Your kid deserves the best. Give it to them, for once.

Would you rather listen to this post? Here is the audio of me reading it to you. Your kid deserves the best as read by Pete the Planner

At some point in the last 5 years I have found that I feel responsible to say things that no one else really wants to say or hear. This is mainly because the truth hurts. I feel like we are letting social pressures ruin our kids. We aren’t standing up for their futures because we are too caught up trying to appease them in the now.

***Disclaimer of the day*** If you do any of the things listed below, then that doesn’t make you a bad person. I don’t think you are a bad parent. I’m not the judge of you, nor am I trying to be. I simply believe that we have socialized ourselves into a corner. We have allowed really strange things to become okay. Just allow the following text to enter your brain objectively. If you still disagree, great. And yes, I will most likely be guilty of one of things too someday. But I sure as hell hope not.

If you are anything like me, then you believe entitlement issues are getting worse as the generations progress. It is increasingly common for younger Americans to feel like the world owes them something, when in fact, we are owed NOTHING. I have more of an entitlement issue than someone in their 40’s. Someone in their 20’s is worse than me. And the 10 year olds are really jacked up. This is because every generation is loosening their grip on sensibility. It’s getting worse. We have to start asking uncomfortable questions in order to stop this awful problem. So you gotta start asking yourself why. Why does a 12 year old think it’s their God given right to have an iPhone? Why does an 8 year old enter you into a Worst Parent of the Year contest if you don’t buy them a Nintendo DS? But what is worse is, why do people think that banks are obligated to give them a mortgage that they can’t afford? Or why do people think that their parents should financially assist them deep into their 20’s?

I have identified a few random pop culture occurrences that are ruining the financial sensibilities of our youth. There are thousands of these things, but here are the first four that came to my mind.

  • High end doll company- I’m angry, but not stupid. I’m not going to name the line of AMERICAN made GIRL dolls that are at the heart of pre-adolescent opulence. Why does a child of any age need a $100 doll? Seriously, just evacuate your mind and ask yourself “what good can a child learn from owning a $100 doll that has $14 shoes and a $50 coat?” People keep telling me that I, too, will eventually buy my daughter this type of doll. “She’ll want one, and you’ll want to make her happy.” Man, I hope I’m better than that. Yes, we all want to make our kids happy, but why does that mean that we have to buy a $100 doll? Why is that socially acceptable? Well, because we allowed it to be. Are you a bad person if you have done this? Not at all. But I believe that you are helping to perpetuate an unnecessary reality: buying luxury items even brings status to 8 year olds. Step back, what are we saying to our kids when we buy them something that is this ridiculously priced? We may be trying to say I love you, but I believe that the heinous financial decision casts a cloud over our expression of love. This cloud will rain over their brains longer than your “I love you” will. In retrospect, I’m now more appreciative of my parents for the things that they DIDN’T buy me versus the things they DID buy me.
  • Electric lunch money- “Here Billy, take this lunch money,” I hypothetically say. “I don’t need it. Just fill up my cafeteria card and the balance is deducted from the account that you fill up electronically,” Billy says with 21st century sass. Nope, that won’t give then a skewed concept of money at all. Yes American education establishment, let’s teach our children about money by giving them mock credit cards. Let’s COMPLETELY desensitize them to money. Save all of your “convenience talk” and “safety issues” BS for someone else. I’ve been a Nancy-ass my entire life, and no one ever took my lunch money. Okay, so there’s an opportunity for our kids to make a purchase up to five times per week using real money, and we choose to squash this opportunity and instead teach them how to use plastic? Really? Come on. This stuff happens because we let it happen.
  • Endless activities– Taking your child to 15 different activities per week isn’t a sign of your love and devotion. It’s a sign that you can’t say no. It’s also a sign that your kids have found themselves to be the puppet master of your world. The higher we lift our children onto pedestals, the farther they will fall when they aren’t the center of the universe anymore. Should you leave them at home in a drawer? No. But when did spending 20 hours a week on your children’s activities start making sense? The reality is that it has never made sense, but we did it anyway. Why did it ever seem sensible to drive three hours to play another 10 year old basketball team? At what point did spending hundreds of dollars per family in travel, food, and hotel rooms to play a “tournament game” against a random group of kids that is 300 miles away make sense? Does your 10 year old really need travel experience? My hand to the sky, I have seen countless middle class families put themselves in terrible financial decisions in order to “be on the travel team.” Not only is that a bad financial decision, but it offers up a terrible decision-making matrix for the impressionable children. If you are trying to support your kids’ dreams, just make sure you aren’t doing it at the cost of their financial future.
  • Don’t lie to yourself, video games do absolutely nothing positive for your kids- “It improves their dexterity.” “It keeps them off the street.” “It’s their passion!” Just stop. Stop it. I can’t think of a single item more responsible (in the year 2011) for preventing children from learning the value of dollar than video games. How is it that not only do children have several $40-$50 video games, but in many cases they have several $200-$500 gaming systems. How does this make sense to anyone? Really? Answer me out loud, right now. Ignore your coworker, and answer the damn question. What are we doing? Sure, it’s wasteful. But the damage it does to your kids’ sense of money is worse. And don’t start with the “they save their own money for the game” stuff. Your job is to prevent your kids from wasting money on stupid stuff. If you let them spend their money on whatever they want, then they will do that FOREVER. Forever ever? Forever ever.

