Lists help Santa know what to deliver for Christmas but they also help children know exactly what is expected of them throughout the year.
Figuring out if, when and how much allowance to give a child really can cause confusion for parents. But there really are some logical reasons to consider giving your child an allowance.
Of all the things we set out to teach our children in school and at home, money is not among them. We don’t talk about spending and how much we personally spend. We don’t talk about how much we have set aside for retirement because that is so personal. We don’t even talk about what people make in different jobs and children think that everyone has enough money. In fact, we seldom talk about money at all.
Maybe that is why we don’t know quite what to do about giving children an allowance. We aren’t even sure when to begin an allowance, how much to give and what it is for. Nevertheless, more than 70 percent of children in 2015 received an allowance from their parentss — up from 47 percent in 2013.
So let’s consider some of the fundamental issues involved in giving an allowance.
When to begin: Some childhood experts say wait until the child can count. Other say begin in preschool for sure. I certainly believe sometime in these early years it is worth giving a small weekly allowance. Begin with 50 cents or $1. But make sure your child understands what the allowance can be used for. Write down the rules. But remember the main thing most young children will be planning on buying is something sweet. If your child has some issue that would make it important for him to stay away from something, put it in the rules. If it is spent for something that is inappropriate, then make sure he knows that the next time, he forfeits his allowance if he does it again.
How much to give: You want to build in an increase as your child becomes older. Some would say give $1 per year of his age. Others would say that is too much. You need to take into consideration what is too much for your family because each family is different. As he becomes older, he will be using his allowance for more things. If you expect and communicate with him that he has to buy his own athletic shoes, make sure that is possible on the amount of money he has. It is fine that you expect him to negotiate his allowance each time he wants a change.
What should allowance include: Don’t string allowance and chores together. Every child should be expected to help around the home. That is just his share of what needs to be done. He should make his own bed, bring down his dirty clothes, help with dinner, feed the dog and maybe even mow the lawn. Each house has some chores a child can do. This has nothing to do with allowance. This is just expected because he is part of the household. These tasks should begin in preschool with setting the table and picking up toys in his room. These chores should remain as part of his responsibility until he no longer lives with you.
As he grows older his allowance gets larger and there are more things for him to be expected to pay for out of his allowance. Dating is a good example. That should be his responsibility to figure out how to ask the girl to the movies or the dance. If he wants more music, he needs to figure out how much he has from allowance and then to supplement that with some paid for work for you if possible. If he doesn’t have enough to buy the new Xbox game he wants, remind him that he can save up for it or maybe you have some work you would pay him to do. This is how he learns to budget. This is great for him. Don’t bail him out for something he wants. If he doesn’t have enough money to do the trip he wanted to go on, this is just the kind of lesson about money he needs to learn. Don’t teach him you will solve his problem. The only way he learns about money is if he has to suffer consequences.
Talk about money. Be as open as possible about it. Help him learn how much it costs to eat out versus cooking at home. Take him with you when you need to purchase new tires; that can be a lesson in itself. Remind him about his sister’s birthday next month. Money lessons can be tough but they are essential lessons of life.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 681-2250.