What is money parenting?

Is your child your copycat?

Children are natural copycats. They observe more than you imagine that they do and inevitably, they start following what you do. Here are some things that parents do that children are bound to copy, and the impact it has on them. 

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Have you ever looked at your children and felt that their actions looked suspiciously familiar? Or perhaps, to be more specific, did it feel like you were looking right into the mirror?

From the way you apply your makeup, to the way you pose for a selfie or even how you whip out your credit card at the supermarket — children can stage a perfect impersonation!

Do you know why they are known as the world’s best copycats? That’s because children pay close attention to the world around them every waking moment. They learn and imitate behaviours by watching and listening to others. This is known as ‘observational learning’ and it can be a double-edged sword.

While it’s good to have them imitate our positive behaviour and habits, it also means we must be really careful about what we do or say in their presence.

I’m 35, a teacher by day and writer by night. I have three children aged 3, 5 and 8. I must admit that I didn’t do a whole lot of research about parenting and I learnt it ‘on the job’ as they say. So, from my humble experience as a mum of three, here are seven things that I’ve noticed my children mimicking and what I learnt from it!


1. Reactions

Lately, I’ve noticed a whole lot of super exaggerated, melodramatic, “Ohhhh maaaa gaaawds” or “Ohhh my goodnessss” from my three children. I asked them why they were being so dramatic and my oldest (also the wittiest) had no qualms saying, “Where do you think we learnt it from, mummy?”

Did I mention that it came complete with one raised eyebrow and a smirk? Totally a reflection of myself!

It was amusing, cute and downright hilarious. Jokes aside, I realised that if I didn’t stop doing that, I would be raising a little drama troupe!

2. Manners

I’ve always been a stickler for manners and never fail to demand good manners from my children. I make it a point to greet and wish every Grab driver and cashier a good day, say all manner of please and thank yous and make it a point to smile and say something pleasant when I meet an elderly person.

My children have all taken after this habit and that’s a great win for me. Remember, walk the talk is more effective than talk the talk!.

3. Use of Free Time

When I’m around, my children naturally reach for a book or curl up on my lap for reading or storytelling time. When their father is around, they gravitate towards the television and cajole their way into watching the latest Paw Petrol or Peppa Pig episodes.

There’s a really simple explanation for that — I spend most of my free time reading and my hubby watches Netflix. These master copycats inadvertently follow suit in accordance to whose presence they are in.

But alas, I also spend a lot of my free time scrolling through Amazon, Zalora, Asos and you know the rest. Unfortunately, my children have also started to find joy in peeking over my shoulder and joining me in my scrolling. Yikes!

4. Eating Habits

Here’s more on the mum versus dad saga. With me, it’s mostly home cooked food, lots of greens, milk, yoghurt, cheese, fruits and everything healthy. When Daddy is home, it’s always, “Can you order McDonalds? Or Bubble Tea?” No prizes for guessing why.

So yes, we need to watch what we eat and how much we spend on food. I’m glad to say my older one has cultivated some sense of healthy eating and prudence. He stops his father from ordering food because it’s “unhealthy and a waste of money”.

Ah, he heard me saying that enough! But I’m not entirely sure the deterrence happens in my absence.

5. Online Shopping

Earlier I mentioned scrolling through shopping apps in my free time. That leads me to my parenting fail moment. So the story goes like this. My middle child wanted some toys and I tried telling him there was no way we could get it at 9p.m. as all the toy stores were closed. He laughed and said, “Of course you can, what’s Amazon Prime for?”

Also, I left my phone unlocked only to find a whole lot of random toys conveniently parked in my cart. To date, I haven’t found out which one of the three is the culprit.

It was all fun and jokes until it struck me that my children had observed the frequency of my online purchases. Not to mention that I talk about it a lot. It’s definitely not a good ‘shopping practice’ to instill in them as they have formed the idea that there are no limits to buying — as far as they’re concerned, money is limitless!

In fact, in their pretend play, I notice that they almost never pay for things with actual money. They make a card out of paper that’s within reach and tap away, akin to how I almost always use my card to pay.

Yes, I know it’s 2020, and we are increasingly moving towards a cashless society. Nonetheless, it is a dangerous idea for children to have, that a card is the window to infinite spending. Using actual dollars and cents to pay gives them a far better idea that money does run out and that we have to watch what we spend!


Our children’s money matters are our matter

So where am I going with this? I could go on writing a never-ending list of things that children copy from us, but the most important message is that we are our children’s first teachers.

Granted we are not their only teachers, for they observe others as well as what they watch on television. But what modeled behaviours children will imitate depends partly on what sort of reinforcement those behaviours receive. They are more likely to imitate a behaviour that is positively reinforced!

It’s also important to think about the life lessons we are teaching them. Manners, values, worldviews and financial literacy must be instilled from a young age. Never underestimate the importance of role modeling. Good financial practices instilled from a young age is bound to go a long way!

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