Welcome to Money Taboo by DNB, a podcast where we talk about what you wonder about but do not dare to ask about. I am Silje Sandmæl, consumer economist, and today’s episode is going to revolve around why we say yes to our children when we actually want to say no. Today I have with me in the studio Vegard Ylvisåker who is very very funny, I personally think… – Thank you. You are pretty funny too. -And he is also a father of three.
– Yup! – Yes, I am a mom of three so I believe we have tons of experience in this podcast today. We also have Silje Elisabeth Skuland who is a consumer scientist but also not mother of three but a mom of two! – That’s right. – Welcome to you. Today we are going to hear about Vigdis’ daughter who does not want to be confirmed because she isn’t getting a bunad. And we are going to hear about Helene who is considering asking the principal to put an end to expensive school trips. – Vegard, as a father of three, have you said yes a few times when you actually wanted to say no or said yes and then regretted it? – Yeah, I might have regretted it afterwards.
I am quite strict. – I don’t believe that.
– No, I am…I’m sort of sadistic in the sense that I almost get a little pleasure from seeing that people do not get granted their wishes…. Not because I think….I mean if they ask for something which is completely okay, I don’t get any good feeling from it. But when I know that what they are asking for is wrong, then I reckon it’s almost nice that they begin to cry and… I just think: “You don’t understand it now but you’re going to understand.” – When they one day become dads themselves!
— Then you can irk your children. – So you have never said yes and regretted?
– Yeah, I have I think it’s difficult to remember every time…. But I have. Among other things, my daughter was allowed to buy….It starts to get a bit difficult when they sort of get their own money which they are in principle masters of even though we obviously decide. But they get money for birthdays that gets collected on the account and so they say: “I fancy this hoverboard.” – “Yeah but you’re not going to use it.” – “Yeah but I fancy it, I fancy it so much! And I have the money for it.” So in the end I say okay, you get to buy it then. And then it takes just half a month and they are not interested in that hoverboard anymore. They don’t use it. And I knew it was going to happen. So it’s a bit like on one hand you regret it a bit but on the other hand it’s the only way they can learn. Because now I can say: “You know the hoverboard that you fussed over so much? You know how little you have used it. You can’t even find the charger.” I don’t know, sometimes it’s just quite healthy to let things happen even though you know that they aren’t right. -Yes, one has to learn from his mistakes. And here she took her own money so one learns a lot more from it of course.
– Definitely. – Now we are going to solve the first listener’s letter. “Hi Silje, my daughter is going to be confirmed and as I understood it, she is the only one among her girl friends who does not have a bunad. I would have liked to buy a bunad for her, but I simply don’t have the money for it. This is very painful for my daughter and now she says that she does not want to be confirmed. What can I do? Greetings, Vigdis. – What do you think, Silje? – First and foremost I think it’s a bit sad that one ends up in this situation. And I think there are so incredibly many parents who are there. Either it is bunad, or it is be holiday trips, or a bicycle, skis or anything else when you think that you can’t afford it and that you won’t be able to afford it. And that’s also another question, isn’t it? If the last money you have in your account are going to go to a bunad, then that’s quite stupid. So I feel hurt for her. I think it’s a painful feeling to have as a mom of a child that is going to get confirmed. – Because even though you often say somtething else, Vegard – you say no – so what about this argument kids come with: Everyone else has it! – Yes, this one is the worst. It does not just apply to finance, it applies to all sorts of things We, for example, have also been quite strict in setting boundaries with age restriction in video games and this sort of things. Then we say: Ok, the age limit is easy to relate to. It says 15 – it says one five- on the cover, That’s 8 more years. Good luck! But when someone else in the class is allowed to play it and you bring it up in the parents’ meeting they are like: “I think it’s ok that they are allowed to play it a bit, it’s not dangerous.” So it is difficult to have this discussion, both with the kids and the parents. – Yes, because when it’s not bunad…
it can be social media. For example when everybody in the class has Snapchat and I don’t have it. So I’m missing out on a lot. I feel like an outsider. Or when one does not have that Parajumper jacket that everyone else has. And some get actually bullied too. – My brother had a good experience in Vinderen which is the kind of quarter where some people are in relatively normal financial situation and there are some who are in completely abnormal financial situation. And they picked up that….I think it was Parajumper or what is it called….Canada Goose? Something like that. So everybody started getting that and then there was someone who couldn’t afford it because they were so incredibly expensive. And it was brought up at the parents’ meeting that maybe we should put our foot down that there shouldn’t be such jackets because there are many who cannot afford it. And there was one of the little bit more well-equipped parents Not well-equipped but….
