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I was taking my morning caffeine fix at the local cafe and overheard two young mums at the table behind mine discussing pocket money. One mum wanted her daughter to learn about the real world and how she would one day be expected to earn her keep. The other mum felt that the threat of its withdrawal was what kept her son in line. It’s an evergreen issue that keeps each generation of new parents in hot debate. Who is to say which system is right? Different strokes for different folks is what comes to mind whenever the issue comes up. I’m sure that it all pans out in the end.

Those mums were probably as much influenced by their own personal experiences as I was by mine. When I was ten, my dad gave me ten cents (a shilling) a week pocket money. It wasn’t a fortune but a tram ride into the city cost 3 cents back then and ten cents supplied me with a weekly stash of lollies: Lemon Drops, Bulls Eyes, Bullets and Milk Bottles. So not so shabby, either. If I was careful my money lasted till the next pay day if not, I touched my long suffering younger sister for a loan to tide me over. There were no strings attached to this largesse. If I made my bed it was because I had slept in it and if I set the table or washed a dish it was because (it was explained to me) I had been one of the participants in the meal. Being a productive part of my family unit was left to my conscience.

My parents gave me just enough money to allow me a little independence and the chance to make my own decisions. Pretty heady stuff at the age of ten. I had to decide whether to splurge it on lollies or save it for the Saturday matinee at the local picture theatre. Hard decisions but they were mine to make.

As soon as it was legally possible, I got a holiday job working at Woolworths behind the perfume counter to supplement my pocket money and my needs. (At that time, Woolworths was a variety store not a supermarket.) Paid work taught me about budgeting and the work ethic. I liked working and enjoyed the freedom to buy what I wanted (within reason) without having to ask permission or begging for it. There is something demeaning about being beholden to someone for favours even when you are a child.

By that time my interests had shifted to reading and at one and six a pop (15 cents) it allowed me to work my way through the classics. It was heaven.

When I became a mother, my sons got the same no strings attached treatment from me. My philosophy on pocket money is not solely what makes them such solid citizens; I think there’s an equal mix of nature in the equation. What pleases me the most is to note that my children do what they can to help each other, their parents, their grandmother and those who ask for help without asking themselves or others, ‘what’s in it for me?’

It’s been a while, really since I’ve written a grandparening or parenting story. Plenty of source material to draw on if I ever pull my finger out. In the meantime, this article was published in 2011, but the copyright reverts to me. So here it is getting another airing (Possibly I’ve already posted this on my blog in the early days, but I can’t find evidence of it, so if any of you remember reading this, do let me know. Otherwise, hope you like it)..

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4 thoughts on “No strings attached

    • That’s called fifty-fifty hindsight. Parenting is a hit and miss affair. The great thing about a blog is that you can talk about the good things and edit out mistakes.

  1. It sounds wonderful to have your own money at such a young age. There were five of us kids, so there was no extra money to go around. We all had chores to be done, and that was part of being a family. By about age ten, I hated the clothes my mother bought for me for school, so as soon as I could (age 12), I started babysitting. Every chance I got all through the summer, so I could buy my own clothes for school. I kind of loved that.

    • I’m sure that you appreciated and took care of what you were able to earn for yourself. There are lessons to be learned when you are a child, but using pocket money as a bribe or blackmail shouldn’t be one of them. What about your son?

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