I am often asked:
• When should children get allowance?
• How much should they get?
• Should it be tied to chores?
Here is my reply:
1. When Do I Start Allowance?
As soon as they start demanding and tantruming for you to buy them something. One solution to that candy bar melt down at the grocery store it to say "It looks to me like you would like to start buying things for yourself. Would you like to have your own money to do that?" Now you have started an allowance! The first things your child will begin to learn are simple money lessons:
- Learning to remember to bring your money along – "Yes, I see you want a chocolate bar – do you have your money with you? Oh, that’s too bad, next time!"
- Learning about giving money and getting change and a receipt from the cashier.
- Learning money denominations: Four quarters is the same as one dollar. Two dimes and a nickel is NOT more than one quarter, even if you have three coins instead of one.
- Learning money is finite: If you leave the money in your pocket it gets lost in the laundry and now it is gone (don’t even THINKING about replacing this parents!!! – what DO you want them to learn about money anyway?)
- Learning how expensive things are – "that costs 6 allowances, this one only costs 3 allowances"
- Learning what’s worth buying – "I wish I had not bought that McDonald’s Toy – I only played with it once." or mom saying "Yes! you can have that, you can buy it with your allowance" only to hear back "Nay – never mind then…. "
2. How Much Allowance?
I think the old adage "one dollar for every year" is totally random and silly. How much you give your child should be based on a budget and that means it takes into consideration your families socio-economic abilities and those purchases your child is becoming responsible for. The more you move responsibility for consumerism over to your children, the more money they will be managing. You should not be "out of pocket" putting your child on an allowance. Think of it as transferring responsibility. As they get better with managing money you can move more responsibility over to them progressively.
The idea is to help them learn about money management little steps at a time, making mistakes and learning along the way so that they are developing life long skills in this important area of life.
3. Should Allowance Be Tied To Chores?
Okay – that was a bit too brief of a reply. Here is my rationale. Parenting is about preparing children for life. They need to learn about money and spending and savings and all that good money management stuff. It is a life-skill. So – kids get money just the same as you give them food, clothing and shelter.
Now let’s look at chores. We all need to do chores because as a family member everyone is expected to pitch in and help with the running of the shared household. It is an expectation that is part of the give and take of family life. The life lesson with chores is not only how to learn how to be competent at doing laundry and cooking, but also to teach about living communally: that If we all support the family, our needs will be met. We all pitch in to our ability, and we all take out what we need to get by. The whole supports the parts.
When you start putting a dollar figure on every little thing you are inviting a troubling mindset to form. It is a "what’s in it for me" instead of a "we" mindset. "If I get a dollar for taking out the garbage then what are you gonna pay me for clearing off the table or for hanging up my coat?" That is a petty and sad mentality to be nurturing in our children. We want them to learn that they do these tasks simply because it needs to be done! Its not related to money at ALL!
What will you do when Junior gets a job at the mall or starts babysitting and they decide that they don’t want to help around the house now because they have their own way to earn money?
Too often we use our children’s allowance as a way to manipulate them and control them. If you give allowance and then pull strings and threaten to not give it as a form of punishment you are missing the point of this exercise. "If you don’t do the dishes you loose money" seems to be the only way parents know how to solve the issue of the child who won’t help out. It’s a short-sighted solution. You don’t need to go there!
My work is dedicated to providing ways to parent that represents a paradigm shift away from the external control methods of the past and towards winning co-operation instead. Giving children allowance is part of the positive empowerment process. We need to give children appropriate power, to let them have some say in those things that affect them. This is all a part of the foundational building blocks that, in an additive fashion, will help you grow a harmonious democratic family.
About the Author:
Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine. Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t MIsbehavin”. She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.