15 Things We Like to Tell Kids (That We Don’t Listen to Ourselves)

[Hey guys! Matt from MethodToYourMoney.com is stopping by the site today to remind us of all those sayings our parents used to tell us growing up (that we hated), yet we still turn around and forward over to our own kids ;) But perhaps they should be redirected to ourselves, instead? Take a look and see how many of these you need to be better about…]


Cruising through the Twittersphere can be a dangerous proposition these days.

Aside from the obvious time-wasting pitfalls, you’ve got to navigate around the trolls and rodents of unusual size in the FIRE swamp.

But a while back I was scrolling through my feed when a tweet from J. Money caught my eye:

get what you get

It got me thinking.

I’m a parent, a teacher and an assistant principal. I spend A LOT of my days talking with kids and “encouraging” them to make “good choices” (read: telling them what to do and how to do it).

As I let J. Money’s words marinate in my head, I started to feel a knot begin to form in my stomach.

You know that feeling you get when you have to eat your own words and chow down on humble pie? I had used those exact words with my own kids on a daily basis, but knew I hadn’t always practiced what I’d preached. It’s an experience I get more than I care to admit.

My mind started spinning like an out of control merry-go-round run by a spaced-out carnie.

What other pieces of advice do us adults give that we should take ourselves?

They say that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

I don’t really get what geese have to do with anything, but I know that if we’re going to give advice to kids and actually expect them to take it, we should be living that advice out ourselves.

After all, more is CAUGHT than is TAUGHT!

So without further ado, here are 15 pieces of advice that adults give kids that we would do well to follow ourselves.

#1. “Stop complaining”

If you’re a parent, you’ve heard these words come out of your mouth multiple times. I know I’m often telling my kids that we shouldn’t be complaining.

I want them to focus on the positive, to be optimists, glass half full type of people. To not get bogged down by the negativity around them. But how often am I doing the exact opposite in my own mind?

I lose my marbles thinking about the INSANITY of Costco and how much time I waste there. And when traffic is snarled anywhere all of a sudden, I become a certified driving instructor giving all sorts of free driving tips to other motorists!

I also find myself complaining about the weather all the time, especially on vacations. But when I focus on the rain falling I miss out on everything that’s important – my beautiful and healthy wife and kids, getting to spend quality time with them, having the means to actually GO away on a vacation in the first place.

Rather than let my complaining blind me to the many things I have to be grateful for, I need to be better about practicing gratitude as a discipline in my life. Not only will it change my outlook, but people will like hanging out with me a lot more too.

#2. “If you want to act like a child, I’ll treat you like one!”

We’ve all been there… your kid asks for something in the supermarket and you say no, setting off a display that makes Shock and Awe look more like Bert and Ernie.

Not getting what you want is hard. It sucks, but we all know that kids need to learn this lesson otherwise they’ll be in trouble as they get older.

Let me ask you this though. When’s the last time you said no to an impulse purchase? Were you surprised when you took J. Money’s “want” tracker challenge?

Kids do what feels good. Adults do what IS good.

Be an adult.

#3. “I’m going to count to 3…”

Parents say this all the time to kids.

“I’m going to count to 3, and if you haven’t INSERT WHATEVER YOU WANT YOUR KID TO DO , there’s gonna be INSERT EMPTY, RIDICULOUS THREAT.”

Why do parents do this?

Not only does it limit the child’s ability to stall, but it also gives them an opportunity to stop and think about their options. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Especially if you start counting in partial steps as I have lately, haha… “2….. 2 and 1/2!… better hurry up!…. 2 and 3/4…… Whew – you *just* made it!”)

Counting to three can come in much more handy for adults. Going back to the impulse purchases would be a great place to start.

Next time you’re out window shopping and you see a thing you can’t live without, try stopping, counting to three and then asking yourself:

  1. Is this a need or a want?
  2. Is this something I had planned on buying already?
  3. What would Warren Buffett do?

After you’ve pondered these questions, impose a 24 hour waiting period. If tomorrow comes and you still want the item as badly as you do right now, go for it! You’re allowed to spend money! Just not on every last thing out there.

