Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Berenstain Bears Help Kids Manage Their Allowance, Write Checks

The end of the school year is here.  Hooray!  Even as a middle school teacher I've struggled to keep my elementary age kids on task.  My son, a first grader, invented a whole new game: ditch "daddy school" when daddy isn't looking.  It involved him signaling his older sister, a second grader, when to make a mad dash up the stairs.  My yelling for them to stop and come back only made them giggle harder.

Even though they had a full compliment of activities, thanks in part to their awfully committed teachers (some days I wished they were less committed), we managed to finish the "school day" by noon.  They had plenty of time on hand to do other things before dinner like play, clean-up around the house, and watch television.  I didn't like the YouTube channel they watched, consisting of a family (mom, dad, and elementary age son) playing video games together.  Since I restricted how long they could play video games, they thought watching others play wouldn't violate any of my rules.  They thought wrong, obviously.

I had to stop that time-wasting nonsense and replace it with something more productive and constructive.  So I challenged my kids to earn money by reading books of my choosing.  I would buy them a set of books, and every time they finished one, they'd earn $1.  I went on eBay and found several money centered books for kids, but I'd like to focus on just two:

1.  The Berenstain Bears' Trouble With Money
2.  The Berenstain Bears' Dollar$ and $en$e

As everyone knows, Stan and Jan Berenstain have educated kids now for decades.  They have a slew of books on various topics.  My kids in fact have several other "Berenstain Bears" books that they love to read over and over.  Sticking to authors they're already familiar with helps pique their interest in any new book.

The Berenstain Bears' Trouble With Money

Quick summary:  Brother and Sister Bear spend their money at the Bear Country Mall just as soon as they get it or earn it.  Mother suggests to Papa that the cubs should have an allowance.  Papa believes the cubs are too young still.  Plus, Papa wants the cubs to learn how to work for money and save it for a rainy day.  The cubs start hustlin' like crazy, earning wads of cash doing side-gigs every day.  They surprise Papa by gifting him all their earned money, since he's constantly worrying about not having enough.  Papa comes to his senses and agrees to start the cubs on a regular allowance.  But first they take the cubs to the Bear Country Bank and open accounts for Sister and Brother.

Financial topics you can discuss with your kids from this book:  A) How to spend money, B) Why you need to save some of your money, C) Entrepreneurship, D) What a bank account is, E) What interest is.

Read "Trouble with Money" before...

The Berenstain Bears' Dollar$ and $en$e

Quick summary:  Papa Bear gives Brother and Sister Bear a weekly allowance to teach them to be responsible with money.  He tells them they can spend or save their allowance however they see fit.  The cubs repeatedly spend all of their allowance on the same day it is given, and consequently have no money left over for the rest of the week.  Mama has an idea that will help the cubs make better decisions with their allowance.

Great idea if you have kids who mismanage their allowance!

Mama found old checkbooks in a drawer.  She explained to the cubs what checks are for, namely, paying people, keeping balance records, or making them out to "Cash."  She made them write out a check to Cash in the amount they wished to withdraw from the bank (Mama, in this case).  This strategy helped the cubs think twice before making any new purchase.  Example,

Instead of spending $5 on baseball cards, half of his allowance, Brother changed his mind and bought a $3 baseball book.  The check he made out was for $3, and the record showed he had $7 "Allowance Left."

Financial skills learned: A) Making smarter purchasing decisions, B) How checks are utilized, C) How to write out a check.

Why I don't believe in an allowance for chores

There are many families that pay their kids an allowance for doing daily or weekly chores.  I'm not down with that.  I don't want to teach my kids to be employees, working for money by the hour or upon completion of a certain task.  I make my kids do chores, but only to teach them life skills they will need one day.  I prefer to pay my kids for reading, especially financial literacy books.

But it doesn't really matter how you decide to compensate your children for their efforts.  The fact remains that many of them will rush to spend their money without regard for saving, or the "needs vs. wants" mental processing.  Keeping your kid's cash as their bank, and forcing them to write out a check in order to withdraw, might help instill in them a better sense of money management.

Great job Stan & Jan Berenstain! 

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