What do you do when your child asks you for an expensive item? Do you give it to him?
I believe saying yes isn’t always what’s best for your child. I remember when my son—who was 12 years old at the time—came up to me with a similar demand.
I was relaxing one Sunday afternoon at about 1:00 pm when he approached me and said, “Dad, I need a new baseball bat.”
“Great!” I replied. “How much will that cost?”
“Oh, about $300,” my son said.
My eyes bulged when I heard the price. $300? For a bat?
“Son,” I said, “what about those bats we say in the store for $79, $89, and $99? They looked like pretty nice bats.”
“Well, to get the kind of bat that really gets you the best results, it’s around $300,” he explained.
I leaned closer, put my hands on my knees and said, “OK, here’s what I’ll do. I’ll put $100 toward the bat, but if you want a $300 bat, you’re going to have to figure out the other $200.”
My son was furious with my answer. He got in my face and started complaining and having a fit. But I didn’t waver. I told him I would only give as much as $100.
Without a word, my son left the house, grabbed a wagon, filled it with cleaning supplies, and walked down the street.
My wife looked at me and asked, “Where on earth is he going?”
“I have no idea,” I replied. “He was mad I wouldn’t buy him a $300 bat!”
What Saying ‘No’ Taught My Son
Later that evening, around 6:30 pm, my son came back home, dragging his wagon of cleaning supplies behind him. He looked exhausted.
I found out he spent the whole day cleaning neighbors’ cars and made $77 that afternoon.
I was proud of my son for going out and earning the money on his own, but I was even prouder of the way he did it. I got glowing notes and reports from the neighbors whose cars he washed. One was a woman down the street who told me my son paid special attention to detail and followed up on spots she asked him to re-do without complaining.
That night, I asked my son how he was going to earn the rest of the money for the bat.
“Oh, I’m not getting a bat anymore,” he told me.
I was shocked! He just spent the whole afternoon working to save up for a bat. Now he’s not getting one?
“Why is that, buddy?” I asked him.
“Well, my friends told me I could borrow theirs, Dad,” he said. “They have really nice bats and are willing to share, so I don’t think I need one anymore. Plus… I just worked really hard for this money. I don’t want to part with it so quickly just for a bat!”
I was so pleased with the financial lesson my son learned that day. He finally understood the value of money once he had to put his own sweat and time into earning it.
How to Say ‘No’ to Your Own Kids
Maybe your son doesn’t want a bat. Maybe it’s something else. But I would encourage you not to cave to every whim your child has, whether it’s an expensive one or not.
Take opportunities when you can to teach your child the value of money. When they earn money on their own, they understand what’s worth spending on—and what’s not.
If you’d like to discuss your family’s finances more in depth, reach out to me at email@example.com