#4. “One day you’ll thank me for this”

Saving money is hard for most people. This is because when you save money for your future self, your present-self feels like they’ve just lost the money.

And humans HATE losing.

This is called “loss aversion,” and it’s why we have such a hard time with delayed gratification.

But trust me, saving now is a REALLY good thing, even though your present-self will hate you for it. As the ancient proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

#5. “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”

A legitimate, and logically penetrating, question that has caused the heads of kids worldwide to spin uncontrollably. In fact, it’s become almost a cliché.

People have been doing dumb things for thousands of years, and then the people watching those people have continued to do those same dumb things for thousands of years even more.

God – “Adam, if you saw someone eat the apple, would you – ahhhh, idiot!!  I can’t believe you ate the apple!!

Most recently we saw this happen with Bitcoin. How many of the millions of people who invested in it really knew anything about it besides the fact it was “the future of money”? Even J. Money fell for it! ;)

As adults, we need to take the advice we’re giving to our kids. Don’t invest in something just because everyone around you is. And don’t copy any of the other dumb moves for that matter like playing the “who can have the bigger house” game!

In middle school you had to work hard to fit in. It’s OK to stand out now that you’re an adult.

#6. “We can’t afford it”

This is a lie parents like to tell their kids to get out of buying something for them. But the fact is most people can afford to buy what they want, but they choose not to.

Life is all about choices and you can choose to afford pretty much everything within reason. If you think I’m off my rocker, ask yourself how others who are making the same income as you can pull it off?

Now, you may not like the choices they’ve made and they may be too extreme, but don’t lie to yourself and say you can’t afford it. Instead, tell yourself you CHOOSE not to afford it.

It’s a much more empowering way of thinking of it.

#7. “If it seems to good to be true, it probably is”

Even though adults LOVE to spread this little nugget of wisdom around, we don’t often like to take it.

When we hear the latest story of something that seems too good to be true, we still get caught up in believing that maybe THIS TIME it’ll be different.

I know I’ve been burned by this. I had a colleague who had a “hot tip” once on an investment, and being the savvy investor I was, I listened with interest (no pun intended).

It was early 2008, and he was advocating the buying of Iraqi Dinar. At the time the Dinar was so undervalued that the thinking was, when the country stabilized, it’d be exactly like Germany after WWII when it’s currency skyrocketed.

I had to admit, the returns being tossed around were AMAZING, and although it sounded too good to be true, if it had worked in Germany, why not the Middle East? Maybe this time would be different?

Nope. It wouldn’t be.

I bought a few hundred dollars worth, and now have a brick of worthless paper jammed in a drawer somewhere. I’m still waiting for it it to pay off!

“This time” is NEVER different.

If you ever hear a friend, or a friend of a friend, or especially a friend of a friend who’s a money guy, GIVING INVESTING TIPS, run… Run like Forrest Gump and don’t look back!

#8. “Eat your vegetables!”

At its heart, this classic line to chide your kids into consuming more produce is really about doing things that are difficult or unpleasant in the short term, in order to reap the rewards in the long term.

It’s why people exercise, wake up early to establish powerful morning routines, and don’t pound Ben and Jerry’s 7 days a week.

As adults, we constantly need to be reminded to “eat our vegetables”.

Does budgeting suck? Ya, at times, but in the end, it’s worth it. Is it fun saving 15% or more of your income, which is essentially like taking a 15% reduction in present-day purchasing power? Nope. How about paying off loads of debt? HARD NO.

So why do people do these things?

Because they’re eating the adult equivalent of their vegetables. They’re doing the hard things NOW, so that they can reap a big payday LATER.

It’s the ultimate exercise in delayed gratification.

So eat up!!

#9. “Be polite and kind”

Kids the world over are instructed to do this from the moment they start playing with their little friends. If you were to ask parents why they give their kids this advice, they might say, “because it’s the right thing to do.”

And they’d be right.

The world badly needs more kind people!

But let’s be a bit more strategic here. We all know that building relationships is one of the best ways to grow your career, business, and ultimately your income. And that doesn’t happen if you’re a jerk.

