Monday, August 06, 2007

Attack of the whiny children!

"All my friends have cell phones", "all my friends are getting ipods" - does this sound familiar! Do you ever feel that children nowadays have so much, yet appreciate so little. The following article by Jean Chatzky was in today's NY Daily News - it's very enlightening on how to deal with the "canyougetmethis" (I'll give you a hint - it starts with the letter n and ends with o.)

No: A great lesson for kids
Jean Chatzky
Monday, August 6th 2007, 4:00 AM

Are we raising a generation of spoiled children? As a mother, it's a question I ask myself often and a topic I've debated more than a few times with friends.I've seen teenagers with cell phones so high tech I can't begin to understand them, and cars twice as nice as mine. The new iPhone has become the ultimate status symbol for not just the 20-something crowd, but for tweens and teens as well.

"Parenting has become a competitive sport," said Dr. Gail Saltz, a Manhattan psychiatrist and best-selling author who's one of those friends with whom I've had those debates. "Parents are traveling over each other in an attempt to do what they think is better parenting, but in some instances, it's backfiring," Saltz said.

If your children have everything handed to them at an early age, they may struggle to care for themselves one day. And they won't know the satisfaction of owning something they worked hard to get.

I know we don't set out to spoil our kids. Many of us simply want to give them the things we didn't have growing up, and that's understandable. But problems arise when we take it to the next level. I'm all for kids having cell phones in case of an emergency. I'm against an automatic upgrade every time a new model hits the shelves. Children need to know that their belongings are valuable, not disposable.

Here are some tips for teaching kids these important lessons:

Walk the walk
If you don't have control of your money, you're well on your way to a child who behaves exactly the same way. Children pick up on our bad habits, whether that means too many shopping sprees or a bounced check here and there. "Children look to you, because you're the model, and they'll emulate you, whether that's good or bad. If you're always struggling for the next big thing and outliving your means, they're not going to buy it when you try to teach them to do otherwise," Saltz said.

Making choices
One of the most important lessons when it comes to managing your money is that you can't have everything you want. Stop bailing them out. If they blow their weekly allowance immediately, keep your wallet closed. If you automatically hand over more money, the only thing you'll teach them is to turn to you every time they're short on cash.

Disappoint them
Sounds harsh, I know. But no matter how hard you work to shelter your kids, eventually they're going to hit a bump or two. Teach them at an early age how to cope with a small disappointment here and there, and they'll have an easier time when the bumps turn into hills and mountains later in life. Saying no once in a while might help him out when a job interview doesn't go well, or she doesn't get accepted to the right school. "If [their] life is just on a big puffy cloud, they'll never build that skill, and will really struggle as adults," Saltz said.

As far as conversation topics go, money is right up there with sex. It can be taboo, and a lot of families just don't talk about it. But if your child wants something you aren't ready to pay for, it's fine to say that. Then express your concerns - it costs too much, or you've decided that spending on something else will bring more value to the family. You don't have to burden them with your financial problems to make the point.

Stress family values
You might tell your daughter she can't have the new outfit she wants, but you're happy to pay the same amount for music lessons each month, or tutoring. Understandably, this can seem contradictory to a kid, so use it as a lesson in what's important in your house. Sit them down and explain why you spend money on some things and not others.

Whether the topic is education, clothes, sports or toys, explaining your family's values will help children understand your spending habits and your values. It can also help bail you out when the next-door neighbor gets the newest video game and your child doesn't.

With Arielle McGowen

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