Growing up, if your parents were anything like mine, I’m sure that the minute they asked to you to do something it got done. That’s just the way it was when we were growing up. Nowadays, however, it seems that kids have attention spans equivalent to the lifespan of a fruit fly…short and nearly non-existent. I was discussing this dilemma and how hard it was to get my teenage daughter to keep her room clean and her grades up with a friend one day when she asked me a simple question, “ Do you give her an allowance?” The answer was simple enough, “no I didn’t”.
My friend’s reaction was almost one of comical awe. She couldn’t believe that I was not giving my 14 year-old daughter an allowance. I didn’t get what the big deal was initially. I mean my parents never gave me an allowance and I always did as I was told, when I was told do it and maintained perfect grades. Why would I give my daughter money for something that she was supposed to be doing?
But as she explained it to me, I slowly started to realize the benefit of giving your child an allowance. Quite honestly, by the time we had finished our discussion I was kicking myself for not having put my daughter on allowance a lot sooner. You see, although the exchange may initially seem one-sided with you doing all the giving, it is actually a mutually beneficial arrangement to have with your child.The devil, as they say, is in the details. Done correctly, an allowance system can provide not only an incentive for the child to do things the way they should be done the first time, every time, but it also provides a life lesson on the value of money. By the same token it helps you, the parent, to instill these lessons and cuts out all the exhaustion of constantly having to be behind them to do the things they should be doing. Not to mention the fact that it creates an incentive for your child to help out with household chores. So how exactly does it work?
It’s quite simple really. Create a list of things your child will be responsible for: cleaning their room, maintaining their grades, washing the dishes, taking out the trash…whatever it is that you’d like them to assume responsibility for, well within reason of course (you’re not going to ask you’re 10 year-old to wash and wax your car). Now once you have your list, come up with a reasonable monetary amount to give your child on a weekly basis for completing these tasks. Make sure that the amount you decide on is appropriate for your child’s age and needs (you’re not going to make your kid do the dishes for the week and then give them a quarter for it…it’s not the ’50’s anymore).
Once you have decided on all these things you will proceed to start the week at the designated day of your choosing. For instance, we started our week on a Sunday, so every Sunday we go over the chores to make sure they’ve been done correctly and we pay her the allowance. Now throughout the week we take stock of her room and her daily chore list. If her room is not clean and she has had ample time in the day to do it, we make note of it with a set amount to be deducted from her allowance for the offense. Likewise, if she has not completed a task from her list or done it correctly we make note of it for a deduction as well.
Now here is where the life lesson kicks in: when the time comes to give her the allowance, we give her the full amount. Once we have placed it in her hand, we then go over all the deductions, if any, for the week and she has to pay us the amount due for deductions. The act of giving them the full amount and then having them pay you back right then for deductions makes it very real to them and teaches them to: do things right the first time so they don’t receive any more deductions in the future and the true value of money.
I’m particularly fond of the second lesson. Nowadays, kids are very quick to demand things without truly taking stock of what it may cost. However, once you establish this system you make their allowance their sole means available for buying and doing the things they want. You, of course, will cover the regular things they need such as school uniforms, daily food, and things of the like, but anything that is an extra becomes their sole responsibility. For instance, if my daughter now wants to go to the movies she can do so if she has saved up enough money to pay for her ticket and snacks.
When they know that they are going to have to start paying for their own things they start to not only take in the true value of money, but they also start to make better choices about how to spend it and learn to budget. Believe me this is a great lesson to start any pre-teen on, as that is the age where their wants start to kick in to overdrive and they think money falls off trees. These are practical lessons that they will need and it helps to teach them responsibility. Believe me this has made a huge difference in things around my household and it can do the same for you.