Encouraging my nine-year-old to save money

When Jase was 5 years old, we started giving him a small allowance as a method of teaching him how to handle money. We stopped buying him candy or toys when we were at the store and insisted he uses his own money for these extras.

He wanted a Star Wars AT-AT and with the help of a graph to show how much savings he had verses the cost, he ended up saving up enough money for the toy. (We did match his savings so technically he only had to save up half the amount but it was an expensive toy so it still took him a long time.)

Now, Jase is willing to do extra chores to earn money and is good about savings. Even now, he has $100 in savings and is often reluctant to spend his money.

Lexie too has been receiving an allowance. But she has the exact opposite reaction as Jase. If she has money, she thinks she needs to spend it. If she gets $5, she wants to buy something right then. She made $9 at her Nana’s garage sale and immediately handed it to me to buy an app for her iPad.

These past few weeks, she has been saving her money but her plan is once she reaches her goal, she will spend it and be out of money again.

I hate that she spends everything she receives. I also don’t like that she is purchasing virtual things – often “gems” or “coins” for some i-Pad game. She has nothing physical to show for her purchases. But I am not sure it is my place to qualify her purchases as foolish as they might not be to her. All I can do is explain the opportunity costs of her decisions. (If you buy gems for Animal Jam today, you won’t have money when we go to Sea World this weekend.)

Now when we first started the allowance, it was meant to be a learning tool – one I researched a lot before we implemented it. Many sites suggest you have your child divide their money into three categories – savings, spending and charity.

But I didn’t want to tell them how to spend or that they had to give their money away. I didn’t want to tell them what they could and couldn’t buy. I wanted it to be their money and their decision. Which means if they want to spend all their money on candy or virtual “money” than they can

The kids and I have talked about budgets and wants vs needs as part of our summer life skills/lessons. We have talked about making sure you take care of purchasing the things you need such as a place to live and food over things that you just want to do like go to the movies or buying a new video game. And I plan to repeat these points to them as they grow up.

Recently, I sat down with Lexie to talk about her spend-everything attitude. I reminded her of times we were somewhere and Jase was able to purchase a larger toy than she could because he had saved more. And there have been times where she couldn’t buy anything at all while Jase spent his money. (The bad thing is Jase is too sweet. He will buy her something so she isn’t upset.)

But more importantly, I mentioned to her the importance saving will have when she is older.  When she is an adult and on her own, she will not want to spend everything she makes. She will need money for emergencies. Being an animal lover, I pointed out that something unexpected could happen to her dog and she will not have the funds to pay for medical expenses.

That example made an impact on her but I don’t expect her to all of a sudden to start saving. In her mode of instant gratification, I don’t know if she will have the dedication to become a saver without some help.

So as much as I would love to allow her to do whatever she wants – and I do think she can learn some powerful lessons by making her own mistakes with money – I also want to instill in her the importance of savings.

In order to get her use to savings, I think we are going to have a minimum she must have in the “bank” rather than a certain amount to save from each allowance.

Part of me fears that making her save without her understanding the reasons can backfire later. When she no longer has anyone “making” her save, she could go the opposite way and go back to spending like crazy. Or maybe she will have learned to save some of her money. But really, only time will tell.

Advertisements

A Mouse in the House…again

It is the sound no parent wants to hear at 3 a.m. Lexie was crying. Now she is 9-years-old so she rarely wakes up crying. I stumbled to her room, assuming she had had a bad dream.

“I saw something,” she said. “I saw something crawl across the floor!”

Nikki

At first in my sleepy state, I assumed she had been dreaming. Then I noticed her cat Nikki was looking at a pile of toys by the closet. I had no desire to know what kept her interest (plus I had left my glasses by my bed) so I did what many women would do – I called for my husband.

Yes, I am thankful he was home because it was a mouse in the pile of toys. Now before you think we live in a shabby, mouse-infested place, let me assure you we do not. What we have is three cats, two dogs and a pet door that is always open. This means that at any time, any of these animals can bring home their latest catch.

We have had all sorts of live creatures – frogs, snakes, lizards, bugs, birds and of course mice. Many times I have had to try and chase these animals out of the house or pick up their dead bodies. While my husband hates snakes, I actually find them the easiest of the creatures to handle. Well, I guess handle is the wrong word. I don’t pick them up but they are easy to shoo with a broom out the door. Much easier than the birds that can’t seem to find the open door or the mice and lizards that run the wrong way.

Now the few mice we have had in the house are not tiny little mice that fit on your palm. These are field mice. Heck, for all I know they could technically be rats. It isn’t like I would know the difference. All I know is that I don’t want them in my house.

