Your children have to learn a lot about a lot of things – from needles to calculators, from wedges to measuring cups, from flashlights to bulldozers. People who know what tools are for and how they are used have an advantage over people who do not. There is a similar advantage for people who know about games and toys, objects around the house, works of art, or almost anything else.
How do you help your child to know as much as possible about as many things as possible? You try to answer her endless questions about things, call her attention to things, you encourage her to ask others questions about things, you take her to museums and art galleries, you read to her about things and encourage her to read about things. You also take time to look at something special or interesting, to show your child things you observe when shopping, you ask questions about things that interest her. In addition, you point out things, give the names of things, explain what things are for.
Money is a special thing. Your children need to have money, learn what can be purchased with their money, be able to tell how much money they have, and develop appropriate attitudes toward money. Before your child learns to add and subtract and to tell the different pieces of money from each other (about six-years-old), she should have some money of her own, be encouraged to spend it on things she wants, be allowed to listen to adult discussions about money, and told how much things cost. This can be overdone, making your child too conscious of cost, or apprehensive about whether or not there will be enough money.
A few examples: Your seven-year-old picks out a toy car costing $1.81, but has only $1.70 to spend. Should you simply pay the other $0.11? Generally not. Simply tell her if she wants the toy car, she will have to save more money or suggest she pick out a toy not costing so much. Another possibility is to tell your seven-year-old, “I will loan you the $0.11 and you can pay me back as soon as you get more money.” If your child agrees, remember to ask her for it the next time she gets some money.
Your twelve-year-old tells you he should get paid for doing things around the house. Do you agree to pay him? Probably not. Being a member of the family and living in the house involves sharing responsibilities. Household jobs are not something for which anyone gets paid; everyone is expected to help. You may decide he has a right to some spending money which he can count on having. This allowance is one of the rights shared by responsible members of your household. If some week you do not have money to give to him, he will have to do without but still do the work assigned him. Your children should be expected to share in the responsibilities of the household and also have a right to share in the resources available to the family.
Should your children be forced to save part of their money? Probably not. Most children need to learn to handle their small amounts of money responsibly. If your child has, say $50, you might insist he save part of it. Even in this situation, though, he should have the right to spend it on something special. An exception to this might be a percent of all money received, if you believe your children should regularly contribute to church or to an investment or college fund.
Should your children have pets? Yes, if at all possible, because they learn a lot about relationships with people through their relationships with pets. In addition, they learn how to take care of animals and to develop good feelings toward animals. Through a relationship with a kitten, for example, your child learns the importance of playfulness combined with gentleness, respect for the kitten’s autonomy, the responsibility that goes with love, and seeing the kitten has food and water. The same is true with other pets. Your children also learn from their pets about death, illness, and injury. Pets offer your children one of the best ways to learn about relationships.
Very young children cannot accept full responsibility for pets. You help your small children, but should not accept responsibility for it yourself. In addition, your children should be shown how to hold pets, play with them, not abuse them, see they do not get lost or injured. Insist your children accept these responsibilities, consistent with their ages, and actively show them how to deal with the pet.
Relationships are not specifically taught in school, so you must take the responsibility for teaching your children about relationships. You might be talking about friends and say, “There are a lot of different kinds of relationships.” You could then go on to talk about what is different about the relationships.
Consider your child who is about to deal with a new type of relationship. If he has thought about relationships in conscious terms, he can think, “Visiting Grandma in the hospital will probably be a little like visiting her at home, plus a little bit like visiting Aunt Jenny at the nursing home.” On the other hand, your child who does not make the comparison automatically, will have to have it explained to him in his own terms.