Tuesday, September 09, 2014


If you ever were to come round my house and use the downstairs loo, you'd notice a lavender blue plastic coat rack stuck on the inside of the door, all down to my policy with pocket money.

If you remember back to when you were small, your pocket money was a big deal. Those pennies meant a lot, every last one of them; freedom to do something, whatever you wanted. Sweets, a toy. Or a toy. Or maybe sweets. The choice of what to spend pocket money on is much wider now, especially with computer games and apps and iTunes tracks and whatnot being cleverly priced to skim off those pennies, not to mention the pounds.

But while there've been big advances in what to buy, the old-fashioned system of pocket money stays much the same. The amount is still determined by a mysterious formula of; the child's age, what they say their school friends get, the general stinginess of the household, and the nearest round amount.

Is it fair? Not in a million years. That's because it's run by a body of people whose expertise as paymasters is approximately zero. Parents. That's why we do such a lousy job with pocket money preparing our children for independent life. Does anyone in the workplace get a pay rise automatically on their birthday? Or end up with an exact amount in their pay slip every week? Nope. At work the amount gets jigged around with stoppages and ends up with a curious .27p on the end of the final number. Does any parent subject their child's pocket money to stoppages based on uneaten cornflakes or leaving the bathroom light on? No. We should.

Then again some parents don't bother with pocket money.

If you think about pocket money; you're setting your child up to believe that money comes for nothing, a fixed amount, regardless of what the child does or how they behave.

We're lucky in that Blue Sky share the responsibility of fixing the amount, and they've so much experience you can bet they'll nail it for you. Plus if the child queries the amount you can always say it came from on high.

Generally I love dishing out the weekly pocket money to foster children because it's often a new experience for them. Not just the money, but the trust. I trust them to spend it in an okay way, and if that means sweets, well to start with that's fine by me, as long as they brush their teeth. Having a couple of pounds to blow is a healing thing, it's therapeutic. I'll make mini-interventions along the way if needed. But I don't expect them to save up for a Bible and a pound of apples.

One foster child I had for a while loved to be let loose in Poundland. She deserved all the treats in the world, this girl. I'll never forget the Saturday she came out with some sweets, a dinosaur whose head swivelled and a small coat hook. The coat hook was for me. 

I never asked why. Just went "Wow that's what I really needed!"

Personally I'd scrap pocket money, and instead pay a fixed fee into the school each term for the approximate amount, say £2 per child per week at age 8. Then, each Friday afternoon the teacher would assess their work and behaviour and punctuality and attendance etc and give them a pay packet with a slip explaining why they're getting the amount.

Until then, I stick to dishing it out and standing out of the way.

And in the downstairs loo I have a very nice coat hook glued up to prove it.


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