Word of Mind, Word of Mouth

Start teaching economic skills early — and often

Special to The CambrianJune 21, 2013 

So, as we scamper through the following summer months, gaily making our way from free time to “accounted for” time, let us not forget that any age is not too young to teach about economics.

Whether or not your child is of an age for an allowance (5 to 6 years old), as soon as they can walk, they can start to understand the monetary value of things.

Looking back, I can remember ear-loads of groans and moans from my sons as I asked them, when they were aiming to make a purchase, questions like:

• “Do you need it or want it?”

• “Are you sure you want that  — and don’t want to look around longer to make sure you don’t want something else?”

• “How long do you think it will last?”

• “Are you sure you will still like it next week after everybody else has gotten something new, moved on? Are you going to need to ‘move on’ too?”

I believe I was taught how to “look with my eyes, not my hands” before I could even walk, as I reached out for the nearest shiny object. My mom would take note of what caught my eye and concur how bright it was, how smooth and round it was, it was green, etc. Even before the Chinese invasion, we checked to see where things were made.

How funny — in those days, a basket made in China was special! Gadzooks, how things have changed. Now it’s a challenge to find something made right here at home.

If you are not inclined to give allowances, that’s fine, but money is still an important thing to discuss and teach about. Obviously your own income may dictate what you can pay her. Otherwise, it’s often considered appropriate to give a monthly salary of one dollar per school year attended. Tie it to chores or schoolwork?

The problem with either is that there will be days when they make the decision not to pick up after the dog or they are so frustrated with a homework assignment they decide not to do either because the money is just not incentive enough and you battle over the fact they still have that responsibility to home and school. They need to learn that helping out and working hard in school is important whether they are compensated with cash or not.

One also needs to take into consideration what a child will actually be able to purchase with what money is given them. Yes, they need to learn how to save (OK, I sucked at this) but they also need some payoff, some way of feeling the value of hard-earned pay (I know, I said not to tie it to work — just a figure of speech here). Can they buy their own special pencils? Can they afford to buy that book or those art supplies?

And, here’s my challenge to you (not just your kids!): See how long you can go before you absolutely HAVE to buy something made outside of the U.S.A. Start with a day, then a week — heck, go all summer, I dare you!

Just as reading food labels is important to teach children about, so is reading “Made In” stickers. Consider the import costs as well as the social and environmental costs of the item wherever it is made!

On that note, I’m on my way to a festival this afternoon and will be looking at handmade stuff that I will be closely studying to see if I can live without or not. Happy hunting!

Dianne Brooke’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at tiedi@ att.net, or visit her website at www.ladytiedi.com.

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