Tough Financial Lessons

After Christmas this year, we decided that we would not be buying any more new toys, games or books for our son unless it was for his birthday or next Christmas. The reason for this decision was the crazy way he behaved when the presents just kept on coming from us and from family. It was a never ending barrage of new things, and with each new thing, he would fling it aside and ten minutes later ask what he could have next. He was really not getting the concept of working for what you want, nor was he appreciative of any of the things he was given.

OK, I hear you all saying, “He’s six! They are all like that!” Yes that’s true, and we are aware of that. However, with our son, we have learnt that unlike many other children, he will take things to extreme extremes. He doesn’t know when to stop (more than other kids), and he becomes obsessed with things.

So we told him our decision, and we then developed a little job chart for him to do chores each day in order to earn some pocket money at the end of each week.

He’s been excellent with his jobs. He has to feed our dog and cat each morning and make his bed. On Monday he has to put the garbage out, and on Tuesday bring it in. No problem. If he earns an award certificate at school (something that a behaviourally challenged kid finds very hard trust me!), he earns a bonus $5 for doing that. So that’s been going on for a while now, and he had managed to earn and save over $20 between his pocket money and the award he got as well doing extra jobs for bits of money.

Every Sunday is pay day and he sits down and asks us to help him count his money and add it all up. We’ve had some great teaching opportunities with this new scheme, including swapping coins for a note (that was so funny, he just doesn’t really get that! He thinks he must have more money if I give him a note in exchange for the same value of coins), saving for something you want and maths problems of adding.

Yesterday, I think he learnt his hardest lesson yet. He had found a new Wii game in some junk mail that he really wanted. We told him that was fine as long as he saved up and paid for it himself. As I mentioned, he has been saving, and on the weekend, he reached the amount he needed by getting a bonus $5.00 from Daddy for being kind.

He and dadda have been spending time cleaning up and fixing our son’s old bike to sell. On Sunday, after they finally finished the bike, our son came up with the lovely idea of instead donating it to his special needs school. The school has a ‘family admission’ section, where families go and stay for a week to learn how to deal with and help their special needs kids. They have a whole bunch of bikes there for the parents and kids to ride during the free time sections of their week. They don’t really have any good bikes for little kids though, and our son’s bike was a very good BMX, but tiny. No training wheels as he ditched those when he was three, but still, it’s a very small bike.

We were so proud of him for thinking of such a nice thing to do, and we explained to him that it meant he wouldn’t get the sale money he had been counting on for selling the bike (just in case he hadn’t thought about that!!), he hadn’t realised that, but he said he didn’t mind. So sweet. So dadda said he would like to donate $5.00 to his savings for being so kind. Sorted.

So yesterday, after school, we went up to the shops and I bought the game for him, with the intention that he would pay me back when we got home. He was happy with his new game, he played it for a while and though it was hard, he enjoyed it. Then I reminded him that he needed to pay me back for the game…..

At first it was fine. He counted out the money with my help, and handed it over. I put it in my wallet. Then he sat on the lounge and looked at his now nearly empty wallet. He suddenly realised that he now had no money. He started to cry and hid his head under a cushion.

I stepped in and tried to hug him and pointed out gently that he was disappointed because he hadn’t really realised that buying the game would mean he didn’t have any money left to count. He then got a bit angry and demanded that I give his money back straight away! I explained gently that he couldn’t have it back now, as he had purchased and played the game. He then decided that he hated the game and it was too hard and he wanted to take it back to the shop. In Australia, it’s not so easy to do that. You can take stuff back if you haven’t used it or if it’s broken when you get it home, or if you want to exchange it for something else in the store, but you can’t get your money back, which is what he essentially wanted.

I explained that the game was now his, and that I know how sad he was about his money and that he might even feel a bit angry that no one explained it to him properly about what would happen if he bought the game, but that he needed to find a way to feel better and maybe enjoy his game and start saving up again. I didn’t think my words were really going to help.

Unbelievably….. they did! He pulled himself together and got the game back out and started playing it again! He accepted what had happened and this morning, he did his jobs straight away and let me know that he was going to start saving up for a space Lego set. Yay! Perhaps, our lessons really do get through!

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