If you had asked me four months ago if my daughter was one of those kids who begs for toys or throws fits in stores, I would have smugly said, "Oh no." I'd always been pretty grateful that Gabriella seems to be a content child whose main weakness is all that blooming candy near check out. (WHY?????) She had meltdowns to be sure, but they weren't often inspired by materialism.
Cue Christmas 2014:
Scenario #1: Me chasing her through Wal-Mart as she rushed shrieking towards checkout with a jewelry box. Gabriella thought she was home free pushing it onto the conveyer belt.... until I took it off. Then she screamed bloody murder while flinging items out of the cart.
Scenario #2: Gabriella face down and spread eagle on the floor. She's hollering, "MOM, I JUST WANT TO SHOW YOU SOMETHING!!!!!"
Scenario #3: Gabriella sprinting through the house sobbing. She's cry screaming, "MOM, WE DOOOOO HAVE MONEY!" while waving my coin jar above her head. I'm trying not to laugh.
Whether it was the frequent shopping trips or the in-your-face toy displays (or both), this season introduced us to a new aspect of parenting. Sweet girl wanted every toy. She wanted it now. And she wanted it loudly.
Thankfully, her age-appropriate antics led the hubs and me to have some really wonderful conversations. About simplicity, about what we want to teach our kids about money, about delighting our kids with material goods, and about surviving this new season.
Here are a few things that we've been experimenting with recently:
I now always tell Gabriella what we're going to the store to buy. Pulling into the Target parking lot, and I asked her if she remembered why we were there. "To buy some groceries, a shelf, and medicine." Then she waved her arm. "And noooo toys. That's not why we're here."
It may sound harsh, but I straight up tell her now, "We're not buying anything for Ella today." In my conversations with Billy, I realized it was important me that she not always have to have something when we go into a store. Even if it's affordable or what not, I just don't want to nurture that expectation.
Of course, Gabriella was doing so well in Target, I bought her some stickers as a reward. Maybe that blows the whole point, but she did exhibit an attitude of gratefulness instead of entitlement. For me, that's a big step in the right direction.
Helping Her Spend Her Money
Up until age 4, I basically spent her Christmas and birthday checks for her. But this year she was going on and on about some "Dora flip flops" she had seen on a recent trip to the store. She was openly claiming, "I will get those for Christmas."
Since I'd already purchased her gifts and actually had no idea what "Dora flip flops" she was talking about, I became concerned that Christmas morning would be a disappointed sob fest. (Fun!) I was perplexed about what to do. I didn't want to run and buy something additional just because she saw it and wanted it. But I also didn't want to create drama.
Then she got an early Christmas check. So I took her to the store and let her pick out her own shoes. First of all, Dora flip flops were abandoned quickly in search of "black ballerina shoes."
Then there was a moment when I thought for sure we were going to go home with "clear, princess heels." I was stressing out, but really trying to let her make her own choice. Ultimately, she settled on some sweet, black Mary Janes.
I kid you not, she wears these shoes every day. Letting her be involved, talking how much she had to spend, and making her choice has (like all of us) made her very invested in the ultimate purchase.
We tried this again with her birthday cash. She was grabbing everything in the store, asking "Do I have enough time for this?" Ha! So I worked with her and told her she did, in fact, not have enough money and would need to make some choices.
She handled it like a rock star, putting back an adult polka dot umbrella and a pack of headbands. This one was a keeper, though!
For the first time this year, I let her help me buy gifts for cousins. She was also involved in choosing a present for little brother Isaac. Of course, I'm still heavily directing a lot of this. (Leading questions, anyone?) But I'm hoping to cultivate a spirit of generosity.
Billy and I were both warmed when, on Christmas morning, the first gift she pulled from under the tree was the one she got for Isaac.
Workin' Hard for the Money
Billy and I are excited to start setting up opportunities for Gabriella to earn money around the house. She's already familiar with the idea of "family jobs," or chores she does for no pay. (Her recent comment to me: "Mom, I get tired of doing laundry." Tell me about it!)
But we are thinking of ways to let her do more and start earning some money she can use to grow her incredible costume collection.
The last few months have been filled with more public tantrums than I care for. But I am encouraged by the ways those outbursts have led all of us to grow a little. Billy and I have been pushed into a new phase of parenting, and Ella has also had some glimpses of precious maturity that are so fun to watch.
I'd love to hear strategies that have worked for you as you train kids in the area of money? Or values that you hope to instill along the way?