I wanted yours and your readers advice on a dilemma that came up, regarding chanukah presents.
My grade school age son wanted a very specific and expensive toy for his birthday that was well over our "birthday present" budget. We told him that if he waits for Chanukah, and gives up his present now, we can combine the two presents, plus Chanukah money from his grandparents, to buy the toy. He agreed and did not receive a birthday present.
Now that Chanukah is approaching, I looked for the toy and saw that the store that was selling it went out of business. This is more of a specialty type toy, and costs significantly more online (over 50% more) than it would have in this (now closed) store.
At this point, we are unsure what to do. My son did the right thing and delayed gratification to get what he wanted later. To now not get him the toy might teach him the wrong lesson. We would not normally be willing to "add" the extra funds, as it is a significant amount of money that is much more than we would generally spend on a present. In addition, the "online" price is really too high to spend on any toy (almost $200), even if he will gain years of use.
So I am torn. Should we provide the extra funds to buy the toy? After all, we did offer to buy it based on the price that it was at the time of the offer. What message are we sending by buying such an expensive toy? My son does not have significant funds of his own to contribute (he offered his piggy bank), but should we could take money out of his savings account (which we would normally never do), and replenish it next birthday? I am looking for ideas on what would be the best way to be a good parent, while still not spoiling my child and still teaching him the value of money.
Nephew of Frum Actuary
Dear Nephew of Frum Actuary,
This is a really interesting dilemma and I'm waiting to hear from my readers. Personally, I don't like the idea of spending hundreds on a single toy, for a single child no matter where the money is coming from. That said, you are beyond that point as you have already promised this gift and to your misfortune the store selling the gift is now out of business and you are looking at paying double unexpectedly.
Unless you see that your child is becoming very spoiled through his behavior, I don't think you need to worry as much about one pricey gift being the spoiler. If you practice restraint in your home and your children generally follow suit, I wouldn't get caught that this gift is going to tip the scales.
In life we sometimes have to "eat the cost." Sometimes we quote a price in the course of business only to discover the work is far more than we counted on. Sometimes we tell out kids we will take them someplace thinking the cost is one thing and we discover we really underestimated (when did certain attractions triple in price?). We might not like eating the cost, but when we have given our word, we have given our word. We shouldn't spoil our children, but they should feel secure that when we give our word, we will follow through.
I am assuming that your son is one who understands deferred gratification and a bit about the value of money as he already chose to delay gratification. Before making the purchase, it might be a good idea to revisit the subject and make sure this is what he really wants. Oftentimes, the coveted item is no longer what is desired. If your son has his eye on something else already, you have some wiggle room. If your child still does still have his/her heart set on this toy and the money is there to spend, I'd follow through and "eat the cost".
There is definitely a lesson to be learned here, it just might not be the lesson that you were aiming towards and that sometimes happens.
One more note: I don't believe that a single (or even a few) large purchases or indulgences will ruin a child. I think that sometimes the "small" things that we do (often without noticing) which create a sense of entitlement. Rather than concentrate on the material (and we can spend some time evaluating the material) we should ask ourselves about the overall environment of the home: Are we, the parents, in charge of our home? Are our children overly demanding? Do our children take direction without constant fuss/Is there too much negotiation going on in our home? Do our children take their discipline without threatening, etc? Do I constantly need to cajole the children just to run this home? Oftentimes we realize that something is amiss and our children are acting like spoiled brats and we haven't bought them overpriced toys or otherwise monetarily spoiled them. Hence, I do not worry that a big experience or purchase is what will take a child into spoiled-dom.
I am not of the opinion that money is the root cause of spoiled children, although how we spend on our children can play into creating an overblown sense of entitlement. I can think of just as many children from poorer homes as I can from wealthier homes who are spoiled!
Readers, let's hear from you.