01.06.2009 Relationships

Money and Power

Kids and money calls for a careful balance, suggests Nabila Cowasjee.

Unless you have been fortunate enough to be in a coma, self induced or otherwise, you'll have been unable to avoid being sucked into the current media fed global financial crisis. Although it's wise not to get too caught up in the doom and gloom, there are no two ways about it, we are all being opened to epiphanies regarding matters of security and money.

The age of greed fuelled by survival issues is dead. Reflection upon what personal power truly is and debate of how money and fiscal security fit into this new paradigm is required. Flaky, navel gazing hippies who often secretly have the luxury of being financially solvent or irresponsible in order to sustain their so called "detached from money" lifestyles, need to pull up their bootstraps and reflect, as do the fat cat corporate guzzlers who are finally being put in stocks and having tomatoes thrown at them for their indulgent ways. No one is permitted to dismiss themselves from this audit, least of all parents and caretakers of children.

Adding fuel to the fire, good old Pluto who, too, recently lost his job as a planet and was demoted to asteroid, has moved in to austere, "get real" Capricorn and is pushing us lock, stock and barrel to reconsider the relationship we have with personal power and money. We now have no choice other than to transform through a trial by fire, raise our consciousness and resurrect once again as phoenixes with a new, improved attitude to the dollar that sustains and supports the evolution of our planet and our children.

So what does this have to do with kids? In truth, we're not comfortable bringing money into the equation when it comes to our children. Its legacy is dirty and tainted. Shouldn't we protect our kids for as long as possible from this ugly element of life that involves investments, portfolios and mortgage repayments? Surely children don't need to know about money until they are employable, ready for real life and judicious self management?

A wise parent will teach their kids how to conserve, save for a rainy day and live on as little as possible and be content. A responsible parent will ensure their son or daughter can add, take away, read and write so he can seek his own fortune, as we all have done. There is no easy road, you say, to wealth, health and happiness, although the brave and bolshy do know that the former kind of helps with the other two.

Many of us are horrified with our younger generations' relationship with money. They are lazy, wasteful, greedy, disrespectful and materially obsessed. But where do the origins of these values lie? Attitudes to the material side of life, like any other value system, often slumber in the energy and approach our forefathers employed. The generations we berate are products of previous ones who, by no fault of their own, were deeply affected by the post war years. The poverty consciousness that shaped and moulded current debauched attitudes to wealth creation and accumulation has its inception in the subconscious perspective of previous generations. Mothers and fathers who suckled on the fear and desires of their war torn ancestors were determined to alleviate all feelings of insecurity and pain endured by their parents - and the way they did this was to focus on material matters. Mortgage-free houses, and additional investments were the salve for their quiet terror and hidden insecurity, giving birth to the Western ideal of the two income family with the 4x2 home in the "burbs". The violent outside world and all its perceived impending nasties seemed neutralised by this tangible goal.

The energy inside those homes, in those families, was one that did indeed make the accumulation of wealth a sure, if silent, priority. Emotional, social and spiritual needs of the kids in those homes were innocently overlooked while their parents concentrated on the grass roots of life, possibly resulting in subsequent generations of children less tapped into a more humanistic side of life.

Connection, pleasure and family celebration focused on the acquisition of a new car, new TV or dad's promotion. In addition, because religious attitudes to money were still very prevalent in society, parents of bygone eras didn't like to talk about this preoccupation but, instead, concentrated on another good Christian ethic - hard work - to provide for the family's needs.

They educated their children, perhaps bought them their first car and encouraged them to take jobs and careers that gave them possibilities for safe, healthy incomes over and above other emotional or creative needs. This provided a backdrop of mixed messages about money and personal resource management. It still had a shameful stigma attached to it that prevented parents, and indeed society, from dealing with it above the table. The result is younger generations have been confused when faced with creating an ethical, balanced value system that deals with money matters in a responsible, practical, yet personally empowering, way.

Just as a coin has two sides, head and tails, parents and educators must embrace, understand and communicate a bifold approach to material matters. The "heads" side of the coin represents the practical side of money; it requires an open acceptance that children will one day be in charge of their own financial destinies and must have access to wise information and commonsense tutoring related to the handling of money.

Money and security are our right because poor financial management has the power to undermine the good health, wealth and happiness of an individual. Statistics show the most prevalent cause of distress, divorce and disempowerment lies in the way we deal with our money, both physically and psychologically; we either ignore it or handle it too well to the detriment of life's other bounties. We are either greedy or miserly, but mostly we cause pain around it at some level.