Sure, you can still get things done and probably get them done quicker, but people don’t like working with, or helping out, chumps. As the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”

#10. “There are starving people in Africa who would gladly eat your supper”

Speaking of Africa… This one has been around for A LONG time. And while I’m not in the business of promoting guilt as a way to change behavior, the advice surely rings true.

At its heart, this comment is about being grateful for what we have because there are so many people in the world who would die to be in our position. And many do as they make their way from war torn poverty to places that offer them the promise and hope of a new life.

We shouldn’t feel guilty for what we have. But we should 100% be grateful for it.

Gratitude doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a discipline that needs to be developed.

Try starting your day with the following gratitude pump up session: write down 3 things you’re grateful for currently: One should be simple, like the sun on your back or the wind in your face. The second should be a person in your life, and the third should be something you’re looking forward to.

As you build your gratitude muscles, your thankfulness will spill over into other parts of your life, and before long you’ll find yourself not only finishing up all your supper, but devouring the vegetables!

#11. “Have you done your homework?”

Parents have been asking this question for millennia, and even more so in this present age of helicopter and snowplow parents.

As adults though, when it comes to your money, have you done your own homework?

  1. Do you know how much you’re paying in interest on your debt? What’s the interest on your credit cards? Do you know the terms? This info can be found on your credit card statements, online, or by calling the customer service number on the back of your cards.
  2. How much are your investment fees? Are their other good options that would be less expensive? If you have an advisor and you don’t know the answer to these questions, you probably need a new one (or switch to doing it yourself).
  3. Do you know how much you’ll need to retire? Do you know how much you need to be saving each month to get there? Or are you just kind of wingin’ it? If you’re flying by the seat of your pants, you’d do well to either educate yourself with some awesome online resources or get in touch with a fee-only financial planner (you pay a flat fee and they give you financial advice. They don’t sell any products so there’s no conflict of interest).

If you don’t have solid answers to these questions, you can’t go outside and play with your friends :-)

#12. “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”

Oh how I love this phrase. The way it rolls off the tongue and it’s ironclad logic has stymied my children more than a few times.

But what if I took this same advice I so love to give to everyone else?

What if we rolled with punches, had a go with the flow attitude, and didn’t get so bent out of shape when things didn’t go the way we wanted?

Well, I can tell you we’d all be a lot happier. I heard author Charles Swindoll once say that, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.”

Life isn’t what happens when things go perfectly. Life is when things go sideways and get messed up. The sooner we learn to read and react to what life throws at us without getting our shorts in a knot, the happier we’ll end up being.

#13. “You know, when I was your age…”

“Oh geez, here we go again…” said every eye-rolling young person as they hear this for the 45th time.

Every generation feels like the one before them had it better, and each preceding generation feels like young people are spoiled, entitled whiners.

It’s time we millennials changed things.

Yes, housing was WAY cheaper. And wages, yes, compared to the cost of living, they were better. It’s true, you didn’t have to sell a kidney on the black market to pay for college! And yes, there wasn’t reality TV (Ahhh, the good old days)

But there’s no point in waxing poetic about yesteryear. The challenges are real and present, and in some cases, systemic. But they don’t have to be excuses.

We all face challenges. The generation before us had 18% interest rates, fuel shortages, mullets and Cyndi Lauper for crying out loud!! It wasn’t exactly a cake walk!!

It boils down to this: You can either get caught up making excuses for why you’re not getting ahead with your money, or you can go out, get after it and make things happen for yourself. Excuses are a MASSIVE waste of time. Look at any successful person and what you’ll find is an extreme level of accountability for their situation.

As Ben Franklin once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

#14. “Money doesn’t grow on trees!”

It’s true. I have yet to find a tree that produces actual dollar bills. But it sure as heck feels like some people have an easier time getting cash than others!

What’s their secret?

For most, the secret to finding their very own money tree is by growing their main income, as well as developing multiple streams of income.

If you’ve got a job where there’s even the slightest possibility of upwards mobility, you should be working as hard as you can to make that happen. Even if you don’t love your job, do your best and go above and beyond so you’ll stand out and get noticed. And when you do, you’ll cash in on your hard work!

Second, most people who seem to be swimming in money continually practice the art of growing side incomes. Whether it’s through rental properties, investments, freelancing, a blog, or some other gig, they hustle hard when everyone’s sleeping, and then set their money up to compound while they go to sleep themselves.

