Remember your own childhood, when you were given a certain amount of pocket money each week, and you were responsible for making that money last for the entire seven days? Whatever you wanted to do – buy a new comic, pick up an ice cream, go to the movies, whatever it was, that was how much money you had. No amount of whining or buttering up mum would get you a bigger allowance!
At first I thought it was just my parenting style (or lack thereof!) but here I was raising 2 boys (7-year-old twins) who clearly understood that buying things requires money, but seemed to consistently overlook the fact that you actually have to earn money first in order to spend it.
Singapore is now officially the most expensive city in the world — so how do parents balance the cheque book and keep their children happy at the same time? Even a quick trip to the shops can quickly disintegrate into a trivial whiny list of demands that your child insists he must have because “everyone in my class has it”. Who thought that sending children to school could cause so much anxiety, all for the wrong reasons? I’ve found myself more worried about what new gadget is the flavour of the week in their class, than I am about their grades and performance in school!
Here are some practical tips from real mums:
From a young age, we have taught our kids concepts like “expensive” and “saving”. We have a pocket money system in place where the kids have daily chores (things like making their beds, feeding the dog, brushing their teeth, and setting the table) and for this they earn $7 per week each. They keep their money in a money box and can choose whether to save or spend it. We encourage them to make wise decisions about only spending some of it immediately, and saving some to use for something they really want. Through this process we are consciously trying to teach them that money is something that is earned, not just given to them, and that self-control and delayed gratitude are valuable skills when it comes to spending or saving money. Next step — open bank accounts for them! — Rae, mum to Felix (5) and Sienna (7)
I try and get our girls to understand that money has to be earned and that we work hard for the money we have. If they really want something, then they can earn it by doing jobs around the house, such as washing their bikes, hanging out the washing, folding and putting away laundry, or dusting (I had to get them a duster each as they particularly liked the duster!) – Megan, mum to twins Imogen and Emily (7)
I found that the easiest (and safest) way to get our boys comfortable with independently handling money was to get them to buy their choice of food from the school cafeteria from as young as Grade 1. It taught them the concept of living within a budget and the worst case scenario in the situation would be a bad lunch for a day. I also get them to update their mini account books daily or whenever they spend pocket money, so that they always know exactly how much money they have left, and how much they have saved for the next occasion. And a big must – reward them for proper record keeping! – Vandana, mum to Idhaant (10) and Advik (7)
As for us, I have to admit, since we started counting real money and putting notes and coins into the piggy bank, the boys are more conscious about how much money they have and that they can only make their choices from within that limited budget. Now when they want something, they know they can have it if they have enough money in their little banks for it – and it actually works! The boys think about how much they have, how much this new item of interest is going to cost them, and whether it’s worth spending the money or waiting for something later down the road. While they are yet to earn any money from doing chores, they finally understand the concept of earning money rather than being given some whenever they want something.
As for keeping up with the rest of their class – I’m never going to be able to keep up with everyone, so I don’t let it bother me anymore. It’s ok to say no and not entertain every whim and demand. My kids may not have the coolest trading cards or the latest Smiggle collection at school, but as long as they have their basic needs met, get occasional treats here and there and have smiles on their faces, that’s all that really matters.
One small step for the kids, one giant leap for mama!
Priyanka is a mama to 7-year-old twins, and moved to Singapore 11 years ago (and counting!). Having grown up in Kenya and lived in several countries around the world, Priyanka has always had a passion for the outdoors and travelling, reading and being a foodie. Now a published freelance writer, she is also currently writing a children’s book about her twins and their favourite teddy bear. You can read more about Priyanka here.