Pocket Money

Setting realistic expectations for children

Reading Time: 4 minutes

There are clearly advantages and disadvantages to giving children pocket money. Advantages could include the ability to learn how to budget from a young age and save up for something they might like to purchase. Disadvantages might include the potential encouragement of children to be frivolous with money, knowing they will get ‘more’ at the weekend, or an unrealistic expectation of how money is acquired.

I have never given my children (now aged 17, 14 and 11) pocket money and I feel quite strongly that children should not be paid for doing everyday household chores – my reasons for holding these beliefs are that I hope that I am (attempting at least) to set realistic expectations for my girls, about life – warts and all.

Don’t get me wrong, I have handed over a tenner here and there to my kids – usually when they want to pop into town with their friends or take a trip to the cinema, but they do not have access to a regular source of ‘income’. My 14 and 17 year olds have part time jobs which provide them with a decent amount of money to do what teenagers do – buy clothes, have days out with friends etc.

Other than that and prior to the teen years, they simply do not need money (am I being naive/unrealistic in saying that – I’d love to hear your thought!). As their parents, myself and their dad provide them with a home, clothing, food and access to some extra curricular activities (swimming, gymnastics etc). So, why would I hand over a weekly sum of hard earned dosh for them to (probably) promptly insist on rushing into town to buy some plastic nonsense that they will be bored with by the time we arrive back home? I won’t.

If my children want something, lets say a new pair of roller boots, they know that they will be expected to wait until their birthday or Christmas. Yes, this has created some level of frustration for them (and some guilt for me, which I am getting much better at managing), but the look of glee when 6 months later they open up that gift and see the shiny new roller boots on their birthday morning, is priceless! Research suggests that our children show more appreciation of and make better use of gifts that they have had to wait for or earn – so if that guilt creeps up and you are tempted to purchase a gift for your child BEFORE their birthdays/Christmas, tell that guilt to DO ONE! You are actually doing your kids a favour by encouraging them to be patient and grateful – tell them it’s all in the sciencey research!

Other than getting pocket money for merely existing, I also have a concern about handing over cash to children for completing the smallest of tasks within the home; it encourages our children to grow up with a mindset they they have to and expect to be paid for everything that they do, a sense of entitlement if you will – thus comes the shock when reality kicks in during adulthood when jobs such as making the beds, washing the dishes and cleaning the bathroom are expected and needed to be done within a family home for FREE! Yup, nobody pays me for changing the cat’s stinky litter tray (why am I the only one in my house that does this job!?). It is also important that children understand that when you are part of a family, you are part of a team – a community. This community functions effectively if everyone pulls their weight a little. Beds should not be made because a child earns a £1, but because it is one less job for mum or dad or siblings or grandparents to do and that attitude creates a well oiled and well functioning family community. This type of ‘community’ spirit then spills out into the children’s lives outside the home – with friends and at school etc. Our kids ‘observe and imitate’ and if what they observe is a brilliant team who all help out regardless of what’s in it for them, that is what they will emulate in the real world – with almost guaranteed positive effects. It’s a bit of a no-brainer.

My older girls are benefitting hugely from having part time jobs (earning and developing a strong sense of responsibility) as they now have access to a regular source of income and because they have earned it themselves, outside of the home, the money is theirs to save and/or spend – I can see how much they value their earnings because they have gone out and worked for it. What’s not to love about that!? Our approach seems to be ‘working’ (I say that tentatively) – our youngest daughter has little interest in money. She never asks for it and certainly doesn’t expect it…fingers crossed that this will continue as the looming teenage years fill me with fear and doubt that this may not last forever!

