Kids and Money: Teaching Needs Versus Wants

Nancy Phillips, author of the Zela Wela KidsHave you ever had moments while shopping with your young children that were somewhat… challenging? It turns out most of us have, and yes, the massive amount of media advertising directed to our kids does play a role in our shopping challenges. That said, teaching our young children the difference between needs and wants is more important and trickier than ever before. Why? Because there are so many items being touted as needs, it makes the line between a need and a want blurrier than ever (sounds like a popular song doesn’t it?).

Why teach our kids the difference between needs and wants? There are many reasons such as helping them begin to learn the value of things and how to think through buying decisions. It also helps us as they begin to understand that as parents, we have responsibilities to provide for their needs, but not all of their wants. Plus, by giving our children the opportunity to save for their own wants, they develop self-control and goal setting skills, both essential skills for future financial and life success.

Here are some tips to help your child work through their wants:

To prevent a meltdown at the store – rather than saying “no” when you get a request, (which will just increase their adrenaline and fire them up), try saying something like this in a relaxed tone:

“that is a nice xx however it’s not on my list, in the budget etc. If you would like it, you can put it on your wish list  and decide if you really want it. Let’s write the name of it down and the price so you know what it is and can decide if you want to save up for it or get it for your Birthday.” You (or they) can also take a picture of the item with your phone.

When they see you taking them seriously and respecting their request, they will usually stay calm and often just say something like, “that’s not worth my money.” If they do think it through and want the item, they can talk with you to determine how they can earn the money for it. This whole conversation only takes one or two minutes in the store, and even if you’re in a rush it’s far faster (and much more pleasant) than the alternative.

If you are looking for a resource to share with your young child to help them understand the difference between needs and wants and why they can’t have everything they see, the Zela Wela Kids Learn about Needs and Wants was created to help parents deal with exactly this type of situation (yes, I needed it myself as well as my son was two when I wrote it).Sarah Cook and Jon reading The Zela Wela Kids Learn about Needs and Wants

Created for children ages four through nine, the book gives parents a fun and easy way to teach their children the difference between needs and wants in a real-life setting – a store.

In the story the characters learn:

the difference between needs and wants

* how a wish list can help you make good buying decisions and prevent “I want …” tantrums.

* why using cash saves you money

* why an “ATM” doesn’t endlessly spit out money

* the importance of tracking your spending

* what a bank account is

 This is a book many children read numerous times over months and years as their learning and maturity evolves. The book is also available in a downloadable form for parents with tablets or teachers who use SmartBoards. The book is appropriate for anyone living or teaching in countries that use a dollar and cents currency. 

I hope you find this helpful, enjoy your weekend.