Sarah Todd: Harsh economic realities of cash in your children’s pocket or purse

Are children entitled to pocket money, or should it be earned? (PA)
Are children entitled to pocket money, or should it be earned? (PA)
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CHILDREN’S pocket money has hit a nine-year high and this mother – for one – doesn’t think it’s something to celebrate.

Fair enough, if the new average weekly amount of £6.55 was being paid directly into savings accounts that they couldn’t get their grubby little mitts onto until they were at least 18. But oh no, this country is so soft on the parenting front an increasing amount is paid out under that awful American term “allowance”.

If this correspondent had a pound for every time her children have commented on some smartypants school friend’s “allowance” the grey hairs they are starting to give me could be covered up at some expensive salon or other.

An allowance? It somehow gives an element of entitlement. It sounds a million miles away from the humble origins of pocket money – a few pennies in your pocket for a bag of sweets once a week (if you were lucky and well-behaved).

But never mind the language. It’s the sentiments behind these payments that seem fundamentally wrong. The worst, of course, is money handed over willy-nilly as if parents are duty bound to do so.

“Here’s your allowance” (still can’t get over that word). Then – and almost as bad in many ways – there are those forking out and justifying it with things like “Oh well, he does do his homework” and “she has started making her bed”.

So they should be doing. It’s idiocy – and the start of an incredibly slippery slope – to pay children for doing jobs that they should be doing anyway. Can’t parents see that they’ll end up with idle ignoramuses who won’t lift a finger unless they get some sort of payment in return?

Children are part of a family unit and, as such, should do their bit to make it work. Whether that’s putting their washing in the laundry basket (those who know the state of our teenage daughter’s bedroom will laugh at this) or setting the table. That’s part of being a family. Get over it. It’s life.

Before yours truly is written-off as overly harsh or insufferably smug there have been stumbling blocks along the way for our family. The Son, who for a long time weighed little more than five stone wet through, is sent (by his father) several times a week during the winter out to the log shed.

The log shed isn’t conveniently situated near the back door. It’s a fair walk away – up some steps and through a gate.

Because The Husband is so tight he hardly ever switches the central heating on we often have two fires going. So, picture this, the small boy in question is not going to get an armful of logs. Oh no, he is loading them into a large wheelbarrow, pushing that back across what must seem like half a mile when it’s full and the sleet is coming down sideways, and then – wait for it – emptying each and every log and stacking them by the fireside.

It’s a big job and one that, suggested his mother, was surely worth some sort of reward or – dare we say it? – allowance. The man of the house stuck to his guns and, on reflection, he probably did right. It’s a job that’s done as part of being a member of our family.

He has to clean his own shoes and boots but there’ll be a deal done if he does his big sister’s. Something simple like watching what he wants on television or the odd treat. He does have his own business.

He’s bought some hens and sells the eggs. He offers free delivery to the nearby village and this has been another bone of contention between his parents. His father makes him, come rain or shines, deliver the eggs on his bike.

This parent, if it’s awful weather, takes him the two-mile round trip in the car. “He’s getting the money, it’s for him to do,” says old Ebenezer.

Our 15-year-old daughter doesn’t get any pocket money. The average amount for her age, according to the annual Halifax survey, is £7.85 a week. She started out with an egg business but now has a little waitressing job.

She occasionally goes on shopping trips with her friends and always moans that, unlike them, she doesn’t have a debit card. “They all look funny when I’ve got to go and get my money out of the bank,” she says. Let them.

There is something fundamentally wrong with children never experiencing that feeling of having a full purse and then, at the end of the day, nothing left.

Of managing what they spend so there’s enough money left over for the bus fare home.

Waving a piece of plastic around to access an “allowance” does nobody, least of all them, any good at all.

Sarah Todd is a former editor of Yorkshire Life magazine. She is a farmer’s daughter, mother and journalist specialising in country life.