Money, children and allowances

I’ve been thinking about whether to give Reuben an allowance or not recently, then this morning I read an article about it in the Guardian and now I know what not to do!

The article presents the views of different families towards “pocket money”, all of the families mention the children having to earn their money, and the parent who did not do this now regrets it and thinks her child is spoilt. I worry about running a household like a business, and I feel very uneasy at the thought of my 5 year old earning 5p for making the bed, what is this teaching them? That looking after your own house or pet because you care for it is not enough?

But back to the money issue. Reuben has (unfortunately) been dealing with feelings of anxiety and sadness by asking me to buy him toys. I know this because he has told me, he said that the anticipation of getting something new, opening it and playing with it makes him feel very good and he forgets about being worried about other things. I think he shares these feelings with most adults too. My attitude up to now is to make him aware of how much money we have, where it comes from and where it goes (the fact that he is 5 and a half and can’t count to 500 makes it a bit harder but I still do it, if I don’t talk about it he won’t know), so he can participate in some financial decisions. I feel that denying him things “because I say so” makes no sense as how is he going to be responsible about money then? And buying him everything he asks for is also impossible as I just don’t have it! And it doesn’t deal with the underlying issue of why he is sad in the first place. I am also pondering the allowance option, but what if he really wants something (he has been making animation films with Lego characters, in the last couple of months we have acquired a great deal of “props”), can’t afford it himself and I have some money left over at the end of the month? After all we invest in things to help us progress in our given interests (Martin will buy photographic equipment and props, I will buy books and art materials for myself), why should Reuben’s passions be less important than ours? Because he is 5 and cannot earn his own money? But are we not a unit as a family, and our money belongs to everyone not just the person who earned it? And what about the child benefit I get, should that be spent on food, outings or toys? 

04_28_41-Pile-of-Money_web

Mine, yours, or ours?

A lot of things to ponder! I think that it’s useful for me to separate two issues: dealing with Reuben’s insecurities and trying to find more positive and long lasting solutions opposed to buying him stuff (good luck to me here!) and of course still buying him stuff, stuff he will play with, use and learn from. I think the key here is to keep talking, to continue deciding together, I don’t think that giving him an allowance will work because our house is not a factory and he is not a worker, he has not signed a contract with me and I am happy to share my money with him. Sometimes it’s hard, if it’s the end of the month and he decides he wants to make a complicated costume that involves buying lots of materials, and I have only grocery money left, I will have to pull out the bank statement and show him what we’ve got! 

Is it madness to trust a 5 year old so? It is true that children are clueless until one day they magically transform into responsible people and can be trusted? When does this amazing thing happen? I was never trusted with anything and left home at 18 totally clueless, I’m not saying that Reuben is in charge of our finances but he is aware of them and has a say in how the money is spent, I think that he will have plenty of opportunities in life to save and budget for himself without me setting up an artificial “work place” for him at home. 

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3 Responses to Money, children and allowances

  1. Don’t understand why you relate the reward or giving of money to business as if it is something bad. We live in a capitalist society, without money we can not survive, no one likes it, its the system we have like it or not. The sooner our children understand that the better.

    I strongly disagree with giving children money as a bribe to do a job. In my experience in run running a company for over 20 years people are not motivated buy money, its a lot more complicated than just paying more money as a way to motivate them.

    Business is not bad, its dose one thing, it makes money, thats its sole purpose, it enable you to have money in order to do the things you want. If Reuben wants money, teach him about business, teach him what it is, where it comes from, what it can do, good and bad. The main thing is that he understand what money is.

    I had pocket money from a young age, it helped me to understand the fact that things I wanted had a value and in order to get those things I needed money. I did jobs around the house, but I did not do them in order to get pocket money, I did them to contribute to the family so it could function as a family unit. When I was 11 or maybe younger I remember helping my mum clean the primary school I was going to, I would polish the hall floor, I loved it, using a big floor polishing machine, I never did it for money, I did it because I loved my mum.

    martin@vittlesfoods.co.uk September 1, 2013 at 6:47 pm Reply
    • I don’t think that going to work and earning money is necessarily a bad thing, as you say, this is how our society operates. What I am saying is that a child has not entered voluntarily into a contract with us and should not do jobs in return for money (but you agree with this), a family is not a business (regardless if this is bad or good), it is a place of safety where our assets are shared and a child should not feel that specific things are expected to earn money, love or respect. They will have plenty of time growing up to get used to the capitalist model.

      Fran Rao September 1, 2013 at 7:10 pm Reply
    • I love the story of how you helped your mum, Martin

      Fran Rao September 1, 2013 at 7:11 pm Reply

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