Last month, my son was Bakerman at school. The day before, he helped me add the ingredients to the bowl, stir together and messily add to the cupcake holders. He helped me make icing and decorate the cake with sweets. He helped me clean the mixture off the bowl and spoon with his tongue. He helped me load the cakes into the cupboard and carry them proudly into school. I didn’t get to watch him actually be the Bakerman, with his hand-crafted special Bakerman hat, but I can imagine him proudly walking tall as he handed one special creation to each of his classmates. He would have collected R4 from each of his customers (money provided by parents each week) and then he would have resumed his place at the head of the table to devour his own cake. It would have been a proud moment for him – a moment I would not want to take away.
Except that I can’t help feel as though we’re teaching our children the wrong lesson here. The R4 is donated to the school as fundraising (even though the parents have provided the cake) and it is used to fix jungle gyms or upgrade the playground. I understand that running a school is expensive and fundraising initiatives are necessary in most schools. I also understand that there is value in learning that goods should be paid for. However, we are teaching our children to be spenders of wealth and not creators of wealth.
In a country that so desperately needs entrepeneurs creating both wealth and job opportunities, surely we could make this exercise so much more richly valuable?
What if the Bakerman paid his “rent” to the school and kept the rest? Would that not teach him that it’s possible to create wealth and encourage entrepreneurship? As a parent, I would invest it in an interest accumulating “account” (probably a piggy bank in the cupboard). We’d write down a goal for his money and watch it grow. I wouldn’t ask him to donate any of it to charity…I’d ask him to pay “staff” for the work they did: perhaps he can pay a portion to our domestic cleaner who washed up after baking? As he got older, we’d talk about what other projects he could invest his money in, in an attempt to make more money. I’d empower him to know that he has the potential to create wealth and help others through job creation.
Duane Spires says, “Teaching children about money at an early age will instill a financial foundation that schools often fail to teach. Give your children the opportunity to earn their own money through chores, their own small business, and helping you in your business. Teach them about paying themselves first and then giving back. Educate them about investing and how their money could be used to create more money in the future. Help them set up a bank account and learn about how to budget their income.”
South Africa doesn’t have a shortage of people who need jobs. We have a shortage of people who believe it’s possible to create jobs. Let’s raise those children!