The General Store: How one family solved the problem of the "gimmies"

One issue that most parents face is teaching their kids gratitude and good manners.  Sometimes this can be tricky.  Things get even a little more complicated when there are step-family issues added to the mix.  Our guest post today is by Liz Lovejoy, of The Lovejoy Center.  Here's how her family solved this problem:

The General Store

“If I break it, you’ll just buy me a new one.

I had to pick my jaw off the floor when I heard this. Once upon a time my stepdaughter had this sense of entitlement about money and toys that was extremely hard to swallow for both her father and me. She had a painful carelessness about her toys, as if they were meant to be broken and tossed without thought.
“Daddy doesn’t buy me anything when I want it, but Grandpa does.” She whined on another occasion.

Ah Grandpa. As a Stepmom, I hear about good ol’ Grandpa from the mother’s side all the time. Grandpa, like many other grandparents, likes to spoil his grandchildren. He passes out whole dollar bills to the kids and buys them anything they want without hesitation. The kid’s mother doesn’t stop him, because he is her father and she doesn’t like to say, “No” to him or the kids. Spoilage from other adults like Grandpa and Mom then becomes a burden for the other parent, who has no problem saying no. Worst of all, it breeds a greedy, ungracious child.

Parents are quick to feel that children are too young to understand money. It may be hard to teach them the literal worth of a quarter, dime, and nickel, but young school-aged children are at a perfect age to learn the fallacy of, “what’s yours is mine, what’s mine is mine.” We teach preschoolers about sharing, which should be punctuated before they enter kindergarten.

Daddy and I had a talk with his daughter about appreciation. Moreover, we explained to her that once you break something, it doesn’t come back, so handle it with care. Strangely, we were the first to insist she say “please” and “thank you” as well. If at any time she forgets to say itand makes a demand we tell her, “We’re sorry, we can’t hear you”. She knows by now that we don’t “hear” anything that doesn’t come with manners.

In order to emphasis the idea of earning, saving, and spending, we have developed the General Store. At the General Store there are several chores or educational tasks that can be completed for a specific amount of “money”. After each visit, each child also gets $5 for being good, but if they misbehave that same amount can be taken away. The kids can use their money quickly on small items like packs of gum or save it for large items such as an art supply kit. This has turned out to be a huge hit for everyone; the kids get to buy things they want, while learning real life lessons about money.

My stepdaughter comes over to our house and can’t wait to earn money. It has proven to be an invaluable tool for teaching children about the value of their belongings and how not to be greedy. When she earns something from the General Store, she treasures it, because she knows she worked for it. Best of all, she not only has an improved appreciation for her toys, but a new respect for everyone else’s.

What do you think?  How does your family solve the problem of the "gimmies"?  We'd love to hear about it!


I love this idea. Teaching our kids about money is a BIG part of what my husband and I do. It's so important to us that our kids understand hard work, education, financial respect, savings, the value of a dollar and just how long it takes to get one (ha) AND how fast it goes, etc. My first son was a single child for 8 years. It was critical to me that he learn to share, give, be thankful/grateful and so on. Once he had siblings, those lessons got easier to instill, as he was no longer my "only focus." He had no option but to learn how to share his things and feelings :-)

We also Mentor a young lady who is age 12. She came to us with the statement, "I don't want to work. It's too hard. My parents get free food so we don't need to work much. We like to go fishing." Umm.......yeah. She's been hanging around us now for several months and she vacuums my van, cleans up toys, does dishes, helps us grocery shop and plays with our kids (I have her read to them because she needs the practice). We pay her an hourly wage and she loves it. We took her to a Celtic Fair not long ago and she purchased a memory item. She beamed telling me, "I earned this!" I said, "Why, yes, you sure did. Isn't that a great feeling!" She agreed that it was.

I love manners, too! Good stuff. Thanks for the article.

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