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The Debate Over Allowances

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Does your child get an allowance?  As a parent myself I have had all sorts of differing opinions about giving children allowances. What age do you start, is an allowance attached to certain chores, how much do you give a child at different ages and what does allowance go towards?

I also found myself flip flopping over the years and can often not remember which strategy I thought worked best. I do know that I approached allowances differently at different ages.

I really believe that an allowance is an important part of childhood. It is a wonderful way to teach responsibility, and the concept of getting “paid” for work completed and well done.

It is also a good way to begin teaching a child about saving money that they have earned, and how far a dollar does go,  The “paid” part is always the tricky issue. Most parents believe that it is important to teach their children age appropriate chores around the house and to reward them for doing the job.

Others feel  that household chores are just part of being a family member and do not come with compensation.  But does compensation always have to be a financial reward?  I think it differs for different age children and as a parent, you know your child best.

Whether it is picking up their own clothes, making their bed, setting the table, mowing the grass, washing the cars…the list is somewhat endless and may be determined by the parent for a younger child and with the child’s involvement as they are older.

Once you have decided what is going to be on the list (at one point my boys thought that brushing  their teeth, bathing and showering were household chores and should be rewarded, that was debated at length) you can decide  the amount of compensation, and whether it is a daily, weekly or monthly allowance.

In the beginning I liked using a chart that allows younger children to visually see what they are expected to do, and then use check marks or stars as the chore is completed.  By adding up the stars you could then decide on a monetary exchange, in other words, each star might be worth a dime and at the end of the week or month they cash in.

After that they may keep the money in a piggy bank and at some point even go to the bank to open their first savings account. They are now learning about saving money!!  Withdrawing can be another topic.

As children get older allowance is often paid weekly. The question becomes whether allowance is just paid every week, without confirming that the table has been set all 7 nights or dishes washed or beds made.

By the time children are adolescents, their allowance might also be tied to spending money for their weekend activities. It worked better at our house to keep the weekly allowance the same, unless there was a huge infraction in household cooperation or participation.  By doing this they were less opportunities for the teen to just ask for money at random times, and they knew that on Sunday they would get their allowance which needed to last for the week. This was the start to budgeting that would continue through college.

Whatever you do, your child will learn valuable lessons from getting an allowance. The hardest part may have been remembering if I had already paid it or not!

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Does your child get an allowance? If so, for what and how much? Let me know. I would love to hear from you!

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One Response to “The Debate Over Allowances”

  1. kt9699 says:

    We add money to our daughter’s savings/checking account every month no matter what. If she does not participate in helping the family out, then we remove money. For example, if I have to clean her room then she owes me $10.00. She is advised of the cost of her actions/decisions ahead of time. I may say something like, “If I have to pick up your clothes on the floor it will cost you $5.00; she then gets to decide.” I also remind her about what she has been saving for and what it costs. Sometimes I make money, but most of the time she completes the chore without debate. :) This way she isn’t rewarded for something she should do anyway; she is learning about consequences, and savings vs. spending.

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