Editor’s Note: Even if you’re not that great at saving your money or investing it for the future, your kid can be. That’s the premise of Beth Kobliner’s new book “Make Your Kid A Money Genius (Even If You’re Not).”
We first met Kobliner on Sesame Street, where she taught Elmo the three S’s: saving, sharing and spending. In the following excerpt, Kobliner focuses on that first S, offering six tricks to help kids delay gratification and save for what they really want. For more, watch the Making Sen$e report in the text below, and read the first excerpt we published, “The 5Cs to follow when setting your kids’ allowance,” here.
— Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor
Your child doesn’t have to be a monk, shunning all material goods. He doesn’t even have to be super disciplined. He’s just got to know the tricks to help him avoid frittering away his money and instead save those dollars for something he really wants. Here are six smart strategies, inspired by the research of Walter Mischel, the brilliant psychology professor who created the Marshmallow Test decades ago, among other experts.
READ MORE: What the marshmallow test really tells us
1. Inoculate yourself. Before you enter a place with temptations, have a game plan. For little kids, you can keep it simple. As you prepare to walk into a store, you can say, “Today we are buying underwear for your brother, and that’s it. So if you see something you want, remind yourself that we are not going to buy it today.” You can add that you will do the same. Letting a child know what to expect and how to react prepares him to resist the urge to make impulse purchases (or throw tantrums about them). By rehearsing his response to the lure of a candy bar or a toy, your kid is (slowly) training his mind to ignore temptation.
2. Think about tomorrow. It’s hard to remember how cool the thing you’re saving for is when you’re staring at a bag of cheesy chips at the checkout line. But focusing on the long-term negative outcome has been shown to be surprisingly effective. “If I spend money on a bag of chips today, then it’ll take me longer to get those Legos that I really want.” When your kid is wavering, commiserate about how tough it can be to wait for something you really want, and give an example of a situation where you had to wait for something. Then praise her after you see her resist an impulse purchase.
READ MORE: Self-Controlled Kids Prosper as Adults: ‘Fatalistically Depressing’?
3. Distract yourself. When your child throws a fit at the checkout line in a store because he will “die if I don’t have gum you have to get me gum buy me gum you don’t love me buy me gum gum gum,” be ready with a story, a joke, an awesome funny cat or crazy roller coaster video on your phone, or a special secret that you want him to hear, but must swear him to secrecy first. Once you’re out of the store, point out how you really admire that he was able to get it together even though he wanted the candy so badly. Even if he is still a little mad at you, he will realize that the distraction did help make the feeling pass.
4. Use your imagination. This is a quirky one, but it’s been shown to work. Encourage your child to think of whatever temptation she is encountering as not real, but just a photo or a picture that she can put a “frame” around in her mind. Turns out, some of the most successful waiters in the Marshmallow Test did this naturally. It’s a little abstract for young kids, but some can get into it. Another strategy is to pretend that a treat she wants is covered in ants or worms. In a store, if a kid tells herself that a tempting toy is broken or junky or that a candy is spicy or booger covered, it can work.
To read more, please visit: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/6-tricks-help-kids-...