Whose responsibility is it to teach children and adolescents about money? It isn’t society, because few people discuss money in front of children. It isn’t school, because the curriculum required in each subject area is already so full of material to cover; this just isn’t a focus.
That leaves family. That’s good, because that is where it belongs.
In the family you can talk about money in the earliest years of a child’s life all the way through. Since you probably are the one for the most part who is giving money, you get to be the one who sets forth the rules.
Around the age of 3 (unless there is an older sibling), children discover money. It begins with begging for things they find in the store or see on television. When this begins, it is time to institute an allowance system. This is the beginning of learning about money management. If there is no money that he can manage, there is no experience to learn from.
Think about how much you already are spending meeting your child’s demands for a little here and a little there. Another way to think of allowance is to give your child a dollar a week for each year of age. But whatever amount you give, stick to it. If your child can convince you to give a little more here and there, you have just defeated the allowance lesson about managing money. Begin by making it very clear what your child is expected to pay for from his allowance.
The reason you are giving an allowance is to teach your child the value of money. It is a way of teaching him about saving for something. It also teaches about patience, discipline and money lessons to last a lifetime. These lessons don’t happen overnight.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and now director of Parenting Matters Foundation. The foundation publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 681-2250.