Allowance: Yes or No?

Under what conditions should children receive allowance?


Should you give a child allowance?



...from Judy Goldwyn, mother of two, grandmother of two:

I’m going on record by saying that I believe in allowance. Now that I’ve committed myself, I will take the rest of this column to justify my opinion.

To me, the key is that the allowance must take into consideration what the allowance represents. For example, some parents give older children a “clothing allowance” from which the child is to purchase his apparel. This approach can have the positive result of giving the child responsibility for budgeting and not overspending on a particular item. No arguments between parent and child. I can hear it now: “If you wanted those expensive jeans, you shouldn’t have spent the money on the expensive shoes.” Of course, for every positive there is a negative. When you give the child freedom to spend the clothing allowance as he pleases, you give away much of your authority to reject the child’s taste. Within the bounds of decency, the child is free to choose what he will wear.

For younger children who are not ready to shop for their own wardrobe, allowance can represent an exchange for household responsibilities. Whether it’s taking out the garbage, washing the dishes after dinner or raking leaves, allowance can be an appropriate exchange for taking on jobs that help the rest of the family. This does not mean making his own bed, doing his own laundry or getting good grades in school. These are accomplishments that are expected and, in my opinion not part of the allowance picture.

The consideration of “how much” depends, first and foremost, on the financial situation of the family. If money is not plentiful, children can share in that reality by understanding that their piece of the pie is proportionately small. This is a valuable way of showing the child that a family is a team that works together. The best guidelines for an allowance amount come from asking around. How much do your child’s friends and classmates receive?

My family has always said that a child’s job is being a student. A tricky question comes up with the child is not doing his job adequately. Do you take allowance away if the child is receiving poor grades? Here comes that answer: "It depends.” If parents have the sense that the child is not getting the work done, not studying for tests, or just not trying, I think a rethinking of allowance is called for. Of course the first step is speaking with the teacher to find out what is happening. However, if meetings at school confirm that the child is not doing his job, I believe that allowance should be reduced.

Finally, before people start writing to disagree with me, I want to say one more thing. Before allowance is decided upon, I believe that a serious talk between parent and child is called for. There should be no doubt about how much, what the money is to be used for, and what is expected of the child. A written contract between parent and child is not going too far in my opinion. In fact, that’s another lesson the child can learn: make sure you understand what you are signing, and know there are penalties for not following through.


...Larissa Watt, mother of two:

My children both have a dry erase board that states their chores for the week. I put a magentic star or draw a happy/sad face in my son's column at the end of each day. For my son this serves mainly as a behavior chart. He just turned 6, so I keep it simple. "Clean up toys, have a good day at school, be a good listener, talk nicely to sister." If all goes well, he receives a quarter or handful of change (depending on the day) and puts it into his piggy pank. When the bank is full, we count it and he gets to spend the money on whatever he chooses. This chart and "allowance" has been especially helpful with his behavior. It provides an incentive and goal and he is usually proud of himself (of course there are the days when I give him a warning and he says, "I don't care. I don't want any money.") I feel this also shows responsibility and helps with self esteem.

His bank also has a counter on it so he can see how much money has accumulated. This has assisted greatly (not to mention made it fun) with him learning to count. Almost daily he asks questions about counting such as , "How many quarters will it take to get $100.00?"  It is truly a fun learning experience and I love how excited he is when the bank is full.

My older daughter has basic chores and daily responsibilities such as completing homework, keeping room cleaned, sweeping kitchen after dinner, and sweeping the stairs once per week. I also ask her to do one to two extra things throughout the week. Technically, her allowance is weekly and a dollar for each year of her age. She keeps up with her schoolwork and room, but needs reminders of the actual chores. It is also her responsibility to complete the chart to show the chores were completed. She rarely receives her allowance because she fails to do this.  It may sound harsh, but I feel this is part of her chores and it shows responsibility and teaches organization. If my 6-year-old can remember to do the chart, then so should she.

With that being said, I am completely for allowance if it goes along with chores. It is a learning experience and embeds responsibility in children to prepare them for adulthood. It also shows them the value of a dollar. If pre-teen and teenagers especially, depend on their allowance for "extras" they will be more likely to appreciate what they have and spend wisely. "Seeing none of your chores were completed last week, it doesn't look  like you will be able to buy any snacks at the movies."

Larissa Watt April 22, 2011 at 05:28 PM
Judy, it can become tricky as far as the grades aspect. I do feel kids should behave and help around the house without expecting anything in return but it's the idea of showing them some independece and responsibility with money and positive reinforcement.. My son is still small so receives number grades and he does all of his work pretty well so I stick with rewarding him for everyday he behaves at school. Not so much of a reward but an incentive. My father sends the kids gift cards when they get good report cards:-)
Alisa @ Earn My Keep April 23, 2011 at 02:38 AM
Judy, you've hit on a topic that's near and dear to my heart. Two years ago I was in Target with my four-year-old daughter. She had the "gimmies" over a shiny pink lip balm that she didn't need, and it was at that moment I knew it was time to consider allowance. But like you, I didn't want to pay her for doing household chores -- these are important tasks we all do as members of the family. So instead, I opted for her to earn her allowance the way adults earn a living -- by having a "real" professional job. Over the past two years, Mia's been a paleontologist, a chef, a make-up artist, an investigator and more. She's learned the value of the effort she puts into her tasks is worth much more than the money she earns. And we've had a lot of fun together. I ended up turning the idea, which I call the Earn My Keep Allowance Program, into a book titled "Earn It, Learn It." There's 50 careers in the book, each built with the help of an actual professional. I would absolutely love your thoughts on it! Sample chapters, press, reviews, etc are all at www.earnmykeep.com. Thank you so much for writing about such a timely topic. Best, Alisa P.S. Every career includes at least one task specifically designed to foster relationships between children and their grandparents (or another member of an older generation). As a grandmother yourself, I thought you'd find that particularly interesting! :->
Larissa Watt April 23, 2011 at 02:47 AM
That's really interesting Alisa. Thanks so much for sharing.
Judy Goldwyn April 23, 2011 at 03:06 AM
Alisa, I think your idea is terrific. If it works, it's the perfect answer to the allowance question. Responsibility is only one lesson learned with your system - of course there's the relationship piece and maybe even career planning. Who knows? Thanks for your comments. And, Larissa, What do you think about docking allowance if the child fails to take the school work responsibility seriously?
Larissa Watt April 23, 2011 at 03:50 AM
Yes I would dock it Judy. But I agree with what you wrote. If their grades aren't up to par but they are trying (just struggling) then that is a different story. It really is a learning experience. After 3 months of saving his change, my 6 y.o. cashed in his change yesterday and it was a little over $21.00. He was so proud of himself plus he was trying to figure out how much different things cost in the store so he wouldn't go over what he had. Really makes him look forward to math. He was actuallly asking me if he could do more math homework today.


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