Shopping carts spill into the snowy parking lot. The family stands outside ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. You make your way into the store where Christmas music streams overhead. They’ve stacked the new “must-have” items right in front so you make your way around the display, ready to dive into your list. And then you hear it.
“But we already have games at home, Kylin.”
“No, mom, that’s not this. I want this one. We need this one.”
“I don’t think we do, dear. Let’s stick to our list.”
“No one likes the boring list. I want this. We need this. I came with you today, didn’t I? We never get the good stuff.”
The mom stoops to grab the box …
Unfortunately this will not be an isolated incident this holiday season. Many of us – most of us – have been there. In the middle of a store, our kids begging for the next best thing. For something else. Something they just can’t possibly live without while they throw in a “reason” they deserve it.
So what can we do differently this holiday season to avoid raising a spoiled brat? What can we do to teach them life lessons about money and contentment? We’d suggest these 3 conversations to invest in their character and knowledge:
1. You don’t need a reward for the good things you do in life.
Bethany and I believe our “Everybody gets a trophy” response to kids from this current generation was not helpful. It programmed kids at an early age to expect to be rewarded for doing things most kids from earlier generations just did.
Bethany just returned from a trip to see her cousin. Her cousin’s son moved to a different school this year. She told her how this new school gives rewards for everything. Her son gets a sticker for being well behaved in the classroom. She thinks their son should be behaving well in school as a general rule so she is puzzled at the daily reward for his behavior.
Now when he’s at home he expects to be rewarded for things like taking out the trash or helping out. She told him that is just part of being a good family member, not cause for medals or stickers. It certainly warrants a, “Thank you,” but not a plaque.
Be on alert. If you hear things like, “If I do this, can I get that?” Stop that thinking in its tracks. (Their future spouse and employer will thank you.)
Now is the time for them to learn you don’t need a reward for the good things you do in life.
2. Enough is enough.
You may have even heard this one as a kid. Moms have been right for generations. Enough is enough.
It is such a huge win to teach your child to be content with what they already have. Just think how that could change their whole life. (And make yours better while they’re under your roof.)
Are they always asking for more? If so, stick to your “no” at the store. Plan, at least once, to leave the cart at the check out when they won’t stop asking. (Then they’re the only one surprised. You’ve been expecting it.)
Set expectations before you’re in the heat of the candy aisle. And then follow up later about your conversations at the store. Point out their contentment successes and talk through any stubborn behaviors.
You don’t need to be mad at them. They don’t know a better way until we train them. Listen to their language. Do they always beg for more, bigger, better, extra?
Keep your ears open and help them build up their ability to hear “no”. Break the habit of expectation that something is always owed to them.
Have a conversation with your child to help them understand the dangers of always wanting more. They probably don’t even realize it. Help them see their behavior and see the benefit of strengthening their “gratitude attitude”.
If we give in to their every wish, the end result is an entitled child. No one wants that. So let’s do all we can to avoid raising a spoiled brat.
3. Money doesn’t grow on trees.
This is a great lesson to teach our kids when we are just “doing life” together. It’s a good topic to discuss and hear their thoughts when you’re just spending time together.
Depending on their age, find opportunities to talk to them about how much stuff costs and an average starting wage these days. Share with them about expenses you pay like health insurance, cell phone bills, or even the mortgage.
This never ever needs to be a guilt-ridden discussion, but at a certain age it’s helpful for them to know how much a house costs or the difference in price between types of tennis shoes, etc. It’s a good exercise with teenagers when you’re driving around to ask them how much they think things cost. Talk through the reality of prices. It’s good for them to know and appreciate how expensive life can be.
We are huge fans of summer jobs for teenagers. They learn how quickly money spends and how slowly it adds up.
For young and old kids, credit cards make them think you “have” the money all the time. We remember when Cade was a first-grader and asked for something and Bethany said, “No, honey, we don’t have the money for that.” And he told her, “Just use that plastic card.”
They are learning at a young age. What are we teaching them?
Help them understand that expenses add up and there is more to life than their wants. Remind them they are a member of a family, a community, a nation, and a world in need of their generosity. It’s not all about them.
Work through these 3 lessons with your child with a love and a concern for their life at home with you and their future success. Bethany and I aren’t doing it perfectly by any means, but we are doing all we can to avoid raising a spoiled brat.
We dream of raising contented, hard-working, responsible adults.
That’s worth the effort now, for sure!
Make it happen!
Scott & Bethany Palmer
The Money Couple
Creators of the 5 Money Personalities