Jun 24, 2014

WORK and MONEY and STUFF

I've often worried about my children being "spoiled" with material possessions.  Given their particular situation, for about 4 years they've always had at least biological family member trying to overcompensate for their absence with cheap gifts.  On top of that there are others who just also happen to love them, and occasionally buy them things.  Then god forbid we want to be the good guys and actually buy something every once in a while.

Some of the affects have been rooms inundated with too much stuff, asking for everything they see, and acting like 'stuff' is all that could ever make them happy while simultaneously treating EVERYTHING as disposable because "Nana will just buy me a new one on Saturday if I ask."

I don't want them to be 'spoiled' because spoiled children are annoying, but also because I don't want them to think they need excessive amounts of material goods to be happy.  I think our culture is a little obsessed with "stuff"- I know I get sucked in from time to time.  The biggest problem with it is that nothing is ever enough.  Even if you had endless amounts of money you couldn't buy enough junk to make you happy, and most of us don't so our junk comes with debt.

We've combatted these issues by

  • excessive talking and lecturing, (you're creating waste, it's bad for the planet, you're taking advantage of your grandma and that's not nice to her, blah blah blah)
  • by enforcing the 'one in = one out' rule 
  • and when times were really desperate we've said (and enforced) "If you have any new stuff when we pick you up it's not even coming in the house, it's going straight to Good Will."  (Yes we've also pleaded with their Grandmother to cool it, since she's the main offender- she has laid off the shopping a little.)
It's been almost 3 years, but I think that we're finally to a place I can feel good about with the girls.  They appreciate (as much as a kid can) the stuff they get and the stuff they have, and they've accepted the rules and don't argue about it any more.  They can manage their stuff, they don't ask us to buy them useless crap, and they know how to say "No thanks, I don't need another pair of boots right now."

On top of that they've begun to occasionally work for money, which I think is AWESOME.  We don't pay our kids for chores.  We believe a certain amount of chores just come with being in a family and help the kids learn how to take care things they'll be responsible for as adults.  I might consider paying for certain chores, but then every time I asked them to do anything they'd want to know how much they were going to get paid for it and I'd rather just save myself the argument.  

(Skipping arguments like that is how I save my sanity- it's why Mister only has strappy sandals and no flip flops.  I don't want to argue over which are appropriate every time we leave the house and dude seriously- you're not going to die without flip flops.)

Anyway, we don't pay the girls but they've done chores for friends and family for cash.  I'm super proud of the girls for being motivated and capable enough to do jobs people are willing to pay for, and I'm really grateful we know people who are willing to provide the opportunities.

Mister is definitely behind the curve, which I think is understandable since he's quite a bit younger.  He's still stuff obsessed and he still asks people to buy him things a lot.  Since he has been so spoiled (much worse than the girls- sometimes because he's younger and sometimes because he's a boy) he sometimes confuses 'love' with 'presents'.  If someone who typically spoils him says 'No,' he gets really over emotional about it.  Then, the other night he told Chris it seemed like we don't really like him because we don't let him do whatever he wants.  At "Uncle T's house" (Chris's dad) he can do whatever he wants so "Uncle T" must love him more.  Chris tried to explain to him that he gets to do that because it's a special occasion, and if he lived there it wouldn't be like that all the time.  He told him that as parents it's our job to have rules because it's the only way for him to grow up and be healthy.  Chris did his best, but at 7 years old I doubt Mister really gets it yet.

Anyway, last night at dinner Mister kept talking about trying to sell his stuff and I finally got it out of him that it's because he thinks it's the only way he can 'work' to earn money.  It turns out his sisters are setting a good example!  I'm really glad he wants to work like them, now I just need to figure out how to make it happen.  

The problem is he's not nearly as capable as they are yet, (4 year age gap here guys), so he's not exactly 'qualified' for any of the things they've done so far.  Still, if I tell him he has to wait until he gets older he's going to be disheartened, and I want him to start learning this lesson now.  He can do things of value, so if he has something age/ability appropriate to do he can see how it feels to work hard and earn something for it.  (Something beside a "Great job!" a "Thank you!" or a sticker.)  So, I encouraged him to keep 'practicing' by doing a really great job on his chores at home and promised that I would let all of our friends and family know that he's up for hire this summer.  I told him he might have to be patient, but that eventually a job would come up.

Now as far as managing their money- I'm not even going to jump that hurdle yet.  They can spend their money on whatever they want.  Ultimately, I think personal experience is the only way to learn when it comes to money.  We give them an idea of how we manage our money, and when they're getting ready to move out on their own we'll give them advice- which they'll ignore- and when they're in trouble we'll give them advice again, and eventually they'll figure it out.  Such is life.


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