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Why parents should start saying telling kids “I won’t” instead of “I can’t” when it comes to money

| February 19, 2018
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It’s an age-old parenting dilemma: Your child asks for something you either cannot afford or are not willing to purchase. How do you tell them no?

You shouldn’t say no.

Instead, parents should tell their children “I won’t.”

You see, there’s a significant difference between saying “I won’t” and “I can’t.”

For many children, it’s difficult when their parents tell them no. When they see the house they live in, the nice car they are driven around in and lots of toys for them to play with, it’s hard for them to understand why their parents either cannot buy them everything they ask for.

Therefore, it’s so important, as parents, that we understand why it’s better to tell your children “I won’t” instead of “I can’t” when asked to purchase something that you either don’t want to or cannot afford to buy.

As a parent, it’s imperative to know that telling your children “I won’t” will actually help them. If you were to give your children everything they always ask for, you can unintentionally create an entitlement mentality in them. Secondly, giving your children everything they want subconsciously creates an unhealthy connection between love and money. Children can mistakenly think, “Mom and dad show me they love me with the things they buy for me.” While you don’t intend to ever say this to your children, by giving them everything they ask for, you can accidentally create this mindset.

With this in mind, here a few ways parents can reframe conversations to respectfully decline their children’s requests.

Partner with your children

When you’re unable to buy something for your kids, instead of outright telling them no, try reframing the conversation to show your children that you’re willing to partner with them.

For instance, your child might ask to buy an expensive new pair of shoes that you believe are too costly. Parents can politely explain to their children why they don’t like to spend so much money on a pair of shoes. Instead of ending the conversation there, offer your children the amount you would normally spend on shoes and encourage them to find ways to raise funds for the remainder of the cost.  

So, if you normally don’t spend more than $50 on a pair of shoes, offer to contribute that amount towards your child’s “shoe fund.” If the shoes cost $100, then they’ll need to find a way to raise an additional $50.

When I was a teenager and Reebok Pumps were the upper echelon of cool, this was exactly how my parents handled my request to purchase these ridiculously overpriced shoes. Needless to say, I learned a great lesson from the way my parents helped me achieve my goal of wearing sneakers with a small inflation device.

Using this partnership method allows parents to stay true to their financial values, all the while allowing their children to learn a valuable lesson and work towards a fiscal goal of theirs.

Allow yourself to say “I won’t” without guilt

One of the most dangerous things you can do as a parent is to say yes to everything your children ask for.

This creates a sense of entitlement and also incorrectly communicates a message to your children that love is connected to financial resources. This ‘yes’ mentality tells children that their parents show their love by purchasing them things. Not only is this a bad message to relay to children, but it also is a dangerous mindset to ingrain in them.

Regardless of your financial position, you should never feel guilty for telling your children “I won’t.” You are giving your children one of the best gifts of all, which is the drive to earn their own income to pay for more things they want. See the decision to say “I won’t” as a blessing – not a punishment -- to your children.

Remember this: Part of the responsibility of being a parent is recognizing what is good and what isn’t good for your children. Give yourself permission early on to tell your children “I won’t,” and you and your children will reap several benefits from this simple, yet powerful, sentence.

Be honest about what you’re willing to pay for

Without financial boundaries, you cannot have integrity.

Co-parents and spouses should sit down and discuss boundaries to determine what you are willing and what you are not willing to pay for. Prepare a game plan for how you will both respond when your children ask for something you’re unwilling to give them.

Once boundaries have been determined, it’s important parents are honest with their children about what they’re willing to purchase for them. This should be clearly communicated so that there is no confusion about what parents will or won’t buy.

For example, are you unwilling to buy your child a car when they turn 16? That’s understandable, but do your children know that? If they’re under the impression that you will buy them one, it’ll be tough for them to process that disappointment that when their 16th birthday hits.

When parents establish financial boundaries and communicate them openly with children, you are helping them develop a healthy money mindset, which will serve them well throughout life.

If you’d like to learn more about how to have important financial conversations with your children, click here to contact me about my complimentary workshop, Raising Financially Fit Families, which I present to groups and organizations of all sizes.

Registered Representative/Securities and Investment Advisory Services offered through Signator Investors, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC, and Registered Investment Advisor. 8515 Cedar Place Drive CEDAR PLACE DRIVE Suite 108 Indianapolis, IN 46240 134-20180209-432700

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