Financial exclusion, unfair or a life lesson?

10 Nov

I was having a discussion with some friends, one of which is a teacher and one of which is a tutor, about a child’s experience at a primary school. The school was developing children’s entrepreneurial skills, by encouraging the older children to raise money for a charity through a cake sale.  A letter was given home and the parents throughout the school were reminded about bringing in money for a cake sale. The parent of this particular child was furious that she hadn’t known to give her child money, as someone else had picked him up and dropped him off. She stated that her child was deeply distressed by not being able to have a cake and could not sleep. The parent didn’t understand why all children couldn’t all be given a 30p cake even if they didn’t have money as it is not fair on them.

This brought on a discussion with my friends in regards to financial exclusion. One friend perceived it as extremely unfair thing for a school to do and to teach children that they can’t have things because of money, money that they are not in control of and cannot earn. However the other thought it depended on the context, her reasons why I shall expand on later. I can understand both perspectives but agree with my friend that thought it depended on the context.

I do think it is important to consider the differences in the parents’ financial status’, and not to purposely make children feel left out due to finances. However in this particular circumstance the parent with the issue was a more financially stable parent within the class. Her son was not the only child to not buy a cake, however his emotional response to this was very different from the others. This led us to discuss if it was unfair or a relevant life lesson. This particular child is well behaved but is not accustomed to not being able to have what he wants. The intention of the child’s parents is to give their child the best and for him to never feel deprived. As a result when he doesn’t get what he wants it is extremely disturbing to him. Which is obviously not a result that a parent or any person working with children would want.

However the observation made was that other children who were from less stable financial backgrounds were not phased by not being able to have the cake, this may be due to them understanding that it isn’t always possible to have what they want due to the life experiences they have had. Therefore I thought about the importance of a life lesson that you can’t have everything you want in life, whether it is related to finances you are not in control of or not.

Children who are used to having everything they want can also struggle understanding the concept of earning something, for example other children earning a sticker for good behaviour, can distress children who have not earned it, if they are accustomed to always having their desires met.

In this particular circumstance, though the distress of the child was not desirable I believe it was part of an important life lesson, that he may not experience in his home environment, and hopefully in the long run he could develop an understanding and as a result be less distressed if he came across a similar situation. Children are being prepared for adult life, yes there should be some sugar coating because thy are young and lack understanding, but without being taught they lack skills to deal with situations as an adult. In this particular instance, the cake sale was part of other children’s learning and handing out cakes to everyone because its not fair is not a realistic lesson for the older children.

The friend that was so apposed to it, had this view because he had an unprivileged background. He thought that I had, had a privileged upbringing as a “daddy’s girl” because of my views and what I have achieved now. It frustrates me when people make that assumption because I myself had a difficult childhood in regards to finances and not just not being able to have the new trainers like the other children. Having to share the same bath water with my mother and brother boiled on the stove, because the heating had gone and we didn’t own a kettle or microwave for example.  Throughout I had always remembered that there are people worse off than me. I honestly believe that these experiences taught me a lot, to have the motivation to work hard and appreciate the things I do have. I don’t ever wish to impose what I experienced on children, but I think small lessons that teach children, that in life you cannot always have what you want are important in order to prevent the severe distress that comes with the inexperience of it.

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