She has to earn it

1:55 PM

On Christmas Day we had one of DH's colleague over for dinner along with his family, during the course of the evening the topic of gifts and Santa came up and Ishita proudly showed her princess scoot which she got in the morning. And DH and I announcing that she has been wanting it for months and months. His colleague ended up being a bit baffled by that and asked us why we just didn't buy it when she asked for it in the first place instead of making her wait. My answer was that delayed gratification is a lost skill nowadays and that kids need to learn that their desires will not all be fulfilled immediately, that some can take time to become a reality, and more important that something you desired for a long time will probably end up being something you cherish more and respect because it actually has a value you can measure. He wasn't completely sold on that answer but agreed that a kid might play more with a toy they truly desire over one that is just a whim.

DH and I have seen where constantly giving in to your kids fancies lead in our old apartment building over any other places before. The result is often a 6-7 years old kid, coming along to the playground with his maid as both parents are working, always dressed up in the latest fashionable outfits, carrying a bran new toy to brag about but letting nobody touch it, and of course thinking they are exempted from waiting for their turn on the swings, slide or merry go round, often throwing smaller kids off those rides to get there. Brats we called them, because that is what these kids are. They sadly have parents that will give in to their desires immediately, and as I said these kids often come from dual income families where there is an element of guilt at play! the parents indulge the brat because they feel guilty not being there for the child in the first place. The problem is that it is not really helping the child at all. DH and I often wondered what these brats will turn into once adults. What will they find themselves coping up with when they realise that nothing comes free, and that a new high tech TV, a car, a fancy house, or a trip to a tropical island will not materialise the instant they say I want?

This is the reason why we waited until Christmas to get her that scooter, this the reason why she doesn't get all her toy wishes or even TV requests fulfilled, and why what is on her plate will not transform into something else just because she doesn't feel like eating dal and roti that day. DH grew up with parents who didn't just give in to all his fancies and wanted good behaviour, I grew up the same with the extra of actually being taught early that it was up to me to earn things. In most of the Western world, kids are given allowances early, and with them are suddenly in charge of certain expenses, for me it was first 5 Swiss francs a week! which back then could get you a kid magazine and a handful of candies or a fun pencil and pad set. With that money I suddenly was in charge of my candies expenses, and trinket toys, if I ran out of it before Sunday there would be no more, and my parents would not buy me more bubble gum, it was up to me to plan. I was 7 then, shortly after I told my mom I would prefer getting all of my weekly money monthly, and it amounted to 20 CHF, the price of a plain non special Barbie dolls in the day. I became responsible for buying such toys in the process, my parents wanting me to learn of to save money and differentiate immediate desires and long term ones. I saved 3 months for a special Barbie doll I wanted that did cost over 30 bucks, because I was still in charge of my candies, and magazine and blowing up a whole month of allowances on something meant sacrificing something else...not worth the instant gratification of owning the doll if I was going to be the only one of my friend not being able to buy sour apple strips at the local bakery. Over the years the allowance increased, but so did what I was responsible of buying on my own, such as non essential clothes, branded shampoo instead of the cheap one my mom would buy...the idea being that my parents would pay for my essentials, but leave me in charge of all the things I wanted but didn't feel in that category. So basic jeans, shoes and winter gear that was needed was bought by them, an extra pair of jeans while I still had a few wearable in the wardrobe was up to me...I learned to save birthday money! Christmas money, buy things at thrift stores, how to save money buying in bulk, budget my spending all that before the age of 18 when suddenly the law stated I was a legal adult. And I was not alone, all kids of my generation and even the one of today go through some of that. The cost of life in Switzerland is high, parents teach their kids to be ready early.

