Monday, September 25, 2017

Teaching Contentment At The American Girl Store

As a little girl, our daughter was never really into dolls. She was more of the tree climbing, dirt wearing, always up for an adventure type. Different from most of her friends, she spent the bulk of her free time outside, climbing to heights unknown and rolling in whatever dirt she could find.
So when she was invited to the American Girl Doll store for a birthday party, I was curious to see how she would respond. All the little girls had their American Girl Dolls in tow, sidling them up to the table in high-chairs, combing their hair, and introducing them to one another. And our daughter brought “Diamond,” her one and only doll that she dug out from the depths of her toy box. Hair amuck and half-dressed, it was obvious how long it had been since Diamond had seen the light of day.

The party rooms at American Girl Doll are in the back of the store.

Making it past all of the merchandise and to the party room was a non-event. But after sitting with 15 little girls who were doting on their American Girl Dolls for 90 minutes, getting back out to the car was an entirely different story.
Suddenly, our daughter wanted what she did not have. Sage, the American Girl Doll who was the star of her favorite movie at the time.

When she asked me if we could buy it, my first instinct was to say yes. She rarely asked for anything, we never bought her toys, and she was a good kid. But then, my common sense returned.
I knew our daughter.

And she didn’t play with dolls.
“Yes, you can have Sage,” I said. “If you pay for it with your own money.”

“How much money do I have?” she asked.
It just so happened that a few months prior, we had opened a bank account for her. She had accumulated some birthday and allowance money, and we wanted to begin teaching her some very basic things about personal finance.

So I pulled up her balance on my bank app and used my calculator to subtract the amount of money it would take for her to purchase Sage. And then I explained:
“You have ________ money now. If you buy Sage, you’ll spend ________. And that will leave you with ___________.”

I could see her wheels spinning as she thought about it for a few minutes. And then she decided she didn’t need Sage after all.
No fit, no fight.

We left the American Girl Doll store without Sage, and Diamond went right back to the depths of the toy box!
I don’t think it’s wrong to buy things for our children, nor do I think it would have been wrong for me to have purchased a doll for our daughter under these circumstances. But I do think I would have missed an opportunity to teach her a valuable lesson regarding contentment.

She wouldn’t have given contentment a moment’s thought if Sage had been purchased on mommy’s dime. But by allowing her the freedom to make the purchase with her own money, she began to ask herself an important question:
Do I need or want this doll badly enough to use my own money to get it?

By allowing her the freedom to answer this question for herself, I gave her the opportunity to choose contentment. Contentment is a choice, after all, and it's a life skill we must all learn.
And if she had decided to purchase the doll with her own money? I'm guessing there would have been lessons of a different kind in that too!

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