Here’s a roundup of recent thoughts at the intersection of parenting and money.
A First Purchase
I’ve experimented with letting Bean, our 3.5-year-old, spend a little of the cash in her piggy bank to give her a sense of how money works. This is somewhat difficult given that she is still in the stage where she doesn’t understand the face value of money, only volume. So, having two “monies” is clearly more than having one, higher face-value “money.” We’re working on it.
Several months ago, I let her bring a few dollars to the local science center and pick an item from the $1-$2 STEM toys bin (local AND educational, y’all). She chose a dinosaur race car, and paid for it herself.
While in the gift shop, she desperately wanted to buy a stuffed puppy. I told her that we wouldn’t buy it today, but she could think about whether she really wants to another day. I explained that if she trades her money for it, she cannot trade her money for something else.
She remembered the puppy for multiple months, across a few more trips to the science center. She would ask every so often if she could still buy the doggie. A few weeks ago was the big day:
One satisfied customer! I hope I taught an early lesson in delayed gratification and mindful spending.
Money See, Money Do
Bean, as Mommy shopping: “This is good!” *puts in cart* “But this…” *turns up nose* “is TOO expensive.” *puts back on shelf*
Materialism and Kids
Yesterday I was listening to the newest episode of Bad With Money with Gaby Dunn. It featured a researcher who has shown that children who are punished/rewarded with material goods as children tend to value material goods more as adults. That is because parents inadvertently give a lot of value to the goods by making them objects of desire and frustration for the kid. (The interview is the last part of the show, beginning around the 30-minute mark, if you’re curious.)
We don’t take away toys as punishment much in our house, although we do take away the television from time to time if we get a report that Bean was not listening well at daycare. It’s effective, but I’ll consider whether that sets a good example.
It did make me wonder about another of our parenting practices, though. We constantly remind Bean who got her the toys in her life, which are mostly gifts from people who live far away. We tell her they got it for her “because they love you.” This was in attempt to cultivate gratitude (so she knows toys don’t come from a void) and remind her of the people in her life that she does not see often. It has definitely stuck. She routinely asks, “Who got me this?”
I worry sometimes, though, that by linking the material item with the love, we’re sending the opposite message: “If so and so doesn’t buy you something, they don’t love you.” I haven’t necessarily seen positive signs of the message being heard that way, but it’s a concern. It’s definitely making me consider new ways of framing how we talk about her gifts. I am also trying to find ways to help her understand that everything others do for her, not just the material things, are because of love. I’d appreciate any thoughts or advice on that front!