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Money and Possessions PDF Print E-mail

Simba walks into the lounge where his father is reading the paper.

“How was school?” enquires Mr Mabande.

Simba shrugs. “OK, I guess. Hey Dad, Herbert and me and some of the guys are going to Fantasyland on Saturday – they’ve got some new games there which are really cool. And … the thing is, I need some bucks.”

Mr Mabande raises his eyebrows. “Money? But you got your allowance at the beginning of the month.”

Simba looks disappointed. “But that was two weeks ago! Also, I realised I have nothing to wear.”

Mr Mabande looks amused. “Nothing? That’s terrible!”

Simba is irritated. “Really Dad. I need new jeans and a jacket. Oh, and some shoes.

Nothing special – a pair of Pumas’ will be fine.”

Mr Mabande smiles and returns to his paper. “I suggest you ask Givemore if he has some clothes that you can wear.”

Simba looks outraged. “Are you expecting me to wear my brother’s hand-me-downs?

His clothes are so … The guys will laugh at me, Dad – you’ve no idea.”

Mr Mabande turns the page with a crackle. “You get your allowance at the beginning of every month, and your mother takes you shopping for clothes at the beginning of winter and again in summer. I don’t think I need to give you any more money. And you know how tight things are these days. Maybe you should look for a weekend job if you’re running out of money.”

Simba’s jaw drops. “A  job? You’re joking, right?”

Mr Mabande doesn’t answer. He seems deeply engrossed in his paper.

Simba’s voice changes to a whine. The other guys have much cooler clothes and stuff than me. James has his own TV and PS3 in his bedroom … Khaleel is getting the latest cell phone with all the extras for his birthday … they laugh at me, man.

You’re going to make them not want to hang out with me anymore.” He looks at his father bitterly. “I can see you don’t even care.”

  • How do we talk to children about money and material possessions?
  • What can our family afford? What does my child need and what extra does he want?
  • What is appropriate for a child his age? When can I say “Yes”? How do I say “No”? What are the responsibilities that go with an allowance? Should I ask my child to earn his money?
  • What value does our family place on material possessions? What else is important? How does this relate to my child’s self-esteem?

Money is one of the issues we all struggle to talk about. For adults and children it is often linked to a sense of success and self-worth. One of the most important things we can do for our children is to talk about money in a matter-of-fact way.

This will not be easy; children and younger teens will often feel overwhelmed by their feelings of not fitting in, and of being hard-done-by. They probably all feel that they don’t have enough, and that life is not fair.

Don’t discount these feelings: recognise that for children the peer group is hugely important and these feelings can be very intense. You could say something like: “I know it’s very difficult when it seems that everyone else has something we can’t afford; it’s hard to feel the odd one out.” This helps the child to feel that you are hearing him, not just giving a lecture. However you will have to move on to discussing what is possible and affordable.

Give your child basic information about family finances. (Give less detail for younger children.) You can talk about the difference between money you spend on necessities (such as school fees, rent, food, electricity, transport) and your disposable income: the extra money that you can use for luxuries, such as pocket money, going to movies, buying extra clothes and CDs, and going on holiday. Your child needs to realise that income is not endless!

You could also discuss trade-offs: for example, would you prefer bigger Christmas presents, or a trip to Sun City?

Talk about the fact that some families have more money or less money, or make different choices about how they spend it. Be careful not to use words like “rich” or “poor” which are often loaded with other meanings for children – focus on what we have, what we need to use it for, and what we can afford. In this way, you can give your child a sense of what is realistic.

Like everything else, the amount of money and possessions that you give a child will depend to some extent on his age. It may also depend on what happens in your family: if your child takes public transport to school, you may want him to have a cell phone so you can reach him easily. In another family, cell phones may come with high school, or reaching a certain age.

Usually a child will get more pocket money as he gets older. The amount you give a child depends in part on what you expect him to spend it on. Discuss your child’s “needs” and his “wants” with him. You could get him to work out a monthly budget of what he plans to buy, and what it will cost. Here are some examples of what pocket money can be spent on:

  • Sweets and food from the canteen at school
  • Movies
  • Take-aways
  • Airtime
  • Friend’s birthday presents
  • Clothes
  • Transport
  • Saving up to buy something special

Again, remember that it is up to you, the parent, to decide what you think is appropriate and what you can afford.

Apart from how much money your family can afford to spend, you also need to think about your family values.

In some families parents give their children a lot of material things: sometimes because they grew up feeling deprived and don’t want their children to go through that, sometimes because they can afford it and see no reason not to, and sometimes because they don’t know how to say no to their children.

In some families, the parents give fewer material things: sometimes this is based on what they can afford, or what they think is appropriate, and/or because they don’t want to “spoil” their children. Some parents dislike the consumerist culture we live in or believe that an abundance of games and toys stops creative play. In all of these cases, the parents are using some kind of value judgment.

It is helpful for our children if we name the values that we are using when we make decisions.

One value you may want to develop is that of sharing. Your child could be encouraged to save a percentage of his pocket money, or give a toy to an orphan at Christmas.

Another value is that of working for things. Younger children could earn some extra money by doing extra chores like washing the car, while you could encourage older kids to get a job to pay for extras that the pocket money does not cover. But remember: all family members should do some basic chores that they don’t get paid for!

Many kids believe that if they only have the right gear, they will be popular. Underlying this is a real anxiety about not fitting in and not being liked. We need to find ways to help our children to realize that how you look, what you wear and what you drive are not what determine your friendships and success in the long run.

Get your child to think about why he likes his friends. Is it because they are friendly, loyal and fun, or because they have a funky cell phone? Some teenagers respond well to clichés: “Money can’t buy friendship.” Friendship is mostly about being on the same wavelength and liking the same kind of things. Good friends are prepared to share and will not put you down because you don’t have the latest gadget. A child who feels happy about who he is will not need to worry too much about what he has.

Material possessions can some times take on too much importance. Try to give your child the sense that you can have a lot of fun without spending a lot of money. Remind him of the fun he has with his friends, or spending time with family. Making gifts or decorations, or fixing a broken gadget, are activities that are fun and can save money. A game of soccer on the lawn can be more fun than sitting alone in front of a Playstation. We can create a sense of abundance in our homes by welcoming our children’s friends and being generous with our time and our friendship. It does not all depend on money.

This page is adapted from part of a series produced by Speciss College, based on an original series of pamphlets produced by Sacred Heart College in South Africa. The pamphlets were produced following a Parent Ethos Workshop at Sacred Heart College, at which parents identified and discussed issues which concerned them in their parenting. This proved so helpful that they decided to create a resource for all parents. Please note that the gender reference in each page is decided according to the gender of the child in the scenario, and has been used interchangeably throughout the series. This publication is intended as a helpful resource only. Neither Sacred Heart College nor Speciss College can take responsibility for the outcomes of referring to this pamphlet. The pamphlets have been adapted, with permission, to suit Zimbabwean conditions. Copyright resides with Sacred Heart College.

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