Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Children and Money

Many parents have debated the idea of allowances for their children.

First, they question the whole idea of giving children money that is unearned or not for a special occasion such as a birthday. The key argument parents use against allowances in this instance is that the children will get used to having all their needs met without any input of their own, of relying on handouts rather than their own efforts.

Second, there are parents who tie the giving of an allowance to the doing of household chores. In short, the kids are being paid to do these chores. Those who are against allowances based this way point out that children are just as much a part of a family as parents are, and that all parts of a family have to work--without payment--for the benefit of the whole family. Nobody pays dad to mow the lawn or pays mom to cook dinner so why should dad pay junior to mow the lawn or mom pay him to cook dinner? Those who do believe in tying allowances to the doing of chores believe that it is good practice for when the children are grown up; they will understand that money comes to them only when they make an effort, only when they earn it.

Some parents recognize that there are expenses, albeit small ones, that even small children could incur. Those expenses might occur weekly or only occasionally. It may be more convenient for all concerned to have that money given on a regular basis so that both parents and children can plan for it.

I'm one of those parents who is in favor of allowances, and we gave them to our children until they reached the point of being able to provide some/most/all of the money needed on their own. We considered it as chinuch for the kids of a positive sort. They received X amount of money and they needed to cover Y with that money. It was a perfect time to discuss budgeting, savings, delayed gratification and planning for the future. (See my previous posting on home checking accounts.)

And yes, the kids "earned" their allowances. Not for making their beds--that was a requirement. Not for clearing off their individual dishes after a meal--again a requirement. We had a list up on the fridge of "extra" jobs that could earn stars, which translated into "earning" their allowances. What kinds of jobs were they? Jobs that benefited the entire family. Setting the table and bringing all food items to it. Clearing off all dishes and food items from a family meal. Loading all dishes into the dishwasher or unloading and putting away the clean dishes.Gathering together the whole family's dirty laundry and taking it down to the laundry room. Folding everyone's socks. Vacuuming the living/dining room. Watering the plants in the living room. For somewhat older children, mowing the lawn or raking leaves. Yes, even polishing certain pieces of silver. And yes, even a five year old can use a scrub brush and clean out the toilet.

What any individual set of parents might be willing to pay an allowance for is up to them. For those who are inclined to give children an allowance, based on whatever they choose to base it, that allowance allows for an early discussion on finances and how money can/should be apportioned. It takes some of the "magic" out of the appearance of money in their hands. The discussion of money--how to use it/save it wisely--should start young if we want good habits to take hold.

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