Parenting presents many learning opportunities, some that have a greater potential of impacting the way children see the world and their place in it more so than others. The giving or earning of allowance is one of those, and can in fact be a surprisingly vibrant conversation between parents as to how it should be administered.
I was brought up with an understanding that allowance was something earned, not owed to me. In fact, my siblings and I for most of our preteen years exchanged a script called, of course, Ross Bucks. These were earned by doing chores, being (relatively) obedient, and generally not getting caught acting like the kids next door. While I wasn’t perfect, let’s just say I earned more than my fair share. Every few weeks, our parents would open the Ross General Store. We could then use our hard-earned Ross Bucks to purchase toys, candy, and other items of our childhood dreams. Not unlike a prison commissary or Chuck E Cheese, we most assuredly overpaid, but what choice did we really have?
Anyways, I digress. My point is that there comes a time in every child’s life where they begin to associate money with the things they want. And at first they look to parents and grandparents (heck, pretty much anyone) as The Bank through which these items are acquired. And that’s cute. Until they turn, like 5, and the price of their accouterments starts to have material impact on Daddy’s Starbucks Money. That can’t happen.
And so two actions must be taken. First, to determine how much money should be given to the wee ones. Fortunately, I’ve conditioned the kids to expect an amount equal to their age, at least until they are 15 or 16. The assumption I make is that it’s enough for them to tangibly appreciate because they can actually buy things themselves, but not so much that I’m having to take out a loan to keep up with payments.
Secondly is deciding how they earn said allowance. I’ve known parents that see allowance as a gift they owe to their children. That’s so cute. The other 99% of us find some way to associate allowance with their participation in what I like to call Living as a Family. In my home, that means everyone who receives an allowance is expected to materially participate in its upkeep, even if it just means making their bed and cleaning their room (the 5yr old). As they get older, the breadth and diversity of responsibilities also increases, as does the amount given. I always reserve the right to deduct for bad behavior, can request additional help, and even provide bonuses for great attitudes, etc. In other words, I’m trying to prepare them for what it’s like to earn in the working world.
And you know what? They like it, they really do! I was speaking to them recently, and they understood that allowance wasn’t something required, but something that I was doing as a way to show appreciation for how they help out. Even Phoebe (5yr) was thrilled with having her own Chore Chart now (and chides me for not putting a checkbox next to each item).
Right now, the allowance they receives flows as freely as they like. Next month, I’ll start with the preteens in setting aside for savings, tithes, big expenditures. Zachary plans to do detasseling this summer, and has his eye on a new laptop, so the sooner the better I suppose.
To this day, my siblings and I will talk about Ross Bucks and how much fun it was when the General Store opened up. I think it had a positive impact on how we saw our roles and responsibilities in the family. And recognized allowances as a token of appreciation rather than a right.
Still, I’m curious as to how others have or are currently addressing allowance with their children (or spouse!)?