Should We Give an Allowance?
Parents often give children an allowance to motivate them to complete chores. Unfortunately, I have found allowances to be poor motivators. Don’t get me wrong.
Allowances often worked in our family for a short time…but then no longer worked. They would work again when our child had something they really wanted to buy (the real motivator); but they often had nothing they really wanted to buy. So, the motivation of receiving an allowance generally seemed short-lived and faded quickly. At least it did for us. Still, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Allowances can offer a great learning experience once we wrap our head around their real purpose. What is that real purpose? The purpose for giving an allowance is not to motivate but to teach. Allowances help our children learn the value of hard work and the benefit of managing money responsibly. Kevin Lehman describes one way to use an allowance to teach our children responsible and wise money management in his book Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. I share it with you below.
First, determine what chores your children can do and a fair “salary” for that work. Then, give your children their first week’s pay. I know…they haven’t earned it yet. Consider it a “signing bonus” or an advance. Now your children can begin completing their assigned chores. If they forget a chore, someone else will have to do it. But such choices carry a price in the real world. The one who chooses to neglect his chore must pay the one who completes it. Your child will have to dip into his allowance and pay his brother, sister, or parent for the chore they completed for him.
On another occasion, your children may decide they are too tired or too busy to do their chore. It still needs completed, so they can negotiate with another family member to do it…and pay them out of their own allowance.
If our children aren’t careful, they will run out of their allowance money half way through the week. At that point, they have to do their own chores because “they got no money” to pay the help. They have learned several things, including:
- It costs money to have someone else do my work.
- I only have so much money.
- When I’m out of money, I can’t pay for help.
- I need to use money wisely.
- Doing work, even for a brother or sister, can result in making more money.
- When children manage their chores and allowance wisely, they save money. They learn that hard work can help them save money.
In this way, allowances are a great teaching tool to help our children learn the value of work and the wisdom of managing money.