People don’t get rich with only their 9-5 or by winning the lottery. They get rich by grinding and putting their money to work.

#15. “Clean up, clean up – everybody everywhere. Clean up, clean up – everybody do your share”

Do you know who Derek Fisher is?

If you’re a basketball fan, you probably do.

Fisher was an 18 year veteran of the NBA. He played for a bunch of teams, journeying all over the league, but his most successful years were in his two stints with the LA Lakers.

Why am I talking about Derek Fisher?

Well, Fisher joined the Lakers in 1996. They sucked pretty bad at that time. But in 1996, the Lakers acquired a talented and cocky high school phenom by the name Kobe Bryant as well as the original Big Diesel, Shaq.

After a few years of growing pains as a team, the Lakers became a force to be reckoned with, taking home 3 straight NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002 with Shaq and Kobe getting all the glory and press.

But then the Lakers stopped winning championships for a few years. In fact, they didn’t win again until taking home back to back titles in 2009 and 2010.

What happened to cause this dry spell for the Lake Show?

Well, in 2004, Shaq got traded. You’d be tempted to think that’s why the Lakers couldn’t bring home the hardware they had before, but you’d be wrong.

It was in 2004 that Derek Fisher left the team and signed a multi-million dollar deal with the Golden State Warriors that did them in.

Three years later Fisher rejoined the Lakers, and they went right back to making the finals again, losing their first one, but going on to win back to back championships with Fisher at point guard and Shaq still gone.

Now Fisher wasn’t the best player on any of those teams to be sure. Kobe and Shaq were the dominant forces. What made Fisher so important was that he played his role incredibly well.

Because Kobe and Shaq were such beasts, teams would often send two players to double-team one of them, leaving a player with no defender on him. Often, that happened to be Fisher. And because he developed a reputation for being able to hit clutch shots, his teammates would seek him out time and time again in those situations.

All Fisher did was deliver. Time and time again.

The point: the quicker you realize that you’re part of a team and everyone has an important role to play, the further you’ll go together.

This is true in your family, at work, and in all your other relationships.

Bringing It All Together…

So there you have it, 15 slices of humble pie for adults everywhere to keep in mind as they continue the tradition of spreading these sayings to their own kids.

My goal with writing this list isn’t to make you feel bad about yourself, but to get you to keep in mind the following two things:

First, to remember to be CONSCIOUS about what you are saying to your kids, and not just giving them the ‘ol jump off a bridge routine because that’s what your parents said to you!

Have a thoughtful conversation with them, a talk about how hard it is to not follow the crowd, or to be grateful, or to delay instant gratification. Not only will your kids appreciate the skipping of a lecture whenever they do dumb things, but they’ll love you for your honesty and it’ll help develop a much closer relationship together.

Second, to remember to pause and reflect on whether you’re living like you’re wanting to be.

Are you actually practicing what you preach, or are you just saying one thing and doing another – drifting along aimlessly through life? Because if you’re drifting, it’s never too late to start making your way towards the life you ACTUALLY want to have, in both relationships and finances.

I know we got deep today, but hopefully you appreciated the kick in the pants :-)

Feel free to jump into the comment section, and I’ll happily continue the conversation!

Matt is an Assistant Principal by day, and a personal finance blogger at night, as well as a husband to an awesome wife and father to two little munchkins. You can find him writing about money, family, and mindsets over at MethodToYourMoney.com, or on Twitter @Method_Money.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more fun things people like to say, check out our post on financial sayings I wish were true, and those I’m glad are not! ;)]

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  1. Marc @ Vital Dollar August 24, 2018 at 7:25 AM

    I’ve definitely caught myself telling my kids to eat their vegetables, only to look down at my plate and notice that there are no vegetables.

    1. Matt August 24, 2018 at 10:36 PM

      Totally in the same boat Marc. I find myself telling my kids they need to lay off the candy while I’m crushing the nachos. I definitely need to take a dose or two of my own medicine, ha ha…

  2. Zach August 24, 2018 at 8:52 AM

    Thought provoking stuff Matt! Thanks!