And because I grew up like this and because I did well on that system, this is what Ishita is starting to learn. She is not yet old enough to understand the value of money so we aren't doing allowances just yet...but this will come in a few years, mark my words. Instead we won't give in to every of her desires on the spot, and early in January she suddenly wanted a doll pram, simply because one of her friends had one. Just like that, right after Christmas, which of course was not going to happen, and hasn't happened just yet. I told DH this was the perfect opportunity to start an earning chart. I drew 50 squares on a sheet of paper, each square is to be filled with a star (hello kitty stamp star), she can earn up to two stars a day for helping keeping things clean around the house and and behaving properly. I am not asking for the moon, but things like storing your toy at the end of the day, and bringing the dirty dishes back to the sink is something she can do at her age, I have of course to tell her to do it, but that too is expected at this age. What is not tolerated is her refusing to do these things when asked, and behaving like a monkey at the dinning table. If she does any of these things, or defy me when I tell her to do something, one of her star is jeopardized, she has 3 warnings before the star becomes history, and trust me she doesn't need more than one because she really really wants that pram. But there have been a few stars that she didn't get in the past month, she just had to learn that it is great to have an opinion and stand your ground on something, but that nothing in life comes without any consequences. After all adults can't expect to be paid if they never show up to work or tell their boss they don't feel like doing that PowerPoint presentation today.

DH and I are committed to raise a good human being who knows the value of life and things, and respect both her own properties and the public one, and it has to start by giving them responsibilities proportional to their age at the earliest possible, there is no other way to teach one this life lesson. As for the pram she is ten stars away from earning it, if anyone was wondering.


  1. apple3:56 PM

    The kids that you see today are the children of those parents who never had it so good. Back in 1980s, incomes were low and priorities were straightforward. Living expenses and education was of paramount importance. We understood delayed gratification the hard way. It was rather imposed upon us. There was clear demarcation between children of middle class and the children of businessmen in school. They could wear expensive watches and had fancy geometry boxes while we had to keep up with the same stuff always. It was good that we understood where we stood. Some children did get pocket money but it was not a common practice. Life was simple. I detested this imposed poverty but now me being a parent, I can understand the position of my father lot better. At least, we value money unlike today's generation.

    This frustrated 1980s generation became adults in the post 1990s liberalized India. Now, things could be brought on installments cars, TV, music system etc. This frustrated generation went for these material things with vengeance. There was lot to catch up. They showered their children with things which they never had just to make their lives easier. They tried to behave like "American Liberal Parents" and screwed up. We should stick to being Indian parents. I our times, children feared the parents. Now, parents are afraid of their children. We are really developing and becoming modern. Today even the admission of financial constraints is looked down upon. I hope we don't loose the Indian way of delayed gratification.

  2. Delayed gratification is very Swiss too, we don't do EMI unless it is for a car or a house, and even then many will choose to save or buy second hand when it comes to a car. I am not familiar with the American parenting but there is a book about an American lady who lived in France and noticed the French kids had a far better grasp at delayed gratification and were far more well behaved than the American kids she knew. The book is called bringing up be be and I have it on my reading wish list

  3. The problem with showering kids with stuff the parents didn't have is that these kids will not grow up really knowing the value of things, and I doubt a cool electronic game is really going to make the life of the kid easier :)

  4. Back in Switzerland I grew up in a very diverse neighbourhood with kids coming from all background, and since the school is public there kids living in a specific area have to attend one assigned school. I remember pulling the " But ma! So and so has this and that or can do what you told me I can't it is not fair!" And invariably my moms answer was something along the lines of " if so and so has the right to jump off a cliff and does it, would you do it to?"

  5. Alexandra Madhavan9:32 AM

    Great post! I'm totally going to try that when Maya gets older!

  6. Yes I remember the debate that book sparked, I haven't read it in full though. I think the Swiss parenting way is in the middle, it is far less liberal than what I heard is happening in the US but not as though and borderline abusive as what the tiger mom does. Creativity was must in old days as creative thinking simply provided ways to survive, the Swiss aren't known as painters, and musician, but the Climate is extreme and elements ruthless, floods, landslides, avalanches, they are things that still happen every year, our ancestor had to bear with it and find solutions, and also found a way of living during the long winter months, many farmers would work in small scale industries and workshops, and that is how the Swiss watch became so famous, the assembly didn't require much space, but patient and minute workers to put the gears together, a quality watch back then was not made quickly, it was a slow precise labour, that people who understood discipline and patience could accomplish, luxury watches are still assembled by hand in such small workshops today.

