Money doesn’t have to be difficult, so why do we make it that way?

When you really boil good money management down to the basics, it’s all about four things: working, giving, saving and spending. That’s it. So when you teach young kids about money, all you really need to do is show them a simple version of what you are (hopefully) doing already. These are the four principles of money that my parents taught me and that my dad and I write about in our new book, Smart Money Smart Kids.


Here’s a truth that applies to both adults and children: The most powerful wealth-building tool you have is your income. When you teach your kids the value of work, you set them up to succeed later in life.

What does work look like for an eight-year-old? My parents paid me a commission, not an allowance. In other words, I got paid to work, not to breathe! When I completed chores around the house, like feeding the dog, taking out the trash, or helping clean the dishes, then I earned a commission. Use the same approach, and you’ll teach your kids discipline and work ethic.


This is what it’s all about. The whole point of building wealth is to change your family’s future and to give like crazy. Sit down with your kids and let them pick a charity. Instead of giving them a dollar in the parking lot at church, let them use their own money to tithe. When it’s their own, they’ll really feel the impact of giving. Then, follow up and show them how the money they gave helped a specific person or organization. To win with money, you have to make giving a part of your life!


This is the easy one, right? Who doesn’t know how to spend?

And that’s the problem. Spending is too easy for most of us. And unless you teach your kids healthy ways to spend, they’ll fall right into that trap. As soon as they get a $10 bill, they’ll go out and buy something they’ve forgotten about by this time next month. It’s all about priorities. It’s fine to love spending as long as you teach your kids the importance of the other principles too.


Saving seems so boring, I know. But it’s one of the most important things you can teach your child. If your son heads off to college without understanding what it really means to save, he’s probably going to graduate with a load of debt—or start digging a debt hole once he starts working. Start talking to your kids about saving early. Help them see their money as it grows by using a clear jar or piggy bank. Then, once they are old enough, open a basic savings account. Continue reinforcing these four principles as your kids get older. Don’t just talk about them once and leave it at that.

If you’ll talk about money early and often with your kids, you’ll be amazed by the impact this will have on their lives as they grow into adults.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel Cruze / @rachelcruze


One thing that has been drilled into the minds of parents everywhere is that keeping the lines of communication open with our children is a vital part of parenting. And in my experience this tid-bit of advice has been very true. And so as Rachel and I have raised our kids, we’ve worked hard to provide an atmosphere in our family where it’s always a good time to talk about stuff.

And while that’s been a good “atmosphere”, it’s actually a lousy strategy. Because it isn’t “always a good time to talk about stuff”. The fact is that sometimes it’s a lousy time to talk about stuff; and everybody seems to have different ideas of when it’s a good time, and when it’s not.

So, my simple tip for today is this: Discover your child’s “window of conversation” and do most of your talking at that time.

Your child may HATE to talk in the car ride to school…the window is closed, so don’t force it.
Your child may LOVE to talk in the car ride to school…the window is open, climb through!

Your child may HATE to talk around the dinner table…the window is closed, so don’t force it.
Your child may LOVE to talk around the dinner table…the window is open, climb through!

Your child may HATE to talk in formal family “quality time” settings….the window is closed, so don’t force it.
Your child may LOVE to talk in formal family “quality time” settings….the window is open, climb through!

Your child may HATE to talk about something in the “heat of the moment”…the window is closed, so don’t force it.
Your child may LOVE to talk about something in the “heat of the moment”…the window is open, climb through!

The problem many parents make is to determine when THEY want to talk with their child instead of being wiling to pay attention to when their child is most open to talking….when their window of conversation is open. When we try to force open their window, they slam it shut!

So much of effective parenting needs to happen on our terms, but I’m not convinced conversation and communication is always one of them.

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As a parent, you will find yourself wearing multiple hats, playing a variety of roles in the life of your child(ren). I’d like to list a few of the more prominent hats you will wear as you raise your kids. This list is both linear, in that there is a sort of progression through these roles as your children grow, and completely non-linear in that you will also find yourself constantly jumping between roles, wearing multiple hats at one time, etc. regardless of the age of your children.

CAREGIVER: You are their sole provider for virtually everything. At birth and infancy, it’s literally EVERYTHING and slowly your children begin to develop independence in lots of areas, while still relying on you in others.

COP: While wearing this hat you are the undisputed, authoritative law! You explain rules and consequences for breaking them. You enforce the stuff that is important you you as a parent. You begin to teach responsibility, accountability, etc.

COACH: The role of the coach is simply that.This hat is one that doesn’t fit well at times. Sure most parents are good at telling their children what to do and how to do it. But more and more parents struggle to truly “coach” their kids which entails being willing to stand on the sideline and watch them put the playbook into action. Coaching requires the ability to discern when you call “time out” to help along the way, and when you let things play out on the field naturally.