You know what I mean! Don’t get those pictures! But nevertheless, he says: “This is not a problem, I’ll buy jackets for the whole gang!” – Oh. My. God. – That is, I think, a bit over the line. – But then nobody learns anything at all.
– No then no one learns anything and he at least has not learned anything. The father. So that’s quite interesting. I don’t think it happens in many places though. – No, with buying pressure it varies where in the country you are located. Doesn’t it, Silje? – Absolutely. If we take Oslo as an example, there has been a briliant study from a guy called Pettersen and Mira Sletten which is about the neighborhood effect and low income. And it shows that when you are rather poor, like completely on the bottom, and you live in a place where everybody is relatively poor you don’t have the kind of excluding traits and you experience that you have roughly the same as everyone else. You have as many friends because we know that low income leads for example to youths being isolated, losing friends. While on the other hand if you have little in an environment where very many have much, this is where you struggle.
– Yes. – And one can also think that in an area where many have much there is the pressure regarding what it takes to have a good childhood or a good youth And it has a high price tag. So I think that for example you – it was very magnanimous towards everyone but I don’t think that the world would become a better place by everyone in the class getting the same jacket… – No. But what does one do to stand against buying pressure? Vegard? – Ai….as was said, I am a sadist so I just say no and I enjoy it a little. But I don’t know, you have to do it in a gentle way. It depends on whether it is the sort of group…one thing is invdividual buying pressure, like I want this and then you just say “you’re not getting that”, right? That is sort of an individual thing. But if it’s group pressure, then it starts to get complicated. Because then you have to sort of include the social side of it in the equation. And that’s not so easy. I mean that you just have to be good and bring it up higher up in the system in a parents’ group or parents’ meeting if it’s at school. – Yes and not all parents realize that they are starting a buying pressure. Because the first person who bought the Parajumper may not have thought about how it can start the ripple effect. Suddenly everyone will have the jacket – Or if one starts with organizing bowling birthdays or birthdays in a theme park. Thus takes birthdays outside the house So this is something we don’t think about but it’s the parents who start this and it goes beyond the children.
– Absolutely. – I think that also the parents are very often victims of the same buying pressure as children and youths are. It’s hard to say no, right?
And it is exactly this social thing too. It’s sort of exciting that while we are growing up we go through several years when we want to stand out and happily use consumption and art on the wall to show that we are unique. Whereas children often use consumption in order to belong to others and their friends. And it’s a bit difficult, slightly different dynamics, to not feel that you have what is needed to be a part of the group. It is painful when you’re a kid but not necessarily too painful when you’re an adult. Then you can just say “I have chosen to go my own way” and that is also a big ideal among…
– Yeah. – But it’s clear that…..it comes with the responsibility to say no. You have a great responsibility only if you are in problems. You have to get out of it in a way. It also follows with a responsibility to take a hard line. If you’re going to say to your daughter who feels like an outsider that she won’t be getting something everybody else has, you in a way have to get her to understand that it is the right thing to do. – And how do you do that? – I don’t know…it’s completely individual as well, how they understand it. I think that I at least….. There’s a difference internally in the family as well – one of your children can understand these things and actually have as much…… It’s a bit about self-esteem too, right? How much do you manage to stand up against this kind of pressure yourself. And all people will at some pfoint get a desire to do something they maybe don’t completely think is their own desire but they just go with the flow and don’t feel like standing out. But to get a young person between 10 and 15 years of age to understand that they must dare to stand his ground and…. That’s just not easy.
– No… – But I think that there isn’t any other way to do it than to sit down and talk to them and eventually somehow get them to understand that it is right. – But it is a good lesson I think.
Because buying pressure is a good place to start. We should be ourselves and not try to be someone else or to be like others. – I also believe that for the future there is something with children having to learn the worth of money. And you learn it through either using your money to buy things you actually do not need and realizing it, or by seeing around yourself that it is not important – that it is not necessarily this thing for this price that is important. So I think that in regard to the confirmation – if you sit down and explain what confirmation is and what it represents and what it’s like to experience being celebrated just for the fact you are who you are, first and foremost. So maybe the bunad won’t necessarily be so important in the end. After all, it is only a garment – but it’s a very expensive garment and a garment that has become incredibly popular lately. And it has grown a lot. She should be explained that her day will be nice and these friends who are all going to show up in bunad are not going to show up in each other’s….if they are going to be confirmed together, they are actually going to… – It’s only for the ceremony itself.
