While math concepts may seem obscure, kids have no trouble understanding money; at least the spending part! The more difficult concept is the true value of money. Each dollar spent represents someone’s work and time invested in what was purchased.
So, how can we teach kids to appreciate the value of money? From a very early age, we can begin by not automatically replacing what gets broken through carelessness. The child should work to earn its replacement. Though this is a hard lesson, it is best learned early. If they break something of someone else’s, they should work to earn the replacement item, without receiving any other compensation. This will teach them respect for personal property.
In order to be consistent with this, children must be allowed to keep treasured items (such as a new birthday present or special toy) only for themselves. If forced to share, the lesson of private property’s value is undermined. Sharing only really counts when it is from the heart anyway. Doing so always brings a risk.
The Scriptural lesson, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” means that we need to honor their things as we hope they will honor ours. But will children ever learn to share this way?
As they see our example of generosity in giving and of sharing our things with them and with our friends and taking a risk that the item may not be returned or may be broken – we can also teach that a heart of love will share, not expecting anything in return. This is what love does. However, you cannot force love. For our part, we will always either return what was borrowed or replace it, because it is the right thing and the loving thing for us to do. Leading by example is much better than forcing them to share their things and possibly causing the opposite effect than you desire.
Thankfulness for gifts and for opportunities to earn money should be taught very early. Seeing the world through eyes of gratitude can transform the character of a child. Our example of gratitude both to God and to others that bless us can guide them. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you.” 1Thessalonians 5:18.
Earning Opportunities for “Wants”
Finally, they can start up a small business of their own. Our homeschool group has had “market days,” where the kids bring in crafts and creations and baked goods they make, to sell. Everyone brings their spare change or dollars to take turns seeing what all their friends have made! Lemonade stands, mowing lawns, pet care, babysitting or housecleaning for a neighbor – are all good early jobs for kids. Encourage them to track their expenses as well as their income, to see what the profits are. How can they improve the profit? Advertise? Cut costs? Improve the quality of their product so more will sell? All these questions help children to understand the value of money and see how time is exchanged for it.
Allowance or Stewardship?
I don’t like the idea of allowances. Many people do give them, but to me, it smacks of entitlement. If you do delegate a responsibility that requires funds, that is different. A stewardship is something that will need to be accounted for later and brings good lessons with it. If your child is able to do what has been asked of them with the money provided and has some left over (because of wise choices – not from purchasing low-quality things), they may be allowed to keep it as a reward for a job well done. Handing over some household management in purchasing (as they are getting a bit older) is also a great way to help them develop confidence. Stewardship is a Biblical concept that can be reinforced through this practice. We are given much by our Heavenly Father to manage here. When we do well, He will say “well done,” and reward us. We can be imitators of Him in this way too, as we train our own children.