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Making my kids buy their own toys has changed them for the better

Trust me, my kids are not suffering from lack of toys. In fact, they are a bit spoiled. I won’t compare them to what I had or didn’t have when I was their age, but let’s just say their grandparents do not deny them much. After that — if they absolutely want something special beyond birthday or Christmas gifts — they have to work for it.

That’s right; I do not buy them toys. At 8 and 3, if they want something, they earn money by providing a service to others who need it.

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If my 8-year-old wants the latest game for his Xbox, he needs to figure out a way to earn the money to buy it. There are fewer ways for my 3-year-old to earn money in the traditional sense, but I usually find a way for him to earn extra money if he wants a new Matchbox car or Batmobile.

Prime example: My mother likes to slip my kids money every now and then. I allow it, but they have to “work it off” in some way. This may include raking Grandma’s yard, pulling weeds from her garden or cleaning out her garage.

Sometimes our elderly neighbor needs help. If my boys help her out with a chore, I will let her pay them for the work. My older son will actively seek employment to earn money from family friends by walking dogs or scooping up the dog poop from their yard. If a friend wants to hire my kids and pay them for a chore or project, I’m fine with that too.

When they do have money, I let them spend it however they want to. I’m not one of those parents who forces them to save or donate. I make suggestions on how to wisely spend, but ultimately let them make the final decision.

Do they waste money? Yes, but to me this is all part of the learning process.

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My oldest son is realizing how long it takes to earn and save money. When he spends it on something that breaks within a day or so, he’s learned that next time he needs to spend his money on something of higher quality. When he wants a new video game, he knows that he needs to save up money to purchase it. I never buy it for him or lend him a few dollars so he can buy it. He knows the difference between a need and a want. He’s learning patience and is less likely to blow on his money at once.

My younger son still has a way to go, but he will get there soon.

Why am I strict with my kids about money? I want them to learn how to spend money wisely. To me, you can’t teach them that lesson if you are giving them everything they want whenever they want it. My husband and I aren’t paid to wash dishes or vacuum. I don’t think I should pay my kids to help keep the house clean. Sometimes they do envy some things their friends have. I tell my kids that having everything you want won’t make you happy forever, it just makes you happy now. Do they get it? Not always, but as they grow older and wiser it will make sense.

Not long ago, our church was collecting money for expectant mothers. When my boys got home, they immediately went to their piggy banks and took out money to donate. I asked them, didn’t they want to use that money to buy a new game or toy? Both said they could always earn more later, but the babies needed diapers and milk. My heart swelled with joy.

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I’m not aiming to deny my kids stuff. I just want them to understand the value of earning money. It will help them make wiser decisions on how they spend it. They are not perfect about it and still waste their hard-earned dollars occasionally on ridiculous purchases. My hope is that as they grow older they will understand what it means to work, learn to save and the love of charity. Yes, I do make my kids work to buy toys — and they make wiser decisions because of it.

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