Monday, March 24, 2008

$5.95 and a broken heart

As parents it seems pretty natural to want to make your kids happy. And I admit, that there are times that happiness can come from materialistic things. I know I'm happy about a new shirt, new book or a new CD, so why wouldn't Liam find happiness in getting new things? The trick to this parenting stuff is helping him learn that happiness doesn't ONLY come from things, and that not getting a certain thing will not be the end of any happiness in his life.

This is a very difficult lesson for a five and a half year old.

Liam has a couple of websites that he plays on. NickJr, Webkinz, HotWheels. Most are free sites, other then Webkinz where you have to buy the stuffed animal in order to get the online code. Since he (and Hilary and I if truth be told) loves "stuffies" we have collected quite a few and play together as a family on Webkinz. But every now and then it's fun to try new sites, and that is how we stumbled across Disney's "Club Penguin" It's a fun, safe site: you get to be a penguin, wander around and "chat" with other penguins, play games to amass penguin money and buy things like pets and houses.

However there is a catch.

You can get a penguin and up to 2 pets for it with the basic free account. But if you want to do any more, like buy clothes, more pets, accessories for your house, you have to be a member, which costs $5.95 (USD) per month. Since we have already bought all the stuffies for Webkinz, and it's very similar in what you can do, we have said no to getting a "Club Penguin" membership. Sure we can afford six bucks a month, it's not going to break us. But we really want Liam to learn that a) he can't always get everything he wants b) money doesn't just come out of a bank machine - Mama works hard for our family's money and c) he can do all the same things at Webkinz, where we have already "paid" for the membership. He doesn't need another website to play on.

And it almost breaks his heart! He has asked several times if he can be a member. Usually while he's playing and he sees other penguins all decked out in the cool clothes and costumes. To his credit he has even tried to negotiate (something we encourage. When we say no to something if he has a very good logical counter-argument we have been known to change our minds) and has even offered to do extra chores around the house to make up the $5.95 it would cost for the membership.

It comes close to breaking my heart too. And I've come close to giving in... after all it's only $5.95, what's the harm!! But then I come to my senses and remember WHY we are saying no. So I hold him (if he's not too angry with me) and explain it one more time. And each time the upset is lasting for shorter amounts of time. Doesn't stop him from trying again, be he is slowly starting to see our reasoning.

ahhh... materialism... one of the harder lessons in life.
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