Friday, September 12, 2008

Teach your children well, lest all their wealth slowly go bye-bye

H and I are capitalists. We freely admit it. We could try to deny it, but being that we are an accountant and an insurance underwriter, we fear you would see through our feeble attempts. We are also spendaholics. And we strive to have an income that will support the lifestyle to which we aspire. Obviously, that last sentence tells you we have a long way to go.

At 3-1/2 months of age, N is far too little to know anything about money. And the 3-year old J does not yet have an appreciation of what money is about. He knows that he likes money. He enjoys holding the shiny coins and putting them in his piggy bank. But he doesn't quite realize that you can spend those coins to get stuff. While he understands the concept of paying for things, he thinks it involves simply swiping a piece of plastic through a slot and then leaving the store with whatever you want. I don't think he understands concepts like currency and conversion. And I certainly don't think he realizes that swiping the little piece of plastic is just the first in a series of transactions that result in Mommy and Daddy crying at the end of the month when the bills come in.

J understands the value of other things much more readily. Toys, for example. Time, for another.

When we first tried to potty train J, we had problems overcoming his very pronounced stubborn streak. In desperation, we resorted to bribery. But the bribes had to be of the toys and time varieties. Fine. Go with what works, I say.

Toys: We had a big bowl with individually wrapped "presents" - balls, cars, markers, stencils, etc. - and every time J went potty and was dry, he got to pick one. There was also a big wrapped present, sitting up high and clearly visible, which he got to open once the bowl was empty. (It was a Hot Wheels Shark Park, if you were wondering.)

Time: We put a calendar up in J's room with four weeks on it. And every day accident-free got a day crossed off on the calendar. At the end of each week, we had written a fun activity that he would get to do with us. Playground; McDonald's Playland; Swimming; Chuck E Cheese. We told him that "these are things you can't do if you're not potty trained". He got pretty excited about it, really.

Well, J got right into the groove and was essentially potty trained in a week, thus proving that bribery works. If you use the right sort of bribes. See, the parents of one of J's classmates are using cash bribes with far less success. We conclude that this is because your average 3-year old does not understand that cash can be converted into toys. A 3-year old is much more responsive to instant gratification (aren't we all). And that's okay.

Baby steps. Walk before you run. Learn the basics before you throw in complex concepts. Start with simple if/then strings, and move up gradually. And that's how you teach your children about concepts like cash and consequence.

"If you let me change your diaper, then you won't be wet anymore."
"If you pee in the potty, then you'll get a toy."
"If you pee in the potty, then you'll be dry and comfortable."


"If you study hard and get good grades, then you'll be able to go to university."
"If you finish university, then you'll get a job that pays more per hour."


"If you invest more money early on, then you won't have to invest as much money later on in order to have the same amount set aside for your retirement, because of compound interest and the time-value of money, and ..."

See, that's pretty complex for a kid. How 'bout we not start with that one, mm-kay?

H and I work hard, but it's always a matter of balance for us. We work, we study, we spend time with the kids, and we care for our home and our family to the best of our ability. We do these things so that we can teach our children one of life's great lessons - a little more work equals more cash equals more toys for less time spending. Or to get right down to basics: hard work pays off, but keep a balance.

But our kids are just a little young yet to fully understand that concept. For now, we lead by example. And we hope our children will watch us, will learn from our successes and our mistakes, and will take the best of us with them as they grow. For now, our if/then strings are suitably simple, and currency is rarely mentioned. We'll start across that bridge when the time is right.

But bribery? Yeah. Bribery is mentioned often. Oh, yes it is. After the potty training experience, we wholeheartedly support bribery.

This post was inspired by The Parent Bloggers Network and Capital One, and is part of my attempt to win an iPhone. 'Cause they're cool, and I respond well to bribes too. I am a capitalist, after all. I like toys!


Wyrd's Little sister said...

This is a funny post for me to read. Did I mention that i have been told something like
"WLS! You can't go around and hug trees for the rest of your life, you know?"
"Really? I can't? Well, watch me!"

But it is true that hugging trees does not bring in the pension, or bread or rent. If there is such a thing as a tree hugging capitalist, that would be my box.

Trish said...

A "tree hugging capitalist". That title suits you well, I think.

Insane Mama said...

I really really want the iphone, I do... So back off!
J/K I like this entry. Besides, we can both win right?

Trish said...


I hope we both win. :)

anymommy said...

Okay, the bowl of toys to the big prize might just work for my stubborn, still in diapers three year old! Hope you win the iphone.

Trish said...

Thanks. Me too!

The bowlful of prizes to the big prize worked really well for us. The bowl was just a bunch of dollar store stuff. We bought a case of 50 markers and individually wrapped each one. So really, the stuff in the bowl was not costly at all. But he had fun opening each prize.

Our 3-year old is incredibly stubborn; he comes from a long line of stubborn, actually. We had a lot to overcome there. :-)