Mom, will you buy it for me?

  • It seems a (silent) conspiracy among children all over the world: after the conquest of the upright position, when they begin to say the first "understandable" phrases, around the year and a half to two years, the same request arises with a firm tone : "Will you buy it for me?". The little finger gets up towards the window of the toy store and the voice gets louder and more shrill, while the little boy indicates almost everything ... A situation that every parent knows all too well, but how can you make children understand, already in preschool, that you can't always have everything?
  • We asked Davide Ciferri, co-author, together with Stefano Di Colli, of the children's book, "Economy! A science to discover, from bartering to spreading", just released for the collection Ah, Saperlo! - Lapis Edizioni. Economist, university teacher and father of two small children (a 2 year old boy and a few weeks old girl) gave us his advice for" educating "children to the fact that everything has a price. Because it is possible to transmit some basic concepts even to the little ones with a lot of patience (a bit of imagination) and an approach suitable for the age group. And we add: better start early and you will not regret it when you find yourself struggling with the (a thousand and a little exorbitant) demands of a teenager ...

    I give one thing to you and you give one to me

    In the days of our mothers (and also those of a current 40-year-old), among courtyards, gardens or at school, children exchanged balls, stickers, magazines and, at times, the older children even organized open-air markets. The exchange of items between companions has survived (miraculously!) To this day, although it is much less widespread. A shame because it is a very useful system for making children experience, firsthand, that in order to have a toy (the good) it is essential to give something in exchange.

    This is supported by our economist, Davide Ciferri: "Exchange is a fundamental concept even for the little ones, much easier and more immediate to understand than the idea, too abstract for a preschool child, of money. It is important to communicate to the child that to get hold of a good, any type of object and, therefore, even a toy, it is necessary to pay a price ". To do this, just organize a very practical and engaging experience to make the little one digest that it is impossible to buy everything. “Invite the child to choose a toy that no longer satisfies him and then make an agreement with a friend, who is interested, to change it for something else. Thus the mechanism of the exchange appears clear: even a child around the age of 3 can understand it, while it is still too early for him to understand the origin of the money and the monetary value of the toy ”, advises the expert.

    Nothing strange, therefore, that for a child a € 5 ball and a box of constructions that cost, perhaps, € 40 are practically on the same level. The difference between two objects (with very different prices) depends, in fact, for him only on what fascinates him the most at that moment.

    “The child has great difficulty in understanding that for everything it takes money, the means of exchange, because it is the adult who owns it. It is not easy for the little ones to grasp the idea that the parent has obtained a sum of money by working, or by giving him his time in exchange for a professional service ”, explains Ciferri. Among other things, the fact that money is only a form of payment for the exchange of goods is not so obvious even for the big ones: "Society today does not explain to us that money is only a means that facilitates the exchange, not it has an intrinsic value, money is a way to facilitate exchanges between people and communities ”, recalls the economist. So, arm yourself with patience in the face of yet another request and try to organize toy exchanges between friends. With time, and a simple and correct approach, the baby will understand ...

    A day of shopping!

    Gradually, always based on the age and reactions of the child, it is possible to introduce new conceptual passages to accompany him to discover why mum doesn't buy - always and immediately - everything he loudly claims. A good solution to do this in an easy and fun way is to plan a shopping day together involving the child in all aspects. Direct experience often helps more than any explanation with preschool children - as Ciferri recommends.

    “You can do this experiment and repeat it often to get what's behind it through. At home we show our child that we take a certain number of coins or bills and then we count them with him before going out. At this point, we describe all the processes that follow very clearly. If we go to the supermarket and buy milk, for example, we show the little one how many coins we pay at the cashier. Then we go into the greengrocer's and spend a certain amount of money and in another shop we use another part of what is in the wallet. And, back home, let's check together if and how much the initial figure has advanced ”, says Ciferri. Perhaps, the first time, the whole process will not be so obvious to the child but by repeating the experience often, in a light (and, perhaps, a bit blatant) way, he will begin to sense that the parent has given something in exchange, a amount of money, for each purchase.

    The strategy of the ant

    Shopping together is a great ploy also present, over time, the concept of savings. If there is money left after the shopping, you can show the child to put it aside. In this way, by putting away a coin, every day, for example, it is possible to show the little one, in a very concrete and tangible way, that the quantity increases.