– Yes, it is the ceremony. But Vigdis’ daughter says that she doesn’t want to be confirmed and I have heard examples, and this is absolutely horrible, of those who do not have bunad not being allowed to be in the group photo. So the group of friends is having their picture taken and they say: “No, you don’t get to join us, you don’t fit in.” – I am sitting there with goosebumps and if I had been in that situation, I would have definitely shook those who said it like a dirty rug.
-Yeah. – But this happens. And it’s one example I’ve heard about several people in the same situation – And that’s not ok. – So then I can understand Vigdis’ daughter.
– Yes. -At the same time the product is the daughter of Vigdis, which surely is a really nice girl, kind of exhibits very bad traits here by saying “I don’t want to be confirmed because I want to have a material thing”, right? That isn’t a recipe for how you should think to beging with, really. I get why she does it, by all means. But when you just analyze it and look at it completely objectively, you don’t want to celebrate yourself and the fact that you’re grown up because you did not receive one specific thing. That’s a bit ‘bad’ if you ask me. – But I think the bunad has gone from being a material thing to be a very strong symbolic thing. And I think what struck me as I read this listener’s letter was that if we go a few years back and take a look at a wedding. It was completely impossible to turn up as a bride without having white wedding dress on. – And one can as well think that we are on the way to be saying what is a common understanding among confirmants and others that you are not a proper confirmant unless you have a bunad. So I understand Vigdis’ daughter very well. Something has happened with the clothing and something has also happened with the civil confirmation. The Humanist Association now said that they are going to bring this up in their conformation teachings and I think that is great. But this is materialistic and it’s easy to make it sort of negative materialistic. And the daughter is a victim of a enormous pressure when the image of a confirmant, the beautiful confirmant, is dressed in bunad costume from the old days. – It was better before when they just had a sheet!
– Yes – It was much cheaper… I think that Vigdis’ daughter must simply sit down and sew the bunad together So that they get mother-daughter time and they can talk about materialistic values. And it’s going to end with the daughter not wanting the bunad anyway because she loves her mom so much and wants to be confirmed and life is fantastic. – So the advice here, Vigdis, is that you should first and foremost talk to your daughter and tell her about economic differences for her to understand the value of money. Vigdis cannot afford the bunad. It cost a lot of money and she might put the cost into context of her earnings. That it is for example one full monthly salary…or two! And I think all parents of confirmants should talk with their children about economic differences and say that if there is someone who shows up without bunad, they should not be excluded. And if someone sees that a photo is being taken with just bunad people and omits people without bunad then you should to step in and say that this is actually bullying.
– Yes. – It is time to read listener’s letter number two: “Hi Silje, a few parents at school have taken the initiative for organizing a class trip abroad where the teachers are going to go too. The price tag comes at 6,000 NOK for one student and the parents have to pay for it themselves. I have two twins so in total I have to shell out 12,000! Which is something my finances don’t allow. In the beginning there were more parents who reacted to the amount, but now most of them have expressed their willingness to pay. It is just me and one other mother who haven’t said yes. And now I am afraid that my children are not going to be able to join. What should I do? I have considered bringing this up to the principal, but I am afraid of being the world’s biggest spoilsport who ruins the trip for everyone else. Greetings, Helene. – She’ll be the biggest spoilsport.
– Yes. – Now comes the punishment for completely savage twins! – But even though you don’t have twins – you have one child; 6,000 kroner. That is a lot of money. And school should be free. But it isn’t.
– Absolutely not. – It’s not just school trips, it can be trips with hanball, football, choir… – It’s these….
– Still, one thing are those things but the other thing is school. You know, it is children and parents themselves who choose whether they’ll do handball and football and so on. And this stuff cost things on its own So it is kind of…
But school is fundemental, like….independent of everything It should just be covered. That’s how we have it in our society. And then comes such thing…It’s very difficult. – I get the impression that this is something is arranged at a lower secondary school. Most other schools have some kind of trip. – Yes, absolutely. I don’t have any overview of how often this takes place but you also have all sorts of other types of consumption – you know, this free principle obviously does not cover food because we should have lunch boxes; and it doesn’t cover the necessary clothes. BUT some things happen during the school year, right? Like Saint Lucy’s Day celebration, Christmas celebrations and this and that. And children very often get equipped with a list of what type of clothes they should have. And there is a question about what is necessary. So school absolutely costs money. And in other countries there are free school meals and uniforms, right? We’re talking about going to school according to entirely different principle than in Norwegian schools. – Yes.