So, the other night, my husband came to our rescue. He trapped the mouse in a box and released him back outside. By now, we are all awake. The kids and I are sitting on Lexie’s bed. I reassure them that it is only one mouse and there are not likely to be more in the house.

They both request my husband check their rooms. He spends a good amount of time doing that while I talk to them about Nikki protecting them (even though she most likely is the reason the mouse was in the house.) We tuck them back into bed and return to ours. We are both surprised that the kids didn’t protest more about staying in their own beds.

We have spoken too soon.

A few minutes later, we can hear the kids talking. Lexie wants to sleep in Jase’s room but of course she doesn’t want to sleep on the floor. There could after all be a mouse down there. Jase’s bed is not really big enough for the two of them now. (I’m not sure it was ever big enough but they have slept in it together before.)

I bet you can see where this is going…yep, they both ended up in our bed. Thankfully, our bed is a King but even then, it is tight to have four people in it.

I know plenty of parents who allow one or more of their kids to climb into their bed at night and sleep. I have never been one of these parents. I like my space. I do not want a kid sleeping on top of me or kicking me in the legs or back. I simply don’t sleep well with them in my bed so it is very rare that the kids sleep with us.

But there it was 3:30 a.m. and we were all in the same bed. Nikki even tried to join us but I think she realized there just wasn’t room.

I’m happy that ordeal is done. I must say I don’t like additional live animals in the house at night. I would prefer the kitties keep their catches to the outdoors but I know that isn’t going to happen. So unless we are willing to make them indoor kitties, then I am just going to have to get use to the occasional nighttime visitor. I just hope my husband is here for the next one too.

Today’s Featured Author – Taiwo I. Ajao

Author Taiwo I. Ajao is on a virtual book  for Adunni Dares to Dream.

Excerpt

Whenever Adunni brought up the idea of school, somehow Mama found a way to end it. Despite the fact that she was illiterate, Mama was sharp, hardworking and very resourceful with money. Mama had married young, as was common in the culture, and she started to bear children as a teenager. It was unfortunate, however, that she experienced the loss of many of those children during childbirth. Only Adunni and her sister had survived, and Adunni wondered often about what she could have done to save those who hadn’t made it. Adunni was tearful as she remembered how her mother had nearly died last year during childbirth. Was every girl expected to get married and have children, even if it killed her? Adunni didn’t want to be like other girls: she wanted to be great! Adunni believed that to be great, she must be smart and be able to read, and learn great things.

Book Blurb

Adunni Dares to Dream is the true tale of a poor African girl who just wanted to go to school. Although she was a part of a very hardworking family, Adunni just could not have the finer things in life, like school, books, & literacy. In her culture, girls were just expected to look pretty, get married and have children. But Adunni wished for something more.

As Adunni dares to dream , she inspires many others to dream too, including a handsome young man who couldn’t stop dreaming about her! So Adunni has choices to make. Does she give in to her society’s expectations? Does she chose the status quo? What are Adunni’s dreams and where do her dreams take her?

About the Author/Illustrator

The Dr. Ajaos are a husband-wife, doctor-nurse team who have a joint passion for health literacy, preventative healthcare, and education for at-risk groups in the Global setting. Mrs. Taiwo I Ajao, the Author, is a Registered Nurse with a Master’s in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health, while Dr. ‘Wale Ajao, the Illustrator, is an internationally-trained medical doctor with a Master’s of Arts in Communications & Producing for Film and Video. Together, The DrAjaos intend to address health literacy via it’s most fundamental forms: using the arts of writing, entertainment, and communication to educate children and their parents. Adunni Dares to Dream is the beginning of a beautiful merger of not just a celebration of educational achievement, but also of Faith, Hope, Love and Miracles.

You can find out more on their website.

Or check out Adunni Dares to Dream on Amazon

 

My kids don’t get enough exercise

You hear so much about the rising obesity levels in kids and adults in the United States that I thought I would look and see if my kids are getting enough exercise. Who am I kidding? I already knew they probably aren’t as active as they should be.

exerciseThe American Heart Association recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorously intense aerobic activity EVERY day. Most other websites only said an hour of physical activity but recommended it be aerobic. They also suggested children participate in muscle-strengthening activities three times a week.

Great, I don’t even get that. I admit it – my family leads pretty sedentary lives. I know we all spend too much time in front of the computer, TV or tablet.

But even before kids or heck, even when I was a kid, I don’t recall being very active. My husband said it all depended on what year of his childhood we are asking about. But his father was a high school basketball coach, so I suspect he was more athletic than I was.

As for my own kids, we do go to the park and sometimes ride bikes, but outside play is usually quite limited. Some of this is due to Lexie’s allergies. They were quite bad when she was a toddler, and we have never really gotten use to her spending a lot of time outside. When she does, you know she will be itching later no matter how much antihistamine we give her.

