real life

Dear kids - I am not a silver-coin ATM. It's time to earn your tuckshop treats.

This mother opens up about teaching her thieving children a lesson or two…

My husband, David, has a habit of leaving loose change lying around the house. It comes out of his pockets, his wallet and the washing machine, and occasionally it pays for tuckshop, so I count it as a valuable and necessary form of income. He hangs on to the pieces of gold, sadly, but his unwanted silver litters shelves, bowls and countertops all throughout the house.

Caylie Jeffery with her husband and children.

Lately, there’s been less spare change available to me for some strange reason, and it’s not because David’s spending habits have decreased. I believe the children’s spending habits have increased, because I think I’ve heard jangling pockets heading off to school. This theory is supported by the schoolyard gossip about the generosity of my kids on tuckshop days. Putting two and two together, I’m coming up with an old, buried memory that proves petty theft is genetic...

My father also hated loose change, and always emptied the enormous pockets of his boat-builders overalls out onto the mantelpiece before he went for his shower each night. In amongst the screws, washers and knotted rope was a treasure trove of significant value for the lonely five-year-old child. I had recently discovered that the quickest way to make friends at school was to buy them. With lollies. It didn’t take me long to learn about the value of currency... more particularly, coinage. A 20 cent piece in the ‘70s could buy 40 lollies from the corner shop, and Dad never missed it.

Until the day my parents got a phone call from a local mother telling them that she had seen me with a crowd of children coming out of the shop every day for a week. I was known as the pied piper of Hemmant, and was superficially loved and adored by many. To this day, parents from the south side of the river are wondering why their kids’ teeth had so many cavities...

Caylie was caught red handed with these babies when she helped herself to some silver.

Rather than confront me (because secretly, I don’t think they wanted to believe it), my parents started playing detective. They laid little traps by counting the mantelpiece silver and noting when some of it went missing. Mum then followed me one day after school to the local shop and caught me Redskin-handed. Talk about having to extricate myself from a sticky situation... children scattered like cockroaches as I was grounded on the spot, which meant no Little House on the Prairie for me for a whole month. They really knew how to hurt a girl, those two.

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Dad also stopped leaving money lying around the house and to my great astonishment, my parents started giving me pocket money in a bid to teach me a greater lesson. I lost my sweetshop friends PDQ, which taught me that they weren’t really friends after all, and eventually learned that money earned was more difficult to part with than money stolen.

So, given the current behaviours we’re witnessing with our own little kleptomaniacs, we’ve decided it’s time to teach them the same lessons about the value of hard-earned money. Both children have jobs around the house and we work on household chores as a family, so we feel they’ve earned the right to some regular income.

We’ve had ‘the chat’ about taking money that doesn’t belong to them and changed history a little by giving them each a money box that’s divided into three sections:

  1. Saving
  2. Spending
  3. Giving

They each get $1 a week (in silver coins that are now kept out of sight), which they divide into the three sections, fairly evenly.

Caylie Jeffery with her two children.

Every term, they empty out the sections, bag up the money and make their decisions. They choose what to buy with their spending money (with some gentle counselling). They take their savings to the bank where they can see the balance growing and they decide upon a worthy cause for their ‘giving’ money (also with some suggestions from yours truly).

What it will do is to focus your kids on the value of money, hard work, giving to others in need and saving for bigger items. They can have their cake, save some for a rainy day AND share with others at the same time. Talk about winning a trifecta! The look of pride on their faces when they give items they’ve bought to local charities tells me that the lessons are being learned well.

Shame it hasn’t completely worked for me though. I’ve just noticed a pile of gold coins sitting on David’s shelf... If I’m quick, I’ll get them into my purse before he’s finished in the shower.

Old habits die hard, don't they?

Caylie's book Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers is available for purchase on her website http://www.cayliejeffery.com.au/.

 How do you teach your kids the value of money?