Friday, December 21, 2012

The Issue with “Credit Cards”

On past birthdays, my son has sometimes been given gift cards. The cards come enclosed with a birthday card, and Kai has not shown much interest in them. I wonder if he even knew what they were. He usually just tosses them aside and moves on to the next present.

My wife makes sure to grab the cards so that they don’t get lost in the frenzy of opening the presents or tossed out with the wrapping paper and boxes.

However, and here is where we have a confession to make, we don’t give the cards back to Kai afterward. Oh, it’s not like we use the cards for ourselves. We are not that bad.

But after getting so many presents like he usually does on his birthday, it seems excessive to take him to the store with his gift cards and get him more. Instead, we save the cards and use them later in the year when he wants something. And that has worked out fine.

Until now.

This past weekend, Kai received a couple gift cards for Hanukkah. My wife tucked them away as usual. But this time, Kai noticed.

The next day, he asked, “Mom, where are the credit cards I got?”

My wife explained that he did not receive credit cards, but he did get two gift cards. I don’t think he cared about the distinction.

What he did care was that he could use them to buy more Legos at the store. Like, immediately.

We are trying to get him to wait for a little while before he cashes in his cards. I, for one, would like to do a better job of teaching him about delayed gratification, the concept of saving his money, and the notion of being able to buy something better later by having saved some money now.

But this is a boy who sometimes can hardly wait a few minutes for something, let alone having to save up for weeks or months. Rationally explaining the value of waiting often seems to have no effect.

I know we need to start small, and perhaps for short periods of time that we gradually stretch out. But it is not easy.

For now, with his latest gift cards, he seems to have accepted our argument that he should at least wait until after Christmas so he doesn’t spend his cards on something that he may get on the 25th.

But come the 26th, I know that we will be hearing his persistent pleading/whining/yelling to go to the store.

Perhaps it is both unfair and unrealistic to try to use these gift cards to teach him about delayed gratification. Maybe we should let him use these now but come up with another plan to teach him this valuable lesson.

Kai has made progress in many ways. This will be one of our next challenges.


  1. I love that he calls them credit cards! haha, adorable!

    1. Yeah, and I have a feeling that he doesn't understand the whole concept of paying bills. To him, all credit cards are free money.

  2. on delayed gratification
    I always think baby steps- it is the same way with R - he is really bad withayed gratification as well
    he is so so so adorable

    1. Thanks, K.

      I think you are right with the baby steps... I know that but am too frequently impatient and try to accomplish things too quickly. I will try to heed your advice a little better!

  3. A tough thing to teach at times (as children have differing patience levels). I used gradually increasing goals. I started out with goals only minutes away...and I gradually extended the times (baby steps). Eventually, he pursued closely spaced objectives toward a larger goal. And finally, he loved the idea of waiting for the long term for greater pleasures in the long run.

    Floortime Lite Mama is correct...not only with DG, but I have found it to apply to everything in life. Easily digestible portions is the rule of the game. More frequent meals...then gradually larger meals with fewer meals in-between...only extending the meals when full digestion takes place.

    1. If I take a step back, I can see that Kai is a bit more patient than he used to be, and is able to wait for things a little longer. But we still have such a long way to go. We will need much patience ourselves as we work through this in small increments.


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