While we work hard on giving our children tools to manage other aspects of their lives, we should, together with schools, deliver useful skills and financial knowledge, rather than leave it to theories in economics classes to educate our kids about money matters in an empowering way.

Most of our financial education is received by osmosis, which victimises us to unhelpful personal legacies around money. And because we still operate in the ether of religious teachings that project money as the anti Christ, it's easy to ignore the importance of dealing with effective financial management until it's too late.

The word material shares the same etymological root as the word mother (matr in Sanskrit, mater in Latin), so it makes sense that the holistic nurturing of children must acknowledge that "things" have a place in their world. Adults need to beware of getting caught up in the idea that just because they are kids, their material needs are less important.

Giving a child something they truly desire won't necessarily spoil them and turn them into material monsters. I have seen how treating kids as second rate citizens, by not buying them that set of good quality crayons, or by just lumping them with an old wardrobe that is hanging off its hinges, affects their sense of self worth and ability to create the life they want.

Imagine if your child was a potential artist or fashion designer, but her need for that coveted set of paintbrushes or that pair of frivolous shoes was dismissed? What if your son showed a love for cricket and had it written in the stars that he had the potential to be a successful sportsman and pestered you for a new bat rather than borrow his older brothers, but you ignored his pleas for one of his very own? What would this do for his sense of worth, his power? It's not about becoming slaves to our children's needs, but more to do with honouring their material and physical needs in a loving way. We cannot be magic porridge pots, but we can work on honouring, in whatever small way we can, their expressed needs. Desire is what makes us human.

Children like things that are "mine" and suppressing this natural and useful instinct too soon isn't helpful if you wish them to live adult lives that are balanced, responsible, fulfilling and true to their own unique nature. The emphasis on "sharing" in the very early stages of their development is overrated and perhaps results in an over possessiveness and a miserliness that won't serve them well later in life. There is some interesting research underway that links the length of time mothers breastfeed their babies on demand to their material neediness later in life. Perhaps if we have never experienced a time in our lives where we have truly felt "full", we become disabled when it comes to giving and trusting that the world is a safe, abundant place.

Then there is the other side of the coin, the "tail" that wags the dog, spawns equilibrium and ironically attracts more pennies to the piggy bank. This side of the coin must incorporate an attitude of abundance, an understanding of the law of attraction and a spiritual sense of one's own personal power. We must teach our children and ourselves the beauty of our very aliveness.

As families we need to find pleasure and satisfaction in the richness of nature, tune into simplicity and remind ourselves we are all princes and princesses and our kingdom provides plentiful pleasures and produce: the lemons that grow on the tree in our garden, the butterfly that flutters by unexpectedly and the wind that whistles through the trees. It is imperative to foster our children's connection with hidden delights that make life feel juicy and luscious.

We can fortify their rightful need for safety by drawing their attention to how the seasons change with uncanny reliability. Like watching squirrels gather their food stores for winter, a less abundant time is a profound lesson in managing ebb and flow; it reinforces our human entitlement to take care of ourselves and trust that life is bountiful. By making time to join our children in building an eye for nature's treasure, we can move together and digest the belief that our most potent power is not solely reliant on what is our bank accounts, but what is inside of us, too. To cultivate a sense of satiety in our everyday lives with our children is what makes life feel easy - and that breeds self confidence and self respect, essential ingredients for manifesting hopes and dreams.

Money is just another form of energy. To continually try to orchestrate its flow, or to arrogantly ignore it, creates cavernous problems and attitudes of extremism. In the world today we see this as unmitigated affluence and unforgivable poverty. We should teach ourselves and then our children the masculine principal of husbanding (creating and controlling) our personal resources, but bring balance to this process by honouring the feminine principal of the earth goddess who uses this bountiful harvest to nurture her children.

Together, they unite in a sacred harmony that renews the cycles of life on the planet, while ensuring a similar internal harmony, which is our entitlement.

As caretakers of the next generation, we must walk towards better personal balance and global justice. We must be honest about our own attitudes to security and money and employ this emerging enlightenment usefully. That means teaching our children to use their heads wisely with appropriate empowering financial management skills, but also guiding them to turn their faces like sunflowers to the sun to honour and embrace the natural abundance of our wonderful world.

Nabila Cowasjee

Nabila Cowasjee is a Perth-based writer with a focus on children's health. http://umbilika.com