CHEERLEADER: The role of the cheerleader is to blindly, unconditionally, believe in your kids. You watch from a bit of a distance while wearing this hat. You aren’t the caregiver, cop or coach.You are simply their biggest fan.When things are going well…you cheer them on. When things are going badly…you cheer them on. Cheerleaders are optimistic; their faith never wavers.

Successful parents seem to have a fairly decent grasp of what hat they need to wear and when. For some, this is intuitive, while others need to be more intentional in their efforts to figure it out. Parents who struggle seem to be those who instead of wearing multiple hats simply pick the one that fits them best and wear it all the time.


A couple of weeks ago I turned to find my 6th grade daughter with her fingers in her ears as I answered the question of one of my students in our small group. We were having a night, well actually a series, on “the talk.” It had turned into an eight week series, on “Marriage, Dating and Sex.” This particular night there were a lot of questions about all things “sex.” My daughter was responding by hiding. I, however, was not phased by her reaction as there was a part of me that wanted to handle the conversation the same way.

Let’s face it. We can’t all be Craig Gross, founder of and author of several Simply titles on the topic of sex. For some of us, this topic is entirely uncomfortable. Even if you think you have a handle on it, chances are there is going to be something at some point that makes you squirm. No, not about what the Bible says, that part it relatively easy to navigate. We want our students to have “God’s best,” and that’s why we know we need to discuss it. Yet, when the questions come it can be down right scary. (Believe me, I have had some really truly “special” topics come my way.) Sometimes I think they ask just to see if they can shock us. Other times they really want to ask someone they trust.

It’s not a question of, “Do we have the sex talk?” It’s more. When it all goes awkward, what do we do?

Communicate With Parents:

Before you head into these waters of this particular topic, make sure parents know the dates you will be talking “sex” especially. On the one hand, some may decide they don’t want their child as a part of the topic and that is their choice. Make sure you let them know that you are not going to replace them in any way. This is an additional place to have these conversations. After the difficult conversations, let them know an example of some things that you talked about. Avoid reporting things like, “Your child asked this.”  Instead, say something like, “These were some of the questions that were asked, and this is how we responded.” I can only imagine my 6th grader coming home to tell me she spent an hour with her fingers in her ears. I wouldn’t know what to think.

Don’t Be Afraid To Blush:

I tell students when we start on the topic of sex that I won’t know all the answers. I will blush, and I might stammer a little. I have been married 16 years and sometimes this still makes me blush. I let them know that giggles are alright. We laugh when we don’t know what else to say. We aren’t going to get out of control, and we aren’t going to ask things that are totally outlandish just to see if that will make me squirm. I will attempt to answer anything, but it has to be a “real” pondering.

What Have YOU Done?

Inevitably our students want to know OUR story. It is really up to you, in what you want to tell them. I do think what they are looking for is, “Have you ever struggled with your body wanting something it can’t have right now?”  If you have a “sorted” past, they will want ALL the details. DON’T. It’s not the point. I highly recommend in these situations using the phrase, “There are some decisions I wish I had made differently.”

Don’t Forget Marriage:

Our society today does a miserable job of showing God’s picture for marriage. In television, movies, magazines, music and just about everywhere else, sex is an action of only the body. Marriage in our society seems broken. Many of our students are growing up with bad or even NO representatives of what a marriage grounded in Christ looks like. In answering these questions, don’t ever forget to start with God’s best plan in mind. It’s not about purity- then dating and finally marriage. Marriage was the plan from the Garden. Help them see that.

I once had a student say to me, “I could never talk to my parents about this stuff so I have to go to my friends.” When I suggested maybe his friends were not always the best source for information, he balked then followed with, “I guess sometimes I do need to hear from another adult.” Our students sometimes need us to be a voice they trust no matter if we blush…just not with our fingers in our ears.

How do you navigate these “blush worthy” conversations?

Leneita / @leneitafix

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Amber / @youthministry

This morning I had to do something I hate—again. I had to tell my 15-year-old daughter Lucy, who survived a school shooting almost four months ago, about another act of school violence. By now you likely know that a sophomore at a Pittsburgh-area school stabbed 20 of his classmates before he was stopped and captured. If you missed it, you can read about it here. As I write, many of those kids from Franklin Regional High School are in surgery, with doctors racing the clock to save their lives.

My wife and I now have a new filter that we use to process traumatic events around the world: If it happens at a school, or is an act of mass violence by a single perpetrator, we want to be the first to let our daughter know about it, before she hears about it from some other source. We want to be the first, because “the medium is the message”— the way she hears about traumatic “trigger” events matters (in the end) more than the news about the event itself. I think we’re hoping to model how Jesus moves into our dark places. He doesn’t wipe away our reality; instead, He invades our reality with His forceful, tender, and redemptive presence.

