Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kevin O'Leary's Tough-Love Approach to Kids and Money

Twice now I've heard Kevin O'Leary talk about about how he makes his kids fly coach while he enjoys the softer seats and sumptuous service of first class. He tells them that they can't sit up front because they don't have any money. If you're familiar with Kevin's work on Dragons' Den, Shark Tank or on The Lang & O'Leary Exchange you won't be surprised because you'll know that with Kevin "it's always about the money," even with his kids it seems! Let's call it O'Leary's tough-love approach to financial education.

BC HRMA Conference April 2011
While I don't agree with every aspect of Kevin's "business is war" philosophy, I do admire his realistic approach to talking to kids about money, which is why on April 13th I took my seven-year-old daughter to see him do a presentation called "Up Close and All Business with Kevin O'Leary" hosted by the BC Human Resources Association  at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. Actually, I didn't really take my daughter to the presentation, she had to take herself.

One Tough Mom Equals One Tough Kid
When we first heard about Kevin's talk, my daughter was anxious to go. She's a big fan of Kevin's sense of humour, especially when he is being tough on pitchers in the Den. I thought it might be fun to go, too. I've been hoping to interview Kevin for this blog for quite a while. But when I saw the ticket price was $57 plus HST I decided against it (parking would be another $25!).

My daughter persisted so I told her that if she paid for her own ticket, we could go. The funny thing is that even though she is a shareholder and has a healthy pile of cash in her ING kids account, she said that she didn't want to spend her savings. That left us with figuring out how she could earn $57 plus HST.

Ella-Rose's Tip #2
To make a long story short, she spent the second week of March break providing money-saving tips to a group of subscribers (which included David Chilton, author of The Wealthy Barber, family, friends and a few of my blog followers) at the rate of $2 a day for 5 days.

I helped her choose her money-saving tips and did the uploading and emailing (some of the tips were images, some were videos) but the creative piece was hers alone. There were days when she came home from art camp and did not want to "work" but she did it anyways and ended up raising $80, which was more than she needed.

I was proud of her and pleased that she was willing to work so hard to earn money to do something that she wanted to do. She didn't complain. She didn't argue with me about why I was making her pay for her own ticket. She was able to deal with this "tough-love" money lesson with a tremendous amount of fortitude. I imagine that Kevin's kids can do the same.

Up Close & All Business with Kevin O'Leary
It wasn't until Kevin mentioned the "I make my kids fly coach" story again at the presentation that I realized that I have been using O'Leary's tough-love approach to financial education without being aware of it. One of my parenting catch phrases is, "Sorry. Mom's job is to buy the stuff you need,  not the stuff you want."

It seems to be working.

The cool thing about the tough-love approach to financial education is that it doesn't matter how wealthy your family is. Whether it's a first class plane ticket worth thousands of dollars or a front row seat at a Kevin O'Leary talk for $57 plus HST, the point is that you make your kids hungry to get there...and then you step back, do a little coaching and watch them go.

Copyright 2011. Laura Tomas. All Rights Reserved.
For reprint permission contact moneyme@telus.net.

6 comments:

  1. I can't say much to add to this. I think that you and your child did it perfectly. She's learned that she can want whatever she wants, put together a plan, mobilize resources, and get it done. She's an empowered young girl that nobody can stop. I love it. This is perfect education, and it's not "tough", it's realistic. You're a fantastic parent.

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  2. @PerfectingParenthood I don't know if we did it perfectly or if I'm a "fantastic parent" but I really appreciate your positive feedback. On another note, I love the word "tough" especially when I think about parenting for my daughter's future success. She is going to have to be tough...life is not easy.

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  3. I do not agree with this parenting strategy. How old is your daughter anyway?

    Kids only get to be kids once. They should be outside playing, soaking in the sun, rather than working. Sure life is not easy, but life has yet to begin for her. Let her enjoy her childhood.

    She will have her whole life ahead of her to work.

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    1. @Bushra I totally get where you are coming from and appreciate your thoughts. Remember, this isn't her full time job, just a fun and educational project that we did together. Her life is full of play...just not a lot of sun...our climate is seriously rainy.

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  4. I sincerely hope that the moral of your story is that support is an emotional activity - not financial.

    Giving and not giving money is only 1% of the parenting picture. Of course, a person like Kevin O'Leary, doesn't understand the basics of parenting, he understands money, and is so utterly naive that he genuinely believes it is all he needs to know about life and parenting. From what I've seen and read of Kevin O'Leary, he has no idea what fatherhood actually means - he genuinely believes that sitting back and doing virtually nothing for his kids and doing everything for himself, is what fatherhood is. He lives every day of his life spending money on himself, buying things he doesn't need, and then praising himself for doing so - while his children get to watch. At best, this is mediocre parenting. He's not a good father, just a man who has a lot of money. Two entirely different realities.

    Tough-love is only appropriate in certain contexts and at specific times. It has to be used judiciously and with caution. Generally, the world is already tough for children, you're not "making" it tougher. If you actively engage children in how they think, who they are, what they dedicate their free time to; if you devote attention to the kind of person they are, that's underneath the activities they do, then you're on your way to what good parenting actually requires - authentic parent-child engagement. The money comes afterward.


    Psychologists and specialists in this field (aka, thinkers) offer plenty of information and insight for modeling oneself on parenting. In other words, you don't go to a mechanic to learn about parenting.

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  5. Ummm...well I gave my kids lots of things including cars, a university education, and spring holidays in Hawaii. The result ? One orthopedic surgeon. one equity analyst, one lawyer and one investment banker. The kids are all in their 20s and early thirties. When people ask them how they became so ambitious they said they wanted to maintain the same style they had become accustomed to.

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