Does anyone still buy aluminum cans anymore?

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My colleague, Kylene Scott, used to get barrel race entry fees that way. I remember our fifth grade field trip to Rock Springs Ranch was funded completely on recycled cans that each class member brought in by the trash bag full. (To be honest, some dads used that as an excuse for extra consumption that year.)

The point is there used to be ways that kids could get rewarded for doing a chore and earn a little pocket money.

Come to think of it, do they even call it “pocket money” anymore?

I remember the first coin purse I carried around. It was some leather number I crafted at 4-H camp, and I felt like a grown-up if I could open that up and buy a pack of gum at the grocery store and not have to rely on Mom. I had my own money.

Sure, it was $1.50, and all in nickels and dimes and a few quarters from Grandpa, but it was my own money. There was pride in that little leather coin purse.

Whether it’s earning an allowance for household chores, or picking up lawn mowing jobs, or babysitting, or even graduating to a summer job at the city pool, kids need to develop that sense of pride in work. There are age-appropriate activities for kids to earn their little slice of pride at every age. But too often, we adults take those opportunities away from them. 

We give excuses. 

“I’d just rather do it myself. He’s too little and it takes forever.”

“I don’t know if she’s ready to be on her own without me to supervise.”

“Oh, there’s no way I’m allowing him near equipment. He’ll just tear it up.”

So, instead of developing their independence, we smother it with good intentions. 

We say kids who work are building a “work ethic” but I think that misses the point. You see, earning that pocket money didn’t just teach me how to hunker down and work hard. It showed me that I can contribute to my own welfare. If all else fails, I can rely on myself to find a solution and work to meet my basic needs instead of waiting for someone to save me.

That leather coin purse was just one part of my financial education. My grandparents started me a savings account and then I got a checking account when I was in high school. And I may have made some missteps here and there, but that’s part of learning and growing. I grew to understand the value of money before I was an adult signing for a credit card, car payment or a mortgage.

So, this summer, among the vacations and the county fairs and the ball games, I challenge you to leave some time to help the kids in your life earn their own pocket money.

It’s the best investment you’ll make.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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