Friday, July 11, 2014

Furnishing The Dollhouse: A Lesson About Money

It all started with a project: a dollhouse made out of wooden bookcase, which my daughters built together with their father. They had labored on it for weeks, and then when the dollhouse was finally done it was time to furnish it.

My husband asked the girls to make a list of the essential  items needed to furnish the different rooms of the house. Their wish list was very long: there were so many things that they just couldn't do without.

Then he said: “You did a great job, and we will be happy to  halve the cost of the furniture that you have chosen.”  He announced it ceremoniously, as though he was handing out a big  award, which in a way he was, it was just that they were caught off guard, our daughters were sure that we were paying for everything.

I was as surprised as the girls:  my husband had not divulged to me his plan;  he was probably worried that I would protest.  Indeed, although I said nothing and went along, I  secretly  felt that at the age of 7 and 8 they were too young to have their wings clipped in such a way. They were thrilled about the finished dollhouse and were looking forward to the endless possibilities of interior design.

It is not that he wasn't willing to spend the money, quite the contrary, like the rest of us he was anxious to see the dollhouse come to life. In retrospect I understand that this was a brilliant fiscal move. He seized an opportune  moment to teach our daughters the meaning of money  - value, making choices, taking responsibility, accountability and even patience. 

The girls were not even resentful, as rational creatures they just went ahead, made the calculation how much money they were willing to spend, and came up with a much shorter list of the most important items.

As a business professor,  My husband also wanted to demonstrate to our daughters the concept of an  "interested party -- any of the people or organizations who may be affected by a situation, or who are hoping to make money out of a situation.” In their case, it meant that if they wanted something  they had to take action. It was also an empowering lesson, the girls saved money to buy new furniture, and made some decorations themselves. The dollhouse has become more meaningful and valuable because we didn’t just buy all the furniture for them at once.

Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in London has a collection of Georgian and Victorian  dollhouses. Some of the large ones were used as an instruction device for young women to practice the subject of home economics in preparation for their future role as ladies of the house.

Our dollhouse was used in a similar fashion, my husband believed that children should learn early about money so  that  they could grow up to be responsible adults. 

Soon Santa will be visiting many families, perhaps now, before he arrives, it is also an auspicious time to start talking to children about money .

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