By Shawn Smith M.Ed., CCC
As parents, we all want our kids to grow up to have a great work ethic and understand the value of a dollar. But things don’t just happen; unless we make them happen. It isn’t a realistic expectation to think our kids are going to learn these important life skills if we don’t teach them.
Most parents I meet are surprised when I ask if their kids earn an allowance, many dismiss the notion right away. The rationale I am usually given is that their kids are too young to do chores or that they couldn’t justify giving their kids $10 a week for nothing.
I want to be clear; I am not suggesting we give kids money, I am suggesting they earn it. I am also not suggesting it has to be a lot of money; it needs to reflect the kid’s age and appropriate expectations.
My kids started earning an allowance at a young age, each of them could earn $2 per week if they make their bed every morning, set and cleared the table before and after meals. They were also responsible for taking the recycling from the kitchen to the basement. My wife and I provide some hurdle help to get them started and reminders along the way on what to do next, but my kids earn their allowance.
$2 a week isn’t much to an adult, but for my kids who were 7 and 5, it was everything. It gives them a sense of pride to know that they earned their allowance. It gives them a sense of ownership; it is their money to do with as they please (within reason and sometimes without).
As a parent, how many times has one of your kids asked you to buy something, and you responded by saying something to the effect of “I am not wasting my money on that”? Or, if we did buy something cheap our kids had to have and it broke sooner than later we offer up the old “I told you so”.
Kids need to earn their money to waste it. I know this sounds backward, but this is how we learn, by making bad decisions now to make better decisions later. If parents keep giving their kids things, they will experience the frustration of a broken toy, not the feeling of disappointment of losing something they worked for.
A few months ago my son wrote my wife and I a letter for his persuasive writing assignment. He chose to use this opportunity to ask for an increase in his allowance from $2 to $5. It was pretty darn cute. After some deliberation, my wife and I sat down with our kids to tell them we would consider raising their allowance from $2 to $4 per week but explained that double the amount meant double the responsibility.
Rather than take an authoritative approach and tell our kids what they would have to do to earn their extra allowance we engaged them by asking them for suggestions on what they would like to do. Both kids were excited; they wanted to do more they just needed this opportunity for it to happen. As a result, both kids pick one meal a month to cook for our family. It is also worth noting that we did not accept my son’s one-time bribe of $10 to sway our decision-making process.
Again, it has to be age appropriate. My son who is 8 chose to make our family pancakes from scratch. He was responsible for the entire process, from finding the recipe in the cookbook to washing all of the dishes. I give credit to my wife for having the patience she did. I am also very proud of my son for showing initiative in more ways than one.
My daughter who is 6 chose a meal that she couldn’t prepare by herself, so we broke it down into different tasks and offered her the ones that were age appropriate. She was so happy to help it warmed my heart.
Our kids aren’t just earning allowance; they are learning new skills in the process.
It also provided opportunities for self-growth I couldn’t have imagined. I am very proud of my kids for being socially conscious. Both of my kids participated in 100 Kids Who Care last year and donated $10 each. Do the math, $2 x 5 weeks is a lot to a kid. But it was their decision; they were both very proud of themselves for donating their hard earned allowance to a charitable organization in need.
When tragedy struck in Fort McMurray local schools in New Brunswick held a fundraiser called Toonie Tuesday, and while most parents happily contributed by giving their kids a Toonie to donate, my kids proudly used their money – because they could.
Here are some tips to contemplate when considering having your kids earn allowance:
- Start small and gradually increase rather than overshoot.
- If kids choose not to do their chores, then they are choosing not to earn their allowance.
- Help kids to determine how many weeks it will take for them to save up for the item they want.
- Use a visual aid like a calendar so they can visually track their progress.
I know as a parent I got tired of my kids constantly asking for everything they saw, rather than saying no, I encourage them to work towards saving money to reach their goal.