In theory giving an
allowance is a good idea, and this is a good time to start. Many
parents of six- to nine-year-olds want their children to begin
learning how to save and spend wisely.
There are two main ways in which an allowance is given:
conditionally and unconditionally. An unconditional allowance is
handed out automatically every week. A conditional allowance is only
given after a child successfully completes certain requirements.
Chores are the usual requirements, but sometimes conditions are
related to school work or general behavior. One parent who gives her
child a conditional allowance said, “I want him to learn how the
world works. You get paid for what you do.”
When an allowance depends on a child’s performance, there can be
family conflicts. Children may remember only half of their chores or
may argue that they’re too tired or busy to do all that their
parents want. Parents have to constantly remind a child, “If you
don’t clear the table, you won’t get your allowance.” “No money if
you don’t fold the clothes.” In addition, he may complete his task,
but not to the satisfaction of his parents. They have to continually
monitor and judge.
When kids are threatened with losing their allowance, they often do
as their parent's desire. However, they sometimes try to negotiate.
One boy regularly got two dollars a week for making his bed and
cleaning his room. When he wanted to miss a day, he started
bargaining: “Just give me one dollar this time.” When the
negotiating got out of hand, her parents switched to an
unconditional allowance and used other tactics to encourage him to
keep his room neat.
Some parents use an allowance to try to control their child’s
behavior. He may gain or lose money depending on how obedient he is
or how well he does at school. While this may work, it may lead to
anger and frustration. If he hears, “You forgot your math book.
You’re losing 50 cents this week," he may feel unfairly penalized.
Receiving an allowance should be d experience, not one associated
with anger and feelings of helplessness.
While some families have success with a conditional allowance,
others eventually give it up because of the struggles and attitudes
they see their child adopting. One parent said her son refused to
pitch in and help with anything other than his assigned chores
unless he was paid extra.
However parents decide to give an allowance, they should strive for
a system that makes them and their child feel good. If one method
doesn’t work, they can try another.
At times, children are very interested in money, asking for an
allowance at the earliest possible moment each week and eagerly
counting their savings. At other times, they may forget their
allowances for weeks. Some families have a regular day when the
allowance is given, while others are very casual, giving children
money at irregular intervals. Again, any method is fine as long as
family members are comfortable with it.
A big question for parents is how much money to give. There are no
general rules, and amounts vary from family to family. When parents
are in doubt, they can find out how much other children are
receiving. Families in a neighborhood or parents of close friends
sometimes agree to give their children equal amounts.
Many parents open a bank account for their child when they start
giving him an allowance. They want him to learn about saving and put
at least part of his money away. Yet, it’s often hard for them to
know how much should be saved and how the savings should be used.
While they should encourage savings, they should also allow their
child to make his own decisions about his allowance. He’ll certainly
make mistakes, but he’ll learn valuable lessons from the experience.
For instance, if he wants a toy his parents aren’t willing to buy,
he may decide to save and buy it with his own money. If he does
manage to accumulate enough, they should praise him for his patience
even if they doubt the wisdom of his purchase.
It takes time for children to learn to manage money wisely. You may
be frustrated if your child wants to spend each week’s allowance on
gum, baseball cards, or comics. You don’t want him to waste his
money, yet you do want him to have control over what is, after all,
his. You’ll have to strike a balance, letting him make some mistakes
as long as he doesn’t violate your family’s basic ideas about buying
and saving. Keep in mind, too, that most adults make unnecessary,
frivolous purchases from time to time.
To encourage your child to be more responsible about money, have him
occasionally donate a small amount, perhaps at the same time you’re
making a donation to a worthy cause. He can use his money to help
buy toys for needy children or give a cash gift to a charity.
Although he may initially resist, he’ll soon feel good about his
donations, especially if you praise him for helping others.