Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Should older children earn their own pocket money?

When my children were small, they lived in a single-parent family, so pocket money wasn't readily available. Their essential needs were always met, like money for bus tickets to school, class trips and clothing, but extra cash to be disposed of as they wished was out of the question.

Once they entered high school, their desires became very specialized. Ordinary blue jeans weren't good enough, they wanted the ones with the little red tag on the rear pocket. Ordinary running shoes? Forget it! They had to be Nikes or nothing. We had to come up a compromise that suited everybody; my limited bank account and their wishes to participate in the lives of the rich and famous.

It was decided that the boys could have paper routes, and my daughter could do baby-sitting for family or neighbours. The money they earned was theirs to with as they wished. The arrangement worked out very well.

I worried about their safety for awhile. One son had to get up at 4:30 A.M. to get the morning papers on front porches by daybreak, but he did very well. He bought an alarm clock, and took responsibility for getting himself up and out every morning without waking up the whole household. Was he ever proud of having his own money to spend!

After awhile the safety issue wasn't such a concern. We lived in a quiet Canadian city, in a suburban neighbourhood and these events took place in the late 1960's and 1970's, before Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka launched their reign of terror. Incidents of violence in the area were rare.

Another son delivered the local afternoon paper in the neighbourhood. This worked out well also, although inclement weather was a sometimes a problem and he was occasionally late for supper. He also developed an outstanding sense of responsibility.

He soon got to know his customers better than his brother, because he worked later in the day. If someone called that they didn't receive a paper, he'd hop on his bike and deliver it, no matter what the time or the weather conditions. To this day, if he gives his word on something, you can count on him delivering.

Even in those days, the glass ceiling was an obstacle for females. My daughter's baby-sitting jobs were infrequent and she needed an extra source of income. I didn't feel a paper route was suitable for a girl. (Did I practice sexual discrimination myself? Maybe.) Fortunately, an unexpected bonus fell right into her lap.

The boys, having a little extra money, soon began dating. Often on a weekend, the phone would ring and one of her brothers would have a proposition: "I'm bringing a girl over to listen to records. I'll give you five bucks if you'll clean up."

Now the house was always basically clean, but with four young people and a mom working full time, it did tend to get a little messy. However, it was never too much for the junior edition of the Happy Homemaker. For an extra couple of bucks, she'd even serve drinks and a snack.

The youngest boy was four years behind his siblings, so I had to supplement his earnings for a few years. He sorted and folded laundry, put the garbage out on the appropriate day and carried groceries from the car into the house. In time, he assumed his sister's cleanup business.

Should older children earn their pocket money? From personal experience, I would vote positively in the affirmative. First and foremost, it encourages the development of a sense of responsibility, sometimes well beyond that normally expected for the young person's chronological age.

Secondly, it gives them experience in handling their own financial affairs. When they work for their money, they're not apt to spend it foolishly.

It improves social skills. Most jobs require at least some interaction with other people.

It teaches time management. There has to be time for school, homework, work, sleep, meals and a little fun.

It cuts down on TV time, video games and other pastimes of dubious value. It also cuts down on fights and arguments since they may all be home at different times.

All my children have held down steady, full-time jobs since they left college. I'm very proud of the fact, and I think it's because they learned from an early age that the world does not owe them a living.

In my opinion, wise parents, even if they are financially well-off, will insist that their older children earn their own pocket money.

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