– Are you in favour of school meals and school uniforms? Silje?
– Yes. – I am in favour of it too. – Yeah, it would been amazing. But I am a slacker in a way…
– Are you a slacker? – Firstly, I am a guy. This is not gender division but normally guys are less concerned with what they have on. Maybe not now anymore. This is at least how it was. So I am very little concerned with clothes. And if there is something that gives me chills – I don’t get stressed by many things – but going to a clothes store is the worst thing I know. At least when you have to do it on behalf of others. When it’s like: “Can you put some clothes on, he’s having birthday” and I’m like aaa, I don’t get it. I don’t understand the difference between sweatpants and… – You wish for that uniform! – Yeah, North Korea has achieved something amazing in that department. There’s a lot of crap in that country but, the fact that people wear blue, it would be absolutely amazing. – But school unifroms – there are many countries who have them. And if you think in context of what we said earlier about buying pressure it would take away the ‘visibility’ of the rich and the poor for example. There are circa two pupils in each class who are living below the poverty line Many of them struggle. I read a report of ‘Save the Children’ a few years ago where a 14-years old girl says that things would be much better with a school uniform because you can’t tell from clothes that someone is different. They are equal. And this report also came to the conclusion that there would have been less bullying in the schoolyard. And it’s not just clothes, but also school lunches! Because you have those…I can rememeber I myself got bullied because I ate carrot every single day and I got called rabbit. Maybe because I also have an overbite but my school meals….You’re laughing now! But school meals also make people see a difference and that can lead to bullying. – It is actually the same principles as we had with the bunad and it is that school lunches are becoming more fancy. Suddenly shapes will be cut out and it will be warm meals and all sorts of delicious small sandwiches around and right away there’s someone who sticks out. I have researched this myslelf and typically children choose to not eat the food because they came with a shameful lunch box. And you can see that at some schools kids have the classic lunch box with a slice of bread and brown cheese and everybody eats the same Whereas in other people unfortunately do fancy dinners and there are also some who are given money. And the children do as all others do. What is eaten where is maybe a bit random, but the fact that there are children who go to school and are ashamed of their own lunch or don’t have food at all or don’t have dinner leftovers that can be put into a lunch box I have quite good grounds fot that. – Yeah, my son came home once and said: “Mom, I don’t want to have mackerel in tomato for lunch anymore because people in my class say that it smells bad.” – That is a valid point – It’s healthy, Vegard! It’s healthy!
– Yes, it’s very healthy, yeah. They have to have a separate smoking room and a separate mackerel-tomato room.
– Yes. – But our advice is pretty clear, because we in our panel wish for school uniforms and not least, school lunches – warm school lunches preferably. Thank you to all politicians who are listening. This is what we want. But when it comes to these trips that are organized through the school – what is this despairing mother supposed to do now? – I have looked a little bit into this ‘free principle’ and I actually believe that falls under it. i.e. the teachers are in on it and who is going to finance their trip? Are they taking time off for it? It sounds like an educational trip to me and then this is actually not allowed. – Yes. And no, it is not allowed.
– So go to the principal. – Yes, go to the principal. I have heard about lots of these trips during which kids go to Poland to learn. But you have to take money out of your own pocket. Those white busses, there are many who do it. My son is going to Bessegen next week. – Yes, it’s not free!
– The white busses? – No… – But even though it is organized by the school, it costs money. Parents have to pay. – But here, Silje, you mean that if I go to the principal and say that it’s not okay. If it’s a trip arranged through school, then it should be free or there won’t be any trip. – Yes, it says it black on white in the ‘free principle’… – What are we referring to now? We have to tell Helene. – This is The Education Act, article 2-15: “Right to free public primary education”. – It says it in the law.
