Teaching Kids About Trade Offs

Andrea FortenberryFamily

April has been a very full month for our family. (Actually, most months are full, but this one especially.) My husband and I both had multiple out-of-town trips and relied on family and friends to help take care of our children. 

We arrived back Monday from a trip we took as a couple. On Tuesdays our kids normally have a program at church, but we decided to skip this week. When I picked my daughter up at school, she said she didn’t feel good. I could tell that she was tired. We were also tired from the trip and were trying to finish up our taxes. (We’ve never cut it so close before and will never do it again! I really don’t recommend it.) I asked my daughter if she felt up to going and she said she wasn’t sure. 

We thought it was in everyone’s best interest to stay home. But then Lila was upset because she didn’t want to miss because she had perfect attendance. And when you win perfect attendance at the end of the semester, you win a dozen donuts. A pretty big deal for a fourth grader. We considered changing our plans, but still felt it was the best choice to stay home. I told Lila we could always buy a dozen donuts. 

It brought out some good discussion about trade offs and how every decision has consequences. Often we think it’s possible to do everything all the time, but there’s a trade off to it: it costs money, we’re running around, eating out and often exhausted.  

Last night our trade off was being at home to rest (and finish our taxes) instead of being tired and pressed for time, all in the name of perfect attendance. We talked about how our bodies need rest and how constantly pushing ourselves to exhaustion leads to all sorts of problems. 

Every decision has a trade off. Or put another way, when you say “Yes” to one thing, you’re saying “No” to something else. Are we making the decisions that lead to the results we want?  

This applies at work, at home and in other relationships. In doing our taxes last night, I looked at my 2017 calendar and saw that it was overflowing. I don’t know how I did it all and I clearly see the trade off: I said yes to some things I should have said no to, so that I could say yes to things that are important to me. 

We’ll never get it perfectly, but we can make imperfect progress. And we can teach our kids to do the same. So talk to them about choices and how every one has a trade off. Let them safely fail while under your supervision, it will teach them so much. Let them see when you fail and how you bounce back and make a better choice next time.  

So much teaching and learning happens in these years of raising children, not just for them, but for us as parents too!