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Promote independence with pocket-money
In seminars I am often asked about pocket-money and whether it should be earned or only given when children behave well.
My belief is that children should receive pocket-money as their small share of the family-wealth just as they should share the workload at home. This is not to say that the family income is divided equally between all members. Rather, children are given a realistic sum of money, given their age, needs and ability to deal with money.
It makes sense to provide guidelines about spending including letting them know just what they are expected to buy. A child in lower primary school may get enough to purchase some sweets and one or two other items, whereas a child in upper primary school may get enough to cover lunch orders, bus money and some treats. An allowance that covers clothing can be useful for adolescents who can be very costly to outfit in the latest fashions. Let them know you will buy the basics items and that they can make up the difference between brand names and basic items from their pocket-money.
Pocket-money can teach children a great deal about goal-setting. By encouraging children to save for a big ticket item such as a bike or skateboard children learn a great deal about planning and looking ahead, the value of budgeting and experience personal satisfaction of reaching a goal
When used in this way, pocket-money is an excellent way to develop independence in children and young people.
But my children don’t spend money wisely! It helps if you give them guidance from the start and also insist that they divide their pocket-money three ways – some for spending, some for the future and some for charity or a social service. I am loathe to interfere too much in their spending as it is their share of the wealth and they need to have some control over their spending. However there are times when for children’s own long-term best interests that parents need to step in. For instance, if a child has a weight-problem and he or she is always buying sweets then parental interference is the best option. It is about knowing your child and using common sense.
Should children be given pocket-money if they misbehave? It is wisest to keep pocket-money and behaviour separate. Parents can get themselves into also sorts of bother and cause a great deal of resentment in children when they withdraw pocket-money until they behave better. Look for other ways to promote good behaviour rather than withholding their allowance.
How often should pocket-money be given? It helps if pocket-money is given regularly. Like adults children should have a pay day each week or fortnight when they receive their share of the family wealth. Give it to them in coins so they can easily allocate it to different uses.
At what age can I start with pocket-money? You can start giving pocket-money to children as young at four and cut it out on their fifteenth birthday so they are encouraged to get a part-time job. For four and five year olds give them a couple of coins and relate them to two items that you routinely buy for them as treats. Let them know they can buy these themselves or put their money in a money-box for later.
The use of pocket-money is one way to remove pressure children place on their parents to buy, buy, buy. When they come home from school and ask you to buy the latest toy because all their friends have one you can let them know that they can purchase it or at least make a contribution from their personal wealth.
For more practical ideas to help you raise confident kids and resilient young people read Michael’s best selling parenting book – One Step Ahead. It is available at the shop at www.parentingideas.com.au.
Michael Grose is a leading parent educator. he is the author of six book and 300 articles, and he gives over 100 presentations a year.
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