I admit it. My number one fear when I became a parent was the thought that I would one day experience the middle-of-the-aisle temper tantrum I see from so many children when out shopping. Those temper tantrums that usually begin with the child saying “I want,” the parent saying “no” or “not now,” and ending with the child screaming, crying and being carried out of the store. When I saw my beautiful daughter lying in my arms after her birth, I felt joy but I also felt the dread that would soon come when we would have to experience our first temper tantrum. It is with much disbelief that I can say we have gone almost five years without having to experience a public tantrum in a store, and I believe it happened by accident with something I call the Principle of the List.
I don’t quite know how it came about. My husband and I have never taken a parenting class, but we have watched plenty of Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman shows on personal finance. I have also absorbed every piece of advice my father would provide about saving money and spending it on what we considered to be important. I can only assume that with those three influences, the Principle of the List came about.
The Principle of the List is very simple. It evolved one year around our daughter’s birthday when family members were asking what they could give her. We took our toddler into Walmart, went to the toy aisle and told her that anything she liked we would put on a list that we would share with our friends and family. My husband and I made a point to explain that not everything on her list would be bought for her but that we would keep it on the list for special occasions. Her birthday came and went. I realized that she probably didn’t remember everything she put on her list but she was so happy with the couple of items she received that it really didn’t matter. What I did notice is that during future trips to the store, she would look at an item and ask, “Could you put this on my list?” She never asked if she could have it now but would simply walk away from the item after I said that I would put it on the list.
We still use the list around birthday and Christmas time, but it has evolved into a way we teach our daughter about money. She now creates her “list” and picks one item off of it that she wants to save her money to purchase. She gets so excited that she asks us to do chores or special jobs around the house, and depending on the task, she can earn 25 cents to $1. She keeps her money in her money jar, counts it about once a month and then decides what she wants to buy. She will then take her money and the item to the cash register and pay for it herself.
I asked my daughter the other night, “When you put something on your list, what does that mean?” She replied, “It means those toys stay on my list until I save enough money.” I was wowed by this answer coming from a four-year-old, and I wish I could take all the credit, but I can’t. I will, however, celebrate and be appreciative that it allows us to avoid those shopping tantrums at the moment while teaching her an important finance concept for her future.