From July 22, 2009
There just doesn’t seem to be an end to the “I want” - when children just HAVE to have the latest, greatest toy. Most of the time, the toy gets put off to the side within a few days or weeks, only for the next “I want” to come along. How, as a parent, do you deal with this?
Our society bombards us with the newest, fastest, biggest, latest, greatest products everywhere we turn. It’s no wonder that our children get caught up in the frenzy. Whether it be a TV ad, movie prop, friend’s toy, or store display, our children are always wanting more, more, more! It’s hard, also, as a parent, to think about denying our children the newest technology or most popular toy on the market. When we finally succumb to the pressure and buy the item that is so sought after, we see, within a short time, that a newer model is already making our product obsolete! There is no end in sight!
So, how do we, as parents, not get caught up in the fury? How do we say “no” to our children, when the neighbor has said, “yes, yes, and more yes!”? Are our children going to be at a disadvantage if they don’t know how to text by age 6, help Mario find his brothers by age 7, or use the latest iPhone by age 8?
One strategy is to help your children make a wish list. These are things that they want, but cannot go out and purchase right now, whether it is logistics, financial, or need/want reasons. The wish list can be for the holidays, a birthday, or something they can purchase when they have saved their money. Teaching children to delay gratification is an important life lesson. In addition, as children work towards theirs goals, they might change their minds and decide on something else!
Another strategy is to help kids learn to manage money at an early age. Don’t dismiss this because your children are older now and you feel it’s too late. These skills are life necessities. First, establish an allowance that fits within your budget and is a manageable amount for your child’s developmental age. Some experts say $1 per year is a good baseline. From that money, the child should divide it into fourths: donations, long-term savings, short-term planning, and immediate spending. Each month, decide on where to take the donation money, and have your child be involved in the process of making the donation. You can research charities in your area and give him two or three choices to choose from at younger ages. As your child gets older, have him research where to donate the money. In addition, put the long-term savings money into a savings account in the child’s name. Have your child put the short-term planning funds in a safe place, and this is the fund that the child uses for her wish list goals. And the immediate spending is really for the child to use right now.
Parents sometimes want to point out how children should spend both the short-term and immediate money – noting practical ways, avoiding purchasing “stupid” wasteful items, etc. I think that the best lesson in spending is to experience purchasing mistakes. My daughter, Carly, and her friend were famous for going to Target and finding the most ridiculous things to purchase. They would each save until they had ten or twenty dollars, then head off to Target with money in hand. The purchases included Tamagochis, listening devices, a pen recorder, a .5 mp digital camera (yes, that’s ½ megapixel!)…the list goes on. Frequently, their interest lasted the day, until the kids were bored or realized the limits of the item. It was important for her to have control over her choices, good or bad, and be able to share her mistakes without ridicule or criticism.
In addition, your child might ask for that cute shirt from Abercrombie (that costs $42), but when you immediately buy it, YOU will own the passion about that shirt. If it sits in the closet amongst the other shirts that maybe get worn once or twice, you find yourself constantly asking about why the shirt isn’t being worn. You end up in a power struggle over the shirt! But it has no true value to the child. However, when you ask him to use his money for it, he has to think about if he really needs or wants the item before spending HIS money. In addition, when the child does make a purchase, the item has more internal value, and therefore is taken care of better and used more (provided, of course, it is a worthwhile purchase, unlike the items listed above). But remember, both the worthwhile purchase AND the frivolous purchase, when made by the child, have value – one as an internal, feel-good value, and the other as a valuable lesson in learning to think before spending.