I am NOT a parenting expert. I am a financial expert. I fix the poor financial parenting that can be traced to the behavior above. Your kid deserves the best. Give it to them. Don’t give them things. Give them parenting.

My goal is to make this post a discussion. Do you have a different perspective on this? Please leave a comment below, and let’s have some intelligent discourse.

43 thoughts on “Your kid deserves the best. Give it to them, for once.

  1. Thanks for keeping it real with this post Pete! As someone expecting there first child in a few months these reminders are very timely. I want nothing but the best for my son but keeping things in perspective and seeing the long term goals is key.

  2. Buying stuff for kids is easy, and enabled by countless companies trying to sell us product and giving us easier ways to make purchases. Teaching things to kids is hard, and aided by ZERO public education or guidance on how to be a good parent. Keep up the good work, Pete.

  3. Preaching to the choir here. It’s nice to know that someone else believes teaching the value of a dollar and working for said dollar. From us, our daughter only received a doll (that I made) for her first birthday because we don’t want to set an unreasonable precedent for the years to come.

  4. Story from a co-worker who was just chuckling over your post. Last winter, his eight-year old daughter wanted an AMERICAN made GIRL doll. He didn’t say a word and pulled it up online. He said “Write down that number”, pointing to the cost. Then he told her to grab her coat and get in the car. She was a bit confused when they pulled up to a fast food place and he had her write down the cost of a value meal. While driving down the road, he had her calculate how many value meals they could buy for the cost of the doll. Right about when she was finished with the math problem, he was pulling the car up to the Wayside Christian Mission and the line of folks waiting in the cold to get a meal. He said to her “Would you rather have the doll or buy 20 people lunch?” There were some tears from her daughter and she passed on the doll, but he said she hasn’t asked for anything like that since then. Good parenting in practice that will pay greater dividends than that doll ever would have.

  5. WOW!!! That is AWESOME! Consider that technique stolen. I WILL be doing that. Kudos to your friend, and thanks for sharing the story.

  6. Oh that’s amazing Jeff. Pete, great post and advice as always, but Jeff I LOVE that application. No kids here yet, but I’m taking notes every day from great people like you both 🙂

  7. What is horrible Pete, is that I am seeing more kids in grade school that have cell phones than American Girl dolls. Why in the world does a child in grade school need an iPhone?

    If they child wants a American Girl doll, how about seeing if you could ‘adopt’ one in the second hand market?

    Your point about electronic meal cards is dead on. There is a big reason why using cash is much better than using credit cards. It hurts A LOT more when you have to hand someone a $20 bill than it does to hand them a piece of plastic.

  8. Have my American Girl doll tucked away on a high shelf to gift to daughter someday… and love the idea of using that money to help her help others. Also, know we will be doing her good by PACKING lunch than eating school lunch.

  9. I have a related story. Last year I made the mistake of going into a Toy R Us during Christmas time. There were running a Barbie promotion where if you bought $100 in Barbie merchandise they would give you the special Barbie house for free. Unless I am buying gifts for 6 or 8 little girls, I can not even imagine why it would be necessary to buy $100 of anything for a child (not counting the cost of the special Barbie house). But standing in line , I saw 8 other shoppers “taking advantage” of this promotion and it was a Thursday. It just seemed totally out of contol.

  10. Thank you, Pete and Jeff, for sound advice. Here’s how I dealt with the AmG doll my granddaughter wanted back when they ‘only’ cost $88. I got out a jar into which we put spare change. We called it the ‘Samantha’ jar. It took a year, but she eventually got the doll. My daughter and I made extra clothes for the doll or shopped flea markets. I still have that jar, and I still call it by the same name. Nowadays, however, I put aside extra $10s and $20s for travel. I just returned from a long weekend in Paris (from saved money), where I visited my granddaughter. She’s doing a PAID internship there as part of a junior semester abroad.

