• "I want them to start making choices about spending and saving. I want them to count change, spot the foreigner lurking in the loose stuff." (Hero Images/Getty Images)
Ian Rose and his Vietnamese co-parent have found something else to argue about. This time it’s which way to go with pocket-money - Anglo or Asian?
By
Ian Rose

24 Jul 2017 - 2:15 PM  UPDATED 24 Jul 2017 - 2:55 PM

Like any co-parents, my partner and I have our differences over how to best bring up our kids.

And ours are given an extra twist by the difference in our backgrounds, mine Pommie, hers Vietnamese.

I say Vietnamese - she’s Aussie as Uggs, having come over as a five-year old refugee in 1979 with her mum. She got the full suburban Melbourne upbringing - Catholic school, piano lessons, friends from all over, synchronised swimming.

Still, she had to go to Vietnamese school on Sundays to keep up the language, her mum held strong connections to the local Viet community and traditions were stuck to in the home.

Shoes off at the door is a given, then there are the occasional prayer ceremonies at the family shrine, formal greetings to be made and deference always paid to older family members - a much stronger duty factor than my boyhood featured back in England.

So when we disagree on some aspect of child-rearing, she gets to point the finger at the slack western parenting template which has engendered my own obdurate sense of entitlement and shiftless approach to life. Fair enough, usually.

And she doesn’t agree with them getting paid for helping out around the house, either. They should grow up with a sense of responsibility for household chores.

But not this time, not with this latest bicker.

Its theme is pocket-money.

My position: the children, six and eight in years, should be getting some. I was at their age.  

But it’s not just the bittersweet, midlife crisis-fueled reminiscences of Saturday morning bike rides to the local newsagent to blow my wedge on a stash of comic-books (Whizzer and Chips, Whoopee, Buster and Krazy, with enough change for a bag of mint humbugs - dear God, I’m ancient, I'm going to die) that makes me want the kids to have what I had. 

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I want them to start making choices about spending and saving. I want them to count change, spot the foreigner lurking in the loose stuff. Learn to sniff out a bargain, maybe even haggle a little, work the cute angle to score some discounts. Life skills and all that.

Her position: oh no they shouldn’t. She never did. If she needed something, she asked for it. This whole concept of doling out regular cash to kids is typically white and (yes) entitled.

But with this whole pocket-money dispute, I don’t think I’m the bad guy.

And she doesn’t agree with them getting paid for helping out around the house, either. They should grow up with a sense of responsibility for household chores. (That our two can barely be persuaded to dress themselves, let alone load a dishwasher or take out the rubbish, makes this something of a moot point).

The usual deal with these wrangles on parenting styles is that I’m accused, me with my path-of-least-resistance-following Anglo ways, of spoiling the children and failing to maintain or even establish boundaries, all that bad dad schtick. And as I say, most of the time, she’s got me bang to rights. (Plus I know I feed them too much cheese on toast and chocolate).

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But with this whole pocket-money dispute, I don’t think I’m the bad guy.

And framing this as another example of rigorous, value-setting and character-building Asian parenting versus flabby western indulgence doesn’t quite cut it.

For starters, the sneaky survey I sent out on social media among selected pals suggests that there is no typical Asian experience of getting pocket money. Those among my Asian friends who got back to me (admittedly few - it seems social media had stronger draws than my sneaky survey, go figure) had savings accounts opened to teach them to save, or were paid for chores, or just got cash chucked their way, like me.

Nyaah-nyaah, nyaah-nyaah-nyaah, is the point I’m trying to make here.

And anyway, even if there was a standard Asian approach to this, why would I necessarily want to follow the model? I’m not sure about one or two of the customs around money that I’ve grown used to in the bosom of my Vietnamese extended family.

If being obliged to hand over cash at weddings wasn’t weird enough, it gets counted on the big day itself, with your donation getting recorded in a ledger for posterity and a guideline for future reciprocation. Romantic? Not so much. And all those hands stretched out for their red envelopes of “lucky money” at lunar New Year. For the biggest family gathering on the calendar, things get mighty transactional. 

Yes, I might stick to my guns on this whole Anglo approach to pocket-money argument, if I didn’t hanker after a quiet life so keenly. As I do, I guess I’ll let it lie, maybe try again next year.

I blame my parents.

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