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Money Messages

Confusing signals

Little ways we baffle our kids about money -- and what to do instead:

We covet
We all throw admiring glances at the neighbor's shiny new car. Instead of hiding your lust, let your child know it's okay to want stuff. But also let him know that we can't always buy what we want, and that's okay, too.

We send nonverbal cues
Mutter about a bill arriving, count up the money in your wallet -- there's nothing wrong with doing this, but they're subject to your child's misinterpretation. Be honest about your feelings and tie them to something from your child's life ("Remember that time your Transformer broke? I feel frustrated, too").

We use nonsensical expressions
"Money doesn't grow on trees," "Easy come, easy go" -- they seem harmless enough in context, but they can be scary or meaningless to kids. Try to be more aware of what you're saying, and explain your words.

Valerie Frankel is the author of 19 books. Her latest, Thin Is the New Happy, a memoir, will be published in September.

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