Could a picky eater now be on course for financial problems later?
Financial Advice for a Picky Eater
by Gary Foreman
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I have a 5-year-old that is a very picky eater. Will not eat veggies, except green beans and corn. Will only eat hamburger or ham. Can you give me some suggestions as to what dishes I can make? My husband and I are tired of eating the same meals. Thank you.
Sonny asks a good question, although at first I wondered if it weren't better suited for a parenting column. But given more thought, it occurs that it really helps illustrate a point about raising financially responsible children. How so? Let's take a look.
We'll begin by considering what Junior is saying when he refuses to eat anything but hamburger or ham. Part of it is good. He's exploring how much control he has over his world. And, although I'm not a child psychologist, that strikes me as healthy. It's all part of the growth process.
The bad part is that Junior is attempting to dictate his surroundings. In effect, he's telling Mom and Dad that he expects them to feed him only the things that he likes. And, it's up to them to perform to his standards.
Sonny, understandably, wants to make her child happy. But making him happy now could set the stage for much unhappiness later. Now might be the perfect time to teach Junior a better way of relating to the world around him.
What does eating peas and carrots have to do with finance? In this case quite a lot. If Sonny gives in to Junior's demands, he'll expect that others will, too. Not only at dinner, but also in other areas. It will be an unhappy surprise for Junior when they don't.
He won't know how to handle it when a boss expects him to perform a task that he doesn't like. He'll rebel when a purchase doesn't make him as happy as he expected. In short, he'll expect to get his way all of the time. And, as we adults know, that's not the way that life works, especially our financial life.
So what can Sonny do to avoid mealtime boredom and a lifetime of financial frustration for Junior? She can begin by serving Junior a variety of foods whether he likes them or not.
If dinner tonight consists of chicken and mashed potatoes, then that's what's available for Junior to eat. He may fuss and demand something different. That's when Mom and Dad need to tell Junior that nothing different will be prepared for him. He can choose to eat the chicken and potatoes or wait until the next meal. It's his choice.
Chances are that Junior will run away refusing to eat dinner. Don't chase after him. If he asks for a snack that evening, inform him that you're willing to reheat the chicken and potatoes for him. If that's not acceptable, he can wait until breakfast.
After a day or two, Junior will realize that Mom and Dad aren't going to give in. He'll be faced with a choice. Eat the healthy meal that's presented to him or go hungry that night. It won't take long before he discovers that chicken isn't so bad!
It's important not to get into a fight with Junior or to try to force him to eat. That could be bad for your relationship with your child. Just prepare a healthy meal (as a good parent should) and offer it to your child. Then give them the opportunity to eat if they're hungry.
Ok, now let's tie this back to Junior learning about personal finance. It's important for all children to learn that we don't always get what we want. Trying to do so will mean spending money that we haven't earned. Buying things that we can't afford. And, then expecting the world to fix the problem that we created.
Junior is much better served by learning early to adjust his wants to the world around him. He may want hamburger every night, but chicken is good, too. He may want a new luxury SUV, but he can afford a less expensive used crossover. Not everything he sees in the store fits within his income.
So to answer Sonny's question, she can make whatever dishes that she and her husband like. Not only will they be happier, but in the long run, Junior will be happier, too.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.
Take the Next Step
- Consider these 13 things you should teach your children that will make their financial lives easier.
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