Quite possibly the most challenging of all career tracks, parenting requires a wide range of skill sets. Topping the list of those diverse qualifications is financial management. Of all the lessons learned from the recent economic melt down, responsible saving and cautious spending are trending topics in youth education. Parents at work in teaching this subject matter often use allowance as a tool in the process.
A concept as innocent as a child’s allowance seems to be a valuable practice in teaching youngsters the value of hard work, and the rewards that follow. Creating financial responsibility begins at young age. Facilitating money management skills during youth is a critical building block in childhood development.
Seems simple enough right? However, the act of compensating children for household chores can be a slippery slope. Giving a child an allowance for household chores could be counterproductive. (S)he will come to expect payment for each task accomplished within the home. It should be understood that it takes all the members of the family to keep the home functioning properly. These are responsibilities of everyone in the home, where everyone contributes without pay.
Dave Riley, Ph.D., is a professor of human development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Riley suggests cutting the connection between chores and allowance completely. Tell your child (s)he is not doing these tasks for money, but because (s)he's part of the family, and should pitch in like everybody else. Martha Stewart’s Wholeliving contributor offers more about the Spirit of Money: Giving Kids an Allowance at www.wholeliving.com/article/kids-and-allowance
But what if your child doesn't like that idea? You may need to get tough, Riley says. Take away a privilege such as favorite toy or electronic but don't take away allowance as punishment. The punishment to be lifted only when (s)he does whatever it is they’ve been asked to do. Let the child know that as a member of the family, they are expected to help out -- not for money, but for the satisfaction of contributing to the family's well-being. This concept in itself can be a powerful message, illustrating the concept of contributing to the collective greater good. It is a basic human need to be part of a unit. Offering this security and acceptance to your child validates where they belong.
Finally, how much allowance is appropriate? The rule of one dollar per year of age, (e.g. an eight year old should get eight dollars) is universally accepted as a touchstone for a weekly allowance. We are interested in your feedback. Parents, weigh in your comments here and let us know how you make it work in your home.