By Diane Ako
Olivia has been saving up money from household chores. We pay her a quarter per task.
It's a lesson in how to count money when we dump out the coins to see how much she has to spend. She's still not getting the abstract concept of value, but it will come in time. For now, her idea of counting her coins is to literally count them one by one, regardless of monetary value.
We painstakingly count the pennies (she does it, I supervise), and then I tally up the silver coins and the paper bills (she found a dollar on the sidewalk!). Today, she has a whopping $6.81.
Yesterday, she nagged me to take her to Ross because her friend Kira got some big fancy toy set there, and Olivia wanted same. I told her we would look at it but I doubted she has enough money to buy a big set. She even said, "It's OK, I will just look at it if I don't have enough money."
As we walked in to the store, I reminded her that I would not be buying her the toy if she did not have enough money. "It's not because I want to be mean. It's because I want you to learn a valuable lesson about money, and so you know how great it feels to buy something with your own money," I explained. She nodded and accepted this.
Then, we went in, and she found the toy... for $24.99. She's not good with reading prices, but I remind her often what is a dollar sign and to mainly look at the number to the left of the decimal to see how many dollars it is.
"Do I have enough money?" she asked with hopeful eyes.
"What's bigger, 6 or 24?" I guided.
"Twenty four," she said, getting the picture.
Now I think I have another teaching moment because I said, sounding like a textbook, "If the toy costs $24 and you have $6, how many more dollars do you need?"
Frustrated, she just threw out random numbers. "Four. Two. I don't know," starting to slow road to Whinyville. "What is it? Just tell me."
"I'm not going to tell you. You are going to figure it out at home. We will work on it," I said, intending to pull out little visuals for the mathematics lesson.
There was a lot of grousing, crying, nagging, and hiding in the clothing racks for about ten minutes. My advice to her was to save up her money and come back the next time to buy it. "Mommy! I just don't know if I can wait!" she complained.
She attempted to nag or ask me the same question about it, but I wouldn't engage. Finally, she said, "What if I have enough money to buy something now?"
I said, "Then we can look at something for six dollars or less."
She raced over and only found something she half liked. "But I just want to buy something today!"
"Olivia. Not every trip to the store means you have to leave with a purchase. Do you want the toy that you love, or do you want to buy something you half-like today just for the sake of buying it?" I chided.
To my somewhat surprise and amusement, she answered, "I want to buy something today just for the sake of buying it!"
"Well, no. That's silly. You are going to go home and save your allowance another few weeks and we'll return to buy the toy you really wanted," I insisted.
"Why! Why do I have to save money! Saving money is boring!" she fussed, sounding scarily like a lot of adults I know or know of. Because I don't want her to be THAT person, that confirmed for me my decision to teach her to save.
Olivia started to cry again. "I want it now! I don't want to save my money!"
I stood in line with this griping for another ten minutes. Oh, for Pete's sake.
Did she get any of the lessons I tried to impart in this trip? I really don't think so.
But this mommy got a lesson. Don't take kid to store again.