Eva and I were in Target the other day and overheard a conversation between a cute little girl and her Mommy. It went something like this:
Cutie: Mommy! MOMMMMMMYYYYYYY!
Distracted Mommy: Yes sweetie?
Cutie: (Pointing wildly at the toy shelf) Can I have that? Can I have it?
Distracted Mommy: Hmmmm?
Cutie: Mommmmmyyyyyyy! Can I have that? I want it!
Distracted Mommy: Maybe for Christmas…
Eva: CHRISTMAS? Are you kidding me? It’s APRIL and she’s FIVE. She has no clue how far away Christmas is. COME ON!!!
Me: SHHHHHHH!!! They are gonna hear you!
This made me remember all of the lame excuses I used to give Price and Eva when they were little and I was that ‘Distracted Mommy’. It took me a few years to get past the normal things that parents say. You know. The ‘we can’t afford it, maybe next week, I just got you a new toy yesterday, maybe for your birthday or Christmas, or maybe if you make all A’s on your report card’ stuff that us parents say to our little ones. Don’t even get me started on the whole ‘you can have it if you are good’ routine because it’s always a great idea to tie your children’s self worth to a $10 toy at the toy store…..(frowny face).
Now that my kids are 20 and 17 it’s easy to look back on what those moments could have held for my children. And it’s always easy to second guess harried parents at Target and how they deal with their children. At the same time, it’s worth taking a closer look at what that conversation could have been:
Perfect Mommy: Yes Sweetie?
Cutie: Do you see that baby doll? I want it, will you get it for me?
Perfect Mommy: Ooooo. That is so cute! Let’s take a closer look at it.
Cutie: Can I have it? Pleaseeeeeee?
Perfect Mommy: Well. It costs $10.00. Let’s check your wallet and see how much spending money you have this week.
Perfect Mommy: Hmmmm. You have $7.00. That means you need $3 more dollars to be able to buy this doll. You won’t be able to purchase it this week.
Cutie: But I want to get it now!
Perfect Mommy: Would you be interested in doing some extra chores around the house this week in order to earn the money? With your allowance and extra work you might be able to save up enough to buy it by next week. I will help you come up with a plan to do the extra work so that you can earn the money. After you save up we can come back and get it then.
See what I mean? By paying attention, the whole conversation becomes a moment in which the ethics of hard work, delayed gratification, and the joy and satisfaction of earning something becomes the priority. It isn’t just about the new toy. It’s about the outlook that your child will have about money, themselves, and material possessions for the rest of their lives. When we give our children lame excuses or just buy everything for them, we rob them of so much in life.
None of us are perfect and we will routinely miss teachable moments. But we can try to be more purposeful in our interactions with our children regarding money.
How do you use every day conversations to help your children understand the value of money?