We are in Texas, so in the summer it is HOT – as in high 90s and low 100s. The only time worth going outside is before 9 (maybe 10 am) or in the evening. This makes outdoor activities more of a challenge.

Both kids do participate in indoor sports. Lexie does gymnastics, and Jase has karate. But these activities are only once a week. Neither of those is exactly vigorous exercise. When they took soccer, it still wasn’t daily practice. They had one practice and a game each week.

During school time, both kids have physical education classes. Jase had them three times a week while Lexie went daily. We also walk to and from school daily (barring really bad weather). But other than that, the rest of our time was sitting down doing homework or relaxing, which probably included an electronic device. (At least it sometimes includes dancing around to a Wii game.)

Even if their downtime isn’t focused on electronics, they are playing in their rooms. While that is great for the imagination, it does little for getting them exercise. (I say this as Lexie is tumbling and jumping in the other room. So much for quiet – but hey, at least she is moving around.)

DSCN0350

Lexie playing in the wave pool at Six Flags.

In the summer, I take them to the pool but this isn’t for serious competition-type swimming. It is for playing around. We do go places such as the zoo, the park or to a museum but really nothing strenuous in the way of exercising.

I guess I can blame most of this on my husband and me. As role models, we are falling down on our responsibility. Neither of us is very athletic and we too lead pretty sedentary lives.

I know we should restrict screen time and encourage more activity, but we don’t. The only good thing is that neither child is overweight. According to their doctors, their weight and BMIs are in the healthy range for their ages.

But I know they need more exercise so for the rest of the summer I think I will make sure they get out and do at least a little something every day. That is at least a start in the right direction.

 

Social Media and Kids

Earlier this month, I went to a seminar about social media and kids. It was presented by a counselor from one of our area middle schools.

Now, my kids don’t have cell phones, but they do have iPads that have WiFi ability, so they could have access to some of these apps (though they don’t). Also Jase will be starting fifth grade in August, so I figured it would be a good idea to find out what apps and social media kids are into nowadays and what the dangers associated with them.

The counselor stressed open communication with your child. She suggested using the available apps and social media as a way to start a conversation about what they put online. You know…the whole “Whatever you put on the Internet is out there forever” and such.

Her recommendation was to allow your kids to have some of the safer apps but require they give you their login and password information rather than you just friending or following them on the social media sites. This way you can check to make sure they are behaving in a safe manner.

Good-and-Bad-Teen-Apps-Parent-Guide-300x169She put the apps and social media into three categories: green (safe), grey (could go either way) and red (bad/stay away). (I may have missed some in my note taking. She listed them by their icons rather than their names.)

Green Apps: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Linked In, YouTube

Grey Apps: Snap Chat, Vine, Personate, Facetime, Texting, Messenger

Red Apps: Kik, Yik Yak, Omegle, Whisper, After School App, Secret, Ask.fm

Many of the Red Apps let users set up anonymous accounts – which means users can post things without their comments being traced back to them. This often leads users into making mean comments (cyber bullying) or posting things sexual in nature. (Kik doesn’t even link your account to your cell phone number.

unnamedMany of the red apps are rated for kids age 17+, but that doesn’t mean kids younger than that are not downloading and using them. She also suggested checking their phones for a “Secret Calculator” app. This app looks like a regular calculator to friends or parents but actually once the passcode is entered it is a place to store photos and videos. This is just one way that kids get around any parental rules.

And just because you forbid them to use a particular app or perhaps don’t even get them a phone, they find ways around it such as setting up an account on a friend’s phone. In the speaker’s opinion,(and I agree with her) it is better to have supervision rather than no knowledge of their behavior. (In other words, allow them some freedom but still monitor their activities and keep communication open.)

Another way of hiding things is to have a Finstagram account on Instagram. This is generally a second fake account usually used for only close friends where users share funny or embarrassing photos. Even though Instragram posts only show for 10 minutes or less, it doesn’t stop others from taking a screen shot of the image and sharing it elsewhere. So if your kid has a Finstagram account, they need to remember that what is posted is no longer private. It can go anywhere.

Overall, the course was an eye-opener, and it gave me a lot of things to think about. Here is the link to her go-to website for staying up-to-date on the latest apps and their dangers.

As kids get older, buying gifts gets harder

Before you know it, it is the time of year to start shopping for Christmas gifts. Ok, I will be honest. I was done with most of my gift buying before Thanksgiving.

