My four year old has hit that age when she wants everything that she sees.
A Target run used to be fairly easy. I could buy her off with a $1 toy from the cheap box. She’d read through the new book or draw on the pad of paper happily, just as my one year old will now do.
The four year old, though, understands now that the $15 wedding dream Barbie is so much better than the $5 beach Barbie.
On Sunday my husband surprised my daughter with this: “You were such a good girl this week that when we go to Target today you can choose a new Barbie.” (Said after slyly whispering in my direction, “How much ARE Barbies, anyway?”)
She has wanted a boy Barbie doll to play prince to her Sleeping Beauty and princess crew so I led her to the $5 Ken, the beach doll, the one with sandy blond hair and a Hawaiin shirt. She immediately grabbed the $15 groom doll, the one with the dark hair and the black suit, clutching him so tightly I thought he might break.
“What about this one? ” I asked, handing her the beach Ken, the one that was ten bucks cheaper and, I must say, definitely not as cute.
“He’ s not a prince! He’s wearing shorts!” She clutched the $15 groom even more tightly, and when I told her, “Honey, we don’t have the money for that today,” she flung herself on the floor and howled as though the life had been sucked right out of her thirty-nine pound body.
I wanted to cry with her.
Yet I also knew that this was the best opportunity to explain to her the idea behind savings, and money, and that sometimes we can’t have the things that we want, even if we want them so much our heart might break.
I figured she would understand this lesson I was about to teach more than, say, me clutching a shiny necklace in my hands, flinging myself down in the aisle beside her, and screaming, “Hey, I’d like to have this new necklace, too!”
I read an article recently that said as we face this poor economy with our children we should never say, “We don’t have the money for that right now.”
I don’t get that at all.
Don’t we want our kids to understand that money isn’t easy to come by, and that we don’t always have extra for the ‘fun’ things we would like to have? Don’t we want them, need them, to understand that the necessities in life (food, clothing, shelter) are most important, and that we have to work hard and save for the toys?
I understand the need to teach about money: savings, spending, earning.
I don’t understand the idea that we should not be honest and tell our kids that sometimes we just don’t have the cash.
If my daughter wants something really, really badly, she earns it. She earns money for her chores, and we put that money in a bank, and when she finds something at the store that is $10 or $5 or $3 I say, “Well, let’s go home and see how much money you have and what you need to earn to buy this toy.”