Are You Treating, Teaching or Spoiling Them?
By Aliaa Serry
As children grow older, the idea of allowing them to handle a certain amount of money, an allowance of sorts, comes into question. While they are not toddlers, they are still not anywhere near adulthood and so, what is a reasonable amount of money that young children should be given and asked to handle without spoiling them in the process?
Many parents make the mistake of overcompensating with money, as a substitute for quality time, how detrimental is that on children? The issue of allowance is one that must be broached with care and balance; it can easily go from bestowing responsibility, to spoiling.
Cairo West Magazine had an informative chat with child counsellor, Monda Joseph, to understand what exactly said balance is and how to effectively use an allowance to develop a child’s character.
CWM: At what age should children be given an allowance that they are able to use at their own discretion?
MJ: I would recommend around the age of 4. Although children do not fully understand the value of money at that age, they would understand when it is given as an incentive. Thus, parents can teach children the idea of saving and managing money from a young age. It’s not really about the amount of money that the children are given, but rather about why the money itself is given.
How much is recommended for each age?
It really depends on the parents’ financial status and what extra expenses they can incur. Although I can recommend averages for each age group, which parents can use as a guide.
For children who are enrolled in elementary school, I recommend 10 EGP a day. Their expenses at that age revolve around buying food items from the school canteen and/or buying small presents for family members, and this amount should be sufficient. This is of course, given the fact, that the parents already cover all the basic living expenses.
For middle school children, I recommend 20 EGP per day. This increase is due to the fact that they should now be able to manage their allowance better. As for high school students, I recommend a weekly allowance of 300 EGP, as again, they should even be better at managing money properly.They also have different needs and wants that cost more than those of younger children.
Should children also be given responsibility for covering certain living essentials from their allowance?
Yes, I highly recommend this technique. Children need to learn and appreciate the value of things rather than taking them for granted from a young age. They should be encouraged to save up for things, and so for example, I would say a parent can suggest that if a child wants a toy, that they would pay for half of it and that the child should save up to pay for the rest.
Should parents monitor how kids use their allowance?
Yes, I believe they should especially with younger children. However, they need to monitor the money in a friendly rather than in an authoritative way- the parents need to provide guidance and assistance, but not orders. They can, for example, sit with the child, calculate their extra expenses with them and then recommend how to use the allowance by making suggestions.
Should a child be expected to do chores and meet certain requirements in order to receive an allowance?
Parents should teach children to actively participate in the household starting the age of 2. This will lead them to growing up not thinking that any contributions they make to the household as tedious chores. Parents can definitely sit down with the children and make an agreement regarding what kind of chores should be done at what time in order for them to earn an extra allowance as a bonus over the basic allowance. They can suggest an extra 5 EGP for doing the dishes after lunch, for example.
Do you feel that parents tend to substitute money for quality time with their children?
Unfortunately, yes, they sometimes do. Money is an easy giveaway and parents may think it substitutes love, time and value, but it simply doesn’t for children. It’s just not enough. More than half of what children learn is through contact with the parents, and so money can never make up for that.
If a child wants a particularly expensive item, such as a bike or electronic device, should they have to help work towards getting it?
Yes, I highly recommend they do. Children need to learn that things in life do not come for free. Mum and dad cannot earn money without going to work, and they cannot pass their exams without studying for them. Parents need to get children used to the idea that in order to get something, you need to work for it.
So if children do pitch in, would this generate a better appreciation of the item?
Yes, definitely, because they have worked towards it and it was not just effortlessly given to them- they earned it themselves.
Should parents discuss family financial matters in front of or with their children?
No, I don’t think this is a wise thing to do. Finances are the parents’ responsibility and kids do not need to worry about them, especially at a very young age. Doing so can put psychological pressure on children that they do not need at that time. They only need to know about what concerns them.
And should children be drawn in any way into the decision- making process when family financial decisions are planned?
It really depends on the child and the decision itself. The child can definitely be involved if the decision actively affects them. The family can sit down discuss it together. A decision that many families may need to make is what kind of university to enrol the child in, which is often times based partially on finances. They child should be told of what the parents can offer financially so they can contribute to the decision.
Allowances are essential for parents to truly teach their children about the value of money. When it comes to the approach, parents need to effectively communicate in an open manner, without being too commanding. The key here is communication, and so money cannot simply be given to children in an attempt to make up for all the time a parent may fail to spend with them. Finally, when it comes to engaging children in financial matters, only allow them to be involved in those matters which directly affect them, and only to a certain extent, so as to avoid putting any mental or psychological strain on them.