Hiking, Playing, and Delicious Teachable Moments

We had the most wonderful, delightful Sunday, with just the four of us, that ended with a surprising and even more fun life lesson (Yay!  My favorite kind!)   Our family needed a nice day together.  Between Scott’s 6 day work week and my subbing, and second shooting (a term for being a second wedding photographer) on Saturday, our family had been separated since Thursday.  It was nice to hike, laugh, walk, and breathe this afternoon.

Our morning started out by sleeping in, getting to church, and completing household chores.  We decided that a picnic and hike at Mahoney State Park sounded like the perfect way to spend an 80 degree Sunday afternoon.  After our hike, where we may or may not have gotten on a trail that was NOT marked, but still a trail, the kids asked to go to the play place.  Being pushovers, and lovers of places where we get to sit and read while the kids get to run around animals for a couple of hours, we agreed that it that was a good way to spend $8 and the remaining Sunday afternoon.

About 20 minutes before we left, McCartney started in on my biggest pet peeve.

“Can we go out for ice cream?  Ana and I want Zesto’s.”

I get REALLY annoyed by requests like this because on our day we already drove 40 miles (80 once we get home), I bought chips for the kids and Scott to eat on our picnic (a rare treat), and we splurged for the play place.  It felt like “what’s next syndrome.” You know the feeling: nothing is going to make this child happy and this is why we have to just sit at home because the more we do, the more he wants.  Plus, I HATE to say, “No,” but I DO because I am a Mom and I REFUSE to just give, give, give to avoid conflict.  I also, just wish my kids would LEARN that once we do ONE or TWO fun things for the day to count their blessings and STOP asking.  It just makes me wonder if we are teaching them ANYTHING.

“If you guys want ice cream, you can pay for the family,” was our reply. Our favorite response to requests like this, we can say no, WITHOUT saying no.

“I don’t want to pay for everyone.  I will pay for myself,” our son replied.  He can be quite stingy, which is good and bad.

“Did we pay for ourselves to come to the play place or did we pay for the FAMILY?  We will let you have ice cream tonight, but you and Ana have to split it for the family.  Those are the choices.”

“Well, how much will it cost?” (What a great question, my son!)

“Whenever we go out for ice cream it costs about $2.50 at McDonald’s, $12 at Zesto’s or Dairy Queen, or we can go to the store and you can buy a box of ice cream for about $3.  You and Ana go play.  When we leave, you guys let us know if you want ice cream enough to pay for it, and how much you are willing to spend.”

On our way home, the kids informed us that they wanted to spend $6 each at Zesto’s.  Scott and I sighed.  What a waste of their money! That is more than they make a week!  We chose our words carefully, especially after my son accused me of constantly “talking him into believing my way” this morning.

“What is it you want at Zesto’s?” Scott asked.

“I want a hurricane.”  (A hurricane is a candy bar and ice cream blended together.)

“I want a banana split.”

“We can get the supplies for BOTH things at the store, plus whipped cream, for MUCH less than a trip to Zesto’s tonight. What is the better money choice?”  Scott asked.

“Think about how many chores you do EACH week.  Tonight’s ice cream is MORE than a WHOLE week’s work for BOTH of you.  Think about it. It is YOUR choice and you guys make the FINAL choice.  We won’t say any more.”  I really hoped that was true.  The hardest part about parenting is watching your kids make BAD choices when you KNOW the right choice.  How many times have I watched them throw money away?  Too many, but it is good to point it out now, before they are throwing away thousands.

“We will go to the store and buy the ice cream.” The kids decided.  As we drove, we made our list, so we knew what we needed.

Once we arrived back to town, we grabbed their money, and headed to the store. (I am so glad I had dinner in the slow cooker!)  This is the best part of the lesson.

First, we compared ice cream.  The kids looked at the choices, prices, brands, and even the health information.  They finally picked a mid-priced natural ice cream.  (Yay!  They are learning something about ingredients too – Well, the rest of the shopping will negate this triumph, but they did think of it for a second!)  Scott and Ana picked out a generic whipped topping, ignoring ingredients, while McCartney spent ages picking out the candy bar he wanted to put in his “hurricane.”  We spent over 10 minutes scouring the isles for ice cream toppings because we don’t have chocolate sauce.  (Where were the helpful smiles?)  By a stroke of luck and bit of frustration, we FINALLY found the chocolate topping.  We were also proud to be a family that doesn’t know where it is, despite our frequent visits to this store.  The kids were very selective about THEIR chocolate sauce.  They wanted name brand.  They didn’t care it was a fifty cents more, they wanted quality.  The total cost of their dessert was $8.86, so $4.43 each.  Personally, I STILL think it was A LOT of money for them to spend, but they were so EXCITED, so who am I to judge?

Letting the kids do the shopping was so FUN and informative.  It was AWESOME to see what they have learned from us, and to see what values they are seeing from us.   (We are so guilty of name brands, or getting stuck on a product we like.  When we change brands many times we regret it, and end up throwing away the sale brand, which ends up costing more. Our kids see our brand loyalty.  I wonder if it’s good or bad?  I think it just is.)

After dinner, I made McCartney’s large hurricane and I had a super mini one.  “Making it at home is great, we can added whipped topping, chocolate sauce, plus you can have a BIG one and I can have a taste.  Can we do that at a shop?”

“No, we have to do it their way at a shop.”

Scott made two LARGE banana splits.

It was the most delicious economics lesson ever!  As we enjoyed the ice cream we talked about the advantages of doing this way.  Now, we still have a lot of supplies to have another treat later this week.  WE might even be able to have it two more times!  I might not bake, and we might not get as many treats as other families, but I do know that I am teaching my kids life lessons that matter.  Tonight was what I like to call a “teachable moment.” I am glad that Scott and I were open to letting it happen.


PS Stay tuned, I am thinking of a kid’s choice dinner coming up.  Oh, now I am getting really excited!


2 thoughts on “Hiking, Playing, and Delicious Teachable Moments

  1. How much allowance do they get a week? I love how they are learning to budget. We are at the stage where we are considering what to do. We have the 3 jars (save, save and charity) but have yet to really do anything with them. Thinking of starting out giving them their allowance in quarters so they can put some in each jar. I think we will match what they put in savings. I just have to sit the kids down, explain this and get started. Oh, and I have to keep cash around! The last part may be the biggest challenge.
    Their Sundaes looked amazing! Do you have a zesto’s in Fremont?

    • We have had MULTIPLE systems throughout the years, but I love that the kids have money to make decisions (like the ice cream). Our most current system is they have a list of daily chores they do NOT for pay like putting their laundry away, making their bed, picking up, clothes in the hamper, setting and clearing the table etc. Now that school has started, we have an invoice/ticket system. We have a list of chores they can do for PAY little things that make Scott’s and my lives easier like make our coffee, wipe down chairs, wipe down (not clean) the bathroom, wipe off the table, fold and put away the towels, etc. When they do a chore for pay, and it has been done WELL, we give them a ticket, with velcro on it. They attach it to their board and have a payday where they tell us how much we owe them. (I only need to have cash on Saturdays). Generally, we pay them a dollar a week for their age. At times we have fines for misbehavior etc. Now that MC is 7 he has a charitable giving piece too where he has to donate an amount he set each week to our Jesus jar. We don’t have a long term savings plan with the kids yet. I will blog about our new system once I see if it works. We have tried so many throughout the years once we figured out that MC will behave for cash and Wii time. 🙂 Every so often we have to mix it up and make something else work.

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