– Helene, listen to Silje here. This is just a reference to the law. – So if the teacher is at work…
– If the teacher is at work and there is an educational element in it, it should be free. And I also know from some schools from where I live that there have been some issues about it when people have reported to the principal repeatedly and it helped. I’m not sure if it will help for Helene this time. But it might help a few years later if many people report it. – I understand what you are saying – that there are on average two people in every class who live below the poverty line. So it means that, even though 6,000 is a lot of money, it isn’t a dissuasive amount for many people, right. So they think “Yeah it’s nice that they are going!” So I understand very well that those who have a problem with it will feel like, as she writes, the spoilsports. – But for everyone else it isn’t so hard to… If we make it a bit extreme, if someone suggested something like: “What if we all traveled to the Maldives? It costs only 150,000 per child. You get that it would be completely insane, wouldn’t it? We must try to put ourselves in that situation and experience things like that. – Yes.
– It is quite common to be a single parent here in Norway, up to 20 % of people are single parents. And they earn anything from nothing to awfully lot. But it is usual for women to earn 400,000 gross per year. That is a normal salary for a woman. Or 450 thousand after tax, after mortgage. So then 6,000 from an income…..that is sort of
– Plenty! – Yes, it i more than 25 % and you still have a lot of expenses But I think that the wet blanket here is actually the mother who has initiated this.
– Yes. Because it is as we’ve said – in neighbourhoods where there are many people who have a lot of money, a lot more is consumed. We also can see that the consumption of clothes and shoes has risen the most among those with the highest income. And this is typical, right? That we can assume that the person who has initiated this can afford it. – But that person could have a bit more loyalty and think about the fact that not everybody can afford so much. Find activities and trips which everybody can participate in. – But now I’m going to talk without having thought first – which is always dangerous – but I’m just imagining that if this was some American…. I have a feeling that the American society is more built up around – since they don’t pay so much in taxes so everything is more voluntary and fundraising. So if they had done something similar – we are going on a class trip – they would instead of saying: “It costs this much money.” They would say: “We are going on a trip. It costs this much altogether.” “And it would be cool if we had managed to collect so much money.” And it would be anonymous and at some point you would hear “You know what? We didn’t get enough money so there will be no trip.” Or: “We have enough money, no matter who paid.” That you could solve it in this way. I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad idea. – No, I think it’s a good idea, without thinking.
– Just without thinking! – Just think about it for a few minutes. – It doesn’t matter if it’s a class trip for 6,000, whether it is 1,000 kroner or what the price tag is, it revolves around the fact that someone may not be able to participate because they don’t have money but it also can be that they can’t participate because they don’t have the skis that are needed for the ski trip. Or alright equipment. So to have such fund where you not only…
– A sort of class-money box ++. – Yes, a class-money box. And I am a big fan of, when children are old enough to do their part. they can work for money and the trip they would be going on. And it can be about selling raffle tickets or they can pick up trash, as my son had to do because he was going on a handball trip with the other handball boys. So there is something about working for it yourself as well.
– You should sell some toilet paper for 6,000. That is a lot!
– But toilet paper actually isn’t that profitable! – No, it isn’t!
I have never understood the whole toilet paper thing. – No, just bake a cake and sell raffle tickets.
– Make a song! – Yes.
But generally we say….Silje you were in on that one should not offer any trips through school at all. But it will happen. So if it happens, first speak to other parents, get the price tag as low as possible, set up a fund and collect money. – It has to be anonymous because the thing I talked about in connection with the previous reader’s letter – the father who just said “I can pay for everything.” Immediately “I can pay for all those jackets.” You feel that it’s completely wrong, right? You’re just like: “Don’t bother, don’t show off.” But if nobody knows who has paid, and it is a sort of fellowship. “We are different, but we want everybody to go on that trip.” And if we don’t get the amount, there won’t be any trip. -Yes.
– It is an exciting experiment in order to see what will happen when people are anonymous. – It’s a bit exciting.
– Yes. – It should be. – And it’s about using your imagination. You can for example hold a flea market! People can bring things they don’t use, sell things. And the most important thing now, Helene, is that you go to the principal and speak up because this is not ok and you don’t need to be a spoilsport because it is the principal who must take that fight. And rather say that this is too expensive and you can turn around and find another arrangement. Or you can rather go on a later trip that doesn’t cost so much and where it is anonymous about who pays what. The most important thing is that everybody gets to come along. Either there will be no trip, or everybody takes part. – The most important thing is that all are friends. – ååå, that was very well said!
– Thank you. – Thank you very very much for your help, Silje and Vegard. It’s strange to say Silje… – But it’s cool to say Vegard!
– Yes, very cool. – If you’d like to get help from us in Money Taboo send your question to [email protected] Thank you very much for listening, tune in again next Friday!