This hasn’t always been an easy ride for my family – I too have been heard on more than one occasion muttering the words ‘what am I, your slave?’ (perhaps with a few added expletives on occasion) as I lean over to pick up dirty laundry off the floor for the millionth time that week and battle with the temptation to offer a monetary ‘reward’ for them to do it! But, I resisted and after (many) years of giving a consistent message that within the family home we work ‘together’ as a team because we love and support each other, I can visibly see and emotionally feel that it is all coming together; if you are old enough/capable of changing your bed sheets, that’s what happens, if you are old enough/capable of  washing the dishes/loading the dishwasher, that’s what happens, if you know what recycling is, you’re capable of taking it out and sorting it – no money needs to be exchanged, we do it because we are a team and that is how and why our little community thrives…

Cx

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4 Comments

  • Really interesting read, I mainly used my pocket money for buying cds when growing up. I suppose with the change into the digital age this is less necessary but I would save up for weeks to get the latest spice girls or blue cd or in my early teens I remember asking for an advance on months to get a ticket to see the zutons.
    My brother on the other hand saved for electrical parts to build stuff he’d seen in the maplin catalogue. Maybe it was who we were but we both got part time jobs as soon as we could to supplement our pocket money.
    There was no expectation that our chores were linked to pocket money, they were linked to pudding and my love of ice cream meant they were always done!
    I think we were taught the value of money from an early age and the consequences of spending my £1 for the week on sweets was soon ruined by the fact it was all over very quickly.
    Not thinking about kids at the moment but definitely something to consider, a great read. X

    • Thanks for your comment Isla – it sounds like you had a pretty good/fair experience when it comes to pocket money.

      It is such a personal decision, based on our values, ethics, politics, education and a million other things, that it’s no wonder that deciding how/when or if at all to give our children pocket money is rather a tricky decision that could potentially have long term consequences…

      The trials of parenting!

      Cx

  • Have you been peering inside my mind Camilla?! This is something that I have been pondering for the last few months. I don’t believe in ‘just giving’ pocket money but I also don’t agree with having to pay my children to do tasks that I expect them to do as good citizens in the home. (The amount of times I’ve said – ‘we’re a team’ – still hasn’t really sunk in. When my stepdaughter recently pointed out that sweeping was ‘my’ job, I think actual steam was seen leaving my ears!!)

    Essentially I repeatedly put it off! My mom gave G monthly pocket money, she saved it and bought things that I refused to buy for her!!

    However G’s spending has moved on from her 100th lip balm onto clothes and stuff, and while I happily clothe her, she has asked for pocket money to save for items that I’m not willing to buy directly! e.g. £75 branded trainers and £30 branded t-shirts.

    So we came up with a plan to pay for chores. There are givens – keeping room tidy, putting away washing, clearing plate and table after dinner etc – these are expected and have to happen. Then we added a list of about 8 tasks ranging from emptying the bins (20p) up to clearing the dog poo in the garden (£1) These have to happen voluntarily or it doesn’t count, along with a load of other conditions! 😉 I am hoping that she will still see that team work is important but also that the amount of hard work she puts into these chores will affect the outcome and if you work hard, you can earn more. As the amounts are small, she will have to save to get what she wants and I think that’s important in these days of immediate gratification. We are only on week 2 and I have a very enthusiastic helper, which is absolutely amazing for me as there are definitely days where I feel like the three other members of this household really do treat me like a skivvy!

    It’s very early days so I can’t really comment on whether it’s the right thing to do, or not, yet but most things she wants now will come from her own money.

    • Ohhh do keep us posted Katie – sounds like you’ve got it nailed!

      I agree that there should be certain jobs that children do as part of a team for no payment (making bed, tidying bedroom etc) as this is just a part of living as a human being, but that considering payment for ‘extra’ jobs could work also (for the record I am the only one in my family who picks up the dog poo as they all think its gross – I don’t exactly love it myself – and because they won’t do it they do other jobs instead, to even it out). This arrangement works for us as long as we are all doing a fair amount of jobs, although no money is exchanged.

      It certainly is a tricky business and I’m pretty sure there is no definitive answer to the question ‘should we give pocket money to our children?’ – it’s all a bit trial and error.

      Cx

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