Before becoming a parent, I was adamant that my children would only have the best: they'd play with handcrafted wooden toys, they'd never see a screen, wear branded clothing, or have dirty faces. We’d play outside wearing white linen, munching on organic kale that we harvested from our own garden.

Spoiler alert: it turns out motherhood isn’t picture-perfect. At least not for me. Seven years and three kids later, my naive expectations seem laughable. The photogenic toys have long been replaced by well-loved gifts from the grandmas, and white linen was never really an option for my family. My kids do eat kale from the garden…but it’s covered in aphids.

It took an embarrassingly long time for me to realize: these little people that I made with my body are not under my control. 

Even buying toys felt like a scavenger hunt that ends with lengthy negotiations. My 7-year-old wants the cool stuff he sees at his friends’ houses, my 5-year-old wants baby dolls (exactly like the ones she already has), and my toddler wants…actual tractors. I mostly just want things that will be safe, durable, and ideally don’t make noise. And yet, I found myself doing the research, quality control and cost-benefit analysis for every item my kids wanted. 

Until recently, when the children asked for something, we didn’t have a framework for when the answer would be “yes.” Most of the time, it just depended on my mood, or how well-behaved they had been in the last five minutes. They never knew when the answer might be yes, so they’d beg and plead until I either gave in, or exploded in anger. Either way, I usually left the experience feeling defeated.

To address this problem, my husband and I developed a shopping app called Ketshop. Ketshop allows parents to pre-approve products and send money to their youngsters. Children have their own accounts where they can shop independently—without begging mom and dad. On Ketshop, kids can only buy items they can afford, so we don’t have to worry about adrenaline-fueled shopping sprees. 

Ketshop has changed the way we run our household. My eldest enjoys yard work, so my husband sends him money through the app when he helps out. Having money of his own has increased his power in our negotiations: If he’s paying, I’ll approve that hideous RC Monster Truck. And in some weird way, I’m proud of that obnoxious toy because my son saved up and bought it for himself.

Interestingly, Ketshop has made my little ones more thoughtful about their spending habits. At first, they made a bunch of small purchases as soon as they had the money. But after the initial excitement, they seemed to focus on more valuable items, and were willing to save for them. The kids choose their own savings goals, run their own cost-benefit analysis, and even donate to charitable causes. The responsibility of decision-making is now shared between adults and children… and I am relieved.

Of course, there’s still plenty of requests. But now, our family has a “Framework of Yes” that helps determine the answer: If they really want the thing, they’ll be $24.99 further from their goal. Is it worth it? More often than not, my kiddos decide the answer is No.

As parents, we cannot shape our children into perfect humans, no matter how hard we try. The best we can do is teach the skills they’ll need to thrive in this world. When I insisted on making the right choices for my kids, I was preventing them from learning to decide for themselves. I can’t force my children to share my taste—but I can empower them to make smart choices. 

I still dream of a white linen future, maybe someday when my babes leave the nest. But for now, I’m proud of my self-regulating children… and our ugly Monster Truck.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please email Collective@mother.ly.