Do we 'bribe' our children with pocket money?
Should we link pocket money with chores, or give any in the first place?
Kids have some funny ideas about money. I remember my elder daughter thought that shopkeepers were giving me money in shops, when in fact they were merrily taking my twenties and handing over a few measly coins in change. She also had no idea that credit cards had any connection with hard cash, which is a mistake I admit I have also made myself a few times in shoe shops.
Going round the supermarket used to be a nightmare, with one or other child shouting ‘I want that!’ But now, with pocket money in place, I can airily say, ‘buy it then, with your pocket money.’ It’s amazing how quickly a must-have becomes an optional extra, when it’s not Mummy paying.
Children really enjoy the independence which comes with having a little bit of their own to manage, and it can be heartwarming to see what they do with their newfound wealth. My daughters have always brought little presents for me back from school trips and, even when the souvenir is unusual (I treasure a gorilla-shaped tea light holder and a replica gun from the Imperial War Museum), it has been a real delight. Of course, they have also bought forests-worth of rubbishy magazines and enough sweets to keep every dentist in London busy, but that’s their choice. And they have to live with it when the pocket money runs out, and there’s something they yearn for which is just a little bit too expensive.
Immediately, though, issues do spring up around pocket money. Some friends flatly refuse to have anything to do with it, on the grounds that money corrupts children and they shouldn’t be bothering their heads with it for a long time to come. I agree, in a way, but I think that it’s actually quite useful to ease children into the idea. After all, they’ll be responsible for sorting out all their own bills some happy day.
If you decide to give pocket money, how much do you give?
This is a thorny question, with amounts varying widely. Usually in the 6-9 age group, children are getting from 50p to £2 a week, more if they are expected to buy all comics and sweets themselves. The best way to get a sense of how much is enough is to talk to mums at the school. How much are they giving, and how does it work for them? Alternatively, there are loads of guides to pocket money available, including useful book The Pocket Money Plan or the handy factsheets at Children's Mutual.
Do you tie pocket money in with chores?
Linking pocket money with chores does give children a powerful incentive to tidy their rooms/empty the dishwasher/pick up their own socks. But does paying them to carry out basic tasks mean you are putting a monetary value on family cooperation? I do expect my children to help out for free. Once, when my eldest was saving for a DVD she was desperate to own, I allowed her to do extra chores for money to get to her total faster. The end result was that, once the DVD was safely bought, she still wanted to negotiate a price for setting the dinner table, which I was not keen on. The experiment was not repeated. That’s not to say that the system is not fine in other families, you just have to decide what suits you.
How do you combat the cry, ‘So-and-so gets more than me’?
Again, communication is key. A friend may well be getting twice what your own child receives, but they may be washing the car every Saturday or digging weeds in the garden first.
When does pocket money become bribe money?
Pocket money is all very well, but should you pay a child to keep an eye on younger siblings or to do chores you don’t like? Again, I find the idea of paying one family member to look after another is not really the way I want to go, though other people will make choices which suit their individual circumstances.
With more than one child, what pocket money levels will you set?
I’ve always given my eldest child about 25 per cent more pocket money as, growing up, her tastes have been 25 per cent more sophisticated than her sister. It’s harder to insist on a difference as children get older and the youngest start to protest, but I do feel there should be something extra for older children. Again, families differ widely on this one, with many giving all children the same amount. There's an interesting article on the subject of pocket money levels at Money Saving Expert..
Pocket money does raise a lot of issues and you will have to spend a bit of time working out your own attitude to cash before you go ahead and hand any over to your children. Are you a saver or a spender? Will you give your children complete freedom to fritter their money away on rubbish, or will you insist they buy only things that will last? Splash out on a nice coffee with friends to think about it all and come up with a strategy. But don’t go spending all your pocket money at once.
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