Some kids are shrewd negotiators! You probably know one or two, they ask for what they want and they can justify exactly why they should have it! These kids provide us with ample amusement, it’s so cute; when you watch them, know that you’re watching a future CEO in the making.
The important question is, is your child one these child genii?
The word “no” makes kids think about how they can justify what they want. If you normally say “yes” to your children’s requests they don’t have to think much about why they want what they want; “no”, on the other hand, forces thought.
I’m sure you can think back to a time when you were a child and a parent said no causing annoyance and a period of intense thought. Perhaps you sulked or cried. I learnt not to sulk, cry or throw tantrums – such behaviour did not result in the desired impact on my parents, quite the opposite, in fact. Instead, I learnt to justify.
Shopping for school food – how I learnt to justify
I used to be jealous of those of my friends that received MWK10,000 for pocket money at a time when I was getting MWK3,000. This was in about 1999 when that was a lot of money.
As a boarder at school, in addition, to pocket money you also got food to take to school. I know some kids who were just given a bunch of money to get what they wanted but I on the other hand had to write a list of what I wanted and shop around for the best price! Having shopped around for the best price, I presented the list which totalled how much I needed!
I know some of you are thinking this was torture but I didn’t think of it as such, for me, it was just a game.
My dad would then go through the list and question some items. One time, I had listed several varieties of crisps and biscuits that were imported and he asked why I wasn’t supporting local industry. In the end, I had to downgrade the higher quality imported treats for the cheaper local produce. Even then, local crisps and biscuits tended to have less variety and were of lower quality than imports but my father explained why from an economic standpoint it was better to buy local. I was fifteen at the time.
If my father had just given me the money to shop for what I needed I would have missed a few lessons:
Firstly, the lesson on why it’s better to buy local produce rather than imported goods.
Secondly, I would have missed out on many negotiation sessions with the shrewd businessman that is my father.
Thirdly, I would not have learnt to bargain-hunt. After a few years you learn which shops are cheapest for which items and you organise your shopping to go to all those places.
Finally, I wouldn’t have learnt the extent to which I can compromise. My dad didn’t want to give me too much money so the total cost had to be reasonable. To save money sometimes I would have to go for the less convenient option, which wasn’t as hard as I first thought.
I only have space to provide one example here but I hope it was adequate to provide you with a few thoughts with regards to how you will teach your kids about money.
“Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” Sir David Frost
For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.