    One thing we sometimes have to do with our toddler is bargain with dinner: “Eat some of your veggies and you can have a cookie”. Kind-of relates to saving and retirement.

    Saving is hard work and sometimes painful. Sometimes I don’t want to do it, I just want to get to the fun part: retirement, spending, the “cookie”. But without saving and budgeting now, we don’t get our “cookie” later on. Plus, cookies taste so much better after you’ve eaten your veggies :)

    1. J. Money August 24, 2018 at 10:47 AM

      Haha yeah they do ;)

    2. Matt August 24, 2018 at 10:39 PM

      That’s a great point Zach! Perfect analogy. Again, it all comes down to doing hard things to get a payoff in the future…delaying gratification.

  3. Tainted Tiara August 24, 2018 at 9:55 AM

    We always say, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!”


    1. Matt August 24, 2018 at 10:41 PM

      Love it! We always talk to our kiddos before we give them the choice to hopefully avoid the fit…didn’t work tonight ;)

  4. Freedom 40 Plan August 24, 2018 at 10:15 AM

    Oh man, my Mom used to pull out #5 all the time “If everyone jumped off a bridge would you?”

    Being a smarty pants, I’d always counter with something like – “Well Mom, I don’t know. I mean, how high is the bridge? Is the water below pretty deep? Why is everyone jumping? Are they being chased by Zombies? If that’s the case, then yes, yes I would jump off the bridge!”

    1. J. Money August 24, 2018 at 10:49 AM

      OMG I wish I had thought of that!! Haha…. I bet they just loooooved dealing with you :)

      1. Scott August 24, 2018 at 2:29 PM

        My counter is that I believe I picked good friends so if my friends are jumping off a bridge there must be some sound logic behind it and there’s a decent chance that I’d follow suit.

    2. Matt August 24, 2018 at 10:46 PM

      Hilarious. I can only imagine how your parents responded to that!! Kids definitely keep parents on their toes!!

  5. Stevo August 24, 2018 at 10:24 AM

    Great post. As a recent first time dad, I’ll try to revisit this in the future when it comes time to start sharing what little wisdom I have! Really enjoyed the handful of quotes too

    1. J. Money August 24, 2018 at 10:49 AM

      Congrats daddy!!

    2. Matt August 24, 2018 at 10:51 PM

      Being a parent ROCKS!! And don’t worry about not having a lot of widsom…in your kids’ eyes you’re an expert in everything…at least until they turn 3.

  6. Lily | The Frugal Gene August 24, 2018 at 11:17 AM

    Money doesn’t grow on trees!

    Chinese people have those money trees though!!

    They say adults are just kids with money…that saying didn’t just come out of nowhere :p. I know a few babies with bad credit card debt and buries their head instead.

    1. J. Money August 24, 2018 at 12:44 PM

      Haha, true that…

      Love those Money trees too – especially the braided ones!


      “According to Feng Shui masters, the Money Tree or Pachira is thought to bring good fortune and luck to those who place it in their home or office. As the Money Tree grows, it will sprout new stems of leaves which will unfold into a five leaf stem.”

    2. Matt August 24, 2018 at 10:55 PM

      That’s a great point Lily!! Lot’s of big kids out there who haven’t yet mastered the art and discipline of delayed gratification.

  7. Kalen August 26, 2018 at 11:24 PM

    Great read!

    Complaining is a huge one!

    I agree that more is caught than taught. I think we all know that internally, but we don’t think about it actionably. And then of course, as parents we can all get tired and lazy, which leads to slacking on our job of equipping our kids.

    1. Matt November 27, 2018 at 10:31 PM

      Couldn’t agree more Kalen. It’s tough as a parent to maintain consistency in our behavior, let alone teach our kids. Even if we’re not perfect, we can still set up kiddos up for success!!

  8. Carrie October 4, 2018 at 9:52 AM

    Love this article!!! I’m printing it out and may quote part of it in my next staff meeting :)

    1. J. Money October 4, 2018 at 10:17 AM

      haha… I dare you.

      (double dog dare you, even!)

    2. Matt October 4, 2018 at 11:29 PM


      I’m glad you liked it!! When you said staff meeting, my ears started ringing…are you a teacher?