How to Say No to Your Kids
I recently received a press release with a headline that caught my attention: "Is There Child Slave Labor in Your Child's Halloween Candy?" (The press release came from the non-profit Green America, which was providing ways to find and give Fair Trade chocolate.)
I passed it along to Kiplinger.com Managing Editor Robert Long, who jokingly responded that he could get out of buying treats this year by saying: “Sorry, kids, no candy this year. I’m protecting other little kids like you from being forced into slave labor. I’m sure you’ll understand.”
I starting thinking that maybe he was on to something. What if you could use an excuse like that every time your kids asked for something?
Mom, can I have a new toy? No, honey, because most toys are made in China. And Chinese toys have lead paint and other harmful chemicals that could make you really sick.
Mom, can I have some new clothes? No, sweetie, most clothes are made in sweatshops where people are paid very little to work long hours in terrible conditions.
Mom, can I go to a Hannah Montana concert? No, darling, because you'd just be lining the pockets of her parents and agent, who've probably taken away her childhood to turn her into a money-making machine.
Too extreme? Probably. Not that these aren't valid reasons for denying a purchase your child wants (well, the Hannah Montana one might be a stretch). But, in all seriousness, there are other effective ways to say no to your children while teaching them valuable lessons.
Explain why you're saying no in terms kids can understand. The slave labor excuse might resonate with a 10-year-old, but it won't work on a 4-year-old. You'll just get a blank stare then more pleading. That's why your response has to be age appropriate -- and simple. See Money Smart Kids columnist Janet Bodnar's money lessons by age group. If you have young children and want to prevent in-store meltdowns, set limits before you go shopping and tell them what the consequences are for disobeying. "You can pick out one thing" or "We're just getting a few things at the grocery today, so please don't ask for anything."
Say, "Yes, but you'll have to use your money." Kids don't have a problem spending your money. But if they have to pony up their own cash, they might back off with their requests. Plus, making kids pay -- or at least chip in -- for things they want teaches them a good lesson about making choices.
My 6-year-old daughter has been collecting spare change for years and has amassed quite a bit of money for a kid her age. So when we went to New York City, we told her she could use her money to get what she wanted (as long as it could fit in a suitcase). As a result, she spent a lot of time in the store deciding what would give her the most bang for her buck. "How much will I really play with this?" she asked about every item she was considering.
Encourage your kids to think about others. The next time your kids ask for new clothes, start by asking them to take inventory of what they already have. If they have outgrown a lot of their clothes, use the opportunity to teach them about donating their old clothes to others in need. If your children want a big birthday party but you don't think they need all those gifts, encourage them to ask guests to bring money to donate to a charitable organization or a book that could be exchanged at the party (so everyone gets a gift). Or you could just write "no gifts" on the invitation and explain to your child that some families might not have extra money in their budgets for gifts.