A Hovering Question of the Day

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What would you do if your child saved up his or her money, but wanted to purchase something you did not want your child to own? Ron Lieber asks this question in the New York Times, telling the story of an 11-year-old who had saved up his money for a Swagway hoverboard:

But once he had enough money, the parents just could not bring themselves to let him make the purchase. The board, they explained to me via a number of follow-up emails, seemed “over the top” materially for what a boy his age should have, and it would be a purchase that “runs against the parents’ values.”

Lieber pushes back, arguing that they let their 11-year-old help pay for his iPhone, and the parents finally give a more honest explanation:

“The electric hoverboard feels different to us because it does feel a little like a fancy car for an 11-year-old,” they explained.

See what they did there? Feels? Feel? Ah, feelings. Money is feelings and feelings link directly with those values they referenced as being antithetical to fancy skateboards. Now we were getting somewhere. The hoverboard wasn’t just too fancy, they said. It was too fancy “insofar as his ability to afford it relative to his social cohort.”

In other words: their child saved up for a hoverboard, but because his friends either did not have enough discretionary money for a hoverboard, or had not chosen to save for a hoverboard, their child should not buy a hoverboard.

That’s a really interesting way of looking at it, which means today’s Question of the Day is actually two questions:

1) If your child saved up their money for a specific product, but you did not want your child to buy that product, what would you do?

2) Do you think a child should be able to buy something that their peers cannot afford? Does it make a difference that this child saved for the purchase?

I prefer Lieber’s rationale for why kids shouldn’t buy hoverboards: apparently, some models spontaneously burst into flames. In fact, one spontaneously combusted in an Auburn, Washington mall this week:


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So. What would you do if you were these parents? And if the flaming hoverboard video makes it too easy to say no to this particular product, what if your 11-year-old wanted to buy something else his peers couldn’t afford, or didn’t mesh with your personal values?

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