Letting kids fail in the short term: Hard for parents, but great for kids

By | April 9, 2012 | Motherhood & Family

Letting kids fail in the short term: Hard for parents, but great for kids
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There we were, at WalMart on a Saturday afternoon. Eliza and her brother Ezra each had two weeks of allowance and they were trying to stretch it as far as possible (which isn’t easy since they only had four dollars each). I was working on my skill of patience as each of them pointed out the things that they wanted only to find out that the item cost more than they had.

At one point I tried to explain the concept of saving up for the things that they really wanted, but their hearts were set on bringing something home with them that day. So I let them continue to shop.

After an hour or so of searching and realizing that they did not have enough money to get anything they really wanted, they begged me to go to the front of the store so they could win a prize from “The Claw” (you know, the machine that you put quarters in for a chance to retrieve a stuffed animal – except it never works). That’s what they really wanted to spend their money on… so I let them.

At first it was difficult to allow them to gamble away 2-weeks allowance on something that I knew was a waste of money. But I thought to myself, “If it only costs them four dollars at a young age to learn that if it looks too good to be true – then it probably is,” they would be much better off as adults.

So about ten minutes later, and seven dollars and fifty cents poorer, they decided to stop playing and go home. It was a sad moment, but for a Love and Logic father it was definitely worth recording. So I have captured their sadness and share it now with you.

The story does have a happy ending, surprisingly. On the way home we stopped to pick up a movie and my kids were going to buy some gumballs out of the quarter machines with what was left of their money.  It just so happened that the store we walked into had another claw machine.  My son walked up to the machine but was abruptly stopped by my little girl who yelled, “No Ezra!  Get the gumballs!”  I smiled to myself to know that my little girl may have learned for herself that in life you get what you pay for, and if it looks too good to be true – then it probably is.

A few weeks later, I wanted to see if Eliza still remembered the lesson that she had learned from the claw. So during the allowance distribution I asked her, “Eliza, do you want to go back and see if you can win a stuffed animal out of the claw machine?”  Her eyes got big , she shook her head, and she simply said “No.”

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Shiloh Lundahl

Shiloh Lundahl, LCSW, is a child and family therapist and an independent facilitator of Love and Logic® curricula. He currently teaches parenting classes in Mesa, Arizona and provides in-home therapy and counseling services. Shiloh uses an attachment and a family systems approach to therapy and has specialized training in working with children ages birth through six. Shiloh has three children of his own and he manages the parenting websites ParentArizona.com and ArizonaFamilyInstitute.com.

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