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Controlling your child’s pocket money

By | Jan 25th 2010 | 3 min read

By John Kariuki

With this year’s fresh class of Form One students reporting to school next week, new parents might fall for the tricks employed by teenagers to obtain more money.

And the tragedy is when the parents take leave of their financial sense in their enthusiasm and shower their children with excess pocket money. They are likely to box themselves into a corner by setting their children’s conspicuous consumption for the next four years and at the expense of pressing domestic needs.

Some parents give their children as much as Sh13,000 a term, a thousand every week, for their "personal use".

The amopunt of money translates to Sh39,000 a year and Sh159,000 over the entire course. This money could buy a modest stake in the stock market tripling in four years and giving one a fabulous return.

But often, such children end up being undisciplined. They may try out drugs and alcohol and playing truant. Often, they pay other less privileged students to do their washing, homework and assigned duties for them besides running errands to obtain contraband.

Wrong notion

Besides growing up with the notion that money can buy anything, including friendship, such pampered children fail to get the all-important lesson of financial prudence at a critical and impressionable age.

Yet there are some stingy parents who believe in strict control and leave their sons and daughters practically no pocket money and teachers have to step in for mundane things like pencils and biros.

Students excited after playing tricks on parents to get more money to use while in school. Smart parents can control this behaviour and channel their hard earned cash for lucrative investment. Illustration: Kenny/Standard

So, the question arises: how much money is good for your child in school? New parents should inquire from other seasoned parents or teachers on the acceptable cash to entrust a child.

Of course you should factor in the geographical area of the institution and the facilities on offer there. Expenses like bus fare back home on closing day, over-the-counter medication, occasional refreshment when on school outings, and emergencies like loss of clothes and so on are other factors to consider.

But, our youth are not altogether dumb. They daily devise new schemes for conspiring to defraud parents and students in Form One, in their newness, are not above this. Some of the students’ money-getting designs you should beware of are as follows:

Verify all trips with the school authorities: Soliciting for funds to pay for many upcoming school trips is the oldest of all students’ money scams. And the new Form Ones are likely to learn and practice this antic with ease.

Be suspicious of money scams if your child suddenly becomes outgoing with so many trips in a term. This would be a pointer to a spendthrift lifestyle that could be unsustainable.

Debts accrued from friends: Students desperate for cash will often fake a misfortune, like theft of their personal effects. They will claim that this drove them to borrowing cash from friends. Their accounts may look plausible, until you examine the nitty gritties.

As a parent, demand to be brought all the creditors, in the principal’s office and you will nip this adventure in the bud.

Special diet in school: When your child demands for extra cash ostensibly to be buying food items, demand to see the note or prescription. Ask why the problem has suddenly arisen. It could be a simple medical issue but exaggerated with a calculated financial aim in mind.

Wanting to buy items alone:

It is a mark of maturity to do this. But, parents are often hoodwinked that things are so expensive nowadays in obscure shops or towns where their children do their shopping. To stem this culture of lies and careless spending by your child, there are several steps you can take:

• Demand accountability: Always demand receipts and a full account of how your child has spent his or her pocket money in school.

• Let your children earn their pocket money: Allow your children to help you with your work or business over the school holidays and pay them for the work. This way, they are likely to understand the value of money and prudence in its spending.

• Let the children know the family overheads: It is not a bad idea to let your child learn of your house and business premises rents, power and water bills and other overheads.

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