I played Monopoly tonight with the boys. I have always loved that game. I remember playing it with my sisters and dad when I was a kid, I used to play it in college with my roommates (cheap entertainment!), and I had played it once before with Ben. Tonight's game was a quick one. We started at 7:15, with full knowledge that bedtime was at 8. I was really impressed with the educational value in a game of Monopoly. Ben set up the game and was the banker. Cooper and I were the realtor. Ben did an excellent job as the banker, he was able to make change for all the transactions very quickly, even when I payed him with a $500 bill for a property that only cost $120, he came up with $380 as my change. Cooper got to roll for me and helped me count out the spaces as we moved our race car along the properties. I was also impressed with Ben's financial prudence. He bought wisely, and in the end was the winner with more in cold hard cash and mortgage values than Coop and I. So why the outrage? Well, as we were putting the game away Ben said "I want to get Electronic Monopoly." I asked what Electronic Monopoly was and he explained that instead of having money you got to have cards that you just run through a machine. So after he went to bed I came online to check out this "Electronic Monopoly". Sure enough here it is.........
Instead of giving children the learning experiences of setting up the bank, distributing the fake paper money for each players beginning funds, and making change, now kids learn about using plastic (credit) to buy properties, pay rent and utilities, and even to get out of jail all in the name of Monopoly. As if our national consumer debt crisis were not bad enough, even the institutional game of Monopoly has gone the way of plastic. This is scary. I have seen in my own children the dangers of living in a no cash society. I once told Benjamin we could not buy something because I did not have any money with me, and he said "just use that gold card mommy". This cashless world makes it seem as if we have an endless supply of money available to us at the touch of a few buttons. It is possible to never "see" your money by using direct deposit, debit or credit cards, and on-line bill pay. I believe that we are doing a huge disservice to our children by having them never see the process of a paycheck earned, a trip to the bank, cash in your pocket, and a budget or list to stick to.
I am as guilty as most, but have recently started a new money process with both of my boys (this is another one of the great parenting skills I have gleaned from my sister Kris!). My boys both get an allowance for basic work that is expected because they are a part of our family (ie. keeping rooms clean, dirty laundry picked up, clean laundry put away, dishes cleared, and an overall helpful spirit); Ben gets $5 per week, and Cooper gets $1.50 per week. The boys and I then sit down with our change jar, their wallets and three envelopes for each of them. The first envelope is labled 'tithe' (or giving), the second is labeled 'long-term savings', the third is labeled 'at-home savings'. The first thing they do is put 10% into their tithe envelope to be taken to church. The remaining balance is then split in half (in Ben's case the balance of $4.50 is split into two piles of $2.25 each). One half is put into long-term savings, and once a month we take the contents of that envelope to the bank for them to deposit into their savings accounts. The remaining balance is again split in half, this time with half going into the save at home envelope and the other half going into their wallet. The wallet money is for them to spend however they want, no questions asked and is usually spent on candy, video games, or Icees at Target. I also give the boys the option of putting more than the allotted amount into their savings from their spending money. The save at home money is used to buy the bigger "i wants". As in I want a Webkins, I want a Transformer, etc..... I almost never (except in my weakest moments, which are very rare or for gifts) buy my children any more than the basics; food, clothing and hygeine items. If I am going to a store in which my children might find something desireable, I always let them know ahead of time that we will be going there, thus giving them the opportunity to bring along their wallets if they wish, although I never directly suggest it. If my boys find something in the store that they want to buy but do not have enough money with them, I do not pay the difference on a promise to be payed back when we get home or when they get their next allowance. I tell them that they may not buy things on credit with me. If they really want the item they can go home and be sure they have enough money to cover the cost and on our next trip to that store they can then bring along the correct amount of money. If they have enough money at home and the item of desire is still a priority, I usually make it a point to take the child back to the store within a few days. But often the child gets home and decides that the desired item is not so desireable anymore, and the money continues to builds up. This technique has worked wonders for our shopping trips and the boys understanding of money. They still get cases of the "i want"s or the "can we get"s but I always tell them that if they have enough money with them they are welcome to spend it.
Of course Cooper is not able to count out or split up his money on his own, so I do it for him, but he sits there with me through the process, and he is very excited to put his "spending" money in his wallet (all 34 cents of it each week).
Needless to say, I will not be buying (or allwoing my children to buy) Electronic Monopoly, and I hope others avoid it also. There is still a chance to reverse the debt crisis in our society, beginning with the game of Monopoly.