Could we use pocket money to encourage kids towards a creative life?

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 Photo: Getty Images

My childhood was similar to many of my generation: running around outside all day, finally venturing inside in the evenings to eat dinner.

It was at this end of the day that I was asked to be a contributing member of the family. I was expected to help out by setting the table, drying the dishes, tidying up, and as I grew older these tasks increased to include things like ironing, cooking and looking after my younger brother.

For some of this work, I was paid a small amount of pocket money.

The message was clear: playing is fun, doing the things you enjoy is wonderful, but to earn some money you need to get serious. Could this be one reason behind so many of us taking 'sensible' career paths rather than pursuing more creative lifestyles?

It certainly remains the mainstream method of raising children. A Commonwealth Bank survey showed that around 80 per cent of Australian parents pay pocket money to their offspring, and this is almost always in exchange for doing household jobs.

But what if there's another message we can send via our pocket money strategies?

Should we pay pocket money for creativity?

A recent article about bestselling author Liane Moriarty pondered how, in a family of six children, three of them turned out to pursue writing as a career.

The family patriarch, Bernie Moriarty, offered a potential explanation: "I wanted them to earn pocket money, but I wanted them to do something they enjoyed. So they'd write stories, and I'd pay them. When they finished one I'd say 'Right, there's your 50 cents. Now, what's the next one?' "

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This idea could be a revelation to many of us. We pay our children pocket money to teach them about money and foster their increasing independence, and there is more than one way to do this.

Maybe we could teach our kids to seek payment for the things they enjoy doing.

Parenting expert and clinical psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack disagrees.

"I don't think it's a good idea to give money to children for doing something creative," she says. "What we ideally want is for our children to have an innate interest, rather than to think of it as a paid job and therefore a task."

Putting money into the equation may be good for some kids but is likely to have the opposite effect for many others.

"In children we want to inspire passion; if we inspire anything by payment it becomes a reward system," says McCormack.

"Let's encourage them instead to do something because they want to instead of because they need the money."

McCormack encourages parents to stick with the tried and tested methods we know: "Reward a positive behaviour by all means, but I would rather give a child praise than money. It may work for some people but I don't think it gives the right message."

So, will you use money to encourage your children to creative endeavours? Well, it probably depends on your values and your own child.

But it doesn't hurt to give it some thought. As Bernie Moriarty says, "I always told the kids, 'If you can do what you enjoy and some bastard pays you, how good is that?!' "