My Money, My Choices
Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a personal finance writer, television host and radio broadcaster. Every Wednesday, she arms Metro readers with tips to keep spending in check.
3 mistakes parents make when teaching kids about money
Tying an allowance to good grades or behaviour is a bad move.
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Isn’t it funny how most people have no problem doling out money to their kids, but when it comes to what we should require of our children in exchange for all that dough, the debate rages.
Some people like the idea of an allowance that has no strings attached. Others think any money a kid gets his or her grubby little hands on should be earned. We tie money to behaviour. We tie it to grades. We tie it to chores.
From early on, children receive mixed messages about money. They watch us spend money in so many forms and for so many reasons they form their own twisted and delusional ideas about the purpose and use of money.
And if mom and dad are fighting about money, well, that brings its own lessons.
They’re eager to soak up any direction a parent will give in terms of the role money will play in their lives. And if you point them in the wrong direction, they won’t know. They’ll just follow your bad behaviour to their own money hell.
Mistake No. 1: If you don’t smarten up, I’ll cut off your allowance!
Money doesn’t work as a reward for good behaviour. Good behaviour is based on an understanding of right and wrong, thoughtfulness, caring and consideration — all of which have to be internalized. If you want a child who grows to be a confident and creative adult, compliance isn’t the lesson you want to teach at home. And money shouldn’t be your two-by-four.
Mistake No. 2: I’ll give you $20 for every A you get on your report card.
School is your kid’s primary job, and good grades are an indication that they are doing their job well. Don’t externalize the reward. The reward should be internalized: the self-esteem and pride that accompanies having done well.
Mistake No. 3: If you don’t make your bed you won’t get your allowance.
Who pays you to do the chores in your home? Chores are a part of each individual’s responsibility to the family. Payment for regular chores negates a child’s individual responsibility as a member of the family unit. Payment for extra household tasks — those above and beyond a child’s normal chores — is fine when they are specifically doing the task to earn money.
The biggest problem in tying your child’s allowance to the completion of her chores comes on the day when you must withdraw the allowance. Now you’re teaching your child, “I have the money and you’ll have to do as I say to get some of it!” That’s a straight-out power play. “I have the money, so I have the power.” Not a lesson you should want your kids to learn.
A far better tack for children who don’t follow through on household responsibilities is to do a like-for-like comparison. “Hunny Bunny, if you don’t make your bed, I’m going to have to. And I only have time to do one thing, make your bed or make your lunch. Which one do you want to do?”