A ques­tion of learn­ing with pocket money

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Ty­ing kids’ pocket money to chores or per­for­mance in school has al­ways struck me as prob­lem­atic.

Be­ing help­ful to your par­ents and do­ing your best at school are things ev­ery child should ex­pect to do.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not above of­fer­ing a bribe from time to time linked to some­thing I re­ally want to hap­pen (much-wanted Lego set in re­turn for ex­tra ef­fort needed to hop up a maths group at school).

But us­ing pocket money as an in­cen­tive can have un­in­tended con­se­quences. It can be like pay­ing a banker bonuses based on how much money they lend out. Don’t be sur­prised if they dish out risky loans and treat cus­tomers less like peo­ple than cash ma­chines.

I reread Anita Stokes’ fun wee pocket money guide again the other day and was tick­led by the tale of the par­ents who linked pocket money to the num­ber of goals their son scored. The boy re­fused to pass to team-mates and headed off on fre­quent solo charges to­wards the op­po­nent’s goal.

This is the mo­ment I con­fess my kids’ pocket money is linked to prac­tis­ing the pi­ano. They get $5 a week and earn it in chunks of $1 for do­ing prac­tices through­out the week.

I no­tice two ef­fects. The first is they are prac­tis­ing the pi­ano quite dili­gently.

The sec­ond is that they have one eye on the clock to en­sure they don’t prac­tise a nano-sec­ond longer than is needed to earn the money.

When it comes to pocket money, par­ents of­ten seem to fo­cus on us­ing it to teach their kids money lessons.

Give them $2.50 and they have to save $1 to­wards a long-term goal, give 50 cents to char­ity and the other $1 they are free to spend.

I un­der­stand the de­sire to cre­ate sys­tems like this and I reckon they send a mes­sage to kids that money is worth treat­ing with thought.

I just think the be­hav­iours you model to your kids have a more pow­er­ful in­flu­ence on the devel­op­ment of their money habits.

My par­ents never had a pocket money sys­tem but they were pru­dent peo­ple who spent money care­fully. It rubbed off on me.

Many par­ents don’t give their kids pocket money. Many can’t af­ford to. That’s not the end of the world, if they do the other stuff right, es­pe­cially when the kids are young and don’t need much more than a bike, a ball and a place to kick it around.

Pocket money is not en­tirely the pre­serve of par­ents, though. It also comes from grand­par­ents.

My grand­fa­ther used to pay me to mow his lawns.

My grand­mother used to give me the odd fiver too (when I was a teenager she called it petrol money. My sis­ters got clothes money).

The re­sult of th­ese trans­ac­tions was that I saw a rea­son­able amount of both of them. We chat­ted more. My sense of kin­ship with them both deep­ened. Sure, the lawns looked OK but we got to spend time to­gether. And the money helped me spread my early teenage wings, bring­ing a wel­come ad­di­tion to the pit­tance my pa­per-round brought in.

I could af­ford to take girls to the boat­ing lake and dress well (I thought) so as to be able to at­tract them. That money bought my grand­par­ents and me a big­ger stake in each oth­ers’ lives – and they were both pru­dent peo­ple too.

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