We have consistently given our children an allowance. We’ve tried all the various methods, read much of the research and theories, ultimately giving them their age in dollars.
The kids have been begging and pleading to take their spending money into the toy section at Target for a free-for-all day of shopping where they can pick anything they want. Our oldest reminds us that it is their money, after all, and they really want to buy something with it!
This whole idea did not sit well with me. A free-for all in the toy section!? I’ve seen the crap that they oogle– I don’t want that on my floor! They’ll poke their eyes out! Someone will most definitely get injured. $25 for that hunk of plastic!? Are ya kidding me!? If only I could guide them to an educational, yet fun game that could last and could be grown into just a little bit. Or at least something that we can pass down to a cousin! Not some crud made in a factory overseas that is going to break within 30 minutes!
I took a deep breath and eyed Michael. He nods and reminds me what it was like to wield money at the toy store (candy store) as a kid. I didn’t get this opportunity often, to be honest, but I can imagine. We have been saying yes as parents more and this was one way that we needed to let go- just a little. Michael reminded me that here was an opportunity to see what the kids have learned so far in our little conversations, our examples, and daily living. It could be a teachable moment– for the children and ourselves.
We set some guidelines: 1.) Each kid was allowed to spend up to a certain dollar amount, but they didn’t have to. 2.) Mom & Dad can’t say no to their choice. 3.) Mom & Dad would consider a contribution towards a toy, within reason.
After our grocery shopping, we set out to the toy section. It was interesting to watch the kids pass up on all the things they had “wanted” so badly. Our oldest wandered along to some NERF style guns (ugh!) and tried to find one to buy. He was close in price, but not close enough. We reminded him that we could revisit his spend fund in a few weeks, to give him more time to save up. Nope. This looks like it might be more fun when we have a yard and when more of my friends can play too. He shopped on.
All the Barbies, Disney, and Frozen didn’t appeal to our 5 year old. She passed on EZ Bake. Craft kits and the available Legos. She passed on books, coloring things, and games. She was hung-up on her limit and found one item that she could afford in her price range. But mom, it is the right price, but I don’t want it. It’s ugly.
The preschooler was easy. The easiest by far. He also doesn’t get the “big picture” of what we were doing, but got a new toy anyway.
Back to the two big kids: The oldest shopped on, determined to find just the right thing. After passing on all the hunks of plastic I was concerned about (with no influence from me), making some very serious decisions about what he’d like to play with, he settled on a Minecraft book.
Our five year old was beside herself. At this point, she was irritated because after an hour in the toy section, she had no toy she really wanted. I angered her further by sticking a GoldieBlox game in the cart (clearance priced!) for later use. Finally I suggested a trip to the bookstore. Plus, with my educator’s discount, their money would go a little farther.
After arriving at Barnes & Noble, they both went straight to work. Our big guy found his book and a Lego themed journal. He was thrilled. After much thinking, our 5 year old really wanted a Lego set that was a tad out of her allotted spending limit. Actually, what she wanted at first was a toy that she was already too old for, and would have instantaneously outgrown. (A Leapfrog toy picnic basket. I promised she could pretend with our real picnic basket.) I was so impressed that she didn’t see the first thing that she could “afford” and let that dictate her purchase, as many others may have. We allowed her to purchase her Lego and contributed the difference, some of which will come out of the remainder of her spending fund.
When given the opportunity to buy whatever they wanted, they were critical in their thinking, weighed their options heavily, and owned the moment, not settling for second-best.