There is one thing that I have learned from my mother-in-law through seeing how she treats her children and that is to do them the favor of saying no. This is one of those situations where you learn a lesson by seeing something done one way and having it turn out so badly that you learn not to ever do it that way yourself. My mother-in-law does not know how to say no. To her children, strangers, a cashier, to a waiter, to her children, to anyone. If someone asks her to do something, offers her something or worst of all asks her for things that cost her money, she will – every single time – say yes.
The most obvious way this comes up is that she cannot say no to her 3 daughters. They have 12 years of college classes and not a degree in sight, trips to Europe, houses, cars, expensive clothes – anything you could think of that 3 girls who have never been told no would ask for and major (and serious, sad) issues to go along with it. It’s really sad to see because from the outside, it’s pretty obvious that some boundaries from early on would have done them all some good. She’s done a disservice to herself and to her daughters by lacking the ability to hold onto what is hers.
I think a lot of it has to do with her own desire for people to see that she *can* buy them the things they want. Saying no might imply not that she has boundaries, but that she can’t afford it. And that would be bad. Wouldn’t want anyone to not *know* you have the means to pay for a trip to Europe.
Now that I have children of my own that are learning and exploring and testing limits and asking questions and asking for me to buy them things, I find myself thinking of my mother-in-law more and more. I don’t want children who don’t know how to be told no. I don’t want a daughter who says nobody loves her if she doesn’t get enough presents under the Christmas tree when she is 21 years old. I want children who know that I love them and know that I like to do things for them but also know that there are limits. I want my children to understand that part of the excitement and thrill of taking trips and buying things you want and having things you like is working hard for them yourself so you can take satisfaction in that. I want them to learn what an earned dollar is. I want them to learn where it comes from, and that money is earned not just handed over.
Whether it is $2 or $2,000,000 – it doesn’t matter if I have the means to pay for it for you or not. It’s about limits and boundaries. My 3 year old is just beginning to understand the cost of things. She’s starting to look at price tags and see the differences between prices in clothing and toys and food and even gas. But this is all new. Until now, she had no clue if something she was asking for cost $1 or $100. So if I said yes to every $1 thing she asked for just because I had a dollar in my wallet, all I am teaching her is that she gets whatever she asks for.
Taking the cost of items out of the equation and making it more of a lesson in limits and teaching that simply because we want something and can afford it does NOT mean we buy it is so important. We can save our money for something that we may prefer to have more, we can think about whether or not we really have to have the item and how useful it is going to be to our life if we do buy it. We can talk about the fact that we have a lot of things very similar to it so adding one more is not something we need to do with our money right now just because she likes it and I can afford it.
I know it’s not simple. I expect many battles ahead and many “you don’t love me” proclamations when I don’t give in to their every whim. I am not trying to buy my children’s love though. That would get very expensive. I just know that when they’re older, they’ll respect and appreciate it and we’ll all be glad they aren’t 20 and 30 somethings that go to mom with the sugary sweet voice and batting eyelashes when they want something. I want to do things for my children as they grow because *I* want to – not because they guilt me into it or because I am trying to prove myself as a person with the cash to say yes. I want to provide for my kids, of course. I want to enjoy buying them things and surprising them, giving them gifts to make them smile. But I plan to teach them what hard work, saving, delayed gratification, and financial priorities are also.
Other posts from around the web that address this same topic and issue are
How I Taught My Preschooler The Value Of A Dollar at Being Frugal
Teaching Preschoolers About Money and Formulating An Allowance Plan For Our Almost Four Year Old at Paid Twice
Life Is One Big Chore at This Wasn’t In The Plan