that is presented to us. We just accept them, and yet if someone asks you something obvious like: what exactly is the difference between being alive and being dead? you realize that even philosophers who ask that question as a full time job are incapable of finding one, single encapsulating answer. That’s because it is possible to understand something without knowing it.
So we all know what death basically is. We just don’t know what defines the actual transom between life and death. Knowing that is a bit like a mathematician taking me through the various steps of a large formula. I can understand each step, but if you ask me if I know the whole formula itself, I probably don’t. My knowledge would not be deep enough. Similarly, I understand how a car engine works, but on 95% of breakdowns I wouldn’t know enough to be able to help.
Knowing is when you own an idea. That’s when your brain is wired up to include a framework for the analysis and calculation that goes with that idea. If someone explains something to you, they can step by step you through other ideas you already know to eventually reach the correct conclusion. But that is different from you practising that calculation until you understand it in a different way. When you get what it’s doing—that’s when the idea becomes yours and you can’t unlearn it. It is now a part of your brain. You have been expanded.
This explains why smokers can understand that smoking is bad for them and yet they still do it. It’s why lovers return to bad relationships over and over. It’s why people eat when they’re not even hungry. You can understand an idea intellectually. But until you can see how that idea comes alive in your own life, you cannot make any real use of your awareness. Knowing about something is not the same as understanding that if you don’t act soon, there will be repercussions you’d prefer to avoid. When that idea belongs to you as an aspect of your own life, then you know something well enough to be able to act upon it. To own it, those pathways have to spend time in your brain being used.
This is why you can’t suddenly teach your kids about money when they’re in their teens. That’s way too late. Money is a concept. If it’s not linked to sacrifice early in life, then later lessons will have much less value. It isn’t a matter of a kid learning to add or subtract better, it’s them developing a strong framework for the idea of limits and planning and value. How much work/time is this or that worth? It’s funny how much less appealing something is when you actual weigh out how hard you’ll work to earn that much—after taxes.
If a kid has to deal with money issues, they become second nature just like some kids eat potatoes and some eat rice. If you’re exposed to something you come to understand it through that exposure. But for those pathways in the brain to be effective, they have to be well-established before the introduction of larger amounts of money. To wait until then is to leave a child with an unsharpened tool to hunt with.
Teaching a kid to budget isn’t cruel or difficult. It’s necessary if you want your child to have a brain that can actually manage money in a useful, sophisticated way. Because otherwise they’ll nod at you and earnestly tell you that they do understand, but once they get out into the world they will eventually realize that they never did truly know what it was they were doing.
Don’t teach your kids a set of beliefs. Instead, teach them how to learn, and then inspire them. Let them go at whatever pace suits them. Some kids develop quickly at one age, others at other ages. There is no set of rules other than the fact that their brain will be built by experiences. Put a smart kid in a car and drive him everywhere and he’ll have a high IQ and no sense of direction whatsoever. Same with the ability to manage finances.
Don’t explain things to your kids. Set up experiences and then let them learn by living up to the same responsibilities that simply reflect the world they will actually live in. It’s easier on you and it helps them to see how capable they truly are, which is great for their sense of self-worth. And self-worth is something every ego struggles with whether it’s rich or poor, so as much as possible avoid ego, and after that just teach the kid the stuff they need to know to survive without you. Have fun!
Have an awesome day.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.