Pester Power - Teaching Positive Purchasing Habits

It's been a wet school holidays hasn't it? But then the vegetable patch is looking amazing, so it's not all bad.  I, like most parents, like to mix up our holidays. We have doing nothing days, we have fun going out days, friends days and character building / life skill days. Oh that last one sounds serious? Not really. It's like a challenge for the kids. For me, its about equipping my kids with the right skills and thought processes to get them through life.

Bluesky lining - Image Source:

Bluesky lining - Image Source:

For me one of the worst things about school holidays is having to take the kids to the shops and the pestering that comes with it. You know the "Mum! MUM! MUUUUUM!!! Can I have....." "Mum look at this. Can I have one..."  "Mum I really want this."  You get the picture because they all do it. Some more than others. Parents get irritated by it. Some more than others. For me PESTER POWER is a big bug bear. 

It really, really gets to me.  Not because it's annoying. Which it is. But because it's a systematic problem in our society. A result of a shortened thought process, or in this instance, decision making process.  "I like it, I want it" "I want it, I'll have it". You see short, instant gratification decision making in adults. The difference is, they don't pester anyone to achieve it, they just buy it.

What shopping with kids never NEVER looks like. Image source:

What shopping with kids never NEVER looks like.
Image source:

As a parent, bringing up the next generation of consumers, I feel I have the responsibility to nurture my little ones into becoming discerning customers. Customers that think and ask questions about what they are buying. Allowing pestering is encouraging lazy decision making.  Making good purchasing decisions is something that needs to be taught. So I've taken it upon myself to teach my kids the importance of considered, responsible purchasing with what we call the Opp Shop Challenge. 

Each holiday I take my kids to the opp shop and allow them a budget to spend. But they also have game rules they have to abide by. The rules are there to try and instill a little bit of critical thinking that is related to responsible purchasing. 

There's just 6. Image source:

There's just 6. Image source:

The game rules are:

  • Budget of $5. Not a cent over. 
  • You can't have the item already. (ie you can't choose a skateboard if you already have one).
  • No cuddly toys, full stop.
  • It has to be working (or at least mend-able if not) / fit for purpose / right size.
  • You need to know what it is and what it does.
  • Three asks and you're out!

Now this last one is the most important one. I shall explain. Each child has only three opportunities to ask me "Mum, can I get this?" If I can eliminate the chosen item by any of the criteria above, then they get a strike (not literally over the head). Just a mental note (Child A = one strike).  If the child gets to three strikes, they are out the game and can no longer purchase ANYTHING for the rest of the day. If, however, they have chosen something that I can not eliminate using the criteria above, then they can buy it. Fairly simple. Maybe, but its taken time to sink in. 

3 STRIKES and OUT! Closed until tomorrow Image Source:

3 STRIKES and OUT! Closed until tomorrow
Image Source:

We have been doing this for over a year and only recently have I seen a difference in my kids behaviour.  My kids are really starting to critique their potential purchases. Finally!  They are going through the rules and ruling out items, before they've even mentioned the "M" word. As a result of this, they have also started to understand the difference between needing something, wanting something and desiring something. It's like music to my ears. My seven year old boy got his first hit this week. After several minutes holding a fairly complex jigsaw puzzle in his hands he came over and asked me for the first time "Mum. Can I get this for $2?" To which I instantly replied "Yes". The look on his face was beautiful. He knew he'd made a really, really good decision.

Jackpot for both of us. HURRAY!!  Image Source: 

Jackpot for both of us. HURRAY!!  Image Source: 

The trouble is, they seem to be retaining this skill for the opp shop alone. Supermarket trips are still proving to be painful. Oh well there's always the six week summer holidays to get to grips with that. It's a monumental task taking on those marketing experts and their supermarket science theory. There's a reason why the milk is located at the back and you always need to walk past chips to get to it!! Eh that sounds like a maze challenge in the making. Watch this space!