IS POCKET MONEY A GOOD IDEA?
I'm feeling a bit anarchic at the moment, maybe it's the snow.
Who invented this "pocket money" thing anyway? I don't think my parents generation picked up a weekly half-crown every Saturday for no reason; there just wasn't the money in the house.
Is it a good idea?
I can see that the idea of encouraging a child who might have previously had precious little to call their own to budget their cash, save and invest, is a good idea.
If the entire economic world has failed to manage the same thing, why should we expect them to?
This is how it works, from the looked-after child's point of view; "Every week my foster carers give me a set amount of cash. The amount goes up as I get older. I don't have to work for it, I do a half-baked job of the washing up every so often, or leave the wheelie bin in the wrong place. My foster carers threaten to keep it back if I hack them off about anything, but it's my money. It's the law."
Is that not about right?
Where else in life do you get money for nothing? OK, some people will answer: benefits. I'm not down on the principle of benefits here, just saying that in the wrong mind, pocket money is just the same. Looked-after children frequently come from families where the benefits system was enthusiastically and skillfully played. We take them out of that environment (for other reasons) and put a tenner in their hands every week, unearned and somewhat unaccountable. Duh?
And often their approach to spending is tragic. We had one child, a teenager, every Saturday she would take her ten pounds and troll with me down to the One Stop. I always expected her to buy a bag of crisps or something. She would buy anything and everything she could right up to her ten pounds almost as if she wanted to get a monkey off her back. The monkey of thinking about being sensible with money.
Another younger child would come with us on the Saturday supermarket run, and insist on buying the first thing he saw that was inside his five pound pocket money; one week a huge tin of Quality Street at £4.99. Another time a bag of barbecue coal.
If we're doing our job, namely getting children who have had difficult times ready to do battle in the world, maybe we need to make their pocket money thing function like earnings. They should earn it. How? Depends on what we need them to improve. I find that looked after children often hate going to school, hate going to bed. Yeah, a big battle here, but the right one?
If we're going to get them ready for the world, and hopefully a world of employment, the principle of earning your cash is one of the biggest lessons we can get across.
We could get imaginative too. Four weeks without a wobbly, six weeks without a crafty fag behind the garage, two months and no "F" word... bonus! Here's your smartphone (or whatever).
A foster carer I talked to about this called it bribery. I call it reward.
It's just the way the functioning world functions, and we're aiming to get them functioning, aren't we?
The Secret Foster Carer