Even the most well-intended and prepared parents must confess to the crime of inventing worldview improvisationally when faced with the query of inquisitive little ones. We may even be building our own personal value system when faced with the inherent pressure of questions surrounding everything from the proper utilization of money to the existence of Santa Claus.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is one of the reasons having children is such a transformative experience. Sure, you could just make something up when faced with the Whats, Hows and Whys, but it would be better still to actually determine a response in which you genuinely believe, even if that belief is newfound, and even if that belief is shrouded in mystery or fantasy.
That is why my wife and I decided to perpetuate the cultural myth of Santa Claus with our kids—because their little hearts and minds seem to yearn for mystery and fantasy, and because we both seemed to gain more than we suffered from that well-meaning parental deception. But one area in which mystery and fantasy would serve our children poorly is the arena of money.
No, painting a mysterious picture of financial fairies and monetary monsters will likely do more harm than good. I’m not discouraging creativity in teaching your kids about money, but I would caution you against personifying or deifying it. It simply gives money too much credit, pun intended. We best serve our children when we illuminate its uses as a connector of people, a facilitator of relationships, an extension of our values and a tool in reaching our goals. (Ok, so maybe you should put it a little simpler for them.)
Most kid-oriented financial systems wisely segment money for children in one of three buckets: one each for spending, saving and sharing. After years of reviews of both physical and digital systems, I’ve finally found one that works well for our family, and I’m happy to endorse it here: iAllowance.
What I Like:
1) It’s fun. Without sacrificing the functionality, its use of interactive icons easily recognized by kids brings the program to life. I found many systems that lacked a fun-factor entirely, which made me question whether the developers were even qualified to render advice on parenting.
2) It’s intuitive. I’m far from a “techy.” (I don’t even know if that’s how you spell it!) But with a couple helpful online tutorials, I was an iAllowance expert. Where other programs were clunky, this one flows with seamless and simple logic. I can get where I’m trying to go and accomplish what I’m trying to accomplish without undue effort.
3) It’s customizable. When I open the home screen, I see my kids’ smiling faces. I can use the program to manage Share, Save and Spend piggy banks, manage a regular allowance or goal-oriented funding, mange chores (either tied to an allowance or not) and also include a non-monetary reward system with stars. Some people only use iAllowance for chores and some only for allowance—I use it for both.
4) It works! Eureka, it works! You’ll find no shortage of systems online that promise the world, but I found more than one that simply didn’t follow-through on their pledges. Some systems acknowledged glitches and I’m sure other misfires were human error—but if I can’t figure out how to make it work without too much effort, I’m not going to use it.
What I don’t like:
There is one major limitation to iAllowance, in that it is only accessed on iPhones, iPods and iPads, and while it’s not worth the cost of new phone or tablet that you don’t already own, I’ve found it worth a great deal more than the $3.99 I paid for the app. Some are still attached—as I was initially—to the more tactile representations of physical piggy banks in which the kids can see their money accumulate. But I ultimately concluded that virtual money will be the predominant way my kids transact throughout their lives, so why not start them on it? Plus, I don’t have to get judgmental looks from a teller wondering if I’m headed to a “gentleman’s club” with all those one dollar bills!
Healthy dealings with money certainly isn’t the most important value to pass along to your progeny, but it’s one of the most important because it’s used—for better and for worse—in nearly every other aspect of life…long after they stop believing in Santa.