Saturday, September 21, 2013

Doing the Right Thing

Margaret - Nine to Five - Atta Girl - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Doing The Right Thing
Keep it simple is my motto in theory.  Over think, over analyze, over do is my practice.  Since my actions don't always resonate with my words, I spend a lot of time reeling myself in.

I have a simple strategy when it comes to my kids' spending:  odds are you don't need it, so don't buy it. Anything they NEED is produced for them by their adoring parents.  Little surprises, treats, and "just because" purchases are few and far between, but they do exist.

My girls are ten and four, and up to this moment, we haven't had too many issues born out of following this edict, even though many of their peers' exist in different spending societies. They don't ask for much and when they do, they're usually not upset at a "no" or "you can save up for that" response. Enter the Family Economy.

I read this great book called The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child with a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership, as recommended by a fellow parent, friend, and preschool owner. The title got me at the word Entitlement, as those 11 letters call me out from wherever I am and whatever I'm doing and demand that I take a step up to my Soapbox.

Just reading or hearing the word Entitle, which is defined by Webster’s as “to furnish with a right,” makes my heart race and initiates my fight or flight response, as I am dead-set against joining today's society of “me”-based parents that are fostering a crop of mini-“me”-based kids.  Those entitled children will grow into our next generation of entitled adults.  I can’t bear the thought!

The book was simply preaching to the choir with me but I borrowed its idea of a monetary system to use early-on with kids to help them grasp the concept of both personal responsibility and Finance 101, called The Family Economy. While author Richard Eyre targeted 8 years old as the perfect time to start such a lesson, he wrote that younger kids could benefit as well.

My 10-year-old picked right up on it:  you meet your weekly responsibilities and you earn the pre-arranged amount of money, based on the percentage of tasks completed.  The money is then hers to budget as she chooses, after she sets aside her portion for college savings and charity.   The 4-year-old is still working on the basics of remembering to meet her daily responsibilities, such as combing her hair and making her bed, so the money is not accumulating as quickly. She knows she has some money, though, and she's morphed into the worst version of a toddler shopaholic that you can think of.

Picture this:  Target shoe aisle, 5 pair of sparkly flats fanned out in disarray on the floor around my daughter as she furiously tries on the 6th pair, and she's screeching, "I want these.  No, I really want these!  Oh, Mom, this pair is the one I want!"  It's the $19.99 pair of size 12 Hello Kitty glitter ballet flats, not to be confused with the $1.99 pair of flip flops that originally caught my eye and landed us in the shoe department in the first place.

"They are pretty," I say softly, "but it doesn't make sense to spend that much money on something that won't fit by next season since there's only a few weeks left of warm weather to wear them."

"But I have money," she whined. "I can buy them."

"You didn't bring your money so we don't know how much you have to spend," I coaxed.

"I've got enough," she said defiantly. "I want them."

"But since the money's not here, we won't be able to leave the store with the shoes because we can't pay for them," I reminded her.

Back and forth we went for a good five minutes.  At some point as I stood there debating this ridiculous purchase with my 4-year-old, I realized there was no need to continue.

While my 10-year old can benefit from making an impractical purchase with her earned money and then having to experience not having enough money or having to bargain-shop for the things she needs more, the lesson doesn't translate yet to the little one. Regardless of her having her own money, she is still a tiny child that doesn't fully understand money,  I am still her parent that makes, and sometimes helps her make, good decisions, based on the values and principles we hold near and dear.

No shoes.  No need.

As I pushed the cart away from the show section, I lamented over the fact that just finding one of the Fiat-sized kiddie carts amongst the hundreds of regular-sized Target carts used to be enough excitement to keep my daughter occupied throughout an entire shopping excursion.  I also considered how close I had come to giving in to the $20 shoes, just to shut down the whining and because I felt bad for her always getting hand-me-down shoes from her older sister.

Don't buy into this, I have to remind myself from time to time. Don't get swayed by my kids' complaints, society's norms in regards to money, or my own inner conflict with money's importance.  Do what you know is best.  Period.  Another day, another kid, another parent....fine.  Today is about me and my kid and our life lessons, whether we want to experience them or not.

9 to 5 - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Doing the Right ThingAfter some grumbles, sighs, and stomping, my 4-going-on-8-year-old begrudgingly climbed back into the wide-load cart and asked excitedly, "Mom, can we ride on the elevator?   PLEASE!"

“Atta girl!” I silently congratulated my daughter, and maybe myself, while channeling Margaret from my favorite movie, 9 to 5, when she salutes Violet, Doralee and Judy for leaving work early.