Parenting Perspective: Children can learn economics

HAVERFORD, Pa. - Dec. 12, 2011

In fact, all the second-graders in Teacher Katherine's class at Haverford Friends School have jobs. And they all get paid to do them.

That's good because these children also have expenses.

Julia explains, "We pay rent for our cubby and our table space and our chair."

You might think secondgrade is a bit young to learn about how the economy works. But these children are learning real-life money lessons.

In addition to paying their expenses, they can use their money for fun things: $5 for a session at the toy store, $3 for arts and crafts, and nothing to read at the library.

Teacher Katherine Renninger explains, "We talk about the different things we can do with money like spending it, saving it or donating it to other peope. And then they're given the opportunity to do that in the classroom."

Just as Renninger has created a working economy in her classroom, parents can create one at home and teach lifelong lessons about financial responsibility.

The key is not just paying children to do chores, but teaching them the value and the rewards of their work.

Haverford Friends Head of School Michael Zimmerman explains, "In the context of the economy, they really come to understand it as a sharing of values, so that they come to understand that they're setting the table, in part, as part of their responsibiity to the family, and part of what comes back to them is their allowance as a result."

To start a home economy, like the one in this classroom, parents should let children do jobs, and set different salaries according to how difficult they are or how often they need to be done.

Charge your children a percentage of those "salaries" for expenses, and then help them decide how to save, spend or donate the rest -- setting both long-term and short-term goals.

Teacher Katherine's class is hoping to save and pool enough money for an all-day pajama party.

Here are some more resources with ideas about teaching children to be financially responsible:
eZine Article
ABC News

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