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You’re Not the Boss of Me – Eliminating Spoilage

When rummaging through a recent copy of People Magazine, I stumbled upon a quote by the Real New Jersey Housewife who recently filed for bankruptcy. Those of you that are familiar with the show and Teresa’s 11 million dollars of debt probably won’t be surprised by what she said, “Kids can never have too many toys, right?” Well, Betsy Brown Braun of You’re Not the Boss of Me begs to differ.

In the chapter titled, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme,” Braun explains, “Thanks to the media and the Internet, we are plugged into what everyone is doing, buying, wearing, and spending.” As a result, kids believe that “life is about the possession of things, not necessarily about experiences, feelings, and interactions.” And while every generation thinks its kids are spoiled, Braun argues there is a new acceptance of showing one’s wealth. “Parenting is the new arena in which accomplished adults are prepared to compete as aggressively as they do in the workforce. They are determined to make sure that their offspring stay on top of the heap. They view this as their job.”

While presents over presence might be the trend, Braun offers us great suggestions for not only teaching the value of money but determining our own relationship with money. After all, Braun would say we’re wrong to criticize our kids for wanting more Silly Bands, when we’re out picking up another pair of cute, summer sandals we don’t really need. The reality is “not talking about money robs your child of the opportunity to learn what things cost, the value of money, and the skills he will need to manage money later on.”

Braun’s Tips and Scripts for Avoiding Spoilage


  • · Children need to know that you make choices about how you spend your money. Avoid saying, ‘We can’t afford that.’ Instead say, ‘I don’t choose to spend money on that’ or ‘That is more money than I want to spend.’
  • · Don’t confuse talking about money with lecturing about money.
  • · Limit gifts to gift-giving occasions. Otherwise, you child will feel he is owed presents.
  • · Experiences make the most memorable gifts. Giving isn’t just about stuff.
  • · Don’t fall prey to the plea. But ‘Everyone has one.” You are the parent; you get to do what you think is right for your family.
  • · Teach the power of work. It develops their sense of achievement.
  • · Beware of bribery. It undermines the child’s ability to become intrinsically motivated or make the ‘right’ decision in the absence of external direction.
  • · Help your child regularly to clean out his belongings and donate to children who can use them.


You’re Not the Boss of Me does an excellent job of illuminating the truth: “Spoiling your child has more to do with parents than with children.” The Jersey Housewife is case and point. The good news is that, according to Braun, “while you may be the root of the problem, you also hold the key to the cure.” So continue to worry about spoiling your child, if the last thing you want is a brat, because as Braun points out, “It’s not just a problem of the rich, nor is it just about money.” All of us fall victim to ‘everyone has one’ from time to time. As parents, we need to remember sometimes the best way to show we care is to say no.

Victoria Winterhalter is a mother, teacher, reader, and writer on the education and environment beats for RFM. She has been with RFM since its founding in 2009 and has contributed photos and written numerous articles on education, parenting, and family travel.

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