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The No. 1 money behavior kids learn from their parents

CNBC Select spoke with Mac Gardner, a financial literacy advocate for young children, on what parents are teaching their kids about money (perhaps without even knowing).

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Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.

Kids start to mimic what they see their parents do from a very early age — and you may not be realizing what they're picking up.

Whether it's what parents buy, how often they buy things or whether they look for deals, children are watching just how their mom and dad spend money. Some experts even believe that this is one of the biggest financial patterns kids adapt early on.

"I believe the number-one behavior children learn from their parents is spending habits," Mac Gardner, certified financial planner and author of "The Four Money Bears," tells CNBC Select. "It's one of the first financial behaviors children pick up at an early age."

Below, CNBC Select spoke to Gardner, a financial literacy advocate for young children, on his experience speaking with kids about money, and how parents can play an active role in teaching their kids about their finances.

Gardner's go-to money question for kids

Gardner's perspective on kids and money comes directly from what he hears from them. The "$100 Bill Challenge" is a specific question he asks elementary school students.

"I show them a $100 bill and ask them, 'What would you do with a $100?' Gardner says. "Nine out of 10 kids respond that they would use it to buy something. One could say that kids are programmed to consume at an early age."

How parents can play an active role

To help combat the idea that money is meant for spending rather than saving, Gardner suggests that parents teach their kids all the different ways money can actually be used. 

He's developed four basic rules of managing money: 1) spend cautiously; 2) save diligently; 3) invest wisely; 4) give generously. Parents can kick start their teaching by talking to their kids about making a plan or setting a goal to buy something. They can then create a mini budget and show their children how money can be saved for other things down the road. And as kids grow older, parents can begin to teach them about credit.

One of the ways you can help your child build good credit early on is by having them save up for a secured credit card, which is best for credit beginners but requires a security deposit upfront.

The Capital One® Secured has no annual fee and with a decent credit score, your teen can receive a $200 credit limit minimum by putting down only a $49 or $99 deposit. This is a great feature considering many secured cards require $200 deposits to receive an equivalent line of credit. (You have to be at least 18 to open a credit card on your own, but many cards allow you to become authorized user as young as 13.)

If you're looking for a secured card from a major bank, the Citi® Secured Mastercard® offers no annual fee and cardholders are required to make the typical $200 security deposit for a $200 credit limit.

Even before looking at what credit card their child can get, parents can start by showing them how credit cards work and helping them understand common credit card terms.

Bottom line

How an adult manages their own finances has a lot to do with how they were raised to think about money. Since parents' spending habits go a long way in teaching kids to consume, try to balance it out with showing them the other ways money can be used. Developing these life skills early on can make all the difference.

Information about the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.