It’s generally considered a ‘gimme’ that parents do their best for their children—teach them right from wrong, ‘honour thy mother and thy father,’ ‘don’t have sex with strangers,’ that sort of thing. But actually, when you live cheek-by-jowl with someone for years, they tend to pick up what you do rather than any image you may wish to project. So it’s curious that neither of my offspring are prone to what’s delicately referred to as ‘bad language.’ I don’t know if there’s a swearing gene but if either of my two are ever censored for fruity linguistics they could perfectly well resort to genetics and simply say, ‘It’s all his fault.’ If there isn’t such a gene they’re on equally firm ground—it’s the Nature v. Nurture argument and if one isn’t their get-out-of-jail card the other will do just as well.
Now swearing’s a matter of taste: one man’s obscenity is another’s expletive or, if they’re a builder, lingua franca. When it comes to money, unfortunately, there’s no scope for debate; it’s important. In the limit, it’s the difference between having something to eat and starving. If it’s so important you’d be confident that, in one way or the other–genetics or example, maybe both–would have distributed to my knowledge-hungry descendants at least a passable grasp of matters financial. Thus having imbibed, they would be launched upon the world with the best possible start in economics.
Oh, dear! Woeful Pater that I am! Through their formative years the kids were subjected to the disgraceful sight of letters bearing the seal of the bank, building society or internal revenue service left in an unopened pile for days, nay months on end. To compound matters, those from the tax people in particular had the odd effect of seeming to switch on the swearing gene. Any attempt by my wife to generate discussion about such things was met with the most pathetic evasions and excuses—‘We’ll talk about it later, dear,’ ‘Need to feed the cat,’ ‘Must go to the loo.’ What kind of an environment is that to shape the minds of the young?
But here’s a funny thing. Well, two funny things, actually. Elder son is now involved in running a very successful business. Junior discovered at age fifteen that he could make money as a sports coach. Together with other entrepreneurial initiatives this has helped fund his passage through medical school without running up a massive debt.
So when I hit the Pearly Gates and the geezer with the clipboard finally gets to the end of his list of my shortcomings as a father, I shall have a prepared response to his disparaging look and gesture towards the ‘down’ elevator: ‘Stuff Nature and Nurture, Squire: just look at the results!’
Taken from: What we fail to teach our kids about money
In addition to being a fiscally irresponsible parent , Robin Hesketh is a cancer researcher in Cambridge, whose book Betrayed by Nature will be published in May 2012.