Are You Your Kids’ Wish Fairy?

If you’re shopping and your kids ask for something, what do you say? Too many parents say yes way too often!

A friend of mine recently asked her kids how often she said yes when they asked her to buy something. Much to her surprise, they said, “Every time! You’re the greatest wish fairy, Mom.”

This parent didn’t realize she was doing this, but after her kids called her the wish fairy, she realized she was automatically reacting to the way she was raised. Whenever she asked her parents to buy something when she was a child, her parents always said no. (Which isn’t a good way to parent either).

We teach our kids a lot about money by the way we react when they ask us to buy things (or to give them money). Always saying yes or always saying no are too extremes to avoid. But what is the right balance?

It depends on what you want to teach your kids about money. Here are three different, effective approaches to consider:

1. Always shop with a list. If something isn’t on the list, you don’t buy it. If you find something interesting that’s not on the list, you add it to another list: A Let’s Consider This and Discuss This List. You keep this list with you when you shop. When your kids see something that’s not on the list, you add what they see to the Let’s Consider This List. You write down the store, the item, and the cost. After you leave the store, you can gather more information about the item. You can look at your budget. You can talk about if the item is something worth adding to the shopping list next time, if it’s something your kids need to save for, or if it’s something not worth buying.

2. Shop with a budget. Family members keep track of what you’re spending as you shop. (You don’t wait to see what the register rings up at the end because then it’s too late.) This teaches kids that families have budgets. It helps them to see that items add up as you place them in your cart. (This gets them out of thinking that you have a magic cart.) It also teaches them math skills. We go to the store with a calculator to help us add things up. Before you go shopping, you’re clear about what the budget is for that shopping trip. If the total starts to go over your budget, you reassess and put some things back.

3. Enforce the 24-hour rule. If your kids ask you to buy something, you say that it will be considered but they need to wait. Why 24 hours? Because this gets kids out of the habit of “I have to have this now so let’s buy it now.” It slows down their purchases. It gives them time to think. In our family, our kids often changed their minds after 24 hours (and discovered something else instead, which then required another 24-hour waiting period). At first, my kids didn’t like this system, but after awhile, they got it. They learned that it’s lot easier to spend money than to earn it. So if earning money takes awhile, why shouldn’t spending it take awhile as well?

So the next time you go shopping with your kids (or the next time they ask you for money), what will you say? What do you want to teach your kids about money?

1. Kids and Money, Parentfurther.

2. Bank It

3. Image via andrew_mc_d on Flick’r


This is an excellent article. Even if readers don’t do exactly what is mentioned, hopefully, they will not continue to be a “wish fairy.” The article provides awareness that is so important. I ALWAYS compliment my daughter when she says “no” to her daughters because they need to hear that now and then.

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