“Children need to learn how to manage money so they can understand the value of a buck and be responsible with it as adults.” Fabulous advice.
I’m definitely giving my children an allowance.
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“Why should children be paid to help out around the house? I don’t get paid to do chores, why should they? Paying kids to help out will create spoiled, entitled kids who expect to be compensated for things they should be doing anyway.” Hey, this is true! No one pays me to do stuff around here.
My kids will definitely not be getting an allowance.
“But kids need money to learn how to manage money…” Ahhhhh.
What fresh kind of hell is this paradox? How are they supposed to learn about money if they have no money, and how are they supposed to earn money if they can’t be paid for chores around the house?
I suppose I could help my ten-year-old get his resume together, but I’m fairly certain Bed Bath and Beyond will not be interested in hiring him.
This contradiction over allowance causes stress in a lot of houses, and strong feelings between parents in parenting communities.
While I don’t claim to be an expert on money (or parenting, for that matter), we seem to have found a good compromise in our house that allows our kids to both earn money and be responsible members of a household.
From the time they were little, they had jobs around the house. First and foremost, they are responsible for their own stuff.
If they make the mess, they clean it. Period. I refuse to pay them to put away their own toys, or wipe up the milk they spilled while getting cereal. These are just a given, and part of being a decent human being – not expecting someone to clean up after you.
They also have expectations as members of this family and household. We are going to ask them to do things here and there, like get something from the basement or put some toast on for their little brother, and we aren’t going to pay them to do it. In this family, we help out, and we look out for each other.
But then there are tasks that truly are not their responsibility. Those are the things they can earn money doing.
These are tasks that would fall to me or my husband, but that we have instead hired them to do. We keep it age-appropriate and reasonable.
My five-year-old keeps the front entrance tidy, waters the plants, and refills the toilet paper holder.
My ten-year-old unloads and loads the dishwasher, empties the recycling and garbage containers when they are full, scoops the cat boxes daily, and helps take the garbage and recycling cans to the curb.
We pay them a small but reasonable amount for their efforts, and in turn, we expect them to pay for anything they want that is not in the budget.
Sometimes this money burns a hole in their pockets and they will spend it right away on something cheap just for the immediate gratification. Other times, they will have a larger purpose in mind and save for weeks, or even months, to afford it.
In doing so, they are learning the value in saving, and the requirements of budgeting. They are learning that money is finite, and that once it is gone, it’s gone until they earn more. They understand that money represents hard work, and have a healthier respect for it now that they work for it themselves.
On the flip side, they don’t feel entitled to compensation for everything they do around the house.
If I don’t want to do something around the house, I can hire a cleaning person, contractor painter, etc. to do it for me. The same goes for my children’s allowances. I hate cleaning the cat boxes, so I’ve delegated that task to someone else. They have a firm grasp on the difference between their responsibilities and their paid jobs.
And we treat their allowance like a job. If they don’t do it, they don’t get paid. If they do poor work, they risk losing the privilege of having that job. This is good practice for when they are older and are in the real workforce.
Occasionally, it has gone the other way. Allowances don’t need to be all or nothing.
If they don’t do their unpaid responsibilities, such as cleaning their room, and someone else has to do it for them, well, they have to pay that person for doing it. If I am going to pay them to do jobs I don’t want to do, damn straight they will pay me for doing their tasks. This lesson in responsibility especially hits home.
It’s possible to teach your child the value and responsibility of earning money without turning them into entitled brats who won’t lift a finger without being compensated.
Set clear boundaries and expectations, differentiate between responsibilities as a member of a household and jobs that go above and beyond, follow through on those expectations, and your child will handle it just fine.