How do you respond when your children ask you to buy them the latest toy, video game, or footwear? Perhaps you give in to your children’s entreaties more than you would like. Or maybe you’ve grown tired of hearing yourself say “no.”
Providing your children with everything they want is a bad idea (even if money isn’t an issue); you’ll miss the important chance to teach children restraint and that “wanting” is not the same as “needing.” On the other hand, arguing about each request when it is made, or simply saying “on” reflexively isn’t the answer. Fortunately, I have another approach.
My method of imposing restraint, without unnecessary strife, is to create a gift list for each of the kids. When one of them sees something he or she wants, I tell him or her that I will put it on a list of potential gifts for the next birthday, holiday, or other special occasion (whichever comes next). When we return home, we write the item on that child’s gift list. When they were young, the kids took great pleasure in reviewing their gift lists regularly, perhaps almost as much pleasure as they would have enjoyed from having the gifts themselves. In any event, the list satisfied their immediate craving. Then, when birthdays and holidays rolled around, they would know what to request when relatives asked for gift suggestions.
The beauty of the gift list is that it teaches self-control and helps avoid wasteful impulse purchases. I often found that well before the gift-giving occasion rolled around (and sometimes even by the next time we looked at the list to add a suggestion), items on the list were already out of favor, and we would cross them off. This process was also instructive for the kids – they saw on their own how many of their wants were mere whims that changed even before they could acquire the item.
My one exception to the gift list was when we went on vacation. On these excursions, I allowed each child to pick one souvenir during the course of the trip. Again, this eliminated any struggles and also encouraged each child to be thoughtful about his or her allotted purchase.
Employing the gift list option when your children make requests is an incredibly easy and effective solution to a nagging problem. Once you implement this strategy, you’ll never again have to deal with that terrible tug-of-war when your children see something that they (think) want.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
- When my children ask me to buy them things do I argue (or feel like arguing)?
- Do I usually give in to their requests so they won’t be disappointed, or do I find myself responding with an automatic “no?”
- Does every “no” turn into a negotiation?
TO DO THIS WEEK
- Next time your child covets something on TV, in a store, or at a friend’s house, establish and explain the gift list. Make sure your child sees you add the item to the list. Let her review the list as often as she wants. When a birthday or holiday comes around, reevaluate the list, then use it as a guide for gift giving (by you and others.)
By Meg Akabas from the book 52 Weeks of Parenting Wisdom