  11. Preach on, Brother Pete! My little darlings are still too young to hound me for things, but this is always on my mind. I see friends drop thousands on room decorations and furniture for infants, on Coach bags for babies, on only the highest end clothes and toys. I’m competitive, and it takes a lot to resist Keeping up with the Joneses. I don’t want teachers to see my kids in their Goodwill clothes and like them less, or feel sorry for them. Adults who make these choices for their own kids might place great value in the tags on my kids’ clothes, you know? I have to talk myself down off the ledge quite often. Your perspective is right, though – my kids are watching me. If I get swayed into letting society press me into valuing these valueless things, then I’m telling them to value those things, too, which will just lead to unhappiness for all of us as we drown in credit card debt for things we don’t need.

  12. Yes, i understand that. That’s part of my beef. It’s not just the decisions we make as parents, but the decisions we make as community members.

  13. I will say, though, that my son has accidentally learned that there is a bottom to the electronic lunch money account, as his school won’t let him buy lunch on “credit” if his account is empty. At least it teaches him that he has to be responsible about letting me know when he’s running low. Also? I just paid into his lunch account, and we are going to have a talk about how long that money has to last. If he runs out before Christmas break, he will be carrying his lunch every day until then, not just on the days that Mr. Pickypants doesn’t like the choices. Trying to get him to understand that he needs to spend less per day than he has been.

  14. I find it easiest to just lie to my kids. My daughter thinks the AMERICAN made GIRL doll company is just a catalog. My kids think the ice cream truck is really just a music truck.

    But with the lunch thing? Man, I wish my kid would buy lunch at school. It would be cheaper.

  15. We use our sons Xbox 360 (he bought the refurb for $150) to stream Hulu, Netflix & ESPN for a total of $35 a month; which includes our internet. We cancelled our $125 a month cable bill also. There is a good use for an Xbox that my son bought “with his own money” 😉

  16. Pete,

    Thanks for keeping it real! I’m not going to lie, I spoil my little ones. I didn’t have much growing up and I always promised myself that my children would have “more”. However, there are some things that I just refuse to do. I rarely ever tell my 4 year old daughter “no”… but I can’t count how many times I have turned down her request for an iPad.

    There are lines that have to be drawn and it doesn’t mean that you are neglecting your children. Some things should be earned and sacrificed for or you will never know the value of what you have!

  17. Pete, couldn’t agree more with your post today. Many kids have no idea of the value of money or how much things cost. Buying kids everything they want doesn’t teach them a darn thing. Thanks for posting this!

  18. Thanks for this!! People need to stop looking for handouts and start working for themselves- and it starts as kids- what would install a better sense of self worth, working for something they REALLY want, or being given everything and so having no respect or value for the things they have. I’m a nanny AND a mother to be, and I’ve seen four year olds with Chanel raincoats, six year olds with tbs in their bedroom bigger than the one in my living room (children do NOT need televisions in their room. What happened to imaginations?!) and eight year olds with iPod touches. The three year old I care for now asks EVERY day for mommy to bring her home a “surprise” and Yet her mom gets so frustrated when she comes home and all she here’s from her kids are “where’s my surprise?!” or even better, fits because it’s not the surprise they want. I dont understand these things- my daughter will have what she needs, and appreciate the things she wants. Otherwise you get 24 year olds who drop out of college yet still have mommy and daddy paying for thief car insurance and cell phones. You’re not helping your kids!! I’m planning on opening a savings account for my little girl and teaching her to put aside 10% of any cash she gets as a gift, to help her appreciate what it means to save. Ok, that’s my soapbox!!!!

  19. […] link: Your kid deserves the best. Give it to them, for once admin posted at 2011-10-26 Category: […]

  20. Brilliant! I think kids have become desensitized to material gifts and what it means to EARN their allowance. A $100 doll will look the same as a $14 doll in the Goodwill pile in 2 years.

  21. Pete:

    As always, well done. However you have forgotten to factor in the one variable that tends to ruin all disciplined approaches to parent-hood: Grandparents! I’m confident I won’t buy my daughter an American Girl Doll, but I cannot even hope to stop my mother from doing so. One day I will pick my daughter up from a day w/ grandma, and they will have bought out the entire American Girl collection, eaten 15 cookies, and had 12 Pepsi’s. All my efforts down the tube. 🙂

  22. Nick, you are sooooo right. I wonder if I will have the balls to tackle the subject some day. My mom DOES read my blog. Let’s hope she doesn’t read the comments. Hahaha

  23. Best blog ever! Thank you for posting. I really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. It would be interesting to hear from those parents who are participating in ruining the financial sensibilities of our youth. I would like to hear their justification. 🙂

  24. This is great. Pete, I think we also need to teach our kids how to manage cashless monetary transactions. There are many opportunities to teach kids how to manage cash and fewer opportunities to manage “accounts”. I suspect that by the time my kids (oldest now 8) have their first part-time job, very little in our society will happen with actual cash. We also need to teach them to live within their means without bills and coins. This seems like a great way to do so.

