Do you always give kids what they want?
Middle-class parents often work hard to give their children the life that they missed while growing up. They aim to be able to give everything, including the luxuries that were withheld from them. But is this really wise?
Raising Happy Children
Last time, I wrote about my desire to raise happy children, taking the extra effort to put a smile on their faces. We would like to see them enjoy their childhood through play, travel, as well as many other happy experiences. It may include but not limited to buying them toys, clothes, accessories, and other collectibles.
But in our young family, we have made it a practice that the kids do not get everything that they want. This has been instilled to them since they were toddlers. With Shawna, it has not been much of a problem. With Shane, things can get a bit more challenging.
The LOL Surprise
Shawna and Shane learned about the toy called LOL Surprise through an unboxing video on YouTube. For several months, Shane had been saving for it but when December came, she still only gathered PhP8. She knew that it costs hundreds of pesos so she did not really bug us to buy it.
We are not sure how, but she realized the she can actually earn by singing Christmas carols. She sang “Thank You, Ang Babait Ninyo“, which was her performance task for their Filipino subject at Bright Kids Preschool, to every grown up that she meets.
Here is a video of Shane singing a Filipino Christmas carol during our family reunion at Cana Retreat.
After gathering PhP250, Shane said that she needs to earn some more because what she wanted to buy was the limited edition toy. We just let her because we didn’t want to ruin her diskarte.
The Toys R Us Visit
When Shane’s money reached PhP395, we decided to visit the mall. Papa reminded her of the concept of “Earn. Save. Spend. Donate.” that they learned from the series Cha-ching. He explained in simple terms how the P395 should be applied on the concept:
- 10% goes to savings (this savings is for the future and is on top of saving for what she wanted to buy)
- 10% goes to charity or our help fund
Shane got excited because she already did the earn part and she was about to do the other two parts. But then she also got excited about the spending. Uh-oh. Papa had to convince her that the spending is not really something that NEEDS to be done. The spend part is about using money on things we need.
She confidently marched to the Toys R Us store at the newly opened Ayala Malls Capitol Central. That was the first time we saw the LOL Surprise and the price shocked us. What she wanted was worth P850! Her total earnings was not even half of the cost of a single LOL Surprise toy!
While we have bought them toys worth more than that in the past, we thought that the LOL Surprise was just too expensive for a single and very small item.
Papa had to painstakingly explain to Shane that her money was not enough to buy one and that even though she had enough, the LOL Surprise costs a lot. It is made in the USA, so when converted to pesos, the cost of the item gets multiplied many times.
Thankfully, the little one did not throw a tantrum. With the help of Shawna, the sisters decided on buying a Hatchimals set of two eggs that was PhP395. It’s still not cheap, but it’s half the price of the LOL Surprise. The girls shared the cost, with each one contributing P200 from their own money.
Shane was happy with her purchase. And while she continued singing carols throughout Christmas until the New Year and earning money, she never once brought up the subject of buying an LOL Surprise toy anymore, even though she can already very well afford even three of them.
We are Not KJ
We are not killjoy parents. Like most parents, we also want to shower our kids with the finest things, as long as we can afford them. This includes costumes, because we believe in the benefits of dress up play for children. However, we know also know that:
- They don’t always need more new stuff.
- These may or will end up as clutter.
- We can use the money to save up for worthwhile and meaningful stuff, like mutual funds for their college education and saving up for family travels.
This Includes Food
Another common notion that I would hear is not splurging on things but only on food. While it is a good concept, we sometimes excuse “spoiling” kids because they are just asking for food anyway.
Possible Outcomes of Giving in to Demands of Food
- Gluttony is okay.
- Food becomes a love language.
- Obesity becomes a problem.
- Junk food is preferred over healthy and natural foods.
In our family, we try to keep a regular schedule of family meal times. This covers the basics: breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks, and dinner. We allow them to have desserts, but only Shane seems to have the penchant for sweets and in-betweens.
When somebody gives them something to eat in between their regular meal schedule, Shawna would keep the item while Shane has the tendency to open the pack immediately. But if their Papa and I are there to remind her that she can eat it after her meal, she would naturally oblige.
Mind you, we do not lord it over our kids. We gently tell them why it’s not good to eat when a main meal is coming because they will lose their appetite for real food. They have developed that habit in themselves. Both of them are not overweight, not only because of genes, but also because of their personal discipline. They don’t eat more than their fair share, even if I offer them so much more.
That discipline is what we all need, including myself, because I wasn’t trained to control myself. That is why keeping a healthy weight is such a struggle for me. Thankfully, our kids are doing a better job than I am in that aspect.
The Incident at Cana Retreat
We spend the last days of 2018 at the Cana Retreat in Amlan, Negros Oriental for a family holiday and reunion. There were goodies being distributed and Shane wanted a particular canister of wafer, although she already had four different cans, but it was a prize for the games. She cried and threw a tantrum. But after some convincing that Papa will play the game and get a chance to win, she composed herself.
The sad thing was, Papa lost. Shane threw a fit again and this time, it lasted for about an hour of crying and shouting. Our relatives tried to pacify her and one even offered to exchange her prize. Since it was a big can, we asked Shane if she was willing to exchange her three small cans of wafer. She refused.
So she did not get anything and we didn’t want to give in to her either. I warned her that if she didn’t stop throwing a tantrum in five minutes (this is already after an hour of negotiating), she will get a slap on her bum and I would cancel her swimming privileges for the rest of the afternoon. Guess what? She didn’t stop.
In the end, she got punished and never got what she wanted. We talked after the incident when she was already calm and asked her if her tantrums helped her get what she wanted. She said no, as remorse is clearly evident on her face. In fact, she just spent the afternoon playing by the poolside, looking at her sister and cousins having fun in the water. This made her realize her mistake and that we won’t budge on our stand. She knew she was wrong and didn’t complain anymore nor did she throw a fit for the rest of the trip.
Why We Don’t Give Kids What They Want
These are the lessons that the kids learned during this time of raising funds for Christmas, which we pray will stick with them throughout life. These are the reasons why we don’t give them everything that they want:
So that they will learn that there is dignity in working for what they want.
We want to let the kids know about the reality of work. In this life, money doesn’t grow on trees. They have to know that.
So that they will learn to wait for the appropriate time.
There are certain purchases that can wait. They can save up for what they want until they can afford it. They don’t have to buy something immediately just because everyone else has it already.
So that they will learn to think whether they ought to buy something just because they can afford it.
Shane has the tendency to look for something to buy even if she doesn’t need it. It’s like the mentality “I need to shop!” At the supermarket, she would fill up our cart with just about anything. Papa needs to remind her that she doesn’t have to spend all her money at one time. It makes her Papa wonder how a 5-year-old can come up with the concept of “needing to shop”. The shopping impulse is natural?
So that they will not grow up entitled, thinking that the world is obliged to give them everything.
Let’s face it—this is a hard world. In this day and age of social media, we see young people going viral because of “demanding” to be served and given what they think is due to them. Why do they have that attitude? Is it because of their personalities or the lack of training? I am not sure about the reason, but the only thing I can be sure of is that kids are “trainable”.
More than material things, we believe that character building is more important in raising the next generation. And that’s exactly what we are doing. That day at Toys R Us, we taught Shane a hard lesson, but something that we know she will benefit from later in life.
We don’t always give our kids what they want, but we give them what they need–the lessons that they would need to go through with their lives as grown ups.