By KATE HUNTER
I’ve always thought it odd that baby clothes often feature pockets.
What on earth are they for? Most of them don’t have iPhones until they’re at least seven or eight years old, and they have no need for money as they have, you know, parents.
I was joking about the iPhone bit, sort of, but the money part is serious. Most kids look at their parents as kind of walking ATMs. Not that the kids have no money – they do, some have hundreds of dollars accumulated from birthdays and Christmases; nice little stockpiles that will, very soon be serious enough to buy an X Box or an iPhone 5. Kids know exactly what the latest technology costs, and whether it’s cheaper at Big W or JB HiFi; but ask them how much a loaf of bread costs and you’ll often be met with a blank stare.
As a 7 year old I knew exactly how many lollies 20c bought. Thanks to mum trusting me with running errands from a young age, I was not only familiar with the price of a pint of milk but also Benson and Hedges Extra Mild. It was the seventies, after all.
Something has happened in the last thirty years. Kids seem to have more money, but less nous about it. Credit cards are as familiar as cash and 5 year olds playing shops can be heard to say ‘Do you PIN or sign?’ What to do?
My school friend Lou is the richest source of parenting wisdom I know. Lou has 4 sons aged between 10 and 18 and she’s also a high school teacher. There’s not much she hasn’t seen or dealt with. Some kids, she says, are good with money, they get its power and its pitfalls. Lou says money is like anything – some kids have a gift for music, but without teaching and practise it’s never going to be that great. A little guidance is needed – and practice. Kids need to have money in their pocket, and they should be encouraged to spend it – at least some of it, on day-to-day living, not hoarded for the day when Mortal Combat 35 is released.
This is how – following Lou’s advice – it works in our family, at least in theory: Our kids are 6, 9 and 11. They receive weekly pocket money – $1 for each year of their lives. So the littlest gets $6 and the eldest gets $11 (less deductions for lost water bottles and school hats). I’m rubbish at maths but even I can manage that particular payroll.
Pocket money is payable on a Sunday afternoon after the ‘hour of power’ – a period when rooms must be tidied, the rumpus room bulldozed and laundry sorted. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Witness’ in which Harrison Ford and his Amish brethren erect a barn in a spirit of togetherness and community, imagine the exact opposite, and you’ll have some idea of what the Hunter ‘hour of power’ involves.
To some, it might seem that $6 a week is a lot for a six year old. Perhaps it is, but from it comes packets of chips at soccer on Saturdays, gold coin donations for free dress days at school, mothers day and fathers day stall gifts (Yay! Another fizzy bath bomb!) , Polly Pockets or whatever else is all the rage in Year 1.
Our kids know not to ask for a donut at the shops – or a dollar to throw into any given fountain. Money has a value. It’s amazing how quickly the desire for a rainbow Paddle Pop fades when she knows it will dig into money saved for a purple Zhu Zhu pet.
I’m not sure that’s teaching them how much a litre of milk costs, but it’s a start.
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Did you get pocket money as a kid? If you’re a parent, how do you teach your children the value of money?