Should children receive allowances?

We worry that giving him allowance would teach him to expect money for nothing; we want him to have a strong work ethic

My son keeps asking for an allowance. He says that all the other kids get allowances.

My wife and I did not receive allowances as children and we think that he is too young to handle money. We pay for things he needs, but we worry that giving him allowance would teach him to expect money for nothing; we want him to have a strong work ethic.

We are older parents and wonder if our views are outdated. What do you think about children and allowance?

Several issues are raised with this question: giving allowance, raising hard-working children, and individual family values.

Let me begin by addressing family values.

Families are different! They have different ways of working, relating, teaching, and different values.

It is important to teach children according to the values that exist for your family. The values that you have developed as parents will have been influenced to a large degree by cultural, generational, and social norms.

It is true that parenting changes across cultures and through time. Talking to other parents and asking questions like the one you have posed here is important in making decisions about how to raise your children.

Before you take advice or make decisions, you must measure information against your own values and decide what fits for your family.

Children universally assert “all the other kids. . .” or “all the other parents. . .” as they set about bolstering arguments to gain parental compliance in all manner of wishes.

Just as universally, these statements are untrue.

As I said before, all families are different and it is unlikely that all other families are making identical decisions.

You might want to think about the purpose of giving allowance.

For some families, allowances are linked to household chores; children receive the allowance in return for completing daily and weekly chores. If the chores are not done, allowance is withheld or docked.

The rationale for this is sometimes that it teaches children to work for their money. This does address your wish for your son to learn that he doesn’t get money for nothing.

It isn’t exactly a real world approach, though. Adults don’t usually get paid for working around the house especially for the tasks associated with daily living.

Kids have chores because they need to learn basic life skills essential to living on their own. Being part of a family, they also need to learn how to contribute and work together.

Chores are a great way to teach these two important life lessons.

Another reason to give allowance is to teach children how to handle money.

If they are to live in this society, our children will need to know how to handle money. Money management is a fairly complex set of skills and children need to learn these long before they will be required to use them when they are living on their own.

Allowance is one way that parents can help children to learn about buying, receiving change, opening a bank account, making a budget and living within it, short-term and long-term saving, balancing a bank statement, donating to charities. Kids can begin learning these things early, before they are old enough to hold down a job, if they have allowance.

Actually, they can start learning rudimentary money skills as soon as they are old enough that they won’t eat their money. There is no set amount for allowance; that must be determined within budgets that vary amongst families.

Even with small amounts of money, children can learn valuable money skills.

When kids have their own money, they can then be responsible for some of their own expenses such as renting videos and paying admissions. It is important that parents are very clear regarding which expenses children will be handling on their own and which things parents will continue to pay for.

When children are very young, they should be expected to handle only small amounts of money and be responsible for only small expenses. As children get older, their allowance AND their financial responsibilities can be increased – depending, of course, on how well they are learning their lessons.

To ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Sara-Lynn Kang at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Thursday in the Record.

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