Teaching kids how to prioritize and budget seems daunting. But if you start early and show by example, the lessons are likely to stick. How early? I’d say toddler-age, based on my holiday experience.
A few days before Christmas, I spent the evening with my two nephews: Andrew, who’s 3, and Evan who’s 2. To distract them from poking the presents under the tree, I suggested one of our favorite pastimes – a dance party!
So upstairs we ran to our “dance party” room, Christmas forgotten. But…and this is a biggie…we were all out of glow sticks. And as everyone knows, no glow sticks, no party. So we piled into my car (two car seats, coats, shoes, hats and sippy cups in tow). On the way, I told the kids they could each pick out two toys as an early Christmas present. “Yipee!” from the back seat.
The toddlers made a beeline for the toy aisle as soon as we entered the store. They picked up toy after toy and all I could hear was, “wow, this is so cool” or “look at this, auntie Moni.” Only a quarter of the way down the aisle, they’d already packed our basket with two toys each.
Kids Making Choices
Not surprisingly, three-year-old Andrew picked up a third toy and casually dropped it in. I called him on it, pointing out he already had two. That’s when our little negotiator looked at me with those big blue eyes. “How about three toys, auntie Moni?” he asked, holding up three little chubby fingers next to his face.
I really was torn. I could get them three toys each, and it wouldn’t be a problem. But if three toys, why not four? Where would I draw the line? After thinking a bit, I realized I had in front of me a perfect teaching moment.
As hard as it was to say “no” to that cute little face, I did it. I told Andrew that he’d have to leave one of the toys behind. He heaved a big sigh but said, “Oooo-Kaaaay.” I watched as he struggled to figure out which two toys he wanted most. He picked up each one and studied it carefully. All the while, I had to keep reminding myself not to waiver. I waited until he decided, and we moved on.
This scenario played out a couple more times with each of my nephews before we got to the cash register. But they did each make it out the door with just two toys.
At LNWM, we often advise that a firm, reasonable “no” is a great way to teach kids how to prioritize and budget. The holiday visit to the store with Andrew and Evan made this real for me. My nephews learned what it means to shop within budget and the tough choices that go along with this. For them, this hopefully is just one of many experiences that will lead to good money management later in life.
Have you had a “no” moment recently? I’d love to hear about your experience.