When I was young, my mother had to say no to me on occasion due to financial constraints. Granted, I never did without and I was certainly blessed regardless. However, she never stopped at no. Rather she always encouraged and challenged me to figure out how I’d one day be able to afford it.
She gave me challenges, such as getting in front of the church and singing a solo as a way of earning the toy I wanted. Usually, I had to work on something like that for 2 or 3 weeks to build up to the goal and it made the obtaining of the toy that much more special to me. I’ll tell ya, a He-man sword that lights up and plays lightning sounds is pretty sweet when you “worked” 3 weeks to get it. I had the power!
I began to realize from those simple challenges, that “if I did stuff of value”, there were rewards.
The most impactful thing she did for me, was let me know that whatever I wanted to do in the world – I could do it, I just had to figure out how to get it done. She did this through asking me a simple question, “HOW could I afford it?”
That constant encouragement and challenge lead to a whole slew of early childhood entrepreneurial ventures. When I was 10 or so, I was holding impromptu yard sales and selling found treasures and unnecessary items from our house. I was quite the sales man and kept all my money in a lock box. I loved watching it grow and mom regularly took me to the credit union to deposit my funds.
If I wanted something special, I was taught that I’d have to save up to get it. I learned the principal of opportunity cost very early on as a result. I knew that if I wanted the toy, I’d have to drop my bank balance by $20 and I knew how long it took me to build that up.
When I was 12, I started selling software on Yahoo! Auctions as my first “business”, later I sold pre-paid phone cards that I was able to get for free from a promotional company. I made several hundred dollars a month doing this and used this early success as the model for my first business as an adult marketing a self-published book.
Why did I do all that? Well, because my mom taught me to ask “How can I afford it?”, rather than just simply saying “You can’t have it.”
To this day, when I’m met with a financial challenge or especially a business challenge, I have it so ingrained in my head that I go back to the question “How can I afford it?”
That one question has been worth at least a million bucks to me, so it may be perhaps one of the most important questions you can teach your child. This single question paid for my college, it built 3 successful business ventures and supported me for the past 10 years.
So even if you CAN say “Yes”, sometimes say “No” and consider every request an opportunity to teach your child to ask this important question!