For almost a year, my six year-old daughter, Clara, has been saving her allowance and birthday money for a dollhouse that she saw at Barnes & Noble one day.
Clara receives $1 per week (plus additional quarters for the completion of additional chores), of which she divides amongst her long term, short term, and charity jars. She is required to put a quarter in each jar and put the remaining quarters wherever she wants. For months, all of her extra quarters (and birthday money) have been going to long term savings.
On Sunday, her total in the long term savings jar exceeded $90, which meant that she had the $89 need to purchase the dollhouse.
When I was ten years-old, I saved $100 selling lemonade, leftover food from my grandfather's picnic, and my brother's toys (I don't think he knows about this even today), only to have my wallet and all but $6 eaten by my dog, Pac-Man.
I had been selling my grandfather's barbecue chicken, and some of the sauce had gotten on the money, drawing Pac-Man's attention.
I cannot tell you how impressed I was with my little girl. She made a plan, demonstrated patience and perseverance, and it finally paid off. I know many, many adults incapable of saving money and waiting like she did.
When we arrived at Barnes & Noble, I immediately went to the cashier and warned her that my daughter would be buying a dollhouse and paying in about $20 worth of quarters and many small bills. I thought it was important that Clara use the actual money that she had saved when buying the dollhouse. I wanted her to connect effort with reward.
The cashier's response should have been a smile and congratulations to my daughter, but instead I received a scowl and a complaint that she didn't have any quarter rolls.
I was annoyed.
Not only was she legally required to accept our payment regardless of denomination, but a little bit of excitement for our daughter;s accomplishment would have been nice. I will never understand who some customer service people don't choose to simply be kind and polite.
Thankfully, by the time we returned with the dollhouse, scowling cashier had been replaced with a cashier who was genuinely excited for my daughter. We counted quarters on the side while she took customers, and once we were ready, she took Clara's money with a smile and many, many congratulatory remarks.
The way it's supposed to be done.
Clara is saving again. She's not sure for what yet, but she told me that she will start saving while she figures out what she wants next.
She's also been willing do to extra chores around the house, understanding better than ever how effort can result in reward, and more importantly, what the earned realization of that reward feels like.