He doesn’t take away the ugly; He treats our ugly like clay and re-molds it into something beautiful. But beauty that’s created out of ugly still has the stink of ugly, because that’s its raw material.

This morning my daughter has a look of pain on her face, and she alternates between telling my wife and I that she doesn’t want to talk about what happened in Pittsburgh with a steady stream of questions about what happened in Pittsburgh. She doesn’t want the ugly to have free access to her soul, but she wants the freedom to touch the ugly on her own terms. And it’s vital that she learns, early on, to live in the spirit of “The Stockdale Paradox.”

Jim Stockdale was an officer and prisoner-of-war in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War. He was imprisoned for eight years, from 1965 to 1973 and was relentlessly and ruthlessly tortured. But he survived the experience, and the way that he survived has now been studied and taught around the world as The Stockdale Paradox: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Jesus operates, all of the time, in the tension described by The Stockdale Paradox—He will move us to face the “most brutal facts of our current reality, whatever they might be.” But He does this in a momentum and a context of certainty that we will “prevail in the end.”

Our “dark habit” of attempting to be the first to talk with Lucy about new acts of school violence is our messy determination to communicate that bad things happen, and we have to face them, but even more, that hope prevails because Jesus prevails.

Rick / @RickSkip

P.S. It’s a good time to remember the vital basics of entering into students’ dark places with life-giving counsel. I love what GROUP Magazine columnist and longtime youth pastor Jeanne Mayo says in this short piece called “The Ultimate Counseling Advice.”

by Jeanne Mayo (Group Magazine Contributor)

It’s the kind of telephone call no youth leader ever wants to receive. One of our teenagers just attempted suicide—twice in one hour. So where am I in the midst of this trauma? Right by the young man’s side in the hospital, giving the kind of encouragement and hope every youth leader would want to give? Not hardly. I find myself hundreds of miles away at a youth leadership conference. Where do we go from here?

Thankfully, I’ve prioritized building a youth leadership team around me. So there are a couple of great young adults who are on their way to the hospital. Do these guys have extensive training in counseling or crisis intervention? I’m afraid not. Yet I’m authentically comfortable that they’ll be highly effective in this life-or-death scenario.

To help you understand my peace in this situation, let me reiterate my simple instructions to them. I think it’s the ultimate counseling advice most youth leaders need to remember. It pivots around seven simple words: “Don’t fix it until you feel it.”

This simple principle has served me through myriad counseling situations for nearly four decades. Though these situations often called for very different focuses, I started at the same pivotal place: I tried to make sure that my heart connected with the students and what they were going through before I began to share any thoughts or advice with them. Let me give you a few simple counseling highlights that go along with this principle:

1. Remember that listening is usually more healing than talking. We often forget this vital counseling insight. When a teenager starts to share, it’s a mistake to break into the conversation and quickly begin to dispense our “vital wisdom.” I think that simple awareness alone will make you profoundly more powerful in counseling situations.

2. Teach yourself to make “say-it-back statements.” By responding with phrases such as “That must have really hurt,” the student will sense that you’re connecting deeply with what he or she is feeling.

3. Never cheapen a problem by saying, “I know just how you feel.” It’s great to relate your own personal struggles to a teenager’s situation. But often, we spend three minutes listening and the next 10 minutes relating our own situation. I’m constantly amazed how many students say, “Thanks, Jeanne…you’ve really helped a lot” before I get a chance to say anything substantial at all. Why? I think the sheer act of deep listening is what helps most.

4. At all costs, avoid “T.R.T.” That stands for “typical religious talk.” I’m not saying to leave Scripture or prayer out of the conversation. I’m just suggesting that you make sure you’re doing more than spewing back some often-repeated religious jargon.

5. Know when to call in the pros. I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve been “over my head” in a counseling situation. I’ve often said, “I want to be your friend and help you through this situation, but can I connect you with someone who can be even more help to you than me?” Yet student after student has told me later that the pro’s advice wasn’t nearly as meaningful as my personal love and concern. So even after you make a referral, don’t underestimate the power of your continued listening and friendship.

In short, I have great news for you today. If you’ve had little or no professional training in counseling, you can still be immensely significant in teenagers’ lives. When they start to share their hearts with you, just mentally repeat “Lord, help me not to fix it before I feel it.” The results will make you a valued counselor. I promise.

- Jeanne Mayo is a longtime youth minister, author, speaker, and ministry resourcer. Visit her Web site——for advice, ideas, and resources. She lives in Georgia.