How To Explain To Your Kids That You Can’t Afford Something
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Mummy, I want ice cream. Okay, here you go.
Mummy, I want a new toy car. Okay, here’s your new car.
Mummy, I want a new teddy. Say no more child, here you go.
Familiar scenario right?

There’s nothing wrong in granting our kids’ requests but definitely all the time. Some kids can throw a tantrum and cry down the roofs if denied but it need not be so.

Kids should be taught contentment and delayed gratification from a tender age.

They need to understand that life isn’t fair and they won’t always get what they ask for.

As they grow older, they need to be taught the difference between needs and wants.

Really, there is a way you can explain to your kids that will not result in cries and embarrassing shouts, especially in public.

If you and your child are at a supermarket and what your child is asking for is something you genuinely would like to get them, you have the option of telling them “Mummy only came out with enough money for foodstuff and toiletries. I will add it to your Wishlist” or you can simply get them a less expensive alternative. But, that is, if you can.

Also, you can suggest they save up towards it.

Read on for all the details on how to explain to your kids that you can’t afford something in a way they’d understand that you’re not just being mean.

1.      Be Honest And Direct When Talking About Money

In simple, clear vocabulary, explain the situation to your kids whenever you can’t afford something they want.

It’s important not to give in to nagging power and risk getting into debt.

You can use phrases like “I do not pluck money from trees, my initials are not ‘made of money ’, not today,” even a simple ‘no’ can suffice.

However way you choose to pass this message, it is a good idea to keep your language simple and straightforward.

Simply state the reasons you can’t buy everything they want.

2.      Make A Wish List

Getting your child to write down, or even draw a picture of things they want and adding it to their personal wish list can help teach them about delayed gratification.

Doing this with them shows that you care and are interested in their request.

At the same time, it sends the message that they simply can’t have everything they want right away.

A wish list can be general, or for a specific occasion like a birthday – but either way, it will help your child learn patience and appreciation for such treats when you’re in a better position to grant their requests.

3.      Teach Them To Save Up

Teaching your kids about managing finances is a vital skill that will come in handy when they’re older.

This informal financial education class is also a good way to explain to children why you can’t afford something.

One way you can encourage your kids to understand what is being said and teach them how to manage and save up their own money.

For example, you could give them pocket money and suggest they save up for larger items or future needs.

Make efforts to also help them understand the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’.

You can point out to them how your income has to pay for all the costs you need to cover.

If they can see that things like food, fees, and rent come first, it’s easier to understand that random wants may have to wait.

Alternatively, you can suggest that they save up to cover some or all of the cost of the item (teaching delayed gratification).

The money they will save up can come from gifts, general allowance, chores, or other jobs.

The big benefit of this option is that, once they’ve saved enough money to make the purchase, they can feel pride in having managed their money well enough to handle the transaction.

Even if they save the entire amount, you can provide great support by helping them calculate how much is a reasonable amount to save, how long it will be before they reach goals, and finding ways for them to earn.


Also Read: How To Teach Your Kids Maths With Everyday Items At Home 


Acknowledging and offering positive encouragement along the way will help them stay focused on the goal as well.

4.      Find Alternatives

Another option is for you to offer an alternative to what your child wants.

For instance, if your child wants a bowl of chocolate ice cream all the time, you could suggest and offer them a chocolate bar instead.

This action line holds a good opportunity to talk about opportunity costs, value or feature assessment, and general cost comparison.

Your child might protest at first if he has his heart set on something very specific, but will likely warm up to the other choices if you clearly present all their benefits.

Yes, talking about money can be tricky, but starting these conversations with your children and teaching them good money habits early can have long-term benefits.

Indeed, it will set your kids up with valuable life skills.

Ask your child/ren to complete chores to earn money towards the item they want. It really doesn’t have to be much.

This will provide a sense of responsibility, and even pride when the savings target is reached.

And remember, as you are their first role model, it can also help children to see you sticking to your own rules when buying things for yourself.

It’s not enough to expect your kids to be resilient; you need to put in the work to help them to build their own resilience and identify what works for them, and what doesn’t.

A key element is giving your youngsters the necessary tools and techniques to help them with problem-solving from an early age.

This will be handy throughout their lifetime.

Find more resources on parenting here.

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