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The $499 Dilemma

The $499 Dilemma



I always tell my nine-year-old son that people who work hard will progress in life and have what they need. Now I have a dilemma. There is a new electronic game which costs $499 plus megabucks for each game. His cousin has one, his friends have it, but we have no intention of buying him one. We don't have the money, and anyway it is not one of our priorities - there are far better things he could do with his time than play violent video games. He does everything properly, listens to us, puts in the effort at school and is now devastated that he has done it all and cannot have what he wants. How will I explain it to him?


You have been presented with a wonderful parenting opportunity. It is a chance to teach your child two vital truths: that he can't have everything, and that he can't always understand why.

If children were capable of understanding their parents' every rationale, then they could be parents themselvesThe idea that kids needs to understand the rationale behind every one of their parents' decisions is ludicrous. If children were capable of understanding their parents' every motive, then children could be parents themselves. It is precisely their inability to appreciate why not every whim and fancy must be fed that makes them children. The parents' job is to set boundaries, and that means sometimes the answer is just no.

When a parent lays down the law and gives a clear no, they are doing a great favor for their child. Because their child will learn an important life lesson - you don't always get what you want. Sometimes it seems unfair, sometimes it seems to be without any justification, but it happens, and it happens to everyone, and it happens throughout your life: there are things you want and you can't have.

Sadly, many children are not taught this. Their parents give them everything they want. And then when they grow older they are shocked that the rest of the world doesn't do the same. These are the adults who think that their spouse, their friends, their country and G‑d should all be giving them whatever they ask for. If only they were taught as kids that you can't have it all, they would be more accepting of this as adults.

Your son deserves to be rewarded for his good behavior and hard work, but that reward need not in every case be the one he wants. It isn't easy, but it is far better to endure the tantrum of a disappointed child for a few days than to have a spoilt child who will remain a spoilt child for a lifetime. Like King Solomon said, "Train the child in his way, so that when he is older he will not stray from it." Today he will be upset, but one day he will thank you.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Chaim Shmerl September 2, 2008

But what if you've already been spoiling your child for 10 years? What do you do now? Everytime you tell yourselves you're not going to give in eventually you just do so how can you really make a change? :( Reply

Anonymous toronto, canada July 25, 2008

the $499 dilemma i wish i understood it earlier.
now my children are much older,
and we all pay for that.
any suggestions? Reply

maryse seattle, wa July 22, 2008

$499.00 no dilemma here the child needs an allowance and/or a way to earn his own money so he can buy his own games. this will help him understand 1) the value of money, and 2) the folly of spending it on silly things

(i know this from experience. my 47 yr old son is rich by most standards. he grew up very poor, but i never said 'no' to anything he wanted. i just showed him the way to get what he wanted himself. he made a few of what he considered 'mistakes' and so became very thoughtful, very careful about spending his money.) Reply

Anonymous Eagle River, ak/usa July 22, 2008

The $499 Dilemma Very, very well stated. I am a mother who thought understanding the why behind every restriction would make it easier for my kids to accept them.
I was raised by a mother who layed down her law well into my midteens and beyond, to which I finally rebelled and swore I'd never lay the law down for MY kids without trying to make it understandable for them ..., Which, as Aron says so well, is ludicrous indeed. Not only ludicrous, but a great disservice to my youngest, especially, who is now willfull, demanding and impatient Reply

Anonymous thornhill, Canada July 22, 2008

parenting skill Thank you for sharing this story.
It is most welcome and has helped me. Reply

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