  25. Having just had a daughter, I am constantly thinking about these future “learning” opportunities. This some great practical advise that I also will be incorporating into my journey of raising a child. Good post Pete and thanks to Jeff for sharing this story!

  26. Pete,

    I could not agree more! I am actually just finishing up an econ unit with my 5th graders. We always start with needs and wants and goods and services. You would be amazed at what they see as needs. We also do a budgeting lesson, which is also very eye-opening. (I tried to channel you when I taught it, but I am afraid that I lack the witty humor and the red hair.) They had no idea how to budget, spending $300 on cable and $500 on gifts for the month but only $50 for food. I would love to know some of your ideas on how as an educator on ideas for lessons/concepts for 5th graders. Also, I am afraid that our school district does not allow students to pay for their lunch with cash. They must turn it in in the morning and then it is added to their account. I don’t think that most kids have any idea of how much money they spend on lunch each day. It is such a shame.

  27. Great post Jeff. My daughter is too young to understand (10 weeks), but will try this on my wife next time she NEEDS something:)

  28. My oldests is a few days from turning 3, so we haven’t had to deal with a lot of this yet. We have been good so far. Most of their toys are either gifts from relatives and friends or from a garage sale or consignment shop, same goes from clothes too.
    I’ve heard of the AMERICAN made GIRL dolls and knew they were expensive, but $100? That’s stupid. Glad I only have boys, but I’m sure their is a boy equivalent out there.
    As far as the lunch thing, I fully plan on packing my kids’ lunches when they get to school. From what I’ve heard about school lunches and what I’ve seen at their day care, there’s no way I want them eating that “food”. It sounds like, through their lunches, schools are teaching kids bad financial habits and bad eating habits.
    I’m torn on the video game thing. My parents bought me an Atari then later a Nintendo when I was a kid. I didn’t have a lot of games. I probably got 1 for my birthday, 1 for Christmas, and maybe 1 other during the year. To me, it just seemed like any other toy (maybe that’s the bad part). My mom did limit the amount of time I could play it though, and in retrospect I’m glad she did. I will say that I think it’s horrible when you see kids at a restaurant with their parents, and they are just sitting at the table with their heads buried in their handheld video game. Seriously? How about some family conversation? Leave the thing at home. Do they do that at the dinner table at home too? Same goes for TVs/DVD players in cars. Maybe for a long trip, but around town? No way.

  29. I was repeatedly told I was depriving my children as I was raising them. I was a single parent and home schooled my children teaching them to find a way to earn money for what the wanted. I also taught them to help those UNABLE to help themselves. Funny, my children are leading financially responsible lives not expecting anything from this life except what they put into it. No body around me listened to me then and they are reaping the produce of their overindulgent parenting techniques. Too bad for their kids and grandkids…

  30. This is a great article and a great lesson from the coworker story in the comments. I however grew up on the opposite end of being bought everything. Not to say I didn’t get things but my father refused to buy a lot of stuff. I went off the deep end with credit card debt to have things in my life. I think the problem here is to teach kids money is a tool for survival and occassionally for comfort, and they need to learn not to covet.

  31. I haven’t had cable in 20+ years. I live in Dallas/Fort Worth and regularly watch 16 channels over the air to my in attic antennae. There are probably 30 additional Spanish/shopping/religious channels that I don’t watch. I don’t understand how anyone can view cable as anything other than a luxury item in their budget.

  32. Oy, the “STUFF” issue. My son is only 13 months old, and I can’t tell you how many times I’m given the advice to keep him entertained with the TV or an iPhone/iPad. He doesn’t get to watch TV until he’s 2, but we do go outside and play. Or he’ll entertain himself with a $.99 beach ball for 30 minutes. He doesn’t NEED electronics. Also, for his first birthday, he got to open all of his presents, but half of them are still in the garage. When he gets bored of one toy, we’ll take that out and bring him a new one for a while. That may not be the right thing to do, but he certainly doesn’t need all of the toys to choose from at any given time. We can only hope that when he’s old enough to understand money, that we can apply these lessons at that time. Great advice from your other fans!

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