    “The family can choose together a place to put aside some money, build a piggy bank, or get one, and show the little one that the money stored there, with time, is more and more. It is important to convey the idea of ​​accumulation, creating a sort of small bank in the house. In this way, the message is conveyed that it is necessary to organize one's resources, money, to satisfy a need, the toy. It is not always possible to do this immediately, running to the store, it takes some time. And so, through saving, the child is also made aware of the importance of the final value of the asset ”, explains Ciferri.

    But saving is not just putting away a penny, it is associated with another important aspect that is the adult's task to teach: that of waiting. “From an educational point of view, I think it is necessary to communicate that you can't have everything at once, even if the need, according to the child, is urgent. Behind the request, in fact, there is a need of the child who is attracted to the toy also because he is subjected to external pressures - friends, TV watching it, the environment that surrounds him - so he believes that the toy in the shop can satisfy him in the best possible way ", the expert points out.

    And Ciferri adds on the question: "When the child asks for a specific object, it is useful to ask what need is driving him and then help him understand that resources are scarce, in terms of objects (or goods) and, therefore, it is not possible. have it all. Of course, it is difficult because abundance surrounds us, and the child sees many toys everywhere but we can try to explain to him that they are not infinite ".

    Money doesn't grow on trees

    The gesture of slipping a few coins into the piggy bank (or to place them in the place assigned for this purpose) will become part of the "list" of family rituals, alongside all those more or less daily practices that mark the life of a child. Once this habit has been digested, it is quite easy to exploit the concept of a piggy bank to explain to a child, around 4-5 years old, what a bank is ... Almost the same thing, only much larger than the classic "Pig", which houses the savings of mom and dad and many other families. This is also an important step - to be emphasized until the child does it with him - because it will avoid the onset of the deleterious idea, according to our economist, that money magically comes out of the ATM

    Another good way to make your child understand that money doesn't grow on trees is involve him in a parents' work day. “Today, many companies allow, on some special occasions, to take the child to work. The possibility of visiting the physical place where the parent spends a lot of time, and showing which activity he is dedicated to helps the child, already around the age of 5-6, to understand the mechanism. And that is the fact that the adult carries out tasks and that structure gives him back in exchange for what he has done. Of course, such an approach is useful for any type of profession, just describe and show the child where and what you do in the hours when mum and dad are not at home but at work ”, suggests Ciferri.

    For all this, the best ally is the time and commitment to act consistently, possibly repeating the same reasons, every time the child asks insistently for something ... As happens in most cases, a dancing attitude on the part parenting or a fit of annoyance don't work for staring at a message.

    Long live pocket money

    Lay the foundation, when your child grows up, you can think of offer him the opportunity to personally engage in managing small amounts of money. It was once said that lack of responsibility made children responsible: can it really represent a valid educational tool for the family? Davide Ciferri has no doubts about it, even if he specifies that it is advisable to introduce it no earlier than 8-10 years of age, depending on the individual case.

    Of course it is important, first of all, to explain well what it is.

    “When you decide that it is the right time to give your child pocket money, it must be made clear that each member of the family has an amount of money available to meet their needs. Personally I am against the idea of ​​associating a sum with a service, like 'help me wash the car and I'll give you tot'. In my opinion, such a thing is part of a normal contribution to family life by the child. Obviously, in the case of particular situations, out of the ordinary, a reward can be offered but that's another matter ”, says the expert.

    Pocket money allows you to live a direct experience which is the best way - in this age group - to transform a theoretical concept into an everyday reality.

    “In this phase, the little boy begins to know quite clearly what he wants or doesn't want, and the failure to satisfy a desire - a certain purchase - helps him to better understand the whole mechanism. If, for example, he spends all his money on a toy in a single day and then has no money for ice cream or stickers, he might question his purchase of him. And to understand that, perhaps, some things are valued too much, asking oneself, among other things, if it was worth using all the money for a single good ".

    In other words, even an imprudent purchase choice is formative and it is not good to intervene, according to Ciferri. “Parents should let the boy manage his money independently, giving him the opportunity to learn how to value his needs. In this way, he can realize, for example, that if he puts aside a few coins each month (instead of spending it all at once), he will have enough money to buy something he particularly cares about. "

    At this point, the kid should have made some basic concepts his own but the best strategy of the family is not to change his approach over the years. And above all it is important not to forget that for every educational message the greatest ally is time, combined with a good dose of patience and the desire to explain.

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    • you buy it for me
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    • 3-5 children years
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