The Gift of Want

The holiday season is upon us and all the kiddies are writing or typing (texting?) up  their lists for Santa.

You, like I, may decide to supplement the Santa gifts this year with some of your own  giving.  I just visited Toys ‘R Us and looked around at other online stores (to get gifts for our grand kids and great nieces and nephews), so I personally know how  expensive it is to buy gifts even for the littlest ones – let alone the pre-teen and teen group!

If your child is asking and hoping for an expensive gift item this year, you may want to gear up to handle disappointment if they don’t receive it.

One way to do so is to give them the gift of want.

In order to be able to teach your children about money – about earning, saving, spending and giving – it is almost imperative that your child really, really, really wants something that they don’t currently have.  After all, if a kid’s every want and need is handled before they have time to realize the desire is there, what incentive is there for a kid to learn to earn or save for it?

The gift of want is essential – and you can give it.  But getting your child to want something is no good if you don’t help them to discover how to go about getting it!  That  is where the true learning experience happens.

So if your child doesn’t get that much desired holiday gift this year, even if you can afford it, don’t give it to your kid– and if you can’t afford it, don’t complain about not being able to.

Instead, do a bit of pre-work and then sit down with your child to help them think through (and carry  through with) getting what they want.

Help them figure out what they can do – no matter what age they are – to earn the money to buy the thing they want.  Help them succeed in budgeting their income (whether from  earnings or gifts or allowance) so that they persist in saving towards what they want.  Help them understand that if they buy 5 small things this week, that money is gone and can’t be used towards that thing they want.  Help them understand that they can be an entrepreneur.

But, you say, “How can I teach my kid to be an entrepreneur? I’m not trained for this!”

Here are some suggestions to help your child learn to earn.

First – sit and think about your child.  What does she like to do, what is she good at, what things cause her problems?

Second – again, by yourself or with your spouse, brainstorm age appropriate ways for your child to earn money – considering her likes/dislikes and strong/weak areas.

Third – have a meeting with your child (after they have complained about not getting that thing they want so badly several times).  Talk about how people earn money, suggest that they can also do this.  If your child is young, maybe  you suggest some small jobs around the house that you would pay them to do.  If older, talk about a few of the ideas you came up with that  match your child’s interest, but then ask them to think through what they might like to do to earn the money and set up a meeting for the next day or so – so they can tell you what they want to do to earn the money.

Fourth – once you know what your kid wants to do to earn money, plow the road for them.

If they want to shovel snow, make sure they have access to an area where homeowners will let them shovel, an area that is relatively safe and that your kid has access to a shovel or snow blower they can operate.

If your kid wants to sell lemonade, scout out (yourself, beforehand) a good location.  Talk with the merchant in charge of the location to make sure they can agree to letting your kid sell there.

If your kid wants to babysit, make sure they know how, can handle emergency situations and then round up (ahead of time) a couple of good prospects at church, in the neighborhood or at work.

Fifth – Let them start their business – but you are in the wings guiding, supporting and applauding.

They need to feel that they are the ones running the show.  You need to help them understand how to run it successfully – coach them in the beginnings of doing business.

Coach them on business concepts – in their language, for their business.

  • Branding & Marketing Suggest she brand her business (“What shall we call your lemonade stand?”). Talk about the reason signs are made – walk around and look at different kinds of signs.  Let her make up the design for her sign and then figure out together what materials she can use to make it.
  • Location Point out the busy tourist center to her – the one you already lined up with the owner – and suggest that she would get lots of thirsty customers here because “look at all the shoppers and tourists”.  Walk around with her and talk about the best spot and hours for her business at this location.
  • Pricing – take her to a deli that sells lemonade to check prices and quality with her.  Talk about what other places charge for certain sizes.  If she wants to charge a lot more, ask her what makes her lemonade better or different.
  • Inventory – talk about how many cups of lemonade she thinks will sell, then help her figure out the kinds and amounts of ingredients and supplies she will need (lemons, sugar, sweet-n-low, ice, cups, napkins and etc).  Show her how to compare prices at a couple of stores, then take her shopping (you’ll probably need to front the money to her).  Have her review the receipt when finished.
  • Practice selling – help her come up with a pitch to sell the lemonade, then set up a table for her at home and have family members listen to her and coach her as she practices the pitch.
  • Do the business – be there, but in the background.  Take pictures, applaud when she sells, provide support and protection if needed, line up some ringers to make sure she gets sales.

Sixth – count up the sales and celebrate.

Get that supplies receipt out, have her subtract that total from her gross income to come up with net income.   Make a big deal of her success.

If she didn’t make enough money to get the thing she wanted, don’t push it – let her decide what to do next.  She could drop it, she could go again with another stand or a different business idea or set up some kind of ongoing deal.

When I was a sprout, my folks did something similar – only I sold red plums from the plum tree in the backyard – carting them around the neighboorhood and selling them from my little red wagon.

There’s a book,  Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst that does a great job showing a kid what happens when you fritter away your money instead of saving it up for that thing you want.

A lot of the ideas above on teaching your kid to be an entrepreneur came from the book Young Bucks  How to raise a future millionaire  by Troy Dunn.  It’s an easy read, written by a father and a millionaire and it has a bunch of suggestions on businesses kids can start.

What do you do when your child is disappointed by not getting THE gift at holiday time?  Can you think of other ways to handle that situation?

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7 thoughts on “The Gift of Want

  1. Good Cents Savings

    What a great message for parents! I have been thinking a lot lately about the lessons we can teach our kids to give them the best start in life, and trying to teach that entrepreneurial spirit is such a fantastic idea. Thanks for the book suggestions too!

  2. World of Finance

    Nice article. I think it’s so important to start teaching kids about PF at a young age. 🙂 It’s not something that you learn overnight, so learning about it over the years while growing up, makes a world of a difference. I thank my mom for being a great role model with PF.

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