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For Parents

Parenting Tips

Allowance: Yes? No? How much?

Dear Janie,

My wife and I are wondering if we should give our children an allowance. I think the kids should help out around the house without expecting to be paid for it. My “better half” thinks they should be rewarded with a little money each week for doing their chores. Which side of the fence are you on?

Feeling Like Scrooge

Dear Scrooge,

There really is no right or wrong answer here. Whichever side of the fence you land on, I suggest using chores as a teaching opportunity. Society is built on individuals filling roles that contribute to the success of the group as a whole. Each job is vital, and without everyone pulling his or her weight, the entire society comes crumbling down. A family is much like a mini-society. When everyone works together, the family flourishes. But if all the work falls on one or two people, the whole family suffers.

I like the technique of setting up responsibilities for each child to complete on a daily and weekly basis without being paid an allowance. The kids do these tasks because they are part of the family team, and their contribution ensures the success of the group. Set clear, measurable goals for every member of the family. Even the youngest child can pick up newspapers or feed the cat. Get everyone involved!

Then, if you want to, offer a small allowance for extra duties over and above their expected chores. Flip your daughter a couple of dollars for helping you wash the car. Stuff a few bucks in your son’s pocket when he picks up the basement. You might even throw in a few extra quarters if they do these things without your asking.

Now, if your wife’s mind is set on offering an allowance, you can compromise by setting up a minimum amount for their usual chores and add incentives for extra duties. The key is putting the emphasis on contributing to the family unit, not on pocketing some of dad’s cash.

If you choose to offer an allowance, consider setting up a mandatory savings plan. Teach your children to save money by insisting they deposit 50% of their earnings into a bank’s savings account. Be sure to set clear parameters on how and when they can spend this savings.

You can teach the value of money by having them pay for some of their “extras” with the remaining, spendable 50%. If you typically buy shoes from a local bargain store and they want expensive name brands, have them pay the difference with their own money. Or if they want the latest Wii game, insist they save their allowance and buy it with their own cash. Kids need to know how to save and what it’s like to be broke. Teach them what it feels like to work hard for their money so they appreciate what they have.