“Tim has a mobile phone, I need one too!” Or: “Everyone else has a scooter to get to school, I want one too.” Parents are often confronted with requests like these from their children. As kids get older, they increasingly look to their peers for guidance and the influence of their parents wanes. This is an important part of their development with many positive consequences.

It’s how they discover exciting games and new music or hobbies. In addition, the recommendations and experience of friends are often more authentic than a conversation with a salesperson in a store.

Not every wish can be immediately fulfilled

Friends can of course also encourage kids to want things that their parents don’t necessarily agree with. However, instead of rejecting your children’s wishes outright, ask them why they think they need a mobile phone or a scooter. Has your child really thought it through? Is it really about the scooter or the fact that your child feels left out on the way to school?

If the latter, make it clear to your child that even without a scooter they are still an equally valued member of the class and should actively talk to their peers – and ask one of them whether they would be willing to share their scooter or go some of the way together.

Even if you can comfortably afford to buy your child what they want, it’s not advisable to do so immediately. To wait for something, to make sure they are fully informed, to save up for it themselves are important development areas. In addition, if your child has to wait a few more months until their birthday or a public holiday then sometimes certain wishes can evaporate just as quickly as they came or be replaced by something else.

Reflect on the things you yourself want to buy and your own purchases

Why did you choose the particular make of car that is now in your garage and why do you wear a specific sneaker brand? Was it perhaps because of a recommendation from a friend? Be open and honest about this with your children. Also explain that you can’t buy anything you want immediately either, but also have to save up for things. Explain exactly how you do so.

Encourage self-efficacy

Today it’s a mobile phone, tomorrow perhaps taking part in a dangerous dare. Not every idea from friends should be emulated. From the field of health prevention, we know that experiencing self-efficacy is very important for children.

A healthy level of self-confidence helps us to stay happy even if we don’t go all-in with every new trend. In the context of money, pocket money or the Jugendlohn are great instruments for enabling self-efficacy.

The concept of self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is the belief that you can manage tasks based on your own abilities. Self-efficacy can be reinforced by four factors:

  1. Personal success (the most important factor)
    For example: Your child manages to tie their own shoelaces.
  2. Vicarious experience
    For example: A child sees how their best friend ties their own shoelaces.
  3. Verbal encouragement
    A parent encourages their child to make the loops bigger and to try again.
  4. Positive physical and emotional sensations
    The parents tie their child’s shoelaces for them if they are tired. But if their child is well-rested, they leave it to them.

Key aspects at a glance:

  • The way in which children look to their friends for guidance is part of their development and has many positive consequences. It’s normal that it also gives rise to new consumer wishes.
  • Not every wish can or must be fulfilled. Having to wait for something, for example, a birthday or until they have saved up enough money themselves, is an important learning step.
  • How, as a parent, do you make your own purchase decisions? Are you completely unaffected by your friends? Talk about this with your kids.
  • Self-efficacy is an important means of resisting peer pressure (consumer wishes, dares).

UBS’s educational principles

This article was written in collaboration with educator Marianne Heller, who has years of experience in teaching financial education and debt prevention programs for children and young people.

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