As parents, we want what’s best for our children. But the best thing for our kids isn’t always what they want—or, at least, it isn’t always getting them what they want right when they want it.
Before you give in to your child’s whim, buying the latest toys or clothes, stop and think about some of the lessons you are teaching him or her. Consider that sometimes it makes sense to say no. Doing so can teach your child valuable life skills, such as budgeting and money management, as well how to handle the ups and downs of life.
Teach children to handle disappointment
“I’ve known disappointment,” my son told his grandparents when he was seven. It’s true— when he asks for a toy or wants to do one more activity, sometimes he’s told no. It’s disappointing, but he knows that there is a proper way to handle it. With the toy, he knows that he can save up to buy it if his father and I won’t do it for him. With the activity, he understands that he needs to give up something if he wants to do this particular activity instead.
Life doesn’t always go your way, and you can’t always buy yourself happiness. Saying no can teach your children to feel better in the face of disappointment and to move forward. It can also teach them to be content with what they have and to look for the good in the current situation. When my son is told we won’t buy him a toy, he usually goes downstairs and pulls out something he hasn’t played with in weeks. Suddenly, what’s old feels new again.
Encourage them to save up to buy what they want
Another good lesson kids can learn when you tell them no is that they can save up and buy what they want for themselves. Instead of just buying my son a new bucket of Legos, my husband went online with him and searched out new and used buckets. They compared prices, and my son looked at what he had saved up in his spending jar. Together, they found a collection of Lego pieces on an online auction site, and my son paid for them with his own money.
Not only did he get a good lesson in comparison shopping but he also learned that his money has value and that he can buy things himself—there’s no need to always rely on mom and dad.
Teach them that patience is important
Sometimes we tell our son that he has two options: He can save up the money to buy what he wants, or he can wait until his birthday or Christmas to see if he gets it. This helps him learn patience, it teaches him that good things come to those who wait, and it shows him that something you’ve anticipated is all the sweeter when you finally get it. Patience is a good quality to have, and my son is developing it (at least in money matters).
Help them develop an interest in earning more
When confronted with the cold, hard fact that he doesn’t have enough money for something he wants, my son immediately becomes interested in earning more money. We don’t pay him for chores, but he can help with filing for my home business or by shredding the numerous credit card offers that arrive every day. Recently, he helped me with research for a project I worked on for a client. He has also decided to enter six projects in the county fair this year so he can earn more ribbon money.
One of the best ways to help your kids develop an entrepreneurial spirit and solid work ethic is to tell them no and then encourage them to find ways to earn more money to get what they want.
Of course, you don’t always have to tell your kids no. Sometimes we buy a treat or a toy for our son “just because.” And sometimes when he wants to eat out, we indulge him—but not on a regular basis. Because we set the pattern from the time he was old enough to begin earning money, he’s used to the idea that he won’t always get what he wants unless he finds a way to pay for it.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the co-author of Community 101: How to Grow an Online Community, and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.