Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hard Lessons in Money for a Preschooler

It can be so hard to sit back and let your children learn hard lessons. Yesterday, we had a harsh lesson in economics. Kenzie cried and I wanted so badly to step in and "fix it." But the wiser course of action was to sit back and let the lesson unfurl. (I think. Who knows? This mothering thing is so iffy sometimes.)

We started doing a chore chart back in December. It's evolving as we learn, but basically it includes four chores for each girl. "Get ready" (which includes get dressed, comb hair, brush teeth), "Make Bed" "Clean Room" and "Chore." Every day I decide on a new chore and we do it together. Hannah is expected to do a little less work than Kenzie, but everyone is expected to help.

For each of their chores done they get to put a sticker on their chart. When the sticker chart is full (the first time I made a six week sticker chart. Waaaaaaaaayy too long. Now it's two weeks), I give them a nickel for each sticker. But if a square on the chart is blank, I take away a nickel. (I figure if they didn't do it, I had to do it for them, so they should pay me.)

Last week, I divvied out the nickels, had the girls place their money in three separate banks (tithing, savings, spending) and told them we could go to the store to spend their spending money.

Kenzie had $.73 to spend and told me, "Mom, I want to buy that pink bear. And some flowers for Daddy."

A couple weeks before when we were at the store she and Hannah had spotted some little stuffed bears and begged me to buy them. I casually mentioned that maybe when they added up their chore chart money they could come back and buy them. Then I forgot about it.

"You might not have enough money for the pink bear. And they might not still have them," I said, racking my brain for what store she was talking about. "We'll have to see when we get there." I also told her I would help her buy the flowers (so sweet!) with my money. Hannah wanted a pink bear too. They kept talking about the pink bears.

"Now girls, you can't cry if you can't afford the bears. Afford means have enough money. But no crying. You just have to save money from our next chore chart," I said. "Besides I can't even remember what bears you are talking about."

"I'm so excited for the pink bears, Mommy," said Kenzie. "They're at the store we always go to."

That night we loaded up for the grocery store, as Kenzie assured me that that's where the coveted bears were.

Since I honestly had no idea what bears she was talking about we wandered about aimlessly until Kenzie exited the cart and told us she knew where the bears were. She swung her purse of money happily as she led us to a rack of stuffed pink bears.

I read the sign on the top, $3.99. I watched her cute face shine with excitement until Mike and I explained what the numbers meant. We explained that $3.99 is almost 400 pennies, she had 73. She crumbled. Hannah just yelled, "I WANT A PINK BEAR." She was easily distracted with a promise of piece of gum on the way home. Kenzie cried.

I thought about the story that's used to illustrate the Atonement-- you know the one about the little girl who saved and saved all her money to buy a bike, but didn't have quite enough, so her dad paid the rest. And I felt like the worst mother in the history of the world. Because I had seen how happy she was thinking about buying a bear and I wasn't going to use this as an Atonement lesson. It was a cold, hard money lesson.

So I didn't break out my credit card and just buy the pink bear for her. I gave her a hug and said, "I know it's hard. I'm sorry." And I wiped her tears and tried not to cry myself.

A few minutes later she spotted the flowers, and smiling ran over to choose a bouquet for her dad. As we walked toward Mike with her chosen pink and red carnations, she said, "That's okay. I can save my money and get a pink bear next time."


Leah said...

Such a cute story, you are a great writer. I always love reading your stories. Way to be strong, I am totally a sucker still, and I would have definitely cried. The flowers are so sweet, Cute little girls.

Amanda in GA said...

Just read your post at MMB's so I came on over to read some more! This post warmed my heart. What a sweet girl you have!

come on over to my blog I am having a giveaway :)

The Spencer Family said...

You're an awesome Mom! Way to go!!

Hollie said...

We've had similar experiences with chores, money and buying things at the store. Only ours end with me dragging one or more of my children out of the store screaming because they can't afford what they want. Kenzie is so sweet for wanting to buy Mike some flowers.
By the way, I loved your cursing post.

Marcie said...

Okay that is such a sweet story! What a good girl,and a good mother. Our stories end similar to what my sister discribed, dragging,screaming, kicking and tears...mostly mine.

Kim said...

My sister-in-law has a "prize box" that the kids get to choose out of when they earn enough. When there is something like that that the kids really have wanted or liked, she'll buy it in advance and they can choose it once they have the money.

Maybe you could buy the pink bears (so they aren't gone by the time she gets $3.99) and when she earns it she can buy it from you. Just a thought.

Dan, Tori, and Alexis said...

Isn't it true that parenting is always such a guessing game? Great story, and such sweet girls with the flowers for daddy! Hope you're feeling better.

Rachel Sue said...

Honestly, I don't think many parents teach their kids cold, hard, money lessons. And those kids have to learn the hard way when it comes time to pay rent, rather than dealing with the disappointment of a pink teddy bear. So, honestly, I think you are a great mom.

Sarah said...

I'm visiting your blog via MMB. You really are a great writer. I loved this post! I also loved your post about closet cursing. So funny. I never curse really, but my grandpa had the mouth of a sailor- your post reminded me of him. :)