Children and money
I was not eavesdropping. I was in the vicinity of the conversation and I overhead.
Two women in front of me, in a very long line, were talking about one of their daughters demanding a new pair of school shoes. Apparently, the shoes were brand name and would cost about $120.
The mother of the child started out lamenting that she could not understand why the child was demanding the shoes so close to the end of term, particularly when the pair she was wearing was still in relatively good condition.
However, by the time the conversation was near wrapping up, the mother had reached the conclusion, shared by the other woman, that she would give her daughter the new pair of shoes.
The rationale was that she preferred to give her daughter what she asked for rather than to have her go and beg someone else. The women also reflected that the whole point of working hard was so they could get their children what they wanted.
It took every sense of decorum I had not to intervene in the conversation. Throughout the dialogue, the only thing that kept going through my mind was that the devil was a big fat liar, his mother and his aunt too.
Hard to deal with
I understand that as parents one of the hardest things to deal with is not to be able to supply the needs of our offspring. I also agree that one of the key reasons we work is to ensure our children have a good life oftentimes better than we did. However, I have a serious point of departure with a position which equates the above with giving in to the whims and fancies of our children, especially when it comes to money which they do not earn.
I humbly suggest that a little doing without is good for the psyche. As parents, we need to teach our children the value of hard-earned money and how to be good stewards over our finances. The shoes not burst open, the bag strap not broken, the clothes not spoiled – then everything else can be fixed with either needle and thread or glue.
Please do not misunderstand me. I agree that as parents we have an obligation to take care of the essential needs of our children – food, clothing, shelter and emotional support – but everything else after that is a toss-up as far as I am concerned. I understand that at times we want to give our kids and, I daresay, ourselves some special things. However, even then there has to be conscious decisions about what we spend on.
They need to be able to consider how money is earned and encouraged to make wise decisions about how it should be spent. The mentality that we spend on what looks pretty and in fashion, is as far as I am concerned a mentality for a different time, certainly not this one.
The very idea that not having something gives you licence to beg someone else for it suggests that parenting today is a far cry from how I was raised.
I sincerely believe that if we do not inculcate better attitudes in our children about money, we will run the risk of raising generations who will continue to live above their means and engage in all sorts of deviance to get what they want, just because we do not instill in them financial responsibility.
At home, my mantra that my daughter can recite is “money is for saving, not for spending”. When we chat about the household budget, she is there; when we are making decisions about finances, she is involved. Every day she comes home, she has to report on how she spent the money she was given for the day. If she cannot convince us that she spent it wisely, it might mean she gets none for the next day. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege. If I buy her something she asked for and it becomes damaged or remains unused within a particular time frame, she will pay me back for it out of her savings.
I assume that most of us work extremely hard for our money. Why then would we want to raise children who would spend it without thought?
• Shantal Munro Knight is a development specialist and deputy coordinator at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre. Email [email protected]