“I don’t want my child to be a spoiled brat,” says every parent I’ve ever known. But are you teaching them to value experiences in your everyday life?
I know kids like toys, games, clothes, and nice stuff, but I don’t want my son to value those things over everything else because I know that material possessions don’t lead to true happiness. In fact, in the absence of good advice, they might get into the habit of continually buying things in order to feel better.
I know I felt like this up until my college days, so it’s probably harder for younger people to grasp the concept of valuing experiences over things. The earlier they realize this “truth,” the happier they will be later in life. That's why it's critical to teach your child to value experiences — not money — as early as possible.
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Stop Buying Stuff — Do Stuff
My son is only in first grade, and I’m already tired of buying stuff. I look back at old photos when he was three and four years old.
I used to get him so many toys — most of which I can’t locate anymore.
My son recently brought home a great report from his teacher. I had some extra money leftover at the end of the month, but instead of rewarding with him a new toy or a video game, I decided to sign him up for a basketball team at the local park district and for Boy Scouts so that he could make some new friends and develop more skills. He loved it, and we’re both able to get more involved in the community through Boy Scouts.
Just this past summer, we focused on getting out and doing fun things together. We went hiking and camping, visited the zoo, and took a short family trip to Wisconsin Dells. Sure, all these things cost money, but my husband and I budgeted for it ahead of time. And since we weren’t spending money on expensive toys and games, we felt good about it.
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Keep Track of What Your Child Throws Away
Every few months, I de-clutter my son’s room with him present. We go through toys and items he’s no longer using so that we can either throw them away or donate them.
Almost always, a few of his toys get placed in a bag, which means that he’s done playing with them. Sometimes it stings to see him pitch items that I bought just a year ago or had laid away specially for Christmas one year.
I keep track of the things we pitch so that when we’re in the store, I can remind my son that he doesn’t really need more stuff.
Kids are quite forgetful. They will just keep asking for more stuff if you don’t continually remind them that they already have enough or don’t need the item they’re pining after.
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Let Them Know That Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees
Money certainly doesn’t grow on trees. So there’s no reason to pretend that it does just to make your child feel better. Sometimes my son talks to me as if I can just rip a few bucks off the tree outside and buy what he’s asking for.
For example, if my son asks me for a game system that costs around $350, I may say something like, “That game system costs about as much money as it takes to feed us for the entire month.” We can’t afford it. Period.
It’s also important to make sure that your children understand that while they can’t have everything because you can’t afford everything, the number and quality of their experiences is priceless.
And you’ll be saving some real dollars in the process, too!