The Hammer and the Rock Story - Teaching kids about saving and patience
The other day I heard a story about a man hitting a big rock with a hammer and I thought it was a great way to help teach my kids (and other kids) an important lesson about money.
The story went like this:
A lady was walking through a park and saw a man hammering a huge rock.
She asked the man what he was doing. He said “The rock is blocking the path so I want to break the rock into smaller pieces so I can move it.”
“How long have you been hammering this rock?” asked the lady.
“About 3 weeks now” replied the man.
The lady thought the man was crazy as the rock was so big and, he’d hardly made a crack.
The lady wished him luck and carried on.
The next week the lady was again walking through the park and saw the same man. He was still hammering away at the rock.
It still didn’t look there were any cracks.
She felt sorry for him but just politely said hello and carried on with her day.
The same thing happened the next week. She was starting to think he was really wasting his time and should give up. As she didn’t know the man that well, however, she didn’t feel it was her place to say anything so just went about her business as usual.
Then another week went past and the man was still hammering away at the rock. Each time see saw him, she got a little more frustrated in that he was doing something without any sign of results.
Then one day, she finally felt she had to say something.
“You’ve been hammering this rock for nearly two months and there isn’t a single crack,how about you just give up!”
The man smiled and carried on. Just as the lady was waking away there was a huge cracking sound. She turned around and saw the rock had been split into a number of smaller pieces.
Without a word, the man started to pick up the small pieces of rock and cleared the entire path.
The key message from this story is that just because we don’t see results straight away from taking small positive actions, you shouldn’t give up!
Applying this story to help your kids learn about saving money
This story can apply to many different parts of our lives. For example, a lot of people give up dieting or going to the gym as they don’t see any ‘cracks’ (results) appear in the short term.
Specifically in terms of teaching your kids about money, this story educates them about patience and consistency. Both of these characteristics are needed when saving. If you save a few pounds here and there, it might not seem like much in the short term but if you keep saving (hammering) then over time great things will happen.
The lady in this story is now more likely to appreciate the benefits of small actions as she witnessed it first hand. This is what we as parents need to show our kids.
For my girls, we invest their savings each month and show them their savings as Blue Trees. As they save more, and their investments grow, their Blue Tree forest also grows. As they are young, their Blue Tree forest is relatively small. As they get older their forest will gradually get bigger. By the time they are adults, they will have a lot more Blue Trees and they will have seen first-hand their forest grow slowly but surely over the years.
We can all tell our kids that money can make money if you save or invest but it might not feel real to them. If they can actually witness their money growing over time they are much more likely to retain this experience and carry on saving when they become adults.
I’d strongly recommend that you as parents start saving for your kids (if you aren’t already), no matter how small, and get into the routine of showing them their savings regularly (weekly or monthly). Whilst it might not look like much has changed each time, you can refer back to the man with the hammer and let them know that their small amount of savings will eventually add up.
Avoiding the bad money habits
Teaching them the super important lesson about patience doesn’t just help them see the benefits of savings over time. It can really help them avoid a number of pitfalls that come with not having patience (especially as we are gradually moving into a world where we increasingly demand things ‘now’, i.e. lacking patience).
Before I put this in a money context, let’s go back to dieting. Having a naughty treat isn’t going to impact your health straight away, i.e. you’re not going to put on a few pounds over night if you eat one doughnut. However, if you continue to believe that each individual treat isn’t going to make a difference then these will add up and the weighing scales will start to increase.
This is similar to why a lot of people develop poor spending habits. They feel that spending small amounts on a treat isn’t going to make them poor, which is true. However, buying small treats on a regular basis is going to end up making a big impact on your overall financial position.
If our kids can see that they can build wealth by saving regularly, they will have witnessed a method that works. Without this experience they could be tempted to try other ways to build wealth which they feel will take less time. For example, signing up for a ‘get rich quick’ seminar (scam) or investing in the latest and greatest trend (e.g. bitcoin, penny stocks) or gambling (which will be the subject of my next blog so make sure you subscribe, if you haven’t done so already). These alternatives appeal to a lot of people as we live in this world of increasing impatience. Ironically this leads to a lot of people getting poor, whilst in fact trying to get rich quick.
Quote to remember
To help drive home this point that it takes time, let’s learn from Warren Buffett. He’s one of the richest men in the world (4th based on the Forbes 2020 List) and has built his wealth over many years by investing in companies.
Someone asked him “Given your strategy to building your wealth is relatively simple why don’t more people copy you?”
“Because nobody wants to get rich slowly!”
We need to help our kids to be patient and consistent. If they do then they will grow up with a big advantage in life. If your kids adopt this mindset then, you never know, they could be the next Warren Buffett!!
I’d recommend you tell your kids the 'Hammer and the Rock Story’. Get them to understand that small actions can have big outcomes but the outcomes can take time to show.
Start saving for them now and show them their savings regularly - over time they’ll have both a good amount in savings but more importantly, a patient savings mindset!
To help you show your kids their savings building up over time as bushes or Blue Trees, you can use the new ‘Blue Tree Habit Maker’ which will be available from September. Find out more and put your name on the waiting list at www.bluetreesavings.com.
Thanks for reading!
Full video of the Hammer and Rock story can be found here
What to read next? 4 things I learnt about money from my parents