But each year as the kids get older, it gets harder and harder to figure out what to buy them.

surprising-ways-kids-play-02-pg-fullWhen they were infants and toddlers, there were so many cool toys out there that they were happy with anything. Heck, they were probably happier with the box. When they are that young, any new toy makes them happy.

And then they start liking certain characters or shows. And the choices get narrower. Gone are the days when a red drum or a stuffed animal will make them happy. They now want Disney this or Dora that. But still the kindergarten age is relatively easy.

For me, the years after that are harder. Even if I have my kids make a list, you have to figure out which things they really want. Girls-Toy-AisleMy 7-year-old is apt to write down anything in a pink box or anything that looks fun. Well, girl things are often in a pink box, and all toys are usually presented as fun items. It makes her list long. (This year I stressed only writing down the things she really wanted.)

And then there is the ever-changing favorite thing. One month she is all about the new My Little Pony/Equestria Girl movie. She is singing the songs and wanting all the toys. They are on sales so you think about buying them – or perhaps you even do. And then, she finds a new favorite thing when she watches the latest Barbie movie or sees a commercial or finds out her friend Melony likes Monster High.

This ever-changing list of the “best” or “hot” toy is what makes buying for Lexie so hard. You have to look at her list and try to figure out which of these toys does she really want – and not because it is in a pretty pink box, which of these toys is not a passing fad. But the grandparents always want a list, so I do my best to guess which items she really wants and will play with. canterlot

For this year: My Little Pony has always been a hit with her, so we bought her the Canterlot Castle. And you can never go wrong with a toy from the movie Frozen so she is getting one of those too. She has been talking about the CleverKeet for over a month so that is what Santa bought her. (Yep, still believing in Santa.)

For the past couple of years, we have it easier with Jase as he has been into Legos. The problem is that he doesn’t always build some of the more complicated sets or even if he does, they never stay put together and soon his room is overrun with Lego pieces. Beyond Legos, he is into video games, which are usually an easy purchase. The thing with his items is they are no longer cheap!star wars legos

For this year: We have bought him a Star Wars Lego set and a video game. We are still waiting on purchasing his gift from Santa as he hasn’t said what he wants to ask Santa for. (I get the feeling that he may no longer be a believer but he hasn’t said so yet.)

So we have navigated the gift buying for this year. But I expect the same dilemma will hit me next year.

Gaining an hour of sleep with DST

This weekend many of us in the United States (and the 70 other countries that have Daylight Saving Time) moved our clocks back an hour to enjoy an extra hour of sleep.

Yes, it was the end of Daylight Saving Time. (Note that is “Saving” and not “Savings” as it is often mispronounced.)

pocket watchWe rejoice when we gain that “extra” hour and whine when it is the spring and we “lose” an hour.

Now for those of you who don’t participate in Daylight Saving Time (or Summer Time for those of you abroad), this is a twice a year practice where we adjust our clocks in an order to conserve energy (though it hasn’t been proven to save energy in today’s world of technology) and increase active daylight hours.

If you want more information on DST, you can watch Katie Couric’s quick 3 minute video explaining Daylight Saving Time. https://www.yahoo.com/katiecouric/daylight-saving-time-201419336.html

This whole time changing thing is hard for many adults to adjust to so just imagine what it does for your kids. While it is nice to think that you could have an “extra” hour of sleep, most young kids don’t go for that. They went to bed at their normal time (let’s say 9 p.m.) and woke up at their normal time (7 a.m.) except now it is an hour earlier (6 a.m.). They don’t understand why mom and dad still want to sleep longer.

Then in the evening, those same kids are wondering why they are tired when the clock clearly indicates they have an hour before bedtime.

In the spring, it is often the opposite problem.  I will have to wake the kids up at 7 a.m. but their bodies think it is just 6 a.m. And later in the day, they will protest going to bed because the clock may show it is bedtime but their bodies are still revving to go.

Of the two time changes, the one that seems harder to adjust to is the one in the Spring – or maybe that is just me.

Now I know there are those parents who try to slowly adjust their kids’ wake/bedtimes leading up to the change but that has never worked for us especially now that the kids can tell time. For that matter, we also have given up trying to slowly changing their wake times from summer (where they slept in) to school year wake times.  Yes, it makes for a couple hard days but they adjust.

Many people dislike DST. They don’t see the use of it. Maybe you have seen this saying on Facebook or elsewhere.

When told the reason for daylight saving time, the Old Indian said, “Only the Government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.”

But DST was never about giving you more sunshine. The sun shine the same amount of time regardless of what your clock says. But it is a matter of when it is light.

In October, I walked my kids to school in the dark. (School starts at 7:35 and sunrise was about 7:45.) But this week, it will be light when we walk to school as sunrise is at 6:50. And of the two, I would rather be in the light when walking them to school.