I bought something online. For myself. It arrived at my door within 48 hours to the excitement of my daughter – despite the parcel not being for her. The idea of opening the front door and ‘presents’ waiting for us is an experience I never had as a child. When we needed something new, we took a trip to the shopping centre. Then Mum probably paid in cash. If you needed or wanted something you had to wait - for spare time to get to the store, and, for Mum and Dad to have the money. Today, parcels appear and I pay on credit for the convenience. What are my children observing and learning? How are they making a connection between the cost of these ‘gifts’ and earning an income?
To a five-year-old the parcels at the front door are presents, and the simple association is that they are free, gifted to us from the delivery man (whose name we now know!). Explanations to counter this are not effective in the excitement of arrival and un-boxing. It’s a genuine problem that I think I need to address with my kids, especially as we increase our online shopping and the resulting visits from Matt the delivery man.
Another personal truth. I can be a bit picky with food. I don’t eat seafood or mushrooms or bananas (it’s about the texture – call me crazy if you like). But no big deal right? Well, what if I am encouraging my kids to eat bananas. Am I expecting them to adhere to the old adage, ‘do as I say, not as I do’? Most parents will know that getting your kids to choose the healthy foods over the sweet biscuits or chips can be a challenge. All the experts tell us that the best way to encourage a love of food is to demonstrate healthy eating, to continue to offer a range of foods, repetition is important, and not to get too hung up on the reward charts or bribes around dessert.
If kids learn mainly through observation, then I need to be demonstrating healthy eating habits. But I also need to be demonstrating healthy money habits. How do you do that when money is basically invisible? Is online shopping setting them up for failure?
In the moment of excitement of unboxing this ‘gift’ my daughter was quite disappointed. All that had arrived was a replacement pair of shoes for Mum. They didn’t fit her, they were not sparkly or child like. The disappointment was real. I left the conversation there for the time being. Later, when I put on my new shoes to leave the house I showed her my old shoes (which had a tear in the leather and couldn’t be fixed). I explained that they needed replacing and also gave her an idea of how many hours work I had to do to pay for the shoes. As my work from home time has increased work has become more visible to her. I explained that I had to spend a couple of hours at my desk to have the money to pay for these shoes. She might not grasp the concept in its entirety (she’s only 5) but I have started a conversation about money – that is more than simply numbers. I have linked my work day to the shoes. It felt good to help her understand.
The next time a parcel arrives, however, the same excitement ensues. But this time the message about connecting work hours and paying for the ‘gifts’ is more familiar. With food and kids they say that we have to offer the same food up to 15 times for kids to want to eat it. Is it the same with money? I think the answer is yes. Reinforcing the connection between my hourly rate and an online purchase might just help bring a greater connection to money in a time where it has become invisible.
Perhaps it's these small conversations that can make a big difference.