No one wants their kids to be spoiled — but it can be hard to tell until the damage is done.
“We all struggle with how others see us as individuals, and trying to be objective about our own children is even harder,” New York Times personal finance columnist Ron Lieber tells Business Insider.
“One way to think about it is in terms of facts. You can lie to yourself about facts, but it’s much harder to lie about facts than about the way your kids behaves.”
Lieber, who is the author of “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money” has a fact-based suggestion to regain your objectivity: the Dewey rule.
In his book, Lieber tells the story of Bramson Dewey, who grew up with a penny-pinching father who wouldn’t spend the money to enroll him in sports leagues, and who flew into a rage when his wife overspent on groceries by a matter of cents. When Dewey took over his father’s business, however, he realised his father was worth millions, to the point where Dewey himself was able to bow out of the workforce at age 36 to stay home with his two daughters.
Dewey lives a relatively modest lifestyle, but has to strike a balance: While he can afford to spoil his kids, his own childhood was at the exact opposite of the spectrum. He tells Lieber that he’s happy to pay for “reasonably priced necessities as well as some fun stuff,” but thinks it’s important that his daughters “see that other kids have certain toys and games and that they themselves don’t have everything.”
Based on Dewey’s experience, Lieber coined Dewey’s rule, which says that, using rough estimates, you can get a feel for whether your kid is on a materialistic path.
The way it works is simply that you gauge when your child gets the newest, coolest toy/jacket/backpack in relation to his or her peers. If your kid is always the first to get it, you’re headed toward trouble. If your kid is in the second half of the class to get it, you’re more likely to be in the clear. On average, you should aim for your child to be in “the 30th percentile of stuff.”
“It’s good for kids to wait,” Lieber explains to Business Insider. “Often, by the time they’re forced to wait, they have moved on to something else, or the first three kids didn’t like it so much so the seventh never gets it. There’s a practical side and an emotional side — they should learn to wait.”
When your kids get the most coveted “stuff” isn’t the only spectrum to monitor among their peers. “Are you closer to the stricter end of the continuum or the looser end?’ Lieber asks. “Do you give them the longer list of chores or the shorter list of chores? What expectations do you have of your kids? Do you do as much as other parents do to smooth the road and do things like intervene with teachers, or are you closer to the end where you allow them to fail and figure things out for themselves?”
You can even just estimate from their immediate friend group, he says. “Look at their ten closest friends and say, ‘If my kid is the fifth to get the Hunter boots, or go to Disney, or get the hot toy or hot phone, or the fifth to get a car, regardless of their age, I’m probably doing OK.'”