A few days back, Mr. M and I talked about how important it is for us to teach Ka the value of money. Actually we have been talking about it on and off for quite a while now but haven’t had the heart to do anything about it. There have been a lot of times when Ka picked something at the store because she ‘absolutely loved it’, but after coming home, decided that it isn’t that great after all. So, luckily for us, when we were raking our brains trying to come up with a plan for teaching her that money does not grow on trees, along came this seminar on how to bring up confident and independent kids. I obviously jumped at the opportunity and I am so glad I did coz that’s where I learnt that denying your child material things will not make you an evil parent. Just because we can afford to fulfill every whim and fancy of our child, doesn’t mean we should. And the earlier you start, the better. So, last week we came up with a system. A simple solution to a not-so-simple problem.
This is how it works.
- STEP 1: Teach the child the difference between a ‘want’ and a ‘need’ – There are things that Ka needs and there are things that Ka wants. For example, a pair of sneakers to wear to school and at playtime would be a ‘need’, but a pair of white dress shoes would be a ‘want’ coz she already has a pair of black dress shoes and she wants the white ones to match with a few dresses she has. The needs are our responsibility, the wants hers. The ‘wants’ go on a wish list stuck to her closet door, right where she can reach it and add items to it as and when she wants.
- STEP 2: Set up a ‘Rewards Program’ that gets the child all excited: Ka gets all excited about stamps or stars. Princess stamps work the best. Since I haven’t gotten around to going to the store yet, I am making do with stars. She seems happy with that too. Once you have a consensus on that, decide how much each stamp or star (or whatever else it is that you picked) is worth. We have a blue star, a green star and a red star, each worth 1, 2 and 3 kuai respectively. The ‘star-list’ (a calendar with the dates written in list format) goes right above the wish list on the closet door. A black/white board will do perfectly well too as you can re-use them but Ka was worried that the stars might get wiped off by mistake. So, I just wrote down the dates on a piece of paper and stuck it up with tape.
- STEP 3: Classify the chores: Chores fall into 2 categories- 1) Personal Tasks that are clearly Ka’s job (including cleaning up her room, dressing herself up for school ‘on time’, getting her school bag ready the night before, remembering to take her bowl to the kitchen, remembering to put her clothes in the laundry etc.), and 2) Household Chores or tasks that can be done by any of us (watering plants, setting the table, buying milk/bread from the store downstairs, helping me fold clothes, tidying up the house, dusting, cleaning the table after dinner etc). Her personal tasks buy her 1 star whereas household chores fetch her 2-3 stars depending on the complexity of the task (for eg., going down to the store is definitely worth more stars than watering the plants). The household chores can be picked from a ‘Job Jar’ (an empty wide-mouthed jar with tasks written on small folded pieces of paper). Another fun way to pick chores is this- http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/crafts-by-age/school-age-crafts/chore-dice-669858/
- STEP 4: How often do they get paid: Decide how often you want to clear the accounts. I prefer daily wages as the instant gratification keeps them going. Ka gets her money every night and I have noticed that on days when she has 2 stars or less, she is not very happy. As a result, she does exceptionally well the following day 🙂
- STEP 5: The money belongs to her: Once the star goes on that piece of paper, it cannot be undone. She will get the money for every star earned and no amount of bad behavior will result in us taking that money away. At the end of the month, she can count her money and either buy something that’s on her wish list or she can save up for the more expensive items. This year, since we are going to be in India for her birthday, she has a third option of asking her grandparents, uncles and aunts to buy her something that’s on her wish list for her birthday.
Surprisingly, this system has gone down really well with her. She has been very actively adding things to her wish list and she has been working reasonably hard to earn the money. Now, only time will tell how long this excitement lasts.
However, I do realise that it will be pretty challenging to keep this system going since Mr. M already feels guilty for doing this to his little pup pup (apparently, Ka calling me his dog didn’t do much to change his mind about calling Ka pup pup). He feels like a con-man taking a little child for a ride. He feels like we should pay her more money for the chores. But keeping Mr. M on track is not going to be my only challenge. At the start of this brilliant program, when I emptied out Ka’s Dinosaur money bank, I also found a 5 Kuai note in it, torn to teeny tiny bits. Upon questioning little Ka, I learnt that it is impossible to stuff that note down the dinosaur’s throat in one piece and it was much easier when that money was torn into smaller pieces. Afterall, you wouldn’t want the dinosaur to choke now, would you?