I will move Heaven and Earth to give my children their hearts' desire. But last week I made my 11-year-old reimburse me for a pack of gum.
Beth Falkenstein: Yes, I felt petty and cheap, but a pack of Eclipse did not qualify as her heart's desire -- not even the Big-E Pak. Neither does a daily Starbucks, the newest shade of OPI nail polish, or any shampoo that only comes in an eight-ounce bottle.
All those little niceties add up, and believe it or not, I am not able to retire on my blogging revenue (actually, I'm saving it for a down payment on a tank of gas). Therefore, if my kids want ballet lessons, a student trip to Italy, or even a better computer, they're going to have to forgo seeing "Ponyo" a second time ... unless they pay for it themselves.
Likewise, if my kid loses something and needs another one, it goes on their tab. My daughters have to learn somehow that hair clips and socks are not one-use-only items.
I know this isn't news, and I'm merely following the conventional wisdom of countless child psychologists. Making them use their own money is supposed to give kids a healthy appreciation of finances and greater enjoyment of the things they choose to buy. But what these experts fail to specify is exactly when this "ah ha!" moment is supposed to take place. I've been at it for years now -- and I have yet to hear one of my girls say, "I can live without this ... (mechanical pencil, novelty ring, packet of Lisa Frank stickers, etc.)." I tell them they have to pay for it themselves, and they say "Okay." End of story.
And when their money runs out, do you think they regret their impulse purchases? Of course not. They just bide their time until the next babysitting or allowance money comes in and then they're off to the temporary tattoo store.
Furthermore, I want to know what advice these experts would give regarding the damage I am most certainly doing to the image my children have of me. For every time I say "Look! I bought you a new computer!" there are at least fifty times I say "You owe me 99 cents for that iTunes download." I could make a Jack Benny reference here, but then you would know I was old enough to make a Jack Benny reference.
This strategy has to work eventually. And it's for their own good, so I'll keep it up. I can't afford not to. Literally.
|Beth Falkenstein was a sitcom writer and freelance contributor to "Self," "Redbook," and "YM" magazines before taking a full time job in her kitchen. She loves her new bosses (ages 13 and 10), and is grateful that they approve of inter-office romance, because Beth thinks her co-worker (Jim, age 45) is really hot.|