Kids are expensive. Having one, maintaining one, raising one, sending him to school, paying for classes, buying clothes, buying toys, hosting birthday parties, buying return gifts...The list is endless. And that's just the first 5 years. Chances are, no one told you this. You were bubble-wrapped wearing rose-tinted glasses when you decided to have one. No one gently whispered those 3 words in your ear: "Kids are expensive".
So, here's the deal: kids are expensive. And money does buy happiness. So, more money = better upbringing. That is not to say that rich kids are the best kids. It just means that when you have money, you have choices. You may or may not agree with me. But that depends on how you relate to money and how important money is in the overall scheme of things in your life.
A wider generation gap
And how you relate to money is how you will teach your kid to relate to money. For many parents, we enjoyed the economic boom of the mid to late noughties and are now surviving the hangover. Our kids have grown up far more entitled than us. They now have more options from education to toys and entertainment than we ever had when we were their age. Just the Internet and mobile phones alone have ensured that the generation gap for us is arguably more than it was for our parents.
The flipside is that as parents, we also have options to ensure that we give the best of everything to our kids. And who can blame a parent for wanting the best for their kid and for fulfilling every possible desire when they can afford to? The standard template here is to give everything to your kid that you didn't get when you were young, because that thing was either not available or affordable, or both. So, as parents, we compensate. And in all likelihood, our kids land up expecting the best, or at least the most, from us.
The problem, of course, is that we understand the value of things, but our kids don't. It then becomes our responsibility as parents to teach the concept of value to our children. When your kid gets every soft toy from Mickey Mouse Club House, he is going to expect every soft toy from Doraemon and so on and so forth. All of this goes towards making them entitled. Try breaking that entitlement one day and see how your kids bawl and sprawl on the floor.
This is why kids need to understand the value of things. They need to know what it takes to earn, spend and save. This is a balancing act because if you follow a rewards system, you're pushing your child to do something as a performance act. Perform well on the stage? Get the latest toy. Fail on stage? Don't get the toy. No, it doesn't work quite that easily because you set your child up for a lot of pressure and anxiety.
How do you then teach your kid about the value of money? Actually, it's economics. It's simple demand and supply at work. The more you get of something, the less you value it. Cut off supply and see the value rise.
Reduce the toys
So, for starters, you can try cutting down on all the stuff that you buy for your kid. But don't do it all of a sudden. Do it over a period of time. Go from one new toy every month to one new toy on every birthday. The number of new toys you buy for your kid should decrease as your kid grows up. Your kid needs to understand that he's not going to get everything he wants. Take the bawling, the fighting, the obduracy and the misery of seeing your kid cry over a toy. That's all part of being a parent.
Next, handle envy. Just because his friend has a fancy toy, doesn't mean he gets one. Explain to him why he's not going to get that fancy toy. You can't afford it, or it's too early for him, or simply because he already has so many toys. Or try keeping the toy for later, for say, festivals like Christmas or Diwali. Make it special so that your kid learns to value it.
Show him the money
Introduce money as a concept to your child. Rupees, coins, credit cards, bank accounts. Make it a fun activity. For example, take him to the bank and make him understand what the various functions of a bank are. Show him notes and coins of various denominations. Make him understand what spending money and buying things is all about. If your city has a museum, show him money and coins of a past era. Make the learning process fun but also ensure that you explain what money is and how important it is in our lives.
The concept of value goes beyond money. It applies to conserving resources as well. For example, switching off the electricity at home when you're not using it. Walking to a certain place if it's close enough, instead of driving over. All these concepts go towards making your child understand what the value of something is-especially of a resource like money.
Eventually, your kid will grow up and get his own pocket money. That's when he will figure out the finer concepts of budgeting, spending and saving in his own way. What he learns as he grows up is what will shape his understanding of value, cost, money and resources. All of this will ultimately shape his understanding of concepts like working towards achieving what he wants. And as we've all learnt, these concepts are best learnt as early as possible in life.