Pinterest & Parenting

Much like the rest of you, I’ve been pinning my evenings away.  I’ve found hundreds of recipes that I need to try RIGHT NOW, clothes I didn’t know I wanted, crafts to fill every single day of the year, and a few words of inspiration for good measure.  I feel confident in admitting that I have officially crossed over to the dark side.  I just can’t get enough of Pinterest.

While I love keeping these virtual pin boards as my own secret obsession file, it occurred to me this morning that Pinterest makes a great parenting strategy.

Riley is at the age where she wants everything she sees…immediately.  While she knows she can’t have everything she sees and, to her credit, doesn’t even ask for everything she sees…she does talk about everything she sees.  Constantly.  “If only it was my birthday I could get that really great puppy/doll/game/car”.  With a birthday that falls just weeks before Christmas, the poor kid has a long wait.

Just this morning she saw yet another stuffed dog that she thought would make a great addition to her “collection”.  She didn’t ask.  She didn’t have to.  She stared longingly while I tried my best to convince Liam to speed up and get away from the plush toys.  While Liam has mastered the art of “visiting” the toy aisle at Traget, Riley gets a little more stuck in the wanting of the toys in front of her.  Visiting is not for her.

She started her new and improved birthday list before I could even pull out of the parking lot.  And then it hit me:  If I create a pin board just for her, she can keep track of her wish list.  She can visit with it when she needs to.  She can alter it as she sees fit.  And she get a little control over this feeling of wanting, wanting, wanting.  Genius (Pinterest, that is, not me).

Not convinced yet?  Read on to see how Pinterest can help with parenting:

Control:  The older they get, the more kids want to gain some control over their lives.  They strive for independence, but there is only so much we can allow them at any given stage.  Giving your children a pin board (that you supervise 100%, obviously) allows them to catalogue their wishes and interests (be it toys, clothes, electronics, etc.) while learning some new computer skills.  It helps them to feel like they have a place to share these ideas.  It gives them some control over their feelings (“I never get what I want”, “everyone else has this toy”, “how do I know I will ever get one?”).  Even though they can’t have every item they want, they need to feel like they can say it and think about.  I won’t buy everything I pin, but I will stare at the Coach purse often.  I can share this with my kids and help them understand that we all feel this way from time to time.

Delayed Gratification:  This is one of the most difficult skills to teach, and yet it’s very important.  This year it felt like the minute we got the Christmas tree out of the house, the kids were bombarded with new cool stuff that Santa left for their friends.  The toy envy was immediate.  How often have you murmured, “let’s add it to your birthday list” in response to a request for a new item?  Helping your child create a pin board gives them a virtual wish list.  They can see the pictures, check back monthly, and make changes as they see fit.  We all know that kids want a toy one day and then forget about it the next.  Teach your child the power of waiting by editing the board monthly.  Talk about how interests change and things that seem important in the moment don’t seem as important a few weeks later.

Early Money Management:  Riley has been collecting dollars for quite some time.  Five years, to be exact.  Her Papa sends a couple of dollars each time he sends a card.  She recently made a purchase with some of these coveted dollars, and she learned an important lesson in the process:  You have to be really sure that you want that item more than you want the dollars in the envelope.  Having a pin board of coveted items gives your kids the opportunity to compare how the items stack up.  They can check prices, compare details of the items, and decide which makes the most sense at the time.  Kids as young as five are capable of spending their own money on something they want, but giving them a lesson in money management before they make the purchase teaches an important life skill.  Sometimes what you think you want isn’t what you actually need.  In the end, Riley chose to spend a little less so that she could save a little too.  She was very proud of her purchase.

Self-Esteem:  Even though we can’t give our kids everything they want exactly when they want those things, we can give them the gift of empathy and understanding.  Kids tend to personalize it when we just say no, as if their ideas are not important to us.  They need to feel heard and understood.  Giving them a place to catalogue their wishes and ideas shows them that we do think their ideas are important.  It doesn’t mean we will buy the stuffed dog in the moment, but we will listen and explore and help create this magical place where they can visit their wish lists often.  That gives them a little boost to their self-esteem.

Birthdays & Holidays:  If nothing else, you have a visual list right at your fingertips come birthday and holiday time!  When the grandparents start asking for gift requests, you can answer without hesitation.  Just make sure you’ve been keeping that board updated along the way.

Will you use Pinterest to help your kids?


About Katie

Katie Hurley is a Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She works in private practice in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, writes for PBS Parents, Washington Post Parents, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" (Penguin Random House, 2018)