Winning the War on Whining - A Lesson in Economy
By Betty Ann Habig (TMFCatlst)
Wednesday, September 10, 1997

Like a locomotive building up steam, the ordeal begins. Just a squeal or two at first, then the all-out, full-throttle whining overtakes your senses. Suddenly, your mind begins to swirl in sensory overload and loss of reason becomes imminent.

It's that little slice of hell we Moms like to call "Grocery Shopping with the Kids." It's what's been known to reduce sane, reasonable women into oozing puddles of goo by the time they reach the checkout register. From the moment they enter the grocery store to the time they check out and make a hasty retreat to the parked car, the chants of children (of ALL ages, I might add) can be heard resounding off the grocery store shelves -- "MOMMY, CAN I HAVE…", "MOM, I WANT…", "MOM, WILL YOU BUY ME...?". It's a test of nerves, and a test of wills. For the child, the goal becomes, "How many items can I weasel out of Mom by the time we get to the checkout?" For Mom, the goal becomes not being arrested for child abuse by aisle three.

With three children of my own, I understand, and have felt, your pain. Allow me a moment to gloat, though. For, no more does my family cause unseemly scenes in the grocery store. I am a changed woman. Now I can be seen gliding through the produce section with a serene smile, squeezing melons and selecting apples with the calm of Gandhi. How did I do it? What's my secret? Are my children locked in the trunk of my car? Well, because I feel a sort of "sisterhood" with fellow Moms everywhere, I'm going to share with you how I won the "War on Whining."

First, I realized that my children had no understanding of the concept "economy". You know, that it takes money to buy things. That the amount of money one had was directly proportional to the amount of things one could buy. So, I devised a system of "tickets" that they were each given -- just one, mind you, with a set monetary amount specified on each ticket. The older the child, the larger the amount. For instance, Taylor, age 3, would get a ticket with a value of 75 cents, Johnathan, age 7, a ticket with a value of $1.00, and Rachel, age 9, a ticket with a value of $1.25.

They could use their ticket to buy an item of their choice, but they would have to wait until I was finished doing my shopping before asking for anything -- a tactic I called "learning to delay gratification". If they got through my shopping and didn't ask for anything, they kept their ticket and got to "go shopping" for themselves -- in effect, earning their ticket. If they whined, I took their ticket and they lost their privilege -- teaching them about consequences. They also had the option of accumulating tickets they didn't spend -- with the end result to teach them about saving and finally the concept of economy.

And learn they did! They learned that if an item had a marked price of $0.75, it really cost $0.78 when tax was added. They learned that sometimes they couldn't get what they wanted because they didn't have enough money to pay for it and would be faced with the choice of either saving their ticket for the next trip, or buying something less expensive. It was beautiful. I get all misty-eyed just thinking about it.

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't easy at first. They tried to push the envelope (as we all do) to see if I was serious. When they figured out I was, they got serious too. For a measely three bucks I got peace of mind and my children learned about economy. Will it work for you? Maybe. It could. This is just one method you could try to teach your children about economy. But if you've got an ounce of compassion, you'll let other families know what's worked for you. Let us know your battle strategy for the war on whining on the Family Fool message board. Parents across America will thank you and grocery store employees will sing your praises.

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