- January 19, 2012
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A few months ago my family went to an amusement park for my 9 year-old daughter’s birthday. It was a gorgeous day and as usual we split up – my wife took my two older daughters on the wild and crazy rides, while I hung out with my young boys who are content just hanging out at Camp Snoopy. I don’t know what it is about amusement parks, movie theaters or stadiums for that matter but my kids just go crazy over the cotton candy, caramel apples and want to buy all the gadgets. All I hear is, ‘Can you buy me something, pleeease?’ Half of the time they don’t even care what it is, as long as they get something. Now, I do remember what it was like getting excited over buying items at various events, but unfortunately (or fortunately) I learned not to ask because I knew the answer was no. My parents just did not have the money. Somewhere along the line in my own family one of us (that would be me) started giving in, which taught the kids that if they begged long and hard enough, they would leave victorious. We had made it worth their while to beg and nag.
Half of the time they don’t even care what it is, as long as they get something
Though there is something fun and wonderful about a new and unique (and overpriced) toy/item, I have a very hard time swallowing the five dollar bottle of water, candy bar or popcorn. Maybe I’m just frugal (cheap!) but I don’t see the draw when I can buy five items on the outside for the price of one inside the park. I’m not totally out of touch and can appreciate the upside to buying something and not bringing it –convenience, not having to carry anything with you and the fun of buying. What I struggle with is whether or not my children have a sense of cost when I am always handing things to them.
I try to find the balance when we go to these types of places. I check ahead about restrictions and about bringing food and drinks, coolers, glass items, cans, etc. depending on the venue. I also check about leniencies with bringing your own items for dietary restrictions (diabetes, low sodium diets or religious practices). And if a place does not allow us to bring things in I check to see if they have exterior lockers, which can be helpful if we want to store our jackets, extra clothing if there are water rides and where we can put food for when we take a break to eat.
Regardless, of whether you can or cannot afford to buy treats, in our family it has now become more about eating healthfully and teaching our children values
Regardless, of whether you can or cannot afford to buy treats, in our family it has now become more about eating healthfully and teaching our children values. So what we have now chosen to do with our children is to tell them the rules before we go to a park or event. We give each child ten dollars (at least the responsible ones) to do what they please with it. Once they use it up, it’s done! We provide them with a decent meal and they get to choose what they do with their money. Some play in the arcade, buy junk food (which doesn’t go very far), buy souvenirs or save their money. At least this way they learn the value of budgeting, responsibility, compromise and sacrifice. This also encourages them to look at how others are making their money last. On our last trip to an amusement park, after we moved to doing things this way, I was surprised to see two of my children save the money and not buy anything. And the beauty of spending a day without the constant begging and pleading and negotiating was refreshing. Well worth the incredible amount of time spent in the gift shop at the end of the day.
Filed in: Parents