  7. It's a special moment to a parent when you see your child learn to manage money and save for things they want rather than just feel entitled to everything. It's a sense of pride you won't get if you don't encourage that behavior. A lot of parents miss out on seeing the beauty of a child maturing by not teaching these concepts.

  8. Your Swiss upbringing sounds similar to my Indian upbringing. I guess Europe, Asia & Africa have similar attitudes towards parenting. American are on the other extreme. I guess the average strictness in an Asian household may appear to be abuse to an American. Overall, the book did touch a raw nerve somewhere.

  9. It is definitely a beautiful thing and I remember loving having some of that independence as a child, being in charge of my spendings, of course I learned very quickly that it came with responsibilities too, but then once I was a grown up I knew better than blow all of my earnings on somethings without thinking and planning carefully the rest of my budget.

  10. You know I think the traditional Indian way is indeed very similar to the Swiss way! what is happening now with the self entitled middle class however is very scary. I can't imagine how these kids will grow up and be responsible adults having had their every wishes granted at home from childhood. The few pages and extracts of the tiger mom book didn't sound too extreme to me, apart maybe for the fact the mom didn't let her daughter choose or have a word in a the selection of the extra-curricular activities. But not letting the child give up, and pushing them to do better, I grew up on that, maybe not in such a vocal way but if we were flunking school and my parents knew we could do better, there were revocation of privileges to get us to do better

  11. Deepa9:28 PM

    Hey love love love this! very creative!

    I get a newsfeed for your blog on my email id, but its been a while since I actually came and read your posts. Great going, lot of interesting stuff..esp liked your simplified life series. I have a lot to say on several of your topics, but lazy to type and not enough time. Maybe some other day!
    keep writing!

  12. I've been wondering where you've been :) how are you doing?

  13. apple5:27 PM

    I think we are hurtling down the road of consumerism. We want to make up for lost time. When we have our fill we would stop. I only hope that we don't go for credit card debts. I have heard that in America there is an institute to treat people who have gone into depression due to credit card debts.

    The only difference is we had a clear understanding of where we stood financially and socially. Today it far more difficult for children to understand that all things are not easily available. But they are available in the market and their friends are buying it. Peer pressure is also a lot these days. Indian children are caught somewhere in between. There is also a sense of 'self' among children which borders on arrogance. Most of the time is pure hot air and nothing else.

    In our times there was nothing else to do except play cricket in free time. Today, there are endless distractions facebook, mobile phones, malls. Unlike us, they have build a world for themselves which adds nothing to the quality of life. But academic standards have gone through the roof in spite of all these things. I guess the children are smarter these days.

  14. Coming from Switzerland I was baffled at the concept of EMIs we don't have them for appliances and computers and such, just for homes and cars, people usually use their credit card as they would in the distant past ask the store to bill it to their account, we pay all bills by the month end, I had no idea one could leave a credit card bill unpaid until I moved here, my credit card was a direct debit one, the bill was sent to my bank at the end of the month, if the funds were not there the card would be blocked, it happend to me once because of a lag in the money transfer from one account to the one tied to the card.

    Give me playing or doing something outdoor over a computer or a mall any day :

  15. Amanda McMahon11:19 AM

    I do think she'll learn responsibility through this - also likely makes it a bit easier when the day gets crazy :)

  16. It definitely does make it easier on a crazy day, if she starts walking on thin ice, all I have to say is "do you want your star today?" And then when she of course says yes add"and you know what you have to do for it right?" And that usually get her thinking and make a wise decision.


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