My 16-year-old daughter was recently asked to participate in a national anti-bullying conference to launch the Born This Way Foundation. What elevated the event, held late last month on the Harvard University campus, from merely a great idea to a fabulous gambit to change the world, was the fact that it was the brainchild of teen icon Lady Gaga—Madonna for anyone born after the year 2000.
The Importance of Giving Back
Launched with Gaga’s own mother, the Born This Way Foundation’s mission is as admirable as it is revolutionary: to empower teens to step up and stop the harassment of their peers, and, more generally, to foster tolerance and build confidence. Gaga, who says that she herself was a victim of bullying when she was in high school, is using her fame and considerable fortune (Forbes listed her as the top-earning female musical performer last year) to make the world a better place. Clearly, someone taught her the importance of giving back, and that’s exactly what she’s doing today for the kids who have embraced her music and her maverick brand.
Teaching Children How to Make Choices
While my daughter was attending the conference, I wandered around Cambridge, finally stopping in at the popular Harvard Square candy shop Cardullo’s, which is filled with the most luscious chocolates I’ve ever seen. A mom was there with her daughter, who was probably four or five years old. The little girl kept pointing out delicious-looking candies on display—from chocolate-filled Easter eggs to fruit-shaped marzipan in brilliant primary colors.
Every time the girl said, “Mommy, can I have this?” her 30-something mother would smile and respond, “You remember, we said you would choose just one.” This woman was demonstrating to her child that she values her daughter’s health, her teeth, and, of course, the family’s limited budget for fancy sweets! At the same time, she was teaching her child to make choices about how to spend money—an important milestone in the Money as You Grow campaign I’m developing as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability.
Wants Vs. Needs
As a parent, sometimes it’s tough to figure out how to teach our kids what we value. It’s tempting to give them all the things we coveted as a child. But it’s important to show that there’s a big difference between paying more for good quality (my parents always bought us well-made shoes, even if there were cheaper, shoddily made versions in the store) and plunking down $100 for a pair of name-brand jeans just because they’re what’s “in.” Still, it’s more time-consuming to make clear what we actually value most: family, friends, helping others who don’t have as much as we do.
Honoring Value and Values
My visit to Cambridge—the result of my bond with my own daughter—showed me two mother-daughter class acts. The Born This Way Foundation and the values it enshrines are certainly, in part, the fruit of what Lady Gaga learned at the knee of her mother. And watching that exchange between mother and daughter in Cardullo’s—likely one of thousands of value-laden conversations they will have in the years to come—got me thinking about how we teach our own children about value and, more significantly, values.
As I’ve been emphasizing on the blog and through Money as You Grow, it’s never too early to start teaching your young ones—not only how to count their pennies, but how to count their blessings, too.
Beth Kobliner is a personal finance commentator and journalist, the author of the New York Times bestseller “Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties,” and a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability. Visit her at bethkobliner.com, follow her on Twitter, and like her on Facebook