One potential problem with allowances is that children's responsible behavior can become about earning the allowance rather than the intrinsic value of their family responsibilities. For example, if you pay your children for taking out the trash, they see this chore as a job that they should be rewarded for instead of a responsibility they must fulfill as part of the family. "But I give my children an allowance for their weekly chores -- is that bad?" you may ask. Not necessarily. In this case, you are rewarding them for fulfilling their family responsibilities, but it is not for a specific act. Rather, it is an appreciation of their commitment to your family values. You are also conveying another important message, that their actions have consequences: if they do good things, good things happen. They also learn a lesson about the market economy, namely that work is rewarded.
Allowances can also be used as punishment and to teach children lessons about family values. For example, if your children join a group of kids smashing pumpkins on Halloween, a part of a reasonable punishment might be to require them to pay the families out of their allowances to replace the pumpkins. Thus, your children learn that bad behavior has financial consequences. Also, by relating the punishment to the misdeed, you ensure that your children see the connection and learn the value lesson. For instance, if your son neglects to wash the windows as he is supposed to, an appropriate punishment might be to withhold part of his allowance.he didn't earn it.
A difficult question to answer is how much allowance you should pay your children. Though the precise amount depends on your family's financial situation, the cost of living, and your children's needs, I can offer a few suggestions. Children can start to earn a weekly allowance as early as 5 years of age. An increase of $1 per week for each year of your children's lives is realistic until they reach their mid-teens. At this point, when they begin to drive and date, you can calculate their expenses and establish a reasonable allowance that covers their needs.
A final point. The most important financial lesson that children need to learn is that, as the saying goes, money does not grow on trees (at least for most of us). If your children spend their allowances before the next 'payday,' do not give or loan them more to tide them over. An essential part of fiscal responsibility is learning to live within one.s budget. Staying tough in these situations will ensure that your children learn the hard lessons of living within one.s means.
Jim Taylor, PhD, is the author of eight books including his latest, Your Children are Under Attack: How Popular Culture is Destroying Your Kids' Values, and How You Can Protect Them (Sourcebooks, March 2005), from which this article is adopted, andPositive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child (Hyperion, 2003). He has worked with young people, parents, and educators for 20 years. He has been a consultant and frequent speaker to numerous elementary and secondary schools, youth-sports programs, and performing-arts organizations around the country. Dr. Taylor has appeared on NBC's Today Show, Fox New Channel's Fox & Friends, UPN's Life & Style, ABC's World News This Weekend, and major television network affiliates, and has participated in many radio shows and national print publications.
Copyright © Jim Taylor. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.