Kids making money
How much effort should parents put into supporting budding entrepreneurs?
‘Mom,’ said 8-year-old Lael, ‘I have a new plan to make lots of money.’

She handed me a brightly crayoned piece of paper: Subdect – babysitin, Age:1-5, how many: two at a time, Lots of fun. Please Come. 2 howers. Includes: swing, running, coloring, swimming and playing with lots of puzzles. Includes: snack. R5.00 per childe. Hav fun.

‘What do you think?’ she said.

What I thought was that it sounded like one of those pamphlets that gets handed in through my car window: Dr Mumbarra from East Africa, can fix all your ailments, lost loves and examination failures, for under R50. Lots of unrealistic promises at an even less realistic price.

But I didn’t want to crush her. Her question raised the age old dilemma: how much do you intervene in your children’s business ventures? This idea had more potential than her previous get-rich schemes – selling tap water in used coke bottles to neighbours; selling very expensive brownies, that only I could make, very cheaply; selling bracelets that took her granny 4 hours to crochet; charging her grandfather for his Sunday lunch.

This idea was at least kind, had some sort of appeal to the payer, wasn’t expensive and involved some child labour.

Setting a price

But I still had my concerns.

‘It sounds like it might be a quite a lot of work for me,’ I said, thinking of the swimming towels and puzzles I would spend my day picking up.

‘No, I will do everything,’ she insisted.

‘It also sounds like it might not be expensive enough. How will you make a profit if you’re only charging R5 and giving them a snack?’ I was picturing my food budget dwindling, whilst Lael’s money envelope got fatter.

‘I’ll pay you for the snack and it will be a cheap one.’

‘Why don’t you charge parents extra for difficult children – if your children complain and make a mess then you pay R50, if they’re quiet and tidy then R5? She ignored this suggestion.

‘Well how about this,’ I concluded, as my suspicion grew that this new venture would be costing me time, money and energy, ‘run it past dad when he gets home.’

I knew the idea would go no further. My husband, Sam, held our children’s entrepreneurial spirit in high regard. He thought it had potential to prosper them and us, if we helped them harness it. But even Sam would be able to see straight through this proposal – hordes of children running through his house, eating his food, at a mere R5 per noisy head.

‘I like it,’ Sam said after Lael’s new business venture had been carefully explained. ‘Whatever you make, add to your other money and I’ll top it up to R1000, and,’ Sam said, sinking into his chair, as three noisy children crowded round him, ‘when can I drop my kids off?’

Do your children have